Areias do Seixo, Costa de Prata
What's so special
This hotel stands out from the crowd thanks to its design and location. It's a modernist architect's dream built from glass and concrete on a protected stretch of Portugal's Costa de Prata ("silver coast"), one hour north of Lisbon. It also has impressive green credentials an eco-clock in reception shows the hotel's electricity and water consumption.
How they rate it
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The rooms are "soothing and sleek" with concrete walls and a steel four-poster bed offset by a luxurious quilt trimmed with fabric leaves, says Sophie Lam in The Independent. "The beach at the foot of the cliff-top on which Areias do Seixo stands is wild" and the waves offer some of the best surfing in Europe. The cliff-top is "vibrant with herbaceous foliage, wild grasses and darting rabbits and is lovely for late afternoon walks".
The food ranges from traditional dishes such as migas "a bubble-and-squeak-like concoction of bread, turnip and garlic" and contemporary tapas.
Doubles start from €265, including breakfast. For more information, visit www.areiasdoseixo.com, or call 00 351 261 936 340.
Hotel Martinhal, Algarve
What's so special
Sitting on Portugal's south-west tip, the Martinhal is a family-friendly eco-resort with a nature reserve on its doorstep ready to be explored by adventurous travellers.
How they rate it
There is plenty to do at Martinhal. "You can discover the park on mountain bike, horseback, or on foot, or take part in the host of water sports on the beach," says James Ellis in The Times.
"Couples will love the stylish beach-front hotel, with its relaxed atmosphere, muted colours, wooden floors and terraces that look out to sea, but families are also catered for there's a great (chargeable) crche and kids' club, and a baby concierge to source anything from sterilisers to safety gates." The hotel has a "homespun contemporary feel," says Teresa Machan in The Daily Telegraph. "Everywhere you look there is snooze-on-me furniture inviting you to do just that."
The hotel restaurant, O Terrao, serves "gourmet fare, including the chef's sublime starter of sea urchin with scrambled egg served in a half-urchin shell", says Machan.
Doubles start from €190 per night, including breakfast. Find out more at www.martinhal.com, or call 00 351 282 240 200.
Top travel tips from the experts
To celebrate its 100th issue, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine has gathered together its writers' top travel tips. Here are a few of the best of them to help you make the most of your travel budget.
"It's never too late to buy an upgrade." Upgrading your flight at the airport can prove much cheaper than if you'd opted for a better class when you booked your tickets.
"We included this tip in the magazine after I sat next to a lady on a flight from Cuba. She'd upgraded her ticket last-minute on the way out for £100, yet the same ticket was advertised at five times that price when she'd originally booked,"says Katie Bowman. So be sure to ask at the check-in desk to see if they are offering any upgrade deals.
"Do a wonky weekend' to save money." Nearly everyone who books a weekend break goes for the classic Friday to Sunday period, but Sunday night hotel rates are much cheaper and there are often better rooms available, too, says Jill Starley-Grainger. So take Monday off instead of Friday.
"Talk to hotel staff before you book a room." Not all rooms that cost the same are the same in quality, so talk to staff before you book. "This tip has always worked wonders for me," says Nick Redman. When he stayed at Bali's Amankila hotel, for instance, he got the only suite in the hotel with ocean views for the same price as the other suites.
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