This is our review of Pine Cliffs and Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites, a Luxury Collection resort.
It is the final part of our ‘HfP in Portugal’ series in partnership with Marriott Bonvoy, who very kindly provided the stay. HfP paid for its own flights and all other expenses.
You can see our review of the Gatwick ExpressTest PCR testing facilities here and review of the Moxy Lisbon City here. Our review of Penha Longa, a Ritz Carlton resort in Sintra, just outside Lisbon, is here.
Pine Cliffs was my third and final stop on my tour of Lisbon and southern Portugal. It’s a resort that often gets mentioned in our comments section but that we have never previously reviewed.
Pine Cliffs is just east of Albufeira. It is pretty much slap bang in the middle of Portugal’s southern Algarve coast, just 30-40 minutes from Faro International Airport.
The resort covers a 170 acre area located in – you guessed it – the wooded pine cliffs that straddle Praia de Falesia, the 5km beach that runs from Pine Cliffs all the way to Vilamoura.
The sheer size of the resort means it is best to think of it as a self-enclosed village. It is beautifully landscaped, with buildings that nod towards Portuguese heritage (including Azulejos and Moorish influences) interspersed with tall pines that create a lovely rushing sound when a light breeze is blowing. It reminded me of family camping trips to Spain and Portugal as a child.
The resort is split into two halves, conceptually rather than physically:
- the ‘village’ properties comprise villas, garden villas and golf suites which are not marketed by Luxury Collection (although they are Luxury Collection managed)
- the Marriott Bonvoy ‘Luxury Collection’ component includes the Pine Cliffs Hotel, Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites and Pine Cliffs Residences. Ocean Suites is the newest of the three.
Facilities and amenities are shared amongst the different properties although access can vary. Those staying at Ocean Suites get free access to the Serenity Spa’s ‘Thermal Oasis’, for example.
I stayed at Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites, which as the name suggests is an all-suites hotel that opened in 2016 (it is the newest part of the Luxury Collection hotels on site.) There are 148 studio, one and two bedroom suites and the building also includes the 1,000 sq metre Serenity Spa.
Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites is located deep in the resort, adjacent to the hotel and closest to the beach. It has its own dedicated entrance and reception – the easiest way to think of it is as a hotel within the larger resort area, and separate from the Pine Cliffs Hotel.
A one bedroom suite at Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites
I was given a one bedroom suite on the fourth (top) floor of the hotel. At 80 sq metres it is larger than the 2 bedroom flat I am in the process of buying …….
Ocean Suites has a very contemporary and clean/white style, whilst the Pine Cliffs Hotel is a little more traditional.
Half is dedicated to the open plan kitchen, dining room and living space:
…. whilst the other half contains the bedroom and bathroom:
The kitchen is very good. You get a full height fridge-freezer, washing machine, dishwasher, toaster and Lavazzo coffee machine:
It is very well stocked. You get all the usual bits – knives, chopping boards, pots and pans, plates, utensils etc but you also get a stick blender and juicing machine. You could get away with cooking almost anything, to be honest.
Behind the kitchen is the dining table, which seats six (max occupancy for the suite is three including the sofa bed) so you could conceivably hire two suites and then all eat together in the same space:
…. and behind that is the living room, with armchair, sofa and two stools by the sideboard/desk:
I received a little welcome amenity of local biscuits:
Outside you get a generous balcony with table and chairs:
All the Ocean Suites have balcony and/or garden access.
The bedroom is again open plan, although there is what looks like an opaque glass divider if you want to separate the bathroom off. You get a queen size bed with desk and sideboard area:
The bathroom contains a large, free standing tub:
The tub is very nice but it has a rough surface on the bottom and you always have to walk around it to get to the toilet or shower, which are in separate cubicles right and left. The shower has rainfall and standard options.
The sink is in the middle and is placed very low – far too low for my 6’2″ frame – and probably too low for most people.
The bathroom also contains access to a large double-door wardrobe:
Toiletries are Byredo Le Chemin, which are standard for Luxury Collection hotels.
Facilities at Pine Cliffs
There are, as you can imagine, extensive leisure facilities at Pine Cliffs. Let’s start with the pools, of which there are eight outdoors spread out around the resort:
…. plus a ninth, indoor pool in the fitness centre:
Note that not all are heated. In May this can mean they are quite chilly, although I imagine they are wonderfully refreshing during the peak summer months and have warmed up substantially by September.
Here is the gym with sea views:
…. and the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy with a mixture of flood-lit clay and hard courts:
…. as well as the nine-hole cliff-top golf course:
…. the Porto Pirata kids club, which Pine Cliffs claims is the biggest in the region, and the playground facilities:
…. and Europcar bike rentals:
Falesia Beach at Pine Cliffs
Pine Cliffs is at the westerly end of the Praia de Falesia beach. Access is directly from the resort via a short walk and the beach lift:
…. although, to be honest, climbing the three flights is not that strenuous. Unfortunately there is no wheelchair access to the beach due to the many stairs in the boardwalk:
At the beach you’ll find a beach towel dispensary, Mare restaurant and a small beach club (at the far end):
The majority of loungers are free to anyone staying at Pine Cliffs on a first come first served basis. Those closer to the boardwalk and Mare are sometimes chargeable and there are five cabanas which have €100+ fees per day and get you a few extras (fruit, water etc).
Mare also offers a beach menu which can be accessed via QR codes.
