Slightly secluded yet central, five-acre garden property in the Algarve
Bright, contemporary rooms and suites with balconies and marble bathrooms
Three restaurants, including two seasonal spots and a year-round buffet
Lounge bar plus seasonal beach and pool bars
7Seven Spa with hydrotherapy pools, sauna, and aromatic steam room
24-hour fitness room, bike rental, putting green, and table games
Free shuttle to the hotel's seasonal beach area and the marina
Kid-friendly and pet-friendly features like menus, rooms, and packages
Hotel has its own 18-hole golf course, with plenty more nearby
Internet center, printing, meeting rooms, and secretarial services
ATM, foreign exchange, concierge, on-call doctor, and car rental available
Free Wi-Fi for HHonors guests
Fee for everything from Wi-Fi to beach chairs and kids' club
Seasonal opening and closing of features can greatly affect experience
Not directly on the beach -- requires a shuttle to reach
Fee for pets; pets not allowed in July or August
The 176-room Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa is a family-friendly upscale hotel on beautiful grounds that include an 18-hole golf course. The hotel has a bright, contemporary style with a touch more personality than many Hiltons. Most of the spacious rooms feature details like artsy hand-painted traditional tile art, and all come with private balconies and marble bathrooms. Some have full kitchens and washing machines. Features are numerous and include six pools, three restaurants and bars, free shuttles, and dedicated off-site beach space -- most of which are seasonal. There's also a large spa plus a kids' club, but these incur an extra fee -- as does Wi-Fi for many. For something closer to the beach, consider Crowne Plaza Vilamoura - Algarve, where rates are lower.
The Hilton Vilamoura has a relatively secluded location and relaxing green grounds -- complete with ponds -- that spread across five acres. However, despite the sweeping views of its well-manicured lawns, cave-style pools with waterfalls, and pleasant atmosphere, there's no denying that this is a chain property -- at least when it comes to the hotel's public spaces. Common areas are large, with a modern Moorish design, but it's not enough to shake the overall generic personality and style of a large chain hotel. Take the lobby, for instance, where a pretty string sculpture hangs down from high above with clusters of blue suggesting birds or waves. It makes a lovely impression -- as does the bright white and polished marble all around. Yet, the sagging red leather furniture all feels far too humble for a Hilton of this caliber and adds an unintentionally dated vibe to the space. Still, most guests find this a pleasant place to retreat in southern Portugal for at least a few days.
Its proximity to several golf courses (including its own Pinhal Golf Course) make it an ideally located option for golf lovers, while the kid-friendly and pet-friendly features make it popular among families. Although there's a heavy amount of families, the resort takes care to make enough space for those without kids, and adult-only areas give couples enough privacy that plenty of them still flock here as well.
Slightly secluded spot just out of walking distance from a small marina
The Hilton Vilamoura is located in a residential area with little in the immediate vicinity -- outside of several golfing facilities -- so it is most ideal for guests who aren't looking to explore much beyond the hotel itself, or for those that have a car. There is a little marina about a 10-minute drive (or 30-minute walk) away, which has a few restaurants and bars on the coastal side, as well as the Vilamoura Casino.There's a supermarket about a five-minute drive away for those looking to stock kitchenettes. The hotel also runs a shuttle to Falesia Beach, which is about a 20-minute drive, and where the hotel has its own section. The Ria Formosa Nature Reserve is about 40 minutes south. Faro Airport is just a 25-minute drive from the hotel.
Contemporary rooms with private balconies, some with living spaces; apartments have full kitchens
Hilton Vilamoura has 176 rooms, suites, and apartment-style rooms, most of which has a simple, clean, and modern look that's punctuated with lovely local details. In each of the rooms that we visited -- with the exception of the Two-Bedroom Apartment -- the hotel employed hand-painted, locally crafted tiles in sharp, artsy ways. The most notable includes the large panels mounted above the beds, which are arranged to look like funky abstract art. They're also used in the bathroom to bold and bright effect. The accompanying light wood veneer furniture, clean lines, and light tile floors keep everything breezy and bright. By contrast, the apartment we visited was a bit dated, with heavy, bold patterns in the drapes and soft furnishings and mid-tone wood furniture that's not quite as fresh.
