Beachfront location in old town, close to restaurants, bars, and shops
Basic rooms all have sea views from a balcony or terrace
Mini