Beautiful spot on a cliff, overlooking Vale de Centianes Beach
Kids' club and an indoor game room with foosball and pool table
Simple rooms with private balconies or patios
Outdoor pool, along with a small indoor pool and a hot tub
Portuguese restaurant with an outdoor terrace
Pool bar and lounge bar with regular live music
Full spa with sauna and Turkish bath
Outdoor tennis court
Children 12 and under stay free
Free breakfast (all-inclusive rates also available)
Free shuttle to Carvoeiro, and free parking
Not within walking distance to dining or attractions in Carvoeiro
Rooms are dated and lack coffeemakers
Kids' pool is tiny and fitness room is cramped and hot
Fee for Wi-Fi and in-room safes
The Hotel Baia Cristal is a three-pearl family-friendly cliffside hotel overlooking Vale de Centianes Beach. The ocean views from the property are great, and there's direct beach access from the hotel. The 121 rooms have balconies or patios, but they're plain and slim on amenities. Additionally, not all have sea views. There's a kids' club and an indoor game room, but for a hotel that caters to families, the children's pool is comically small and the indoor pool isn't much bigger. Despite being close to Carvoeiro, there's little within walking distance, though there is a free shuttle into town. Compare with the Pestana Palm Gardens right next door, which has similar amenities with the addition of colorful private villas.
Aging family-friendly clifftop hotel with ocean views
In a region that's packed to the gills with basic mid-range properties, there's not too much to set the Hotel Baia Cristal apart. From the outside, things are charming enough, and the low building is fairly typical of the architecture in the Algarve. Inside, however, the decor is simple and outdated. Colorful artwork, along with chairs and cushioned benches that have fun retro patterns liven up the lobby's drab wood accents and stone tiles, but everything could use a bit of refresh. As this is the Algarve, most guests spend their time outside, where there are plenty of lounge chairs and places to sit on outdoor terraces. The property attracts plenty of families with its lively kids' club, and it's not uncommon to see families playing tennis or games together in the outdoor pool when they're not down below the craggy limestone cliffs at the sheltered beach.
Outside of town, on the cliffs overlooking Centianes Beach
There isn't much around the Hotel Baia Cristal other than a few neighboring hotels. The hotel does provide direct access to Vale de Centianes Beach, which takes a few minutes to reach on foot, requiring a downhill/uphill trek from the hotel's clifftop perch. There's a restaurant along the cliffs just above the beach, but most dining and attractions are down the winding road toward Carvoeiro. Some are within walking distance along the route, and the center of town is about a five-minute drive away. The hotel also offers a free daily shuttle (but the hours may be limited). About 15 minutes' drive farther, the charming fishing village of Ferragudo has outdoor cafes and music bars. The Gramacho Golf Course and Vale Da Pinta Golf Course -- both considered among Europe's best courses -- are each under a 15-minute drive away. Expect a 50-minute drive to the Faro Airport.
The hotel's 121 rooms have simple, dated decor, though they are well kept. Plain tiled floors coordinate with the mid-tone wood doors and trim, and cream walls are hung with spare abstract artwork. There's a lot of matching decor, including striped curtains that match the fabric on the furnishings and bedding. The color accents vary from blue to brown to lime-green. Flat-screen TVs and mini-fridges come standard, but there are no coffeemakers. Fees apply for Wi-Fi and in-room safes. The windows are small, but every room opens to a small balcony or patio. Some rooms have sea views, but most look out on the gardens or surrounding countryside. All the Suites and Family Rooms have views facing the sea, though, and they add kitchenettes with two-burner stovetops. Those staying on the ground floor can walk right from their patios to lounge chairs in the grass (the balconies aren't large enough for lounge chairs). The tiled bathrooms have bidets and shower/tub combos. Certain rooms near the parking lot can be noisy, and ear plugs may be in order.
Outdoor and indoor pools and hot tub, spa, kids' club, buffet restaurant, and free shuttle
The hotel's main draw is its close proximity to Vale de Centianes Beach at the base of the cliffs, which can be reached by a boardwalk (and staircases) directly from the property. Up on the hotel's own grounds, there's a two-tiered outdoor pool (the upper part pours into the lower section) flanked by white statues of women in flowing robes and surrounded by a sun deck and a pool bar terrace. There are plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas scattered around. The dedicated kids' pool is tiny and underwhelming to the point that most will find it to be useless for all but the smallest toddlers.
Fortunately the kids' club makes a more serious effort with supervised painting and games, even if it, too, is in a space that's too small. The game room is big enough to fit a pool table, air hockey, foosball, and ping pong table, along with a dart board, a seating area, and room to maneuver. There's an entertainment plan for adults too, including activities like water aerobics and water polo along with live music at the outdoor bar.
The full spa has treatment rooms with the usual range of massages, along with a sauna and a Turkish bath. There's also a small indoor pool (hair caps required) and a hot tub. The adjacent fitness room feels like an afterthought -- it's a tiny, hot space with just enough room for a treadmill, an exercise bike, and free weights, with a punching bag in front of the window that looks into the spa's lounge. For more appealing workouts, there's an outdoor tennis court. All-inclusive rates are available for food and beverage at the Portuguese buffet restaurant (and bar). Breakfast is included in all the rate packages and consists of a typical spread of eggs, meats, cereals, breads, and fruit. Parking is free and the hotel operates a free shuttle (three times a day) into Carvoeiro.
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