Even the lowest category Deluxe Rooms have notable features like private balconies with views, marble bathrooms with separate tubs and walk-in showers, and work desks. The Deluxe Room Plus adds more space, with an open living room (with a sofa bed), as well as a king-size bed in the bedroom. Suites are divided into a few separate sub-categories, each with their own perks. Twin Family Suites have double the balconies and double the bathrooms, while King Presidential Suites have whirlpools and panoramic, top-floor views, plus perks like fresh fruit and water. Apartment-style suites come with one or two bedrooms, full kitchens, DVD players, washing machines, and separate dining, living, and bedroom areas. Two-Bedroom Suites are the largest and can sleep up to five adults.
Standard features include large flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, tea and coffee facilities, and Internet (for a fee, or free for Hilton HHonors members). Bathrooms are spacious, and include generously sized vanities plus shower/tub combos and Peter Thomas Roth toiletries. Some bathrooms offer separate showers and bathtubs, and all have contemporary vessel sinks.
Free shuttle to the hotel's designated area on Falesia Beach; fee for sun beds
Hilton Vilamoura is not a beachfront property, but it does operate a 25-minute shuttle bus service to Falesia Beach where the hotel has its own dedicated section of beach and amenities between May and October. Though the shuttle is free, sun beds are not. Guests who purchase beds get free snacks and bottled water. There's also a small beach bar on the sands where guests can grab snacks and drinks.
Two of the three restaurants are seasonal; 24-hour room service
There are three restaurants here, though the resort's poolside barbecue spot Aquarela is seasonal and only open from April through September. During July and August, the faux-rustic and cave-like Aquarela serves fresh seafood, salads, and smoothies for lunch and dinner, while limiting its operation to just lunch for the rest of the season. The hotel's gourmet restaurant Cilantro -- also open seasonally -- is headed by Chef Andre Simoes and features Italian-inspired dishes with an Algarvian twist. A private dining room can seat up to 16 with advance notice. The hotel's main buffet restaurant, Moscada, is open year round for breakfast and dinner. Anyone on a half-board meal plan will have their meals here, served either indoors in the contemporary (if cookie-cutter) dining room or outside on the terrace. Unlike some buffets at other resorts in the area, guests have hailed the quality and selection at Moscada.
Be prepared for some significant wait times, as this seems to be a running theme with all of the Hilton Vilamoura's restaurants. If the wait is too long, there's the hotel's 24-hour room service.
Live entertainment, snacks, and cocktails at the lounge bar and seasonal beach bar
Rubi Bar is Hilton Vilamoura's only on-site bar (though all the restaurants have their own drink service). Spacious and contemporary, Rubi Bar doesn't break any boundaries with style. In fact, it's the epitome of a hotel chain bar and has little personality. There are soft, cushioned seats at the bar or leather lounge chairs available plus cocktails, beers, port, and wine. In the evenings, the bar offers live music and televised sporting events. For a beach party, take the shuttle to Club H20, the Hilton's own beach bar on Falseia Beach, which has cocktails, local DJs, and snacks. There's also a small pool bar located next to the apartment pool. Note that both of these bars have seasonal restrictions.
Kid- and pet-friendly hotel with six pools, business center, spa, and 18-hole golf course
On par with the seasonal availability of the Hilton Vilamoura's restaurants and bars, access to the hotel's six different pools depends on the time of year. Even when they are all open, guests have complained that there is not enough space, with limited availability of loungers and sun beds and an overall cramped feeling. All-in-all, the hotel has a small, circular adult-only pool; large, centrally-located family pool; teenager pool with waterfall (adjacent to the Aquarela restaurant); a covered, indoor/open-air pool; Cascatas apartment pool; and kids' pool. The hotel says the pools are heated, but some guests have found the pools to be chilly.
Access to the hotel's hydrotherapy spa, 7Seven Spa, incurs a fee. The spa offers a heated indoor pool, aromatherapy steam room, ice fountain, water tunnel, and sauna -- in addition to the whirlpool and several pools with varying temperatures. Spa-goers also have access to the hotel's Zen Gardens. The spa is also home to the 24-hour fitness center, which has free weights, machines, and a personal trainer. Access to the gym is free for hotel guests.
Kids can run loose at the Paradise Island Kids Club, which is free to use children are supervised. Otherwise, there's a team available (for fee) with lots of planned activities, a small kids' pool, and shipwreck playground. The hotel runs the 18-hole Pinhal Golf Course, across the road, which has waterholes and bunkers dotting the hilly course. Accompanied minors get in free.
Other amenities include a fully equipped business center with secretarial services, meeting rooms, and free Wi-Fi -- for Hilton HHonors member. The hotel also operates a seasonal, free shuttle to the beach and marina, though frequency of the shuttle depends on the season. Pets are allowed at the hotel, but not during July and August. There's also a currency exchange and ATM on-site.
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