Vilamoura is the crème de la crème of the Algarve – the “Marbella” of southern Portugal.
Like Spain’s glamorous resort, Vilamoura attracts the wealthy, boating enthusiasts, golfers and celebrities, and is one of the largest private tourism resorts in Europe.
Filled with luxury hotels, privately owned villas, stunning beaches and golf course complexes with apartments, this is a stylish and prestigious holiday destination – with the super-rich mooring their grand yachts in the marina.
Vilamoura is a purpose-built luxury resort, so don’t expect any of the traditional old charm found in many other resorts with a historical Old Town centre.
However, there are some picturesque and historic villages you can visit nearby.
High season in the Algarve centres around July and August, when it becomes extremely busy in Vilamoura.
Vilamoura is located virtually in the middle of the Algarve coast, with Faro Airport 25 kilometres to the west.
If you want to hire a car, the main car rental companie have service counters in the arrivals area.
Many of Vilamoura’s hotels provide shuttle buses travelling from the airport.
Alternatively, you can pre-book taxis or rent a driver with a private car.
Public transport from the airport to Vilamoura is limited and requires two bus journeys.
The chic resort of Vilamoura is set on a wonderful coastline with two main beaches.
Praia de Vilamoura lies to the east and Praia da Falésia stretches to the west, both separated by the marina estuary and Ribeira de Quarteira river.
Set between the marina and the fishing port, Praia de Vilamoura is the most popular beach and is closest to most of the hotels.
Praia da Falésia is considered the more appealing beach, but is further from the main tourist centre. The beach extends over five kilometres, all the way to the Olhas d’Agua fishing village. The cliffs are more pronounced at this end of the beach.
It is worth noting that the sea along this coastline is much colder than that of the warmer Mediterranean. If you are planning to spend time in the sea, you might want to consider wearing a wetsuit.
The swell and waves on the Algarve coastline make this a great place for body boarding and surfing.
At the marina you can book a variety of adrenaline-pumping boat rides, including banana boats, ringos, para-sailing and jet skiing.
The heart of Vilamoura is its marina. There are many exclusive restaurants and bars here, as well as nightclubs, designer boutiques and chic hotels.
Although the marina is always fairly busy, you can enjoy a peaceful stroll admiring the luxury yachts moored in one of its 1,000 berths.
You can also book numerous excursions and boat trips at the marina, including coastal trips to Lagos, dolphin-watching and big-game fishing.
Vilamoura has a vibrant nightlife scene, but it’s much more sophisticated than what you will find in brasher resorts such as Lagos and Albufeira.
Vilamoura has trendy nightclubs, live music venues and a dazzling array of fabulous restaurants. In short, there is something for everyone here.
The young can party all night at the biggest and best-known nightclub in the Algarve, Kadoc, which has a capacity for around 7,000 clubbers and attracts some of the world’s top DJs. Agua Moments, located in the marina, is another popular entertainment venue hosting night parties.
For those wanting to chance their luck at gambling, the Casino Vilamoura has a gaming room with over 20 tables, and more than 500 slot machines.
As you would expect in a high-end resort town, there is a huge and diverse selection of spectacular restaurants in Vilamoura, many with plush interiors and well-executed themes.
With so many different cuisines to choose from, eating here is an adventure in itself. All the restaurants want you coming back for more, so (generally) expect exceptional customer service.
While there are restaurants to suit all budgets, be warned: to secure a table at many of the best eateries, you will need to book in advance.
This is one of the finest destinations in the Algarve for a golfing holiday. Agencies in the marina provide club rental and transport to major courses throughout the region.
Vilamoura has five outstanding golf courses: Victoria (venue for the 2005 World Cup and the Portugal Masters), Millenium, Laguna, Pinhal and the Old Course. They are all world-class with a reputation for exceptional standards and facilities.
If you want to leave the luxurious bubble to enjoy a more traditional feel of the Algarve, head to Loulé, famous for its Saturday gypsy market, Brazilian-style carnivals and 13th-14th century castle.
To the west of Loulé is the attractive hillside village of Alte. Here you can wander around narrow, cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses.
There is church in the centre and a spring at one end of the village.