Activities & Attractions
Purposely built for brilliant holidays
When it comes to sports, Vilamoura really shines. There are six golf courses within the resort, and the perfectly manicured fairways with huge glassy lakes have led to the Portuguese Open being played here. Active types will also love the large, modern Vilamoura Tennis Club and the Vilamoura Riding Centre that takes you and your horse on trails through the peaceful Environmental Park.
Balmy evenings in Vilamoura are often based around the resort’s stunning marina - it’s big enough for over 1,000 gleaming yachts and is a great place to people watch as the rich and glamorous get dressed to impress, ready for a night on the town.
With most hotels just moments from the beach, such as the Crowne Plaza available with Jet2holidays, Vilamoura seems set up for sunbathing. The cotton-soft sand of Praia da Rocha Baixinha stretches across an open expanse, all the way to the local city of Albufeira.
Up in the hills, just five miles from Vilamoura, the idyllic whitewashed village of Loulé will give you the perfect Portuguese counterpoint to the bustle of the resort. Stop and admire the pristine townhouses and then when you’re ready to return you can head back for a quick round of golf before sunset. After all, holidays in Vilamoura are all about enjoying yourself!
Super sporty activities and a hint of the past
Being a purpose-built resort, you may think that Vilamoura only offers modern activities. But in fact the excavation work in the town has ensured that there is an even greater variety of things to do, as you can even see ancient ruins at the resort’s museum.
However, it’s likely that on your holidays in Vilamoura you’ll be expecting a great game of golf, and that’s certainly what you’ll find. It’s actually not an exaggeration to claim that Vilamoura has some of the best golfing facilities in the whole of Europe, as there are six golf courses all within the resort. The most popular is the Oceânico Old Course, which has long, narrow fairways surrounded by densely forested trees. Created in 1969 by Frank Pennik, the course has been used for the Portuguese Open, highlighting its quality.
By contrast, the Oceânico Millennium has very wide, open fairways, large water features and deep sandy bunkers. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the name, it was opened in the year 2000 and is one of the newer courses in Vilamoura. Upping the difficulty level, the second course created by Frank Pennik, Oceânico Pinhal, is one of the toughest in the resort. Fairways are extremely narrow and feature overhanging trees, which means you have to play your swings with pinpoint accuracy. Pestana Vila Sol is one of the only golf courses in Vilamoura not owned by the Oceânico group. It’s an ideal place for beginners, as there’s a full coaching academy and driving range here, whilst the course is a lush oasis lined with trimmed cypress trees.
Lying on the north-west outskirts of the resort, you’ll come to the final two Oceânico golf courses. Designed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer in 2004, Oceânico Victoria is perhaps the most beautiful, as it features huge lakes and artfully designed bunkers. It’s open fairways and lack of trees may look forgiving, but you’ll need all your golfing skills to conquer the dog legs and island greens the course challenges you to. Finally, Oceânico Laguna sits close to a nature reserve, and some of its beauty seems to have rubbed off on the course itself. Like Victoria, Laguna features a number of large lakes that always add intrigue.
If you’re feeling suitably sporty after your time on the greens, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a whole range of ways to keep active in the resort. The Vilamoura Tennis Club is one of the biggest in the Algarve, and it features twelve hard surface tennis courts kept in pristine condition. And as the warm evenings in Portugal are perfect for tennis, five of them are floodlit so you can carry on playing well into the night. There’s also five floodlit five-a-side football pitches and full tennis coaching available for everyone, from experts to beginners.
Out to sea, the action continues in the form of big game fishing and deep sea diving. The warm Atlantic waters that surround the Algarve are a haven for sea life, from dolphins and whales to marlin and tuna. The crystal clear waters make scuba diving very special – at the seabed it’s likely you’ll see octopuses, conger eels and brightly coloured coral.
For exploring the beauty of the green countryside that engulfs the coastline of Vilamoura, you may instead prefer to go on a relaxing horse ride. The Vilamoura Riding Centre even offers lessons in their horse riding ring first, so you can get used to riding a horse if you’re a complete beginner. Once you feel confident, you can ride into the Environmental Park, protected green wetlands that cover over 200 hectares and attract hundreds of wild birds.
That brings us back to those ancient ruins. During the building work of Vilamoura, the foundations for a Roman villa and baths were discovered, named Cerro da Vila. Incredibly, the ruins date back to the 2nd century AD and the time of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. At the site, you’ll also see salt baths and patterned monochrome mosaics with a modern museum just opposite that displays Roman, Visigoth and Moorish artefacts.
“Definitely go on a dolphin viewing trip – amazing.”
