By Roger Cox, Editor
Opened in 1962, Vale do Lobo was the first resort to debut in the Algarve, a region that previously had been home mainly to farmers and fishermen. Today the resort-residential property spans some 450 hectares (1,100 acres), beginning at a 2-kilometer-long beach and spreading inland to embrace two championship golf courses, swimming pools, wellness and medical centers, children's play areas, mini golf, watersports, a football (soccer) pitch, 15 restaurants, bars and a nightclub, and a large and very active tennis complex.
Adult Tennis Camp Special. Book a Saddlebrook Adult Tennis Camp, which offers five hours a day of instruction, and a regular deluxe guest room at Saddlebrook Resort and they'll upgrade you to a one-bedroom suite (provided one is available at check in) at no extra cost (two-night minimum) and include a complimentary Saddlebrook Amenity basket. To get it, phone toll-free 800-729-8383, x4200 and ask for the Tennis Resorts Online Upgrade. saddlebrook.com
Pro Shop: +351 289 353 000
With 10 hard and four artificial red-clay tennis courts and three padel courts set on a handsome campus of trees, lawns, and flowers near the heart of the 1,100-acre resort, Vale do Lobo boasts having the largest resort tennis complex in the Algarve. Photos of John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg, and Sergi Bruguera, and others line the walls of the clubhouse, a reminder of the Grand Champions tournament that took place there from 2001-2010. Though still the host site for some ITF junior and Portuguese national tournaments, it stands out now for its well-established tennis holiday program. A one-week package available to groups or individuals bundles 10 hours of on-court drills with doubles and mixed matches, video analysis, and a BBQ and concludes with an exhibition, weekly prize giveaway, and a cocktail party. The clubhouse has a pro shop, fitness center, small cafe and bar, a swimming pool, and massage rooms and lockers. There is lodging in a kitchen-equipped apartment or villa so close as to be within walking distance, and guests can otherwise get around on a free on-demand shuttle.
Vale do Lobo tennis is so popular in summer as to require 14 coaches, with adult and junior clinics taking place at the same time. That success can be traced to manager Pedro Frazao, who rose to the Top 10 in Portugal before the army interrupted his career. In his 20 years at the club, he has expanded the junior programming and introduced padel, on the one hand to lure more families, on the other to increase participation. "We are known for our tennis holidays," he told me as we sat on the deck watching the semis of an ITF under 18 tournament taking place just below us. "Our clientele comes mainly from the UK. The academy runs year round but is busiest in summer." During other times of the year he stages special events, like this junior tournament, the National Veterans Magnesium OK Championships, which draws Portugal's top players, or the Padel Nations Cup. It's not enough to have the Algarve's largest tennis complex, he also wants it to be the busiest.
Beach. A long, broad beach extends in both directions from a plaza of restaurants and bars.
Golf Courses. There are two 18-hole courses:
Ocean Course: This is made up of the two original 9-hole golf courses, which were designed by Sir Henry Cotton. Expect gently undulating fairways which run alongside nature reserve before leading gently down to the shores of the Atlantic.
Royal Course: This course was added 25 years after the original, but was based on Sir Henry Cotton's original drawings. American golf architect Rocky Roquemore laid it out. Two holes attract particular attention: the 9th, which has a nearly island green, and the much-photographed, beachfont 16th, which requires a clifftop carryover.
Spa & Fitness Center. The Royal Spa has a variety of treatments inspired by the salt mines of Loulé in the Algarve, which are renowned for their health benefits. The tennis complex has its own fitness center, with the kinds of equipment of use to players (as opposed to weight lifters), and picture windows on a grassy area at the front of the club.
Villas and apartments are available is sizes ranging from 1 to 5 bedrooms. All have fully equipped kitchens. Some have Jacuzzis or private swimming pools. Booking through the resort brings added discounts and privileges throughout the resort, including complementary use of the tennis courts and discounts at restaurants and bars.
There are 15 restaurants, lounges, and a nightclub, mostly grouped around the plaza at the beach, though the tennis center has its own small cafe for breakfast and lunch as well as a bar of its own.
If you're looking for other resorts resorts in this region, check out our Tennis Map of Europeand for comparison's sake, also take a look at:
Villas and apartments are available is sizes ranging from 1 to 5 bedrooms
Visit the website for current rates
Travel Instructions. The nearest airport is Faro Airport (FAO).
General Tourist Information. For general information about travel to Portugal, visit Tourism Portugal's Visit Portugal website.