One of my favorite places during the trip was the southern region of Portugal, called Algarve. The rugged coast is dotted with charming towns, sprawling all-inclusive resorts, and so many nearly private beaches and caves only accessible by boat. We stayed for a night at the VILA VITA Parc resort, near the town of Porches. The resort is stunning and we would have happily stayed a whole week if we hadn't made other plans. We drove down from Sevilla, crossed the border into Portugal, and continued on the small highways until we reached the water. The resort has several buildings with different types of rooms, from single hotel rooms to expansive suites, several gorgeous pools, a variety of different restaurants each with a unique cuisine, its own private beach, and all manner of other amenities. Upon our arrival we explored the grounds of the resort for awhile, hiked along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean, and went down to the beautiful beach to test the waters. Despite how beautiful and tropical it looks, it's still the Atlantic ocean and the water was unsurprisingly frigid. We climbed up to the clocktower of the main building for sunset then ate dinner at the Italian themed restaurant in the same building.
The next morning, we scheduled a boat tour of the nearby caves so famous of Algarve's coastline. It was actually a hilarious experience as we were told to meet the boat on the private beach and as we and a few other small groups did so, a lone old Portuguese man came slowly around the cove and towards the beach. He said maybe two words to us and beckoned us to board the boat and don lifejackets, which we all did laughing because he barely spoke a word of English and we joked that this could be any old fisherman whose boat we just willingly got into. Regardless of the funny circumstances, the gorgeous Portuguese coast spoke for itself, and the man expertly guided the small vessel in and out of the narrow caves and crevices, only hitting the rocks twice (he seemed totally unconcerned by this). Somehow he spoke just enough English to communicate the basics to us and we enjoyed the hour of exploring, especially when we were able to get out of the boat and walk around the largest cave, the Benagil Cave. After this fun morning we cleaned up and headed to Lisbon, but we returned to Algarve a few days later on our cruise ship...
When we returned, the cruise docked in Portimão, and though we had originally booked a cave tour we changed our plans since we had just done one the few days earlier. Instead we did a lovely wine tour to a nearby vineyard, where we tried some local varietals, bought a few bottles, and befriended some fellow cruise guests. We even walked around Portimão briefly, though in truth there wasn't much to see there. All in all, the Algarve coastline was stunning and is a great option along the southern European coast that isn't as crowded and overpriced as the Rivieras of Spain, France, and Italy have become.