Authentic cuisine and ultra-fresh seafood
The national dishes of the Portuguese cuisine are incredibly vibrant and varied, and you’ll have ample opportunity to sample them on your holidays in Vilamoura. Being a coastal country, Portugal has something of a speciality for fish dishes and in particular cod. You’ll notice that the Portuguese method for preparing cod varies differs greatly from the British. Generally, cod is salted and dried (reflecting the old way of preserving fish before refrigeration) before cooking, giving it an intensely fresh and flavourful taste. One of the most popular meals in Portugal is also Caldeirada, a rich fish stew made with cod, prawns, mussels, white wine and potatoes.
Despite being a relatively new resort, you’ll be surprised to see that there’s an abundance of authentic Portuguese restaurants. Some of the best include Casa do Pescador, which has a charming palm tree covered terrace near the marina, and the popular Don Alfonso.
But to really capture the spirit of Portugal, you could always head into the nearby village of Loulé. Just seven miles inland, its quiet cobbled streets are lined with sparkling white townhouses and fragrant orange trees. The restaurants here are almost entirely Portuguese, and dining outside in the leafy courtyards makes for a very memorable experience.
Back in Vilamoura, you’ll notice that international flavours are on the menu too. As a worldwide tourist resort, the number of eateries has continually expanded to reflect popular demand. So you could just as easily find yourself enjoying Thai green curry or even a British fry-up whilst on your holidays in Vilamoura.
If you just want to relax you could always opt for half board or even all inclusive for your stay in the resort. The Dom Pedro Golf hotel is close to many of the major golf courses and offers you the choice of bed & breakfast, half board or all inclusive holidays.
“Visit the marina at Vilamoura, its full of fantastic restaurants.”
Cliff-backed beaches of golden sand
The central beach in Vilamoura is known as Praia da Marina or sometimes Praia da Vilamoura. It’s a wide, spacious expanse of golden sand that stretches for almost the entire coastline of the resort. As a Blue Flag beach it is also keep very clean with the added safety of coastal guard lookouts. Being one of the focal points for holidays in Vilamoura, you’ll also find that the fun continues out to sea. The watersports on offer here range from parasailing to pedaloes and jet-skiing. At the western end of this shoreline, closest to the marina, there is a private beach called Purobeach. For a fee you can enjoy the sun on private canopy-covered beds, enjoy indulgent Thai massages and listen to a live DJ play smooth chill-out tunes.
The other major beach in Vilamoura is Praia da Rocha Baixinha. Its creamy coloured sand make it one of the most attractive stretches of coastline in the Algarve. Unusually for Portugal, the both of the beaches in Vilamoura are very open and expansive, which is a marked contrast to the cliff-backed beaches in Albufeira. But if you continue along the coastline of Praia da Rocha Baixinha, which transforms into Praia da Falesia midway, you’ll eventually reach the Algarve’s main city anyway.
It’s certainly worth travelling to Albufeira at least once, as the Old Town has pretty pastel buildings which house atmospheric bars and restaurants. Praia da Oura is the first beach you’ll reach if you’re arriving from Vilamoura and it is surrounded by moss-topped cliffs of gold. Praia do Tunel and Praia do Pescadores are also backed by steep craggy cliffs and are less than 10 miles away from Vilamoura.
A combination of cultured and lively nights out
The nightlife in Vilamoura tends to be focused around the marina, as there’s something particularly alluring about sipping cool cocktails whilst watching the gleaming white yachts bobbing in mirror-like water. Most bars have a classy, sophisticated feel in keeping with the upmarket nature of the resort. That’s not to say you can’t have a lively night out here, as pubs like O’Shea’s, O’Neill’s (both Irish) and Grogan’s have a warm atmosphere and great value drinks deals.
Being a particularly sporty resort, Vilamoura even reflects this characteristic in its choice of bars. One of the most famous is Bar Sete (‘seven’ in Portuguese) as it is part-owned by the football legend Figo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bar has all sorts of Figo memorabilia, including his framed Portugal football shirt and photos from famous matches. There are bars made with golfing in mind too, such as the Hole in One and the 19th hole bar which features karaoke and live bands.
For a glamorous night out you could always head to the Vilamoura Casino. With the vibrant neon lights and sparkling fountains inviting you inside, you’ll find there are plenty of games here for a frivolous flutter. More than 500 slot machines are spread across a huge gaming floor, as well as poker, blackjack and roulette tables. The casino also has a cabaret, a laser-lit club, a bar and two restaurants to ensure you’re always entertained.
On the outskirts of Vilamoura, just beyond the Oceânico Victoria golf course, you’ll come to a place for serious partying! The Kadoc Club is the largest nightclub in the Algarve, and has the capacity for 7000 people spread across different rooms and an outdoor terrace. The size and stylish look of the club attract big name DJs from across the world.