Name of hotel
Real Marina Hotel & Spa, Olhão
New (in summer 2010) and ultra-modern, but low-rise, making it a focal point of the marina, not an intrusion. The public areas are cool and dark, the rooms light and airy, and the hotel faces seaward, making the most of its location. The huge pool-deck looking out over the marina, seafront and outlying islands of the Ria Formosa is its key.
Exceptionally friendly staff, many of whom are local. Not only do they know a lot about Olhão and the eastern Algarve, but are very proud that the region has its first five-star hotel. The public areas are not as welcoming as they could be (see below) but the rooms and spa more than make up for it.
132 doubles and 12 suites. Spacious and very tastefully furnished in muted colours. Good-sized bathrooms with power showers (great for hangovers!), wonderfully comfortable beds, and sea views that make you feel good to be alive.
The main restaurant seats up to 280, and is used for the buffet breakfast as well as dinner, when it is open from 7-10.30pm. The food is Portuguese/International, and executive chef Fernando Fonseca has been with the group since 2003, having previously worked at Pine Cliffs Hotel and the Hotel Quinta do Lago.
Lunch is served in the Ria Lounge between 12-3pm, and snacks and light meals are served inside and outside at the pool bar from 10am-6pm.
The pool bar will probably be the favourite spot during the day, whilst the lobby bar takes over in the evening. The head bartender is a fountain of knowledge on Olhão, and mixes a mean cocktail at the same time.
Why do you like the hotel?
Other than the not-to-be-missed seafood festival in August, it now gives you another reason to visit Olhão. A quality hotel here can only be good for the region, opening it up for more tourists to discover the ‘real’ Algarve. Development will be sensible however, and given that the Ria Formosa is protected, it is highly unlikely the area will become over-commercialised. It would be criminal.
What other facilities does the hotel have?
A superb thalassotherapy spa with ten treatment rooms and a wide range of health, wellness and beauty treatments, plus sauna, steam bath and Jacuzzi. There’s also a health club, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a business centre and extensive conference facilities, with the largest room taking up to 480.
What could be improved?
We’re not convinced they’ve got the design of the public areas right: too dark for a resort hotel, and nowhere to get a drink outside on summer evenings, as the pool bar closes at 6pm. And the restaurant is too ‘functional’ to be welcoming for dinner.
When to go?
This is definitely an April to October hotel as far as the leisure market is concerned, when you’ll get the most out of the Ria Formosa, but it is also popular as a conference location out of season. Book well ahead if you want to stay during the Olhão seafood festival in August.
Spend that bit more and book a corner suite - you’ll get double the view.
Use the hotel as a base to explore the town and the region. You’re a short stroll from some of the best (and most reasonably priced) fish and seafood restaurants in the Algarve, and you can book boat trips from the lobby.
Adjacent to the hotel are 80 self-catering apartment suites, also operated by the group, which are ideal for families. The Real Marina Residence includes a choice of 1,2 and 3-bedroom apartments.
Is it part of a chain or a marketing group?
Hoteis Real is a Portuguese hotel group operating a range of 4- and 5-star properties, including the Palacio in Lisbon, the Santa Eulalia in Albufeira, and the Villa Italia in Cascais.
Right on the seafront in Olhão and well signposted. Walking distance to the marina, fish market and main shops and restaurants.
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