It’s that time of year when many families are starting to think about where they’ll spend some precious quality together time in the warmer months. Finding a place where everyone will truly enjoy themselves can be, shall we say, a bit tricky. Places that cater to kids are of course enjoyable, but aren’t really grown-up fun, and adult-focused destinations are a complete snooze for kids. Newsflash!: Martinhal, a portfolio of luxury resorts in Portugal expertly offers high-style vacations that are also incredibly family-friendly.

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One of Lisbon’s iconic petite streetcars against some of the city’s colorful tiled buildings.

Portugal? Yes, Portugal!
While it’s true that Portugal might not be the first place you think of when mulling a family trip to Europe, there are plenty of reasons to consider it. Sure, it’s not the Amalfi Coast or French Riviera; that said, it’s not the Amalfi Coast or French Riviera! (Think: less crowded, more affordable.)

But that doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on good food and wine (the latter, you will learn, are blends here), lovely coastlines and natural vistas, a cosmopolitan center, or old world history and architecture. (The country’s capital, Lisbon, is a gorgeous and charming city that’s also experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years, with new design, shopping and culinary scenes adding to the city’s cultural offerings.)

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Family-friendly cocktail hour at Martinhal Sagres Beach Resort

Martinhal Resorts: Truly Catering to the Whole Family (That Means You, Too)
You may not know about Martinhal Hotels and Resorts, but if you’re in the market for an upscale family-friendly vacation, we’re here to tell you you should.

The company, which currently operates four properties/resorts in Portugal — Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort; Martinhal Quinta Family Golf Resort; Martinhal Lisbon Cascais Family Hotel, and its newest, Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites — is dedicated to delivering a luxury vacation experience against a backdrop of elegant and stylish family-friendly facilities. (Martinhal describes the essence of the brand as “bring [ing] together the elements of luxury, family, design and genuine hospitality.”)

We have to say, they largely succeed. Whether you’re staying at a beachfront property or in a city center, you can expect chic and modern surroundings, exceptional service, and an atmosphere where children are welcome, cared for and encouraged to play and have fun.

It’s an uncommon mix, and one that to our eye, left guests of all ages relaxed and happy. (Case in point: the dinnertimes we witnessed at the main restaurants at the Cascais and Sagres Resorts; kids ate with parents and then played happily in a supervised area reserved for them if they liked, while parents enjoyed some good food and wine without having to be self-conscious about kids being kids.) But really, that’s just the beginning.

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Kids play on a central lawn at Martinhal Cascais, right outside the main restaurant.

Designed with Kids (and their parents) in Mind
One of the key aspects of Martinhal Resorts and Hotels is that they are designed and built with families in mind. So, not only does that mean kids’ entertainment corners in restaurants (and a cute welcome packet, complete with Martinhal Fox mascot stuffie upon check-in), it also means kids clubs for children ages six months to early teens, with activities and programming created for different age groups.

Parents traveling with babies and small children can make use of the Baby Concierge service, designed to ease the hassle of being on the road with a little one. The service enables parents to pre-book baby equipment such as potties, gates, baby baths and more.

Other thoughtful elements that underscore a commitment to serving families with style include furnishings — such as oversized, round ottomans made with Portuguese cork — that are both sleek and safe, and a kids’ menu that is refined, tasty, and, for the youngest of diners, broken down by age in months.

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The lobby of Martinhal Sagres in Portugal’s Algarve region.

Four Ways to Martinhal in Portugal
All Martinhal properties cater to families; each has its own personality. While staying at one exclusively could be a lovely vacation for a family, the properties are close enough (a three-hour drive, maximum, or as little as 40 minutes) that visiting the Lisbon Chiado hotel and one of the less urban locales would also make sense  — especially for the family traveling all the way from the U.S.