Note that the beach has quite a large tidal difference – at high tide, the lower sun loungers are at risk of getting their feet wet and the staff will come along and pull them back up the shore. Otherwise the beach is very picturesque with lovely sandy orange cliffs along its length.
The Serenity Spa at Pine Cliffs
As previously mentioned, Pine Cliffs opened a brand new spa when the Ocean Suites block opened in 2016. It is called Serenity Spa and includes a number of treatment rooms designed for different occasions:
There is also a ‘Thermal Oasis’ which includes small pool:
As well as steam room, saunas, salt sauna and outdoor area:
Plus a hot tub:
The Thermal Oasis is primarily for those who have booked treatments, although it is also free to access for anyone staying in Ocean Suites. It is a nice place to relax in on the (rare) day of cloud or drizzle!
Dining at Pine Cliffs
A resort of this size has a substantial number of dining options. In total there are 11 restaurants, cafes and bars:
- Corda Café (casual cafe dining)
- Jardim Colonial (buffet breakfast and dinner)
- Maré (beach bar/restaurant)
- Mirador Champagne bar (sunset views!)
- O Grill (Mediterranean, golf course views)
- O Pescador (seafood)
- Clubhouse (in the Golf Club)
- Piri Piri Steakhouse
- Portulano lobby bar
- Yakuza Algarve by Olivier
- Zest (health cafe)
Note that some are only open seasonally. When I was there only a handful were open.
Breakfast at Jardim Colonial
Ruminations last year were that Covid-19 had killed buffets forever, although that may have been jumping the gun as breakfast buffets are back in service both at Penha Longa and here, at Pine Cliffs.
At Pine Cliffs, breakfast is served in Jardim Colonial, which includes an indoor and outdoor seating area. The indoor seating area is a little dingy, to be honest, so I chose to sat outside in the lovely Portuguese sunshine:
The buffet itself is set in a square island. There are four sides but two sides are mirror images. If there is a small queue on one side it is often easier to walk round and try the other!
The resort was nowhere near capacity when I was there but I would be concerned how busy it might get during peak weeks. I wouldn’t want the buffet to be any busier than it already was – I’m not sure how Pine Cliffs manage 2,000+ guests.
A few changes have been made. In both cases, buffets are no longer self serve. At each station a member of staff is ready to take your order:
The big issue is that there are now also large panes of glass, which is sensible, to stop people breathing over the food. But glass is also a fantastic acoustic insulator and it’s virtually impossible to speak with staff. You have to rely on your repertoire of sign-language and pointing ability. This is not a unique problem to Pine Cliffs – I find myself trying to communicate between dividers wherever they are found.
The breakfast buffet contains a decent selection of things you would expect at breakfast. My first morning I opted for a lighter combo:
…. whilst on the second I thought I would give their full English spread a try:
Maré at Pine Cliffs
I was invited by Pine Cliffs to dine in Maré, their beachside restaurant, on my first night. This is open all day for lunch and dinner and also delivers to the sun loungers.
Views are spectacular:
Maré is a more casual restaurant on site and specialises in fresh seafood, although you can get other bits and bobs too.
To start, I went for garlic prawns, a Portuguese speciality:
I can’t get enough of Portuguese garlic prawns. I had them for lunch and dinner almost everywhere I went ….
For the main course I went for the sea bream:
Portuguese dining rarely comes with many vegetables, so if you want some greens it’s always best to order them separately.
Finally, for dessert, I tried the chocolate mousse and Amarguinha, Portuguese almond liqueur:
Covid testing at Pine Cliffs
Pine Cliffs is now offering on-site PCR and antigen (lateral flow) testing at very reasonable prices. This is very convenient since you need a negative lateral flow test to return to the UK regardless of whether Portugal is on the green list or amber list.
The lateral flow test is €35 and is taken in the doctor’s office at a pre-booked time. Results are available within 30 minutes and you are given a certificate. PCR tests are €100.
Whilst you can get tests slightly cheaper in the local area and potentially at the airport, the convenience of having it on site is worth an extra €15 in my eyes.
Pine Cliffs often gets mentioned in the HfP comments – and with good reason. If a resort holiday is what you’re after then the massive Pine Cliffs village has virtually everything you could ever want, and you can let the kids roam free across the site.
If you want a bit more local flavour and authenticity then Albufeira is just minutes away. Nowhere in the Algarve is particularly far. I particularly recommend Restaurante Mato E Vista, which is a lovely 30 minute drive in-land of Pine Cliffs.
Pine Cliffs Hotel (book here) is a category 6 hotel, which means you need between 40,000 and 60,000 Bonvoy points per night. Cash prices start at €300 for a weekday night in June.
Pine Cliffs Residences is a category 8 hotel, so you need between 70,000 and 100,000 Bonvoy points per night, depending on your dates. Cash prices are €600+ for a two bedroom residence in July.
Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites is a category 7 hotel and requires between 50,000 and 70,000 points per night. Cash prices start at €333 for a Junior suite and €400+ for a one bedroom suite in June.
HfP’s hotel booking partner, Emyr Thomas, can access special rates at Pine Cliffs via the Marriott STARS programme which is exclusively offered to luxury travel agents.
If you book via Emyr and pay Best Flexible Rate, you will receive:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Complimentary Breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay
- $100 USD equivalent Hotel credit
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Emyr can usually match any rate offered via the Marriott website and get you the above benefits added on. You can contact Emyr via our online form here.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (September 2021)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card usually comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.
You can apply here.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
Until 2nd November 2021, The Platinum Card comes with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points. This converts into 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)