W Algarve - Arrival to the hotel
Around midday, we left Sintra, some twenty minutes north-west of Lisbon, to head leisurely towards the Algarve. In doing so, we crossed the Ponte Vasco da Gama, spanning the Tagus for over ten kilometers, before joining the A2 freeway heading for the Algarve. The journey seemed long at first glance, but was completed more quickly than expected, considering that the 120 km/h speed limit on Portugal’s beautifully landscaped freeways seems to be more of a suggestion than a real limit…
Once we had passed the last tollbooth on the A2 freeway, we reached the W Algarve in around 15 minutes. At the gate, the security guard quickly registered our vehicle’s license plate so we could enter and leave the hotel at our leisure. We then made our way to the hotel drop-off area, where Diego, the valet, invited us to leave our modest, but very enjoyable, Citroen C4 right next to a gleaming neon-green Lamborghini. From the landing stage, we admire the exterior architecture of the W Algarve, where insertions in the exterior concrete walls recall a pattern of scales, as if the hotel were an enormous white fish. It all covers a fountain above which is the distinctive hotel brand’s “W”.
Earning Marriott Bonvoy points
The best way to earn Marriott Bonvoy points for free stays at over 8,000 hotels worldwide is to hold the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card (and/or the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card).
In addition to the exceptional welcome bonus of each of these two cards, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on all your purchases and 5 points per dollar at Marriott establishments. And every year, you’ll receive a free hotel night certificate (worth 35,000 points) and 15 Elite nights toward your Marriott Bonvoy status.
W Algarve - Check-in
It should be noted that, contrary to my usual practice, I did not contact the W Algarve prior to my arrival in order to check in and request an upgrade. Firstly, because my previous experience in Portugal had shown me that this was pointless, as I had to provide passports for all guests at check-in. Secondly, because I could see a series of upgrades by scrolling on the Marriott Bonvoy mobile app as we got closer to our stay.
We pass through the front door accompanied by Diego, who leads us into a concrete corridor revealing pastel mosaics embedded in the floor, leaving us in Mafalda’s care for check-in. She offers us a drink of our choice; I opt for carbonated water, which will be delivered on time, and my wife opts for coffee, which will be delivered to the room a little later. It’s impossible not to notice the pottery that adorns the floor-to-ceiling walls of the hallway leading to the reception area, with the exception of glass inserts inside which are neon lights for evening lighting. Mafalda confirms that this wall is made up of over 600 (we forget the exact count) pottery pieces created by a local artist, before handing over our keys and a map explaining the hotel’s amenities.
W Algarve - The bedroom
Diego offers to accompany us and show us to our room, while offering to carry our luggage for us; a nice touch. We pass the pottery wall again and catch a brief glimpse of the hotel’s lobby bar with its Moroccan-inspired chandeliers, before entering a terrazzo-clad hallway illuminated by ballasts installed above the doors of each room. These pastel color doors are reminiscent of typical Algarve houses. Very pretty!
Our bedroom door opens onto a vestibule with plenty of storage space. Next, we get to the passageway leading to the bedroom, through which pass the two frosted glass boxes housing the shower, toilet and bidet. Yellow and turquoise mosaic tiles contrast with gray ceramic, and a glass panel separates the bedroom from the bathroom’s two sinks and a make-up counter, particularly appreciated by Mrs.
The room is spacious, with a king-size bed topped by a sardine-shaped cushion reminiscent of those sold in any good souvenir store across Portugal. Further back is a sofa built into the base of the bed and a papasan-style chair, with a modern glass table in the middle.
At the far end is a structure reminiscent of the fireplaces in Algarve houses, featuring all the tools needed to make your own cocktails, set on a bedside table made of mirrors housing the large drawer used as a mini bar (which we mostly used as a fridge). At the far end of the room, we can admire our terrace and the view of the pool.
After briefly explaining how the curtains, lights and ventilation/air conditioning work, Diego leaves us, telling us that we’ll be receiving our luggage in ten minutes or so. Mathieu, Diego’s colleague, arrives with all our luggage a few minutes later and has taken care of removing my cell phone from its GPS holder to bring it to my room!
In addition to the impeccable service we’ve received since our arrival, they have taken care to place a handwritten note and some succulent chocolates on the lounge table as a welcome gift (along with the coffee promised at reception when we checked in). Important detail: we are provided with 6 bottles of water, sometimes replaced twice a day, for the duration of our stay.
W Algarve - Hotel amenities
The hotel complex comprises two main buildings housing two distinct establishments: the hotel, the W Algarve, and the W Residences Algarve, both of which follow the same architectural style described above.
At the center of these two buildings is a two-level spillover pool, as well as a bar and restaurant (The Wet Deck). In mid-May, as the hotel was not very busy, many employees were in training and the opening hours of this bar and restaurant were considerably reduced. Beverage service was a little slow, but friendly nonetheless. The menu, consisting of salads, burgers and other North American-inspired dishes, didn’t strike us as particularly interesting. As the W Algarve is a luxury hotel, prices at both the bar and the poolside restaurant are high… At the entrance to the pool terrace was a kiosk offering smoothies, flavored water and sun cream.
