Story by Lynn Burshtein, photos courtesy of Pine Cliffs Resort
Nestled between Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is Europe’s westernmost nation. The Algarve region, located at the southern tip of the country, is mainly known for its maritime villages, sandy white beaches and monumental cliffs. This coastal position provides considerable personal space with room to really breathe, making it a prime location for relaxation and wellness.
And so, hidden atop the orange-hued cliffs outside the Algarve town of Albufeira is Pine Cliffs Resort, a member of the famed Luxury Collection hotels. The resort has been welcoming luxury travellers since 1992, but in the past three years, it has also established itself as a world-class health and fitness destination hotel. It is an ideal option for anyone considering a self-guided wellness vacation or guided wellness retreat in Europe.
The expansive property, which holds up to 3,000 guests, boasts a total of 11 restaurants and lounges, eight pools, a golf course, tennis courts and a lookout point with what they refer to as a “1,000,000 Euro view.” The Ocean Suites (I was fortunate enough to stay in one) are high-tech wonders that resemble luxury condominiums from the pages of Dwell Magazine. Along with modern amenities, the suites feature a large soak tub and separate rain shower, a built-in dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer. Pine Cliff Resort’s exterior is classical Moorish design, however, the interiors are complete with Portuguese ceramic tiles and other traditional finishes.
Outside, pine trees dot the majestic cliffs, and the clear blue sky that engulfs it all, provides ideal sunbathing conditions. But to lie languidly on the beach all day would be to miss out on the many energizing health and fitness options offered at Pine Cliffs’ award-winning Serenity – The Art of Well Being spa.
Inside the Pine Cliffs Goes Active fitness facility, guests will discover state-of-the-art equipment along with some tough-love personal trainers and daily group fitness classes, including beach boot camp, yoga and Pilates. For a more intensive experience, there are curated, three-to-seven-night wellness packages that focus on fitness, or yoga or weight management . There is also a selection of holistic detox retreats that aim to cleanse the body and mind of unwanted toxins. In addition, and rare among resorts, are spa and fitness programs designed to include the whole family. This is ideal for parents eager to instill the value of health and wellness in their children.
The beautifully-appointed Serenity spa facility provided me with some quality “alone” time, during which I tried the experiential showers (complete with soundtracks), and relaxing on a private sun deck. Next I sampled a regionally-inspired body treatment, called Senses of the Algarve. The 80-minute, sweet-smelling extravaganza incorporated local ingredients including Fleur de Sel from Ria Formosa, beach sand from the nearby Praia de Falesia for the scrub, followed by a carob-based body wrap and ending with a massage using Orange Essential Oil. Following the rigorous workout I’d put myself through earlier that day, I left the spa feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
Standard packages at Pine Cliffs Resort include a massive European-style breakfast buffet (from which you can create a healthy muesli bowl or steel oats and fruit), but wellness-focused guests may choose to have their breakfast and lunch at the smaller Zest Restaurant which offers lighter fare as well as tasty, freshly-blended smoothies. Guests may want to splurge at dinner, al fresco at the elegant O Pescador restaurant, a seafood lover’s delight. I started with seared scallops prepared with green pea puree and coconut foam, a main dish of Lobster and Seafood Rice (a massive hot pot of seafood stock which included lobster, mussels, clams, monkfish and flavored with coriander.) Some will want to opt for the region’s signature Seafood Cataplana dish, followed by a traditional regional dessert called Cinnamon Pao-de-Lo Sponge Cake with a Port wine reduction and Porto wine sorbet. I had been fairly consistent with smaller, healthy meals but I didn’t want to leave Portugal without experiencing its fabulous local cuisine.
It was such a memorable meal, the next day I wanted to attend the resort’s Mimo Algarve Cooking School where chefs offer master classes in Portuguese cooking but I just couldn’t tear myself away from the beautiful view of the ocean on the cliff top lounge deck. Tough boot camp classes and tennis lessons aside, that was probably the biggest challenge that week.
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Lynn Burshtein is a frequent contributor to Travel to Wellness. She was a guest of Pine Cliffs Resort in 2019. Photos are also courtesy of Pine Cliffs Resort.