The central and eastern Leeward or Sotavento Algarve coast contains some of the Algarve's busiest resorts, including Albufeira, Vilamoura, Quarteira and further east popular family holiday hotspot Montegordo. All these Algarve resort bases have superb sheltered sandy beaches - the Leeward Algarve coast is flatter and more sheltered than the west making it popular family holiday territory. Around the Algarve East and Central resort hubs a choice of family holiday attractions abound, including a huge Aqualand Waterpark, Zoomarine, a choice of Algarve Golf, watersports, bars, restaurants, holiday shops and a full programme of Algarve excursions out to the wider Algarve.
This sits in contrast somewhat to historic centres at both Faro and Tavira, and the sublime estuary and wetland areas of natural parks in the area including the Ria Formosa around the Faro and Olhao coast and further east north of Montegordo the Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim Natural Park. Both are a haven for birdwatching holidays, and stunning remote blue flag beaches which often can only be reached by ferry.
Albufeira, alongside Villamoura and Quarteira, is the Algarve's prime beach resort territory. Up until the 1960s there was just a small fishing village here, but as the Algarve began to open up after the exit of Dictator Salazar in the mid-1970s resort development took its course. Development here however is relatively low key compared to the resort meccas of Spain including the Canary Islands. Comfortably home from home, you'll hear more English and German (mostly English) voices here than Portuguese. Ideal as a budget family package holiday base on the Algarve, Alburfeira combines a certain character with its old town, stunning choice of beaches and its colourful contemporary marina sitting alongside all resort mod-cons including ample supermarkets, beach resort shops, bars, pubs, English chippys, restaurants and plenty of all inclusive in-house hotel entertainment.
Albufeira is centrally placed along the Algarve coast, with a short transfer time from Faro Airport (around 60 minutes max on the fast A22 motorway). You've enough family holiday attractions in and around Albufeira to keep the most active of tots happy, including the educationally slanted Zoomarine with dolphins, sharks, seals and tropical fish galore. A huge Aqualand waterparks is also located just outside this Algarve resort. Everything from Albufeira all inclusive hotels to self catering holiday apartments is here, with numerous day trips from Albufeira available to historic sites, shopping hotspots and more beautiful beaches and boat trips on the Algarve.
Vilamoura is certainly one of the tourist hubs on the Algarve Coast. As holiday resorts go, it's relatively young as it began to evolve in the 1970s. Fully equipped and all inclusive, Vilamoura is a popular bustling beach holiday resort on the Algarve with British and Irish visitors. With a large Marina offering a choice of boat trips and watersports, superb endless sandy beaches with more beaches at Falesia near Vilamoura, and luxury local golf courses close to hand, Vilamoura does all inclusive resort family holidays well, with a choice of family holiday attractions including nearby Atlantic Park Waterpark and Roma Mini Golf in central Vilamoura.
Quarteira on the central Algarve coast between Albufeira and Faro, is one of the oldest of the Algarve resorts. Family holiday activities and attractions are well developed here - Quarteira comes closest to the familiar large all inclusive Spanish resorts of the Costas and Canary Islands. The family favourite, Atlantic Park Waterpark sits just to the north of this Algarve Resort, and the pretty towns of Almancil and Loule are nearby. Faro and the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa are also conveniently close. As a budget family holiday base, with easy access to local quality golf courses at both Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago, Quarteira will do nicely.
Historic Faro, the centrally placed coastal capital of the Algarve is a joy, and well worth at least a day trip of your time. The old town area of Faro couldn't be further away from Faro Airport and its industrial surrounds. As you enter the narrow cobbled streets of the old town via the imposing neoclassical Arco da Vila. you're in for a historic treat of a tour through numerous historic buildings and some fascinating architecture. Faro has a host of chic boutique and specialist shops, a bustling port, boat trips out to the Parque Natural da Ria Fomosa, and a choice of museums including the Museu Capitular inside Faro Cathedral buildings and the Museu Municipal in the old Jewish quarter of Faro. Faro has a superb beach too with ample windsurfing and watersports - come in mid-October and lap up the Faro Festival atmosphere!
Tavira's history is there for all to see in its diverse architecture. The Romans built an arched bridge over the River Rio Gilao (although the one you see today is a 17th century reconstruction), and the 8th century Moorish castle looms high over this historic Algarve centre (although again this was largely rebuilt by Christians).
Some of the best blue flag beaches on the Algarve are near Tavira and Faro - you're in Ria Formosa Natural Park territory here. Calm, gentle endless sandy beaches and the warmest of sea waters are here, perfect for families. The coastline is peaceful, and you need to do a bit of walking to reach Tavira beaches like Praia do Barril situated in the middle of Ilha de Tavira. But what pleasant walking it is, through almond trees, fig trees, olive and carob trees across one of the channels of the Ria Formosa. It's a birdwatcher's paradise here on the mudbanks which evolve into sand dunes as you move closer to the sea. Take boat trips from Faro Ferry pier to reach the sublime Ilha da Barreta.
East Algarve best resort and best resort beaches revolve around Monte Gordo on the far East Algarve Coast. You're only 3km from the Spanish border here. Fishing still survives well here, but it's Algarve resort territory all the way, perfect for Algarve family beach holidays. Recent glamour resort additions include the new Montegordo Casino complex. For Tourist Information visit Monte Gordo Tourist Information Centre, Avenida Marginal, Monte Gordo, Algarve. Tel: 281 544 495.
Montegordo's beach is endless golden sands, with warm sheltered waters backed on by hotels and resort holiday shops, restaurants and bars. Montegordo beach is actually the biggest on the Algarve coast, and this combined with the particularly warm year round sea waters here pulls in the holiday crowds. It sits near the mouth of the River Guardiana, another factor warming the waters round these parts. There's golf aplenty in nearby Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo Antonio, plus day trips upto historic Alcoutim or down the Algarve coast to Tavira and more stunning beaches at Ilha de Tavira.