The Porto Bay Hotel Group run a selection of top quality hotels both in Portugal and Brazil. They also have properties in Portuguese controlled Madeira.
Having stayed at their magnificent 5 star Cliff Bay Hotel in Funchal, Madeira (See my earlier reviews of both the hotel and Maderia itself), we fancied something a little different to the more formal 2 Michelin Star dining offered by that hotel, (not that we ever tired of it) and whilst I would not normally contemplate a resort style complex, the facilities offered by it’s multi-award winning sister hotel, the 4 star Hotel Porto Mare, just a couple of hundred yards away, made me think again.
Situated off the sea-side promenade which links the Lido area to Camera de Lobos town and just 50 yards from the Ocean, it stands in 13,400 sq.m. of private, sub-tropical gardens which contain more than 500 different species, some of them unique, along with an orchid garden.
You can almost get lost here! The grounds are immaculately kept.The scents and colours are astounding, especially in the early morning and evenings. A great place for a post dinner stroll.
All fruits and herbs gown in the garden are used by the chefs. Orange, black veined Monarch butterflies, with 4″ wingspans patrol the gardens.
The facilities are shared with two other premises, the smaller Eden Mar hotel and The Residence, a small time-share unit owned by the same hotel group. These form the Vila Porto Mare Resort, but the grounds and the pools are so vast, it is never a problem.
There are no less than 5 pools here, the largest being simply massive, with a palm tree island in the middle. The water here is so soft and fresh at body temperature that with the sun on my back, it felt like swimming in liquid silk.
In early/mid June it was so uncrowded that we often had the indoor/outdoor, large pool and Jacuzzis to ourselves, depending on the time of day
This was a very therapeutic and blissful experience.
I understand that the hotel can get crowded in the school holidays, so I would recommend June, early July and September to get the best out of it. The weather is superb at those times of year too.
June coincides with the island’s Atlantic Festival, with free musical and arts performances, as well as the stunning fireworks displays on successive Saturday evenings in Funchal harbour. It’s a 10.30pm start for you early-to-bed types though. Well worth staying up for.
Other facilities include mini-golf, squash, petanque, a pool table, table tennis, a tennis court, a fully equipped gym, crèche and children’s play area.
There is an indoor and an outdoor Jacuzzi. There is no immediate access to the ocean for swimming, though a large Lido (5Eu.) is close by at the sea’s edge.
A small park with cafes sits between the hotel complex and the shore.
Diners are well catered for with five restaurants, all individually styled and catering for different styles of cuisine, including Mediterranean, Italian, Portuguese and International.
There are also themed cuisine nights in the Atlántida Restaurant which change nightly.
The Atlántida is adjacent to the main pool and gardens. The buffets provided here, both at breakfast and dinner are of the finest quality I have seen on my travels. The quantity, variety and freshness were superb. It really is an injustice to call them buffets, for it is a European gastronomic adventure trip. The attention to detail was fascinating to see and for meat cuts, roasts and fish, chefs were on hand behind the counter to cook them before your eyes. The trays were constantly replenished. The trouble is, I am now used to champagne flutes of ice-cold sparkling Spumante with my breakfast.
Some of these restaurants offer al fresco dining, which in the sunny mornings and sultry evenings, is just exceptional.
The free entertainment in the bar were subtle duos or trios, nothing rowdy or late night.
For those who, like me, fancy a change of scene, there are six bars and an ice cream/coffee/crepe parlour.
Our room was a ‘Sea View’ option. This was a massive room with large, comfortable twin beds pushed together. It was a very pleasant room with original artworks on the wall and a well maintained bathroom. The toiletries were by Rituals. White dressing gowns and fluffy towels were provided. The large balcony was a bonus, with views over the indoor/outdoor pools, palm trees and the sea.
Be aware that some standard rooms, although also with balconies, face onto the tree-lined main road or a side street.
The walk into Funchal is around a 40 minute gentle flat and downhill stroll, though there is a free shuttle bus from the hotel seven times daily, handy to avoid the uphill walk back.
There is a comprehensive shopping centre nearby as an alternative to a trek into town.
The nearest, largest, freshest, best and cheapest supermarket (all of those), the Pingo Doce, is underneath the next door Eden Mar hotel. You will find everything you could possibly need here, from hot takeaways to fresh food to gifts.
If you have to resort to a resort, this is certainly the resort to resort to. Not a last resort, a first resort!
To see the comprehensive website go to: