PORTUGAL’S ALGARVE COAST averages 300 sun-filled days a year. I’d been there for six of them, and my skin showed every one. I’m not sure which was worse — dehydration from the sun or the layers of SPF-30 I’d slathered on every day. It was time to head to Martinhal’s Finisterra Spa for some serious repair work.
With my husband, Tim, and 16-year-old Mary, I had been at this 5-star resort for two days after spending a few in the central Algarve, where resorts (and beach-goers) sit elbow to elbow. We were enjoying the more laid-back feel of the Algarve’s western end, with its sleepy towns and uncrowded beaches.
The area around Martinhal is a protected natural park, and after arriving we’d followed a cliff-top trail along the wild Atlantic side of Cape Saint Vincent, walking from vertigo-inducing heights to long, golden beaches where we watched surfers challenging some of Europe’s best waves. For us it was a spectator sport, although Mary was inspired to sign up for a surfing lesson at the resort’s Water Sports Center.
While she did face-plants in the surf, Tim and I kayaked with one of the center’s guides to explore the sea caves and crystal waters of rocky outcrops we could see from the balcony of our room. Paddling made Tim notice how stiff his shoulders were from carrying camera equipment, making the prospect of a relaxing massage really alluring. So he was happy to join Mary and me as we headed for our spa experiences.
Martinhal’s spa resides in its own building in a natural landscape apart from the hotel, villas and recreation areas. This enhances a remote-from-the-world feeling appropriate to its name, Finisterra, which means “end of the Earth” — a reference to Martinhal’s location at the southwesternmost point in Europe.
It was on this remote point jutting into the Atlantic that Prince Henry the Navigator gathered the top navigators, geographers and mapmakers of the Golden Age of Discoveries to plan and direct the explorations that made Portugal a great 15thcentury empire. The gold these explorers brought back still covers the altars and walls of Baroque churches like the one we saw in nearby Lagos. The location makes Martinhal a perfect base for exploring the western Algarve, but we were spa-bound, so gold-washed churches and Prince Henry’s outpost on the windswept point had to wait for another day.
Fulfilling its promise as a family resort, Martinhal’s spa has treatments for everyone: mom and child facials, father and child back massages, mother and child manicures, and a range of Tweens & Teens offerings. Along with massages and manicures, the teen options include facials with masks and moisturizers, and introductions to skin care and establishing beauty routines. No stranger to spas, Mary wasn’t the least bit shy about following the smiling therapist who ushered her off for her facial. Tim and I lazed a little longer in the hot tub overlooking the natural landscape before we headed for our own bit of nirvana.
The spa menu offers a dizzying list of options, and I really wanted to say, “One of each, please.” Massages include detox with herbal compresses, anti-stress deep-tissue back massage, full-body massage, reflexology, Ayurveda and head massages, but Tim selected the seaweed leaf and hot stones treatment, designed to relax tense and aching muscles.
The spa’s body treatments use VOYA products, based on organic seaweed that contains iodine, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. I was tempted by the Detox Mud Wrap, an 80- minute seaweed wrap that renews damaged cells, but instead chose the Sweet Ocean treatment, Finisterra’s signature body scrub with local sweet orange and almond bark in sweet almond oil. (Almond trees are a legacy of the area’s Moorish occupation; in February the hillsides are so white with their blossoms, it’s called “Algarve snow.”) This skin-brightening face and body massage with hot towels and organic lavender immersed me in another world, one of divine fragrances.
My sun-damaged face needed special attention, so I added an Ocean Fresh Facial, a mask especially designed for sun-exposed skin, and a Seaweed Marine eye treatment that uses Atlantic seaweed, green tea and vitamin C to refresh, firm and hydrate sun-tired eyes.
Mary and Tim were long gone when I finally emerged a new woman to stretch out with a cool drink in the relaxation area. This, like the entire resort, was built from and decorated with local materials — native woods, stone, cork and natural fibers. The interiors maximize natural light — even the treatment rooms are lit by skylights — and the glass wall of the relaxation area overlooks a garden with a Zen-like design of plants and grasses indigenous to the Western Algarve. All the gardens and landscaping at Martinhal follow this ethic, as does the architecture of low, whitewashed buildings that hug the hillside, echoing the traditional Algarve houses.
As I looked out across the peaceful, sun-drenched landscape, I really could believe I was at the end of the Earth.
Martinhal Beach Family Resort Hotel
Quinta do Martinhal,
8650-908 Sagres, Portugal
tel 351 282 240 200
Read This Next
Adventure Travel Around the World
FeaturesJan 1, 2018
All Reads on This Topic
Read Them All
FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.
JW Marriott Debuts in Spain with JW Marriott Hotel Madrid
JW Marriott makes its way into Spain with the unveiling of JW Marriott Hotel Madrid. The hotel lies within the Canalejas zone, merely steps away from theaters and prestigious art institutions, as well as other popular landmarks and attractions.
FXExpress Traveler of the Year
FXExpress Traveler of the Year Contest 2023
Wynn Las Vegas Debuts Luxury Wine Weekend with Opus One Winery
Wynn Las Vegas and Opus One Winery partner for the ultimate weekend wine escape April 28–30, bringing the Opus One experience outside the Napa Valley estate for the first time. Participants enjoy in-depth master classes, intimate tasting room experiences, food and wine parings from Wynn chefs, and an Opus One Under the Stars outdoor feast.
Italian Mansion, Winery Locanda La Raia Available for Private Stays
Looking for luxury in Italy’s Southern Piedmont Region? In the wine hills of Gavi, north and west of Genoa, Locanda La Raia offers 10 splendid guestrooms and two apartments on a 180- hectare estate. Once a countryside inn and post station serving travelers journeying through the area on horseback, the space has been meticulously restored by the Rossi Cairo family to showcase original features such as vaulted ceilings and exposed brickwork. Each guestroom has been individually decorated and now features enormous windows overlooking the surrounding landscape of lush gardens, rolling meadows and organic vineyards.
Exclusive Savings: Cruise Along the Danube River with Global Traveler
Exclusive Sailing with Global Traveler
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach’s Wellness Experiences
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach offers travelers a new immersive wellness experience: Healing in Hawai’i.
4 Spring Hotel Openings
DailyMar 29, 2023
Elk Cove Inn & Spa Review
eFlyer ReviewsMar 29, 2023
Etihad Airways Teams Up with Emirati Chef for In-Flight Ramadan Menu
Etihad Airways prepares a specially curated in-flight menu through the holy month of Ramadan. The menu comes thanks to the airline’s collaboration with Emirati Chef Khaled Alsaadi, in which Alsaadi recreates popular Ramadan dishes blending Emirati recipes with contemporary techniques and local ingredients.
Treasure Every Moment in The Islands of Tahiti
Welcome to The Islands of Tahiti, where every moment is a treasure waiting to be discovered. From the moment you arrive, you will be greeted with warm hospitality, time-honored traditions and an awe-inspiring landscape that will take your breath away.
eFlyer DealsMar 29, 2023
Paul Gauguin Cruises Celebrates 25th Anniversary with $250 Air Credit Per Guest
In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Paul Gauguin Cruises adds a special gift for travelers. The Gauguin Experience gives a $250 air credit per guest on 25 South Pacific cruises aboard Paul Gauguin.