Near a few restaurants and bars, a three-minute drive to Santa Eulalia
Simple rooms with air-conditioning and TVs, some with balconies
Two outdoor pools with plenty of seating
Bar with pool tables where smoking is allowed
Restaurant plus a free breakfast buffet with hot and cold options
Guests can book all-inclusive rates (though hours are limited)
Free Wi-Fi is available
On-site parking is available
Style is dated and smoke smell lingers in public areas
Wi-Fi requires constantly logging in
Parking lot can be narrow and tight to navigate
We spotted some grime in bathrooms on our visit
Malfunctioning features like broken mini-fridges and shower faucets
No entertainment and all-inclusive hours are limited
The two-and-a-half-pearl Balaia Mar Hotel is a decent budget option for unfussy travelers. It's three-minutes to the tourist-friendly Santa Eulalia strip, and a 10-minute walk to Praia Maria Luisa. The hotel is old, and the 32 rooms include powerful air-conditioners, small TVs, and free Wi-Fi that requires constantly re-entering passwords. Many rooms are spacious, though, and some include large balconies. Apartments are also available. There are two pools, a bar with billiards tables, and a restaurant that serves a free breakfast buffet. All-inclusive rates are also available, but hours are restricted. For similar rates and rooms with kitchens in the same area, check out the Balaia Golf Village Resort.
Basic budget hotel with aging style for unfussy couples and families
This budget hotel can be a pleasant place to kick back for a few nights as it's within a reasonable walk of the ocean. Nestled amid blocks of privately owned vacation rentals that are managed by the Balaia Mar, there aren't a lot of bells and whistles here. Much of the action -- or, what little action there is -- centers on the hotel's pools and bar. The latter is a massive, old-school space with several pool tables and tons of oak tables and chairs to accommodate everyone. Of course, the pervasive smell of smoke might turn off some guests, and there's no entertainment, so the vibe is almost always subdued. Things are a little more lively around the pools, which have plenty of seating that's often filled with the hotel's primarily British tourists throughout much of the day. The hotel is best suited for guests who don't need much in the way of activity on their vacation, and for those who don't mind its slightly shabby style. Expect to see a mix of families and couples here, many of whom come from the U.K.
Near Praia Maria Luisa, a 10-minute drive from Santa Eulalia strip
Situated a 10-minute walk from Praia Maria Luisa, the Balaia Mar Hotel has a location that pleases most of its previous guests. In fact, it may be the best thing about the hotel. There are a number of restaurants and bars lining the busy road out front -- and an Intermarche grocery store is less than a five-minute drive away (there's another simple grocery store just across the street from the hotel). Otherwise, the area is relatively subdued. Those looking for livelier goings on will need to make the three-minute drive to the strip of bars and restaurants in Santa Eulalia. For an even wilder party and a buzzing beach scene, Albufeira's old town is a 15-minute drive away, while it's a 25-minute drive into Vilamoura. The closest airport is near Faro and will take 35 minutes to reach by car. Those arriving and departing from Lisbon will need to budget around two hours and 25 minutes to reach their destination.
Simple, dated rooms with flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi, though there are a few problems
While the rooms here are fine enough, there are some flaws that need addressing. The style, for one, is fairly dated, and includes old flat-box furniture, pale pastel wall art, and details like upholstered headboards or wood paneling in some rooms. On the bright side, the sleeping areas are clean, and beds are comfortable. Still, there's no overlooking signs of aging, like old mini-fridges (the first one we had didn't work at all), and sometimes snug floor plans. Standard features include electric kettles (but no coffee or tea), TVs (some small tube units), and air-conditioning. The latter come in the form of massive old units, though they work well. Wi-Fi is free and, when connected, works well. However, we had to sign in anytime our device went into sleep mode, which is frustrating. The electronic black-out metal grates help keep rooms dark into the morning for those who want it, and some rooms have spacious terraces. Bathrooms are large, tiled affairs with shower/tub combos, though again, we had issues -- the nozzle to switch from the bath faucet to the showerhead was stuck and required assistance to open. Additionally, we spotted some grimy tilework in the rooms we visited. The hotel was mostly quiet at night, though it was empty when we visited, so it's worth keeping in mind that walls are thin, so noise may be an issue.
Two pools, large bar, and restaurant with all-inclusive rates available
Given its budget status, it's no surprise that features here don't run deep, but even so, some of what's on offer is entirely underwhelming. The pools are -- at least -- a highlight, and the clean water, surplus of seating, and poolside service (in high season) keeps most guests happy throughout the day. There's also a free shuttle to the nearby beach, though it's only for all-inclusive guests. Additionally, guests on all-inclusive plans should know that the hours are restricted. In any case, the hotel's bar isn't exactly made for raucous partying, and the drab space has zero entertainment save for a few pool tables and TVs. The hotel's restaurant serves all three meals in high season and only breakfast in low season. The latter is a standard buffet with continental and hot options. Food in general gets mixed reviews. Parking is free, though portions of the lot are narrow and challenging to navigate. There's also free Wi-Fi, though guests will have to constantly sign in any time their device turns off.