Algarve For Kids
Of course, the Algarve isn't just for grown-ups (if that's what we are!) - there's lots of stuff for the younger visitor to enjoy,
Algarve is a great place for families to visit, if I'm to
judge from all the happy, smiling young faces that I see
(and that's not just those with ice creams or candy
confections sticking out of them!)
There are plenty of Algarve Activities for kids to enjoy - in fact...
... wherever you stay in Algarve, there'll be something to keep your children amused and enthused!
Kids love beaches - possibly even more than I do (but I'd argue the point, if pressed). You can find a listing of my favourite Algarve beaches on the page I've devoted to the subject.
Then there are more Algarve beaches on this reader's page about how Algarve beaches were before the tourist boom.
As per my convention on this site, I'm starting at the north west and working around the Algarve's coastline, south then east. So, without further ado, here's what your Algarve choices are, if your taste runs to fun in the sun rather than what your parents are getting up to (which probably just entails lying on a beach):
Ready! Get set! Get wet!
Algarve Water Parks
Also known as 'The Big One' - this is allegedly
the largest Algarve water park (over 6 hectares they say!)
Parents will be relieved to note that there are shaded gardens in which to relax while the young things are at play. This is reputed to be Europe´s largest open-air water park and boasts more than 1500 metres in length of aquatic acitivity fun. There's even a mascot, Zappy the Frog (which unfortunate name reminded me, rather unpleasantly, of those awful school biology experiments with frog's legs and batteries).
Buses from Albufeira, Alvôr, Armação de Pêra, Galé, Lagos, Portimão, Praia da Rocha, Tavira, Vilamoura and Vila Real S. António.
Location: EN 125 , 8365 Alcantarilha, (Near Alcantarilha, north of Armação de Pera and about 15 km from Albufeira).
Tel: 289 322 827
There are varied aquatic attractions, some claimed to be unique within Portugal such as:
This is an 'almost vertical' 23 metre slide (so that's 'gravity-assisted, with water brakes'). The very idea gives me an attack of vertigo, but you can bet 5 Euros that the kids will love it.
This one is all about speed (or velocity, as Nev boringly insists on calling it). Apparently, it takes you down through 92 metres in less than 4 seconds. And they claim it's addictive!
This is a 5-lane attraction (see picture above), so you can choose between a leisurely descent - or a terrifyingly quick one.
There are also calmer choices such as the Wave Pool, and, for the tots, the (mini) Rainbow Park.
Open: 29th of April to 28th of September
Another 'Family Fun Park', this one is near Quarteira on the EN125. Lots of slides, oceans of water, fun, frolics - and all in that gorgeous Algarve weather!
There are fast slides for the young and daredevil-ish, and slower slides for the very young who can be accompanied by an adult (thus giving the latter an excuse for not trying something more daring?)
Tel: 289 389 396
I really couldn't begin to separate and choose between all of these
'adventure' water parks, but I suppose holidaymakers generally choose the one that's closest (unless the younger family members are particularly insistent).
Atlantic Park offers all sorts of twisting slides, even a 'twin' Kamikaze and the 'Rio Grande'. There's a deep diving pool for the brave, and a children's pool which allows parents to relax while the very young enjoy themselves.
During the peak season it provides a daily variety spectacular show. And a pick up service is available, depending on where you're starting from.
Free booking service: 0800 20 47 67
Slide and Splash
Another opportunity to stay wet for a whole day!
This waterpark is located at Estombar, east of Lagoa and is well signposted on the EN125 road.
Children up to 5 years old are admitted free (but unfortunately for them, they do need an adult in tow...)
Tel: 082 34 16 85
This fun water park is at Guia, near Albufeira.
Animals on show include: dolphins, seals, sealions, sharks, and tortoises, exotic and marine birds, crocodiles and tropical fish. I've overheard families enthuse about the live shows.
Facilities include restaurants, shops entertainment and swimming pools. A single ticket (per person) lets you go anywhere within the entire park.
EN 125 - Guia 8200 Albufeira,
Tel: 289 56 1104
Sailing and Cruises
Trigana Sailing Adventures
Take to sea from Alvor in a traditional Portugese vessel, with a choice of snorkelling, ocean swimming, fishing or island visits. There are also family day trips, a barbeque day trip and even a sunset party cruise.
Bookings: Tel. 912 105 757
or inquire of the staff at the ticket stand which is near the Bolan Bar (at the waterfront promenade near Alvor's old fish market).
Pirate Ship Adventure Cruise
Sail away in the caravelle 'Santa Bernarda', departing from Portimao and heading eastwards. What's a caravelle? I wondered, only to learn that it's a two-masted vessel. (This one's about 24 metres long with a capacity for 60 and even has access facilities for the disabled.)
You can visit the enormous caves and grottoes at Benagil, Alfanzina and Lagos. Enjoy a beach barbecue (that even caters for us awkward vegetarians!). The ship boasts a bar and toilet facilities - having been upgraded somewhat since its piratical prime, it would seem!
Your choice of cruises includes:
Caves expedition, which operates weekdays except Tuesdays from 0945 to 1300 hours;
Caves and Sailing outing, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1415 to 1745 hours;
Caves of Lagos tour, Mondays and Thursdays from 1415 to 1745 hours;
and finally the 'grand tour' -
On days when conditions do not allow normal tours, you can opt for a 'History Tour', which includes an explanatory inspection of the vessel and its heritage, followed by a video of the coast and its caves and concluding with a short cruise down the Rio Arade to the sea and back, viewing the mediaeval riverside ports.
Bookings and Information: 967 023 840,
... or inquire at your hotel's reception desk.
The name says it all. You can watch - and maybe even communicate, (if you're fluent in Dolphin) with these wonderful, intelligent creatures. Tours leave from Portimao's Marina at Praia da Rocha, with the meeting point being the shopping 'mall' at the marina.
Just one note for those of you who are 'nautically-challenged' like me... The boat is small and low in the water, which is great for getting close to the dolphins, but do make sure you pick a flat-calm day!
(Although, I should note that they do offer a 100% seasickness refund guarantee, so they must be confident you'll stay well!)
Tel. 282 799 209
This one should keep them quiet! Children can marvel at the underwater world seen throught the glass panes in the hull of this floating submarine.
There are daily trips with a choice of destinations: Lagos to Salema, or a Grottoes Trip.
Marina de Lagos - 8600 Lagos,
Tel: 282 76 7794
Leisure Parks and Zoos
Omega Wildlife Conservation Park
I'm never totally happy about zoos, but this park claims to conserve endangered species (e.g. crowned sifakas, bamboo lemurs, cheetah, oryx...) If true, then its work deserves to be recognised and supported. See for yourself the animals in some lovely surroundings. It offers a café, a shop and free parking. Of course, as it's near Monchique, the landscape vistas are breathtaking.
(Look for signs by the road just as you approach Caldas de Monchique spa resort, or take the Frota Azul Monchique bus from Portimao).
Open daily 1000 to 1900 hours
Tel. 282 911 327
Roma Golf Park
Just to the west of the marina and nearby the Roman ruins (Cerro da Villa), this 'American-style' leisure park offers a 'family day out' and guaranteed tired children at the end of it!
I would imagine that children would need to have at least a passing interest in golf and Roman history, since some of what's on offer consists of mini 18-hole golf courses (amid some lovely, flower-festooned gardens) and replicas of Roman monuments. There are also trees and lakes, which will be relaxing for the adults, but might not engage the younger visitor for very long.
Roma Golf Park, Caixa Postal 927, 8125 Vilamoura
Tel: 289 300 800
Where to start? There are: subtropical gardens, ponds and lakes. 36 holes of mini golf amid a 'mysterious world' theme. Live alligators in the Swamp. Snake Pit and various other reptilian attractions(?) such as iguanas and turtles. There's also a quad bike circuit. Apparently, kids love it...
Algoz - Messines Road,
Tel: 282 574 134
The Great Outdoors
There is a variety of thrill-seeker's entertainment on offer here.
Choose from canoe trips inland of Alvor's estuary, forest path walks near Monchique, safe (they claim) downhill biking from Foia (Algarve's highest peak) to the coast, cross-country mountain biking - or a package of all 3!
