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  • Writer's picturePierre

Vilalara Thalassa Resort & Spa, Algarve Portugal - Hotel review

Updated: Jun 27

We've only just arrived, and already I know one thing with certainty - when the time comes, I am not going to want to leave.


Getting here in the first place though, has been a bit of a trial.


In just the last 48 hours our flights have been cancelled by the airline, then reinstated, had the departure times first brought forward and then delayed again. We've run around getting covid tests, filled in passenger locator forms, printed out a dozen documents. And then once we finally made it onto the plane, spent 3 hours stuck on the tarmac while an issue with the aircraft was investigated - in the company of crying kids and increasingly irritable passengers.


It has definitely not been the most auspicious of holiday beginnings.

 

But we've finally made it to our destination - the Vilalara Thalassa Grand Hotel and Spa, on Portugal's Algarve coast.


Gardens at Vilalara Thalasso Resort Algarve

The balmy nighttime air is filled with that heady Mediterranean-in-summer smell, and we're surrounded by a choir of croaking frogs. 


Check-in at the hotel is professional and swift, a blessing for 2 weary travelers. Following which a golf buggie whisks us away - amongst the hulking shadows of gardens that I can just tell are going to be mesmerising come morning - to a room worthy of a spa retreat: a calming space of soft curves and white washed walls.


Yes, there is one thing I'm already quite sure about: when the time comes, Vilalara Thalassa resort is a hotel that I am going to be very reluctant to say goodbye to. 


Garden pond with swans at Vilalara Thalassa Resort

Accommodations

 

The next morning the resort is revealed in all its verdant glory.


We have booked a Junior Suite (the entry-level accommodation option at Vilalara, despite the grand name) with a Garden View. Pushing open the room's sliding doors, cup of espresso in hand, we wander out to the patio and take in the surrounding greenery - including splashes of colour everywhere of plants in their summer bloom.


The rooms at the 5-star Vilalara resort are large - larger than we'd imagined when booking. In addition to the very sizeable and very comfy bed, there is a living area with a couch and a dining room table, as well as plenty of cupboard space. The en-suite bathrooms are equally spacious - in our case with a deep bath and shower in one, and a separate WC.


And while there is plenty of indoor space to rattle around in, we find that we spend most of the time at our room out on the private balcony, on the comfortable futon, and its views out onto the lovely gardens. 


Garden View Rooms at Vilalara Thalassa Resort in the Algarve

The vibe

 

Vilalara Thalassa is definitely not an adults-only resort - notwithstanding the luxury feel of the hotel accommodation, and the associated price tag, there are plenty of families on display. 


Here you are equally likely to find yourself on a lounger next to some European parents with their toddlers in tow, a group of eager English teenagers, or a stylish local couple soaking up the holiday sun. 


Depending on where your room is located, by late-afternoon as guests have migrated back from their day on the beach, the peaceful chirps and hoots of the many birds are punctuated by the background noises of splashing in pools, the pitter-patter of little feet hurrying by, or the ping-ponging of table tennis balls. But none of this detracts from the overall tranquility of the Vilalara resort. 

If anything, it adds to the charm. This hotel, while certainly upmarket, is anything but stuffy and staid. 



Facilities

 

The Vilalara Thalassa hotel boasts 3 pools, including a heated saltwater one. All are happy family-friendly spaces, where toddlers splash in the shallows while parents sip on cocktails.


Elsewhere, the hotel has a number of tennis courts and a paddle court, as well as a football field. No matter what time of the day we passed, there always seemed to be groups of people happily swinging a racket or kicking around a ball. And completing the family-friendly atmosphere, there is a children's play area alongside the hotel's Koala kids club. 


And of course, no review would be complete without mentioning one of the best features of the Vilalara resort - its direct beach access. And what a beach it is! A great curve of golden sand, the sheltered cove hugged by the surrounding cliffs that are so typical of this stretch of the Algarve. Quintessential thatched parasols dot the sand, and traditional fishing boats bob out on the waves. It is a perfect picture that could be plucked straight from an Algarvian guidebook.


Hotel staff at the beach stand ready to provide towels or rearrange sun loungers for any guests, and there are kayaks and standup paddle boards available for anyone who feels like taking to the water. 


Secluded Algarve beach at Vilalara Thalasso

 

And not forgetting the luxury Thalassa spa, for which Vilalara is well-known, and of which the hotel is rightly proud. The spa offers a gym, their renowned Thalasso seawater therapies, and a host of other top beauty, health and medical treatments, though to be fair the prices of some of the programmes are a bit eye-watering. 


Restaurants

 

Breakfasts are included in the room bookings rates at Vilalara, and are taken on the balcony of the hotel's premier B&G restaurant. They are generous, help-yourself-buffet affairs, supplemented by a how-you-like-it omelette station, where kids and adults alike also gleefully queue up for the homemade waffles.


On the level below, next to the resort's main swimming pool, is the Terrace Grill restaurant, which serves fresh fish, seafood and other Portuguese dishes at reasonable prices, accompanied by live music in the summer months.


The B&G restaurant is also the main venue for dinners at Vilalara, with a menu of gourmet food stylishly presented. We had a booking for dinner at B&G during our stay, and while the food was good, the atmosphere lovely and the service excellent, we were not convinced that the cost of the meal was value for money. Our fellow guests seemed to have come to much the same conclusion, as many of them seemed to be back at the Terrace Grill again for their evening meals. 

 

One of the best things about mealtimes at Vilalara Thalassa resort is the prime location - whether you choose B&G restaurant or the Terrace Grill, you will be treated to mesmerising sunset views to the horizon, out over the beach down below and the blue ocean beyond.


Pool and Sea View from Vilalara Thalassa restaurant

One thing is worth mentioning for stays at Vilalara: other than the resort's own restaurants, there aren't really many other easily walkable options for meals, so be prepared to jump in your car for any meals off-site. The main exception being the venues at the Vila Vita Parc hotel (including the astonishing Ocean restaurant), which are just across the road.


Final Hotel Review

 

There are some places that are just better in real life than anything that an online photo gallery or brochure can convey. The Vilalara Thalassa hotel & spa, on southern Portugal's Algarve coast, is one of those, which on arrival exceeded our expectations.


The colours are brighter, the accommodations more comfortable, the scenery more captivating than we'd imagined.


Absolutely our favourite thing about Vilalara was the incredible gardens that spread throughout the resort. The intoxicating smell of flowering bougainvillea, hibiscus and hydrangea permeates the air, vast green lawns give ample space for eager toddlers to frolic, and towering trees provide shade during the height of the summer heat. And all of it is served up with that ever-present cliff top ocean view. 

 

The Vilalara Thalassa Grand Hotel & Spa is 11 acres of tranquility, one of the best resorts in the Algarve, and definitely one of our favourites.


Cocktails with a sea view at Vilalara Thalasso Grand Hotel


Address: Praia das Gaivotas, Alporchinhos, Porches, 8400-450 Lagoa, Algarve Portugal 

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