Who hasn’t heard of those paradise beaches in Algarve?! All shades of blue, stunning rock cliffs, bracing air, delicious seafood, furious waves & surfing fun … This place was on my travel bucket list for a while and now it´s finally getting crossed out. Even though we were visiting Algarve with a baby and had only two days for this trip, we managed to make the most of our Portugal Family Vacation.
Algarve Road Trip
With a baby on the road
To start with, our brief visit to Algarve was a part of our Spanish road trip from Castellon to Andalusia. It was the first serious road trip with our 8-month-old daughter, aside from a weekend getaway to Cuenca and a trip to Tenerife. We´ve tried to split our route so that we´d have not more than 4h of driving per day. Nevertheless, I was having second thoughts about it all.
On one hand, I was waiting so long for this first Portugal family vacation, but on the other hand, reaching Algarve with a baby from Castellon felt quite of a challenge.
Additionally, as our time in the South of Spain & Portugal was limited to a week, we´ve only had two days for the Algarve region before heading back home. Of course, two days was not enough to see everything in the area. However, it was a great start for creating my first impression of the Algarve coast.
Algarve in the off-season
Algarve ended up being way more touristic than I expected. Even though we were traveling in April, which is supposed to be the off-season.
Also read: Best beaches in Spain Off The Beaten Path
Portugal is one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe all year round. But I´ve barely heard a word in Portuguese during my 2 days at the Portuguese coast (at times it seriously felt like an English speaking country). Especially, as our previous stops on the road were Cadiz and Almeria, which felt significantly more local around this time of the year.
A family vacation in Algarve
However, not everyone is into isolated holidays like us. Even if you plan a Portugal Family Vacation, you can still do lot of things with kids – go out, hang out with friends or relatives. Algarve is less vibrant in the off-season, but most of the places are still open all year round.
In case, you´re asking yourself right now “how traveling with a baby and going out with friends at night could both happen simultaneously” – let me say, it´s a common thing in Spain and Portugal. You can easily see both parents sitting with friends in a bar while holding a baby in their hands. Some babies even manage to sleep inside the stroller despite the noise. This is something that would not work with my baby, besides I love dining early myself. But I believe it´s cool when two people manage to combine parenthood and their social life.
My mom usually says: “OMG. Why would they bring such a small baby to a bar?” The funny thing is that in most of the cases when parents are enjoying their time, the babies seem to have a blast as well.
We don´t go out much at night with a baby, but we try to dine out as much as we can. Plus we travel with a baby as often as possible. I believe success here lies in a healthy combination of baby routine, baby-friendly places, and things that parents enjoy. In the end, it is important for a baby to learn to respect and appreciate the wishes of other family members.
Why we loved our time in Algarve
Therefore, Algarve fits the bill here. The weather is amazing, while there are lots of places for both kids and parents to enjoy. The Portuguese love kids, most of the restaurants are child-friendly and have high chairs. We often try to book a table in advance, to notify the personnel in case we need some extra space for the baby stroller.
Therefore, despite the long road, Algarve was actually one of the best places we visited with a baby. I feel like we partially liked it a lot because our Portugal family vacation happened in the off-season. The temperature was comfortable and the region was still not packed with tourists. We had no problems finding parking spots or places to eat.
With kids on the road, those things often end up making or breaking your travel experience. Waiting to be seated in a restaurant, or detecting the nearest parking spot might be an ultimate nightmare with a baby getting impatient on the back seat. So if we are to travel back to Algarve, I definitely try to make it happen around early Autumn or late Spring.
Let´s talk about our express Portugal family vacation and what we managed to visit in Algarve with a baby just in 2 days.
Algarve in 2 Days: What to See?
Carvoeiro was our first stop on the road after crossing the Spanish/Portuguese border. It´s a lovely small village with a nice coastal area. Plus there are some gorgeous places to visit nearby, like Benagil Caves, Marinha Beach, Algar Seco… After having lunch in Carvoeiro (that seafood…yum), we headed to Sagres.
2. Sagres / Cape St. Vincent
Cape St.Vincent has the most amazing views of the Atlantic. Some people also visit the Sagres Fortress nearby, but as we had no time for both: we opted for the Cape St.Vincent. There was no entrance fee, plus you could simply stop at any moment on the road and walk your way towards the cliffs – the landscapes were stunning everywhere.
Also read: Street Art of Lisbon
If we had more time – hiking would be a must. You could see cars parked every 100 m. By the time we got to Sagres, our daughter has fallen asleep after our Carvoeiro lunch. So we had time to take in the views and to listen to the sounds of waves crashing against the rock cliffs.
By the way, if you love artisan pottery (you know I´m obsessed with Portuguese and Spanish Ceramic) there are several cute shops on the road near Sagres. Keep your eyes open not to miss them. All these ceramic decoration pieces and tiles reminded me of my recent trips to Lisbon and Sintra.
3.Lagos/ Doña Ana Beach /Ponta da Piedade
We briefly drove through the city of Lagos and made stops at Dona Ana Beach and Ponta da Piedade. Both places were really nice, however, there were many hotels near Doña Ana Beach – it was quite crowded and didn’t look like this paradise beach from the internet I saw.
Portimao was the last stop at the end of our first day in Portugal. What could possibly feel better than a hotel with lovely views after a day on the road? We enjoyed a nice walk on the beach with our daughter. Afterwards, we had a great dinner at one of the local seafood restaurants. To my surprise, I’ve discovered that seafood in Portugal is much cheaper than in Spain.
Also read: 10 Must-Stops to Explore Lisbon
So, I get it why many people consider Algarve a perfect Portugal family vacation spot. The price
5. Marinha Beach/ Benagil Caves
First thing in the morning on our second day, we headed to the famous Marinha Beach. Considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and often listed in between the best beach holiday destinations in Europe, this place has fully met my expectations. Ok…visiting on an early April morning might have had smth to do. But I loved Marinha Beach anyway. While we were leaving more and more tourists kept arriving – so it should get crowded after 11 a.m, even in the off-season. However, in the morning we still enjoyed those white sands and ocean sounds for ourselves.
Here, we would have visited Benagil Caves, as well. But this place could only be accessed by boat and we were on the road with our 8-month-old baby. So, the most famous site in Algarve is still on our travel bucket list for the next visit.
6. Faro/ Ria Formosa
The next stop on the road was Faro. Such a pretty village, often overlooked by tourists. From the cathedral, you could get magical views to Ria Formosa National Park (which is another place for boat trips and hikes we´d love to visit once our baby girl grows up a bit).
7. Tavira / Octopus in Santa Luzia
Our last stop on the way back to Spain was Tavira, one of the cutest towns in Algarve. After walking around for a while and exploring all of the top things to do in Tavira, we headed to Santa Luzia, a village famous for its octopus dishes. In Santa Luzia, you could try an endless list of octopus recipes, from modern to traditional, grilled, in tomato sauce or salad. In terms of creative twist, it could only be beaten by an octopus with hazelnut we tried during Hazelnut Gastronomic Weeks in Spain.
On our way back to Castellon, we made several off-the-beaten-track stops in Andalusia and even got to