Springtime in the Algarve
Rent a car and pre-book a stay at any of the state run "pousadas". Take hikes on the paths adjoining the beach, visit the marinas, markets and small towns. Buy bulky cotton sweaters, embossed bedspreads, handmade pottery and copperware. Trip out to Sagres and stare at the ocean from the ancient navigator's school "at the end of the world". Keep your eyes open for the huge cranes nests built on electrical poles along the interior highways. Stop by castle ruins and fountains with healing waters. Enjoy!
A Portugal tourism website should link to to the pousada booking site. Select your dates (weekdays are often cheaper) and submit a request via e-mail. They respond quickly and will even provide a suggested itinerary based on pousada availability. Incredible history when you visit ruins, castles, museums and churches. Catch a boat ride or fishing trip from town for a different view.
Best Way to Get Around:
We drove roundtrip from Madrid to Portimao in a rental car booked from Canada (cheaper from there). We loved the freedom this gave us to access the pousadas (hotels) and the backroads we explored, or stop when something caught our eye. Parking a car can be brutal, especially in a big city (Seville, Lisbon) so I might opt for a bus day trip there. Lots of taxis about which were very affordable.
The Jardim Do Vau apartment hotel overlooks Do Vau beach, which is safe for swimming. It is located slightly away from the hotel zones in the Algarve, a short taxi ride away. There are great walking trails along the cliffs by the water's edge. The one bedroom apartment has an equipped kitchen, full bathroom, dining table, satellite TV and pull-out sofa in the living room. Our favourite feature is the patio overlooking the grounds to the ocean and the swarms of seabirds which migrate by at sunrise and sunset. The hotel also features an indoor and outdoor pool, fitness centre, mini-market, kid's playground and activity centre, poolside cafe, excellent restaurant and small lounge. Staff encountered were all friendly and helpful. Tours and area information are available around the clock at the reception desk. This hotel proved to be very good value at about CAN$90/night when booked from Canada.
Pre-book a stay at a pousada. These hotels, located throughout Portugal, are of historical value (we stayed in one adjoining a 4th century castle)or in exceptional locations (Santa Clara overlooked an unpopulated lake). Pousada restaurants serve regional delicacies.