There comes a time in every surfer’s life, a terrible time, a time when you are sliced in half emotionally, torn between chasing your passion, living your dream and, well, none of the above. Quite possibly ending up being tortured in a small apartment in a waveless, soulless part of the world. Yes I am talking about booking the annual family holiday.

Obviously as surfers we are obliged to refuse to grow up, be selfish and try and train our offspring to be surfers at the earliest age so we have any excuse to go to the beach and go on surf trips. Unfortunately most children can’t machete through the jungles of Indonesia, or surf Nias until they are at least hmm … two? Three? Okay, lets face it, it’s much later in life. Add to this the long suffering “other halves” desire to enjoy themselves on holiday rather than spend all day waiting for swell, tide and wind while being eaten alive by mossies or be harassed by hawkers and you can see the quandry. We want to surf, they maybe, are not so keen. And you both need to keep the kids entertained. Yes it’s the “family” in “family holiday” which puts the kibosh on what in your head actually means ’surf trip’. Even if you have put in time and effort to train your first born and are the proud possessor of a surfing grom, you still have to find a location with grom friendly waves: i.e. not Graviere, or Desert Point, so you can both have fun without half drowning the apple of your eye and heir to all your worldly possessions. Yes booking the family holiday is a time of searching and torment, when we have to curtail our self obsessed wave chasing nature and offer … concessions.

As a semi-responsible adult and father of two I have reached this point. And I, as many other surfers really, really don’t want to end up in the islands of Mediterranean. Unless there’s an imminent swell arriving and I have the map
to a secret spot. Or any other surf challenged resort minus my most treasured worldly possession: my surfboard.
And thus I have set upon a search of the globe for locations that offer waves for me, waves for my grom and entertainment, comfort and a true holiday for the two non-surfing members of the family. Fortunately in September an email sent from the Gods arrived in my inbox presenting an invitation to experience what I found to be perfect solution to all our problems, that is all of my clan and yours too. Ladies and gentlemen I give you: the Martinhnal Resort.

Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel is a luxury complex consisting of a hotel, self-catering houses, villas and restaurants located in Sagres in the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal. It is a child friendly, inexpensive, two and half hours flight from practically any UK or Irish airport. It has five heated swimming pools, as opposed to the usual unusable ice holes found in the Canaries, including one indoor/outdoor pool which kids naturally gravitate too. It has kid friendly five star restaurants with amazing child minders so you can sit and enjoy your meal no matter the age, free spirited nature (!) or inclination (!!) of your offspring. Yes, several of you may want to lay back and imagine that for a moment … Ahhhh.
It also has kids’ clubs that kids actually want to go to, and tennis and football coaches so the little darlings (I use this term loosely) are endlessly entertained. And the end result of all this marvellousness? A stress free holiday for everyone. And here is the hook: you can go for guilt free surfs. In fact it is that good you will be sent on guilt free surfs! Yes, sent … away … to surf … on a family holiday!

As for the surf, well, being based on Sagres you’re in the thick of it. The resort is actually based on a very good beach break, and being sheltered it only really shows under huge winter conditions or “Le vente” swells which is ideal for winter breaks. Being located on the south coast you have the choice of fun breaks like Tonel, Beliche, Mateta, Zavial, and further up Lagos, Luz and everything in between. The beauty of the beaches is that they offer very friendly options under large Atlantic swells and get really fun swells from the south east if “Le vente” has been blowing. I was impressed by the latter as I hadn’t really seen them before, but these swells can be a decent size, arrive at any time of the year (even mid-summer) and the beaches will hold shape even under the windiest conditions. Fun!

The swell soaked west coast is a very short drive away with a plethora of beaches, reefs, points and secret spots that spread crowds and practically never go flat. The net result of the two coasts is an abundance of choice for surfers of all abilities; so even if you are learning you won’t come away with reef rash, feet full of urchins or your boardshorts or bikini full of gravel and wrapped around your head. If you’re lucky you can even witness the two swells running at the same time, as we did, from the north west and south east which means endless choices of fun waves on both coasts.
Back in the resort the accommodation has been designed firmly with families in mind. And when I say designed I mean properly thought through in every detail. The villas (we stayed in a Garden Villa) are the perfect size for families (you can spread out as opposed to being squashed in a small apartment) and have large open plan lounge/kitchen/diner so you can chat while preparing food and get the kids round a table easily. The kitchen has everything you need and is so easy to use and clean that cooking is actually a pleasure! (Yes, I just said that).

The lounges feature flat screen TVs, free wifi, huge, amazingly comfortable sofas and the coffee table is even round and lined with cork – it’s a toddler safe coffee table! I didn’t even think they existed. Even the towels have been hand picked to provide the right softness yet perfect drying quality (as opposed to just pushing water about). And the villas are cleaned every day by a small army of fastidious staff.

There is a gym, a surf bar, a room for teenagers complete with free to use consoles and computers to avoid tech-free meltdown, daily activities such as treasure hunts for under 12s, a spa, yoga sessions, and London fashion boutique (DANGER!) all on site. You can rent bikes and go on no end of activities, or just chill out. The resort is so compact it is easy to get about, yet so well laid out it feels spread out over acres. You could actually live there.
As far as booking is concerned you can stay in the hotel with sea views, or go self-catering in various villas, or even book out five bedroom luxury villas (read small mansions) with amazing barbecue areas and private heated pools. And you can take advantage of really good deals such as a five day/four night winter break including three course family dinner per day (in amazing restaurants) use of jacuzzi, steam room, spa/pool, complimentary kids club for two adults, two children from €776 (£619). Eight days (seven nights) €1,330 (£1,000). Given you can fly there from £200 for the whole family it’s a luxury holiday the value of which you can’t argue with. Don’t believe me? Compare the cost of taking the family out for a fantastic three course dinner every night for a week here at home in the UK against the Martinhal cost which includes that plus your villa.

To sum up my experience I surfed perfect waves every day with no stress, my grom loved every minute, my daughter put in nine hours a day in the pool and the missus wouldn’t leave the resort. I had the best seafood dishes I have possibly ever eaten and met some of the friendliest staff, surfers and locals anywhere in the world. And I would go back tomorrow. As holidays and trips go I am fortunate to have had more than my fair share over the years, and this one goes straight into “highly recommended”.

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