Portugal travel review: Lagos' Cascade Resort the perfect place for Dutch stars and kids of all ages
“Welcome to a little bit of paradise,” proclaimed Pedro at reception as he handed me my apartment key for a week’s stay at the Cascade Resort in Lagos, Portugal.
“This is a place where you will completely relax,” he added with a huge smile.
I smiled back in agreement but really was scoffing at such a thought.
Had he not checked the booking?
My wife Kate and I had our 18-month-old twins with us on their first overseas holiday.
Relaxing and unwinding were surely not part of the deal.
The usual parental worries occupied our minds as we prepared for the trip. How would Jackson and Mya cope with a change in environment, routine, temperature and cot? Would their sleep be affected?
But our concerns were ultimately unnecessary — especially with the ultra-modern Cascade being a particularly family-friendly resort.
It may ooze luxury and sophistication with its fine dining restaurant, classy cocktail bar and plush rooms — a perfect couples’ retreat — but spanning an area of 95 acres it’s more of a village and can offer a variety of holiday options.
So within an hour of checking into Cascade, after a stress-free and enjoyable three-hour flight with Aer Lingus from George Best Belfast City Airport to Faro, followed by a pleasant 65-minute drive down the main Algarve motorway to Lagos in our hire car, which we’d booked for the week, we were settled, excited and totally comfortable in our new surroundings.
Our spacious two bedroom apartment had everything we could ever have wished for and more. There was an adventure play park that needed to be explored, the children’s pool had a natural sand base which looked incredibly inviting and the kids over an impromptu outside lunch at Moods Restaurant had made friends with Sandra, who suddenly became our waitress for the week and, after that first meeting, made sure each morning at breakfast our favourite table was available.
The kids couldn’t wait each morning to get down to see their new pal and sample the different breads, cereals and fruit available over a buffet-style breakfast.
The resort has a total of 86 hotel rooms, split into four wings and decorated in Asian, African, European and South American styles, but we felt inclined to opt for one of the 55 apartments on property as it catered for more our needs.
Two travel cots had already been strategically placed in the second bedroom when we arrived, two high stairs were left in the dining area, the kitchen was fully equipped with washing machine, dish washer and microwave along with usual fridge, freezer and cooker, while one bathroom had a shower which jetted out water from every angle and the other contained a jacuzzi.
The balcony, with terrific views out to the Atlantic Ocean, was safe and secure, while importantly for those nights in, there was a varied room service menu or just five minutes down the road was a big and much-needed supermarket.
Situated on the edge of a cliff giving fantastic views along the Algarve, Cascade is split into different sections, with the main hotel overlooking the apartments, villas and sporting amenities.
There is a full golf academy run by Elite with driving range and short-game facility, two tennis courts, a multi-functional gym and an outdoor area for bootcamp-style training.
The main centre-piece though seems to be two impressive Fifa-sized football pitches and indeed the resort regularly plays host to the Holland national football team on their warm-weather training breaks and a plethora of top European sides, including many from England.
The spa has the usual treatment rooms and wonderfully peaceful atmosphere, but it’s the secluded heated outdoor pool and hot tub that attracts many of the resort’s guests.
Throughout the summer there are special camps for the children in football, tennis and golf — run by fully professional coaches. For the younger children, they have a whole area of the complex to themselves with Caskiddy Kids Club. Indoors there is a soft ball area and basically everything you would usually find in your nursery at home, while outside it has its very own play park with slides, swings and climbing frames.
At night, if you want to stay in the resort, there is the fine dining option at Senses, which offers a local gastronomic experience. But we preferred Moods restaurant, which serves up culinary delights including an amazing Portuguese steak, has a bigger and broader menu and the surroundings are intimate.
We also felt a lot more at ease placing our buggy beside us at our table with the kids fast asleep. However, if you would rather leave the kids sleeping in their rooms, then the resort offers a babysitting service where a female member of the reception team will come to you apartment and mind your children for 20 euro an hour.
The harbour town of Lagos is just a 20-minute walk away and here you will find cobbled streets full of enticing restaurants, shops and bars. It’s a lot more laid back and less vibrant than say Vilamoura or Albufeira, but still very much appealing and it appears the emphasis in the evening is on quality food and drinks rather than the nightclub scene.
If walking back, be prepared for an uphill struggle, especially if pushing a double buggy.
Lagos is home to the longest stretch of beach on the Algarve — 4kms of Meia Praia — however we found a hidden gem of beach, Praia D. Ana, just a five-minute walk from the hotel.
Soft, golden sand, crashing waves and the iconic Algarve caves on either side. It was just a pity we came across this beach with a just a few days to go on our holiday.
Hiring a car isn’t essential, but if you have children with you, it makes life so much easier.
Take a drive to the gorgeous town of Sagres — on Europe’s most Western tip — and marvel at the turquoise sea, endless beaches and beautiful harbour.
Or head east to Guia for a day out at Zoo Marine, where you can watch an incredible seal show, come face-to-face with a crocodile, have fun on the numerous waterslides and enjoy yet another man-made beach.
But these were all additional extras when there was so much on offer at Cascade.
With the twins loving their first overseas holiday experience, Pedro was right.
For one week — this was truly paradise for our family.
Flights from £40.99 each way with Aer Lingus from end of March — visit aerlingus.com to book.
Accommodation: Cascade Resort, Rua das Ilhas, Lagos, Algarve.
For special deals, visit www.cascaderesortalgarve.com