Sports are a main attraction here. There are 18-hole golf courses, watersports, tennis courts, a riding center, and yachting. Shops and other tourist facilities, including restaurants and bars, also provide pleasant diversions.
Marinas have been tucked into virtually every navigable cove along the Algarve, and most contain a handful of sailboats or motorboats that can be rented, with or without a skipper, to qualified sailors. Note: Before you can rent, you must present accreditation or some certificate from a yacht club proving your seaworthiness.
Algariate operates a boat-charter business from the 100-berth Marina de Vilamoura, 8125 Quarteira (tel. 28/938-99-33). Algariate was established in 1993 and is one of the largest yacht and motorboat charterers in the Algarve. Boats up to 14m (46 ft.) in length are available. Without a crew, they rent from 2,000€ per week, depending on size and season. Clients often use Vilamoura as a point of origin for visits to Madeira, North Africa, or the southern coast of Spain. If you prefer to have someone else worry about navigation, you can sail on the Condor de Vilamoura (tel. 28/931-40-70), which departs from the Vilamoura Marina at least once a day, depending on business, for 3-hour cruises toward Albufeira. The cost is 30€ per person. A full-day cruise lasting about 7 hours costs from 50€, with lunch included.
Vila Sol, Alto do Semino, Vilamoura, 8125 Quarteira (tel. 28/930-05-05; www.vilasol.pt), has the best fairways and the boldest and most inventive contours of any golf course in the Algarve. Designed by the English architect Donald Steel, it opened in 1991 as part of a 147-hectare (363-acre) residential estate. Steele took great care in allowing the terrain's natural contours to determine the layout of the fairways and the impeccable greens. Although it hasn't been around long, Vila Sol has twice played host to the Portuguese Open. Golfers especially praise the configuration of holes 6, 8, and 14, which incorporate ponds, creek beds, and pine groves in nerve-racking order. Par is 72. Greens fees are 90€. From Quarteira, drive east for about 5km (3 miles), following signs to Estrada Nacional 125, and turn off where signs point to Vila Sol.
Vilamoura has three famous courses, each with its own clubhouse, managed and owned by the same investors. They're 4km (2 1/2 miles) east of Quarteira and are carefully signposted from the center of town. Discounts on greens fees are offered to the guests of five nearby hotels according to a complicated, frequently changing system of hierarchies and commercial agreements.
The most famous and most sought-after of Vilamoura's trio of golf courses is the Vilamoura Old Course, 8125 Vilamoura, sometimes referred to as Vilamoura I (tel. 28/931-03-41 for information). Noted English architect Frank Pennink laid out the course in 1969, long before American tastes in golf influenced Portugal. In design, texture, and conception, it's the most English of southern Portugal's golf courses, and it's invariably cited for its beauty, its lushness, and the maturity of its trees and shrubbery. Although some holes are almost annoyingly difficult (four of them are par 5), the course is among the most consistently crowded on the Algarve. Par is 73. Greens fees are 120€.
Adjacent to the Old Course are a pair of newer, less popular par-72 courses that nonetheless provide challenging golf for those who prefer different terrain. The first is the Pinhal Golf Course, 8125 Vilamoura, also known as Vilamoura II (tel. 28/931-03-90), which opened in the early 1970s. It's noted for the challenging placement of its many copses of pine trees. Greens fees run 52€ to 100€, depending on the season and the time of day. Nearby is the most modern course, the Laguna Golf Course, 8125 Vilamoura, or Vilamoura III (tel. 28/931-01-80). Known for its labyrinth of water traps and lakes, it opened in the late 1980s. Greens fees are 75€. Tee times during the midday heat are less expensive than those in the early morning.
Visit www.algarvegolf.net for more information on courses in the Algarve region.
The English influence in southern Portugal is so strong that no self-respecting resort would be built without at least one tennis court. The Vilamoura Ténis Center, 8125 Vilamoura (tel. 28/932-41-23; www.premier-sports.org), has 12. They're open to suitably dressed players for 19€ per hour. Hours are daily from 9:30am to 8pm. Tennis racquets and balls rent for 5€, and four tennis balls can be purchased for 10€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.