At least, the hotel has one other bar, in the lobby, and two other restaurants, Market Kitchen and Paper Moon.
The first restaurant was only open on Fridays and Saturdays at the time of our visit, and is located on the first floor in the same area as the buffet breakfast. It features a terrace overlooking fountains. Every evening, these fountains come alive with a sound and light show, at dusk and after dark.
The second restaurant, Paper Moon on the 4th floor, is Italian-inspired. If traveling with a baby makes it difficult to go out for dinner, we visited the restaurant to take advantage of a special offer for aperitifs. For 25 Euros per person, we were treated to a cocktail and three appetizers. Although tiny, they were absolutely delicious. Considering that cocktail prices exceed 15 Euros, this offer was a good deal all in all. Although we were seated on the terrace, the interior of the restaurant was interesting, especially its large central bar that doubles as a wine bar. The magnificent lobby bar, with its chandeliers and benches set in cocoon-like structures, comes alive in the evening with performances by local djs on rotation. The bar opens onto a tangle of outdoor terraces. At the time of our stay, the hotel was very sparsely stocked, and so was the bar.
Activities and facilities
The hotel’s third floor houses a fully-equipped gymnasium with a magnificent view of the fountains, swimming pool and, at the far end of the horizon, the ocean. A paved path leading down to the ocean provides access to a children’s play area with a pirate theme, next to which is an events area. A little further down, after passing a sentry box, you can access Praia do Evaristo, a tiny public beach next to which is a hyponymous restaurant not affiliated with the hotel. As this beach is more suited to sunbathing than swimming, we recommend Praia do Castelo, just a little further on. It can be reached by road from the hotel, or by skirting the cliffs along a series of paths that are difficult to negotiate, especially with a baby. However, the best beaches near the hotel are undoubtedly Praia da Galé, a 30-minute walk away, or Praia Olhos de Agua / Praia da Falésia, a 15-minute drive away.
At all times of year, but especially in high season, the hotel offers a wide range of activities. Right next to reception, the Whatever, Whenever kiosk, typical of the W Hotels brand, provides information on the activities on offer during your stay. To our surprise, many activities outside the hotel are offered at rather affordable prices, including boat excursions.
W Algarve - Breakfast
Breakfast, which is complimentary with Platinum Elite status or higher with the Marriott hotel chain, is a buffet in every respect similar to all the buffets offered by the other Marriott-affiliated hotels we stayed at in Portugal, with the difference that this one featured a poorer selection of pastries, but a greater variety of fresh fruit. It is all a bit disappointing for a luxury hotel. We would have appreciated an à la carte menu featuring local specialties for a change. On the other hand, the coffee, prepared by a barista, was excellent, whereas the other hotels we stayed at systematically offered Nespresso capsules. Feel like eating on the terrace, but the cool breeze puts you off? They’ll be happy to bring you some blankets!
W Algarve - Departure formalities
Once our luggage was packed, we made a quick call to reception and left everything in the room’s vestibule. At the reception desk, I was given an invoice showing the various charges made to the room during our stay. A charge of 175 Euros catches my eye, and I’m told it’s a service charge for a folding bed. I explain that, although a folding bed had been placed in the room prior to our arrival, we had requested that it be replaced with a bassinette (normally offered free of charge) to accommodate a 9-month-old baby, which was done at lightning speed. The agent apologized and withdrew the charge on the spot. Once this was fixed, I paid the bill with my Marriott BonvoyMD American ExpressMD* Card. Mrs. asks for a coffee to go, which they promise to bring promptly to the car before we leave.
Once the departure formalities have been completed, we make our way to the drop-off area, where our proud Citroen C4 was waiting for us, packed to the rafters with our many pieces of luggage (thanks to our baby). As luck would have it, Diego and Mathieu are off that day, but their worthy replacements will take care of handing us fresh bottles of water (and Mrs.’ coffee) before we hit the road.
W Algarve - My overall impression
The W Algarve, opened in 2021, is magnificent. It’s certainly luxurious, but modern, tastefully decorated without being flashy. Once again, the service is absolutely impeccable and the staff dedicated. The only downside is that it’s located in a predominantly residential area, around which there are very few services such as restaurants other than those in the hotel, grocery stores or other local shops. The only restaurant within walking distance, apart from Praia do Castelo, which we didn’t try, is Pôr do Sol. The food is excellent, but the prices are high.
The best way to get to and out of the hotel is by car. However, valet parking and indoor parking are available. Outdoor signage seems to announce a public transit service, possibly in high season.
As the W Algarve is located right on the coast and in the center of the Algarve, it offers easy access to the region’s many points of interest by car. For example, it took us two hours to drive from Tavira in the east to Sagres in the far west of the Algarve.
Diego suggested we return in October as part of our many conversations throughout our stay, which we certainly intend to do as part of a future trip to Portugal.
Keep reading with more hotel reviews in Portugal: