Yes there’s a stunning, endless, varied stretch of beach all the way from Spain to the westernmost point of the Algarve, Sagres, but occasionally you’ll be grateful for other options to keep the kids entertained on a beach style holiday.
If you do have kids in tow on your next trip to southern Portugal, you couldn’t pick a better destination. The beaches are never crowded except in the peak weeks in summer (and it depends on the beach), and whether you’re staying near Faro or Lagos (east and west, both ends of the coast) there’s always an activity park or marine centre nearby and for older kids, there are plenty of surf schools dotted up and down the coast – the best of them in the far west Algarve where the waves tend to be bigger.
This region has become a timeshare favourite for its easy going atmosphere, superb climate and ease of access in and out of the UK, and you don’t just have to fly into Faro (Lisbon is an option, with either a coach or train journey into Lagos – something worth considering if you want a night or two in Portugal’s hip capital).
So here are four of the Algarve’s most popular outings for toddlers and older children – from meeting the animals in the zoo to an afternoon on water chutes…whatever floats your boat!
Technically, this zoo is located in the countryside just outside a little village called Barao de Sao Joao, just a few minutes outside the town centre. Set in 30 square km of terrain, you’ll get to see all types of birds – flamingos, toucans, ibis, parrots and emus, along with some four legged friends, plus wallabies and monkeys. There’s also a “farm style” enclosure for younger kids where children can pet the animals and help feed them. If you haven’t eaten and need a snack, there’s a decent restaurant on site, a shop and a children’s playground in case they’ve had enough of the emus after half an hour!
Slide and Splash
Forget doing anything remotely cultural, this is all about hitting the slides – it’s a pretty impressive water park where you could easily while away half the day and it’s a good pick for older kids. Perfect for hot afternoons if you don’t feel like going to the beach again.
About 18 km northwest of Albufeira in Algoz, you’ll eventually arrive at Krazy World which is a large zoo-meets-theme park, essentially. The entrance fee includes the landscaped park, fairground and also a mini zoo, kids’ farm, swimming pools and a crazy golf course. You can also hire quad bikes and bumper cars (at an extra cost) but if you’re going in high season during the school holidays, be prepared to queue for the most popular rides
Over in Guia, it’s all about the marine life. Expect a dolphin show, seal and sealion antics, but there are also tropical birds, eagles, sea turtles and – yes! – alligators. If the kids feel like a change of entertainment half the way through the morning, you can switch to the Big Wheel, get on a boat, flume ride, or try your luck on the mini roller-coaster and pretend you’re ten again…!