Unlimited free food and drink is arguably the biggest appeal of booking an all-inclusive vacation. So we must come out and say it: Quality, lavishness, and variety are not typically strong points at Algarve hotel buffets, even those at well-ranked resorts. Luckily, our favorite all-inclusive hotels in the Portuguese beach destination have plenty of features beyond the meals and booze — think large outdoor pools, sleek spas, tennis courts, and kids’ clubs. Take a look at the top all-inclusive resorts in the Algarve.
The Vila Gale brand isn't the most consistently upscale one that we've come across, which made our visit to the 306-room Vila Gale Lagos all the more surprising and impressive. As one of the newest additions to the Portuguese chain, this is a fresh and contemporary outpost, with an emphasis on fashion-conscious design and decor. Rooms are attractively modern, if simple, and all include balconies, air-conditioning, and mini-fridges. Optional all-inclusive rates are available, and meals are served as buffets or a la carte. Breakfast is included with all stays. Most menus score positive remarks from previous guests, and Vila Gale's own wines are served in the restaurant and the hotel's buzzy lounge, which is frequented by DJs, dance performances, and live music.
Set in a sleepy residential area, with mostly vacant lots as neighbors, the resort has a calm and relaxing atmosphere. It feels very much like a residential community of condos, a nice departure from the busier resorts along the coast and closer to town. It's too far from attractions in Carvoeiro to walk to anything, but the resort does have plenty to do on-site, including a nine-hole putting green, a full-service spa, and a kids' club. The 85 suites and Villas are modern and sharp, and include full kitchens, making them ideal for those looking for an upscale but affordable stay. For dining, the Club House Lapa Patio Restaurant and bar has a simple dining room and a large outdoor terrace under a reed awning. It serves regional cuisine, with all-inclusive rates available. There's also a small poolside bar with cocktails and ice cream.
The 402-room, upscale Alvor Baia Hotel Apartamento is in a residential neighborhood with little of interest in the immediate area, and it's a 20-minute walk from the beach -- though the hotel offers a free shuttle. It's especially popular with families, thanks to its expansive grounds with an enormous (if chilly) outdoor pool, playgrounds, kids' club, and apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes, and optional all-inclusive package. The resort falls short in several key areas for an all-inclusive experience, however. The nightly entertainment is poor, and during the day the pool has loud music and (sometimes) an animation team leading activities, which won't please those seeking peace and quiet. The all-inclusive drinks setup isn't ideal: Guests are given exclusively disposable plastic cups, which feels a bit low-rent, and after 11 p.m. the pool bar and Grand Bar shut down and guests have to pay for drinks from the Grand Cafe. The food venues feel like cafeterias and options get repetitive. All of that being said, though, this is still probably the best option in the area for those seeking an all-inclusive vacation -- though the bar isn't especially high.
The 266-room Dom Pedro Golf Resort is an upper-middle-range hotel a short walk from the beach and the lively Vilamoura marina. Rooms have expansive views, but dated decor. Standard amenities include small flat-screen TVs and fully stocked minibars -- but no coffeemakers, and guests can expect a lot of fees. Even all-inclusive guests have to pay for minibar items (there's not even free water), and both Wi-Fi and the use of safes will also cost you. The outdoor pool is large and appealing, and the hotel has a private area on Vilamoura Beach complete with a restaurant, loungers, and umbrellas. There are also a spa with an indoor pool and a gym, several restaurants serving decent food, and kid-friendly amenities such as a kiddy pool, a playground, and a kids’ club.
The Pestana Delfim Hotel's shady lawns and kid-friendly amenities makes it popular among unfussy travelers who like the relaxed vibe, all-inclusive rates, and close proximity to one of the best beaches in the Algarve. This 312-room hotel is just behind the upscale Pestana Alvor Praia, giving guests relatively easy beach access, even though the hotel isn't on the water. Facilities abound, including a large outdoor pool, tennis courts, game room, and a kids' club, but the whole property is thoroughly dated. All-inclusive rates include all meals, snacks, and beverages at the buffet-style restaurant which has indoor and outdoor seating. Most of the rooms have private balconies with sea views, but the garish old decor and tube TVs aren't up to advertised four-star standards.