Update: Frank Koopman, who owns Oudoor Tours, kindly contacted me to point out that the downhill biking option is suitable only for those aged 15 and over. Frank is at pains to emphasise that the biking isn't dangerous per se - it's a 'just to be sure' precaution. The canoe trips and forest walks are, of course, open to all comers...
A pick-up service is offered (at extra cost per person) from Alvor, Portimao, Praia da Rocha ( 6), Lagos, Meia Praia, Praia da Luz ( 8), Ferragudo, Carvoeiro ( 8), Armação de Pera ( 13).
Tel: 282 969 520
The estuaries on the Algarve coast are a haven for many varieties of bird.
There are local species to spot, as well as migrants and some that over-winter in Algarve (that'll be the intelligent ones?)
Inland from the coast, there are more species to see, because of the variety of habitats provided by Algarve's abundant flora.
But the Rio Formosa National Park, which is a lengthy expanse from Vila Real at the Guadiana frontier with Spain right along to Faro, is perhaps the most favoured by those who consider themselves seasoned 'twitchers'.
There is a birding centre at Moncarapacho, a few kilometres inland from
Olhão and Fuzeta.
A rewarding day can be spent noting the varieties spotted, and notes compared on the way back to the accommodation.
The weather's almost always great, so just make sure you take plenty of sandwiches and some powerful binoculars.
Kayaks with a Difference
The beautiful Ria Formosa natural parkland is the setting
for my next recommendation...
... Pedal kayaking!
'Hobie kayaks' were developed in California (where else?)
and offer pedal-powered fun, while you stay dry and enjoy
the surroundings - the latter not difficult in Ria Formosa!
Play 'spot the wildlife' as you progress, or watch the
daily tasks of the inhabitants and workers of the area
(largely unchanged by the passing years).
Starting out from Ilha de Faro's Centro Nautico,
you can explore as much as your fitness will allow of the
lagoon system that makes up this exquisite natural park. You
can opt for a few hours of self-powered sightseeing, or an
extended excursion with overnight stays in traditional
cottages where staff can be booked to prepare parties and
barbeques leaving you to relax after your exertions.
And, if you ever decide you're too tired to continue,
there's a support boat in which you can shelter while your 'Hobie'
Fun for all ages, the kayak centre even offers trial runs
on Sunday mornings, should you wish to check your
kayak-ing prowess before you commit.
A full day costs 50 euros for an adult and 25 euros for
You can read about the wonderful day out I enjoyed with
visiting friends in my Algarve
Tel. (0351) 289 703 269 for even more details!
Blowy Fun near Sagres
Over in the west of the Algarve, there's a venue where
all ages can enjoy a fun time, and this time, the wind
supplies the motive power - you just need to steer.
Blokarting Sagres is a purpose-built track where
the sail-powered karts can be put through their paces. After
only a short introduction to the basics of handling the
karts, you're off - hold onto your sunhats!
Suitable for all
ages, but great fun for kids - all you need is the wind and
some free time...
Check out more details of Algarve
Blokarting and start enjoying windy days!
Adventure in the Air
A little east of Faro, there's an adventure park and
'summer camp' that has something for all ages, but offers a
choice of fun activities for the younger person.
Braveland offers programmes for children, groups
Slides, Bouncy Castles, Traditional Group Games (Mine
Fields, Human Ski, Treasure Hunts), Archery, Trampolining,
Mountain Biking, Kayaking, Trekking, Paintball, Spider Webs,
Climbing, Rappel, Low and High Ropes, Adventure Bridges...
and much more.
As you can see, there are choices for youngsters of
various ages and adventurousness. There are also Day Care
facilities on offer.
Even better, for long-suffering adults - they've not been
forgotten, and some of the stuff on offer is suitable for
their enjoyment, too.
You can reach Braveland by leaving the A22 at the Olhao
junction (no. 15) and heading toward Moncarapacho. Look for
the Parque Brave Land signs - it's only a
Watch out for updates as I research and expand this page of kids' Algarve attractions!
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