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photo: Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts 

Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort
The original, flagship Martinhal property, Sagres Beach Family Resort, will make you feel like you’re at the end of the earth (in the very best way). Set within a protected natural park and overlooking a beach and dramatic coastline, it’s located at the most southwestern point in Europe. Along with gorgeous natural plantings and stunning scenery, the Sagres Resort features a five star hotel as well as numerous, spacious villas with multiple bedrooms, kitchens and private pools.

The property offers five different kids’ clubs, for children ages six months to teenagers, in addition to multiple playgrounds, pools, a dirt bike course, and more. All told, 37,000 square feet are dedicated to keeping kids busy and happy.

Also on site: multiple pools with lounge areas, restaurants ranging from casual to more formal, a serene spa with ultra-Zen gardens and sitting area, and numerous options for exploring and playing in the natural splendor, from biking to hiking to windsurfing.

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A suite at Martinhal Chiado in Lisbon; photo: 2016©www.tempusdexposicao.com

Martinhal Chiado Family Suites
The newest of the company’s properties, Martinhal Chiado Family Suites opened last September in Lisbon. It’s located in the heart of the city and features apartments ranging in size from studios to two-bedrooms. In addition to a kids’ club, this property also offers a pyjama club, where caregivers will watch children until 11:30 p.m. while parents take in Lisbon after-dark (the kids can fall asleep there); in-suite childcare can also be arranged.

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Kids Club at Martinhal Cascais; photo: 2016©www.tempusdexposicao.com

Martinhal Cascais Family Hotel
Not quite country, not quite city, the Martinhal Cascais Family Hotel feels like a relaxing Hamptons getaway. Opened in spring of last year, the property features hotel rooms and suites, all with private balconies or terraces, as well as modern villas with kitchens and two bedrooms.

A 7,700-square-foot kids club provides entertainment and supervision for kids six months to early teens, and several playgrounds are located on site for independent play. Additionally, the Cascais property has three pools, including a large, oasis-like “Pool Hangout” area with water of varying depths, lounge chairs on the surrounding green and snack bar nearby. Those in need of relaxation or pampering can visit the serene spa on site, which also connects to a heated indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub area.

For recreation beyond the resort, two championship golf courses are located nearby, as are multiple beaches, bike routes along the dramatic coastline and the Michelin-star restaurant Fortaleza do Guincho. Europe’s largest casino is also close by.

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Martinhal Quinta Family Golf Resort
If Cascais is the Hamptons, Martinhal Quinta is Beverley Hills. Located in the tony area of Quinta do Lago, this resort is an exclusive 4-star private collection of independently owned luxury villas. Picture groupings of tasteful dwellings on quiet winding roads, with bougainvillea tumbling down walls and pergolas. (Villas range in size from two- to five- bedrooms and all have a private garden and pool area.) While this property does have a kids club (for children six months to eight years old) and a central pool area and playground, its more for golfers and families looking to relax and recharge on their own.

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A family villa at Martinhal Cascais photo: 2016©www.tempusdexposicao.com

The Cost of Luxury
Surprise: you don’t get fine food and wine, sophisticated surroundings, kids clubs and exceptional service for cheap.  But you knew that. Most services and meals are a la carte — that is, you pay for them as you go. (This is not an all-inclusive situation.)

Kids Club starting rates are —  with the exception of Cascais, where it is complimentary — $22 per child, per three-hour session. (All kids clubs are complimentary in the winter, from November 1 to March 31.)

With such a diverse portfolio of properties, rates and types of accommodations vary; you can book anything from chic and petite hotel room (or adjoining ones for you and the kids), to a relatively expansive villa where you cook your own meals and lounge by a small private pool.

That said, sample starting rates are as follows: At Lisbon’s Chiado, a studio for two adults and one infant is $212 per night; in Cascais, a deluxe room for two adults and one infant including breakfast is $190 per night; at golf resort Quinta, a two-bedroom townhouse for two adults, two children and one infant is $160/night, and at Sagres, a two-bedroom village house for two adults and two children is $199 per night.

Online: martinhal.com

Have you and the family visited Portugal? Give us your travel tips in the comments! 

— Mimi O’Connor

This trip was paid for by Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.