Luna Alpinus is a mid-range, all-apartment complex located in the peaceful and largely residential neighborhood of Acoteias. While set away from the lively nightlife of Albufeira (about a 15-minute drive away), there are a few decent restaurants in the area and the stunning cliffs of Praia da Falesia are within walking distance. The 185 spacious apartments have generic wood furnishings, but they come with well-equipped kitchenettes, balconies or terraces, and air-conditioning, plus Wi-Fi is free throughout. Two pool areas cater to different crowds -- one is a quiet pool and the other a lively one with activities and entertainment. An all-inclusive option is available -- though food can be subpar.
The Luna Falesia Mar is a mid-range apartment complex spread over 15 blocks in its own private clifftop enclave. Set in the peaceful resort town of Olhos de Agua means that there's not a great deal in the immediate surroundings, though lovely beaches are accessible on foot. Its 240 apartments are roomy and equipped with basic cooking facilities, but they have dated furnishings and tube-style TVs. Most guests are on the all-inclusive option that includes decent if a bit limited buffet meals. There's also a poolside snack bar, while the Bela Vista bar offers evening entertainment and sea views. A major gripe is the small swimming pool, which can get crowded during peak season, though kids do have a small separate pool.
The Clube Praia da Oura is a mid-range, 564-room hotel with a prime setting perched on a low cliff overlooking the picturesque Praia da Oura beach. Apartment-style units features kitchenettes and terrace areas, though quality can vary wildly -- some have modern accents and others are dated. Additionally, Wi-Fi isn't free. Features include a gigantic pool, a charming kids' pool with a footbridge, and a children's club. While many choose the all-inclusive plan, breakfast is otherwise not included in the rate (some guests have also complained that the all-inclusive plan is very restrictive and food is mediocre).
The three-pearl Luna Miramar comprises 120 studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments set in the center of Albufeira, midway between its picturesque Old Town and nightlife hub of "The Strip." Although its vibe is occasionally marred by noisy groups, it is generally fun and family-oriented. A 2014 renovation polished up public areas but rooms, with antique-looking wooden furniture and white tile, feel underwhelming in comparison. Apartments do have well-equipped kitchenettes and balconies or terraces. Poor design means the outdoor pool area gets a lot of shade, plus guests complain that there aren't enough loungers, though a heated indoor pool and some spa facilities are a bonus. The hotel's circular restaurant is spacious and bright, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet-style -- mostly for the benefit of all-inclusive customers. Most guests rate the food quality as adequate but in need of more variety.
The 56-room Pinhal do Sol Hotel is a two-and-a-half-pearl property in the quiet countryside location between Vilamoura and Vale do Lobo. There's not much near the hotel, so most guests rent a car, although the hotel provides a free shuttle to town and the beach. Rooms are tired and dated, but they're clean and have air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and furnished balconies or terraces. All-inclusive rates are available, but there are some limitations -- complaints range from early cut-off times to the range of beverages included. The outdoor pool is popular, and there's also a tennis court. Bikes can be rented for exploring the area.
The Hotel Apartamento Balaia Atlantico is an upper-middle-range, resort-style complex in a secluded setting about 10 minutes' drive inland from the Algarve coast. While its location is great for exploring the surrounding countryside on foot, there are no bars or restaurants within easy walking distance. The 138 spacious apartments have balconies and modern kitchenettes, but are fairly simple. Features such as the sprawling outdoor pool and well-rounded kids' facilities make this hotel popular with families, though dining is limited and quality isn't great (and there are no other restaurants within walking distance). Plans ranging from bed-and-breakfast through to all-inclusive rates are available.
The mid-range Paraiso de Albufeira is a family-friendly hotel comprising 414 apartments set in the center of the popular tourist town of Albufeira. With two lovely beaches and the town's famous "Strip" within walking distance, the location is certainly a highlight. As with much of the hotel, apartments can feel dated, though all have cooking facilities and some offer sea views. Leisure facilities are extensive -- especially for kids -- and include indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, fitness center, and tennis courts. Dining, however, is not the hotel's forte -- especially its buffet offerings.