Olhao is a beautiful town in the eastern Algarve, a short distance by car from Faro Airport. We first visited on a family holiday in 2016 and I have since wanted to return. This year we decided to revisit Olhao for our family holiday. This post won’t include everything there is to see and do but I will give as much information on what we did as I can.
Getting To Olhao
One of the big selling points for us was that we could fly from Cork Airport. There is no better feeling than landing after a holiday and not facing the three hour drive from Dublin! We flew from Cork to Faro with Aerlingus in approx two and a half hours. The flight was comfortable and the service was brilliant as it always is with Aerlingus. We booked a private transfer from Faro to our hotel in Olhao and the driver was waiting for us on arrival. There are public transport options but we just found it easier to book our own car with luggage, five adults and a child.
Where We Stayed In Olhao
Our hotel of choice was the Real Marina Hotel and Spa. We stayed here on our previous trip too and loved it. The hotel is modern, clean and quiet. Just what we wanted. The big draw was that there was no loud music blaring poolside or ‘lads’ holiday parties. I know we had a child with us but Finn isn’t the kind to avail of kids clubs. He just wants to swim, eat and watch the ipad. If you have younger kids and want a hotel with lots of kids activities, this isn’t for you. If your children are older and you want a relaxing quiet holiday, read on! I have a post on last years holiday HERE that might suit you better.
The room was bright, airy and very clean. The air conditioning was amazing which is a deal breaker for me. Fresh linen and room maintenance everyday. Lots of storage for clothes and bags, a mini bar, bath, shower and balcony. The balcony did have sea views which were beautiful. The hotel does have a road between the sea and it’s grounds so bear that in mind when booking. The traffic is not that loud and did not bother us at all.
The hotel has an outdoor pool and an indoor pool with jacuzi attached to the spa. Spa treatments are very reasonably priced if you can manage to find time to indulge. You can’t bring food purchased outside to the pool area but there is sun lounger service. That can quickly add up as a significant expense however and the service is very slow. There is also a restaurant poolside that serves a variety of food, soft drinks and cocktails. All delicious but the service again is very very slow. We had to send food back a number of times for being cold. It was our only negative about the hotel as everything else was perfect.
What To Eat In Olhao
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to dining options. There is a whole promenade of bars and restaurants serving a variety of foods for all taste buds. Lots of seafood options, steak, burgers, pizza and tapas. The village is the largest fishing port in the Algarve so you can be assured the seafood is tasty. I’ve narrowed it down to three places that catered to us all with great service and food.
Unique By Emotions
Previously known as Steak and Co, don’t let the name change put you off. Primarily a steak house, the food is great, the service just as good and a good price point for what you get. The cocktails are also very very good!
Located on the main strip of eateries you will find this little pizza place. Delicious pizza, garlic bread and fries. We ate here two nights and both of the people who ate the pasta dishes said they were not the best for an Italian but the Pizza gets a huge thumbs up.
Probably my favourite of the lot. We discovered this place on our last night and if we had found it earlier would have returned on another night. The food was very very very good. Stuffed crab, Golden Bream, King Prawns, Burgers, Steaks and a great mojito. Service was excellent!
Avoid The Burger Bar attached to the hotel. It looks very instagram worthy but we had an awful experience. We waited over an hour for food and when it was served it was cold and wrong!
Day Trip To Farol
In my opinion, no trip to Olhao would be complete without getting a boat across to Farol Island. The most picturesque place I have ever seen. Rows of cottages, beautiful flowers and trees, a lighthouse and some excellent food. As there is no beach in Olhao, if you are after some sand and sea, then you will need to come here to get it! We arranged a water taxi through the Hotel for transport but there are cheaper options in a ferry (slower) or other water taxi’s along the marina.
Over on the Island you can just walk and enjoy the peace, sunbathe on the beach, grab a cocktail at a beach side bar or have lunch. We chose to eat in A Jo Doab which is near the waterfront. The last time we were here we also ate lunch here and the food was just as good. It is always extremely busy so you may have to wait for a table but it’s worth it. I had the Red Snapper and Padraig has Prawns. So so good!!!
AquaShow Water Park
Finally in case you thought the child had no fun on this holiday, let me tell you about the waterpark. On a previous holiday we went to Zoomarine but they had Dolphin and Seal shows which just do not sit right with me now. We chose AquaShow as it was closest to our hotel and had the most variety. Now there are reptiles and birds of prey here but we didn’t go to visit them. The park itself is brilliant. We all agreed it was one of the best we had tried. Lots of rides suitable for all of us to go on, areas to lay down a towel and sunbathe, areas for a massage if you hate water, food options, ice cream and soft drinks. Well worth the money and we would have went back a second time if our holiday was longer.
So there you have our trip to Portugal in a nutshell. It was peaceful, relaxing, no loud music or nightclubs, family friendly and easy to get to. We stayed in the hotel but if you prefer apartment holidays then the hotel has that option too. If your family is older and you just want to switch off for a week it is ideal. It might not suit you if you have 2 or more younger kids needing entertainment or if you are looking for a lively holiday. Lastly, this would be an ideal long weekend away with a partner or a group of girlfriends. I 100% plan on returning again. It is one of my favourite places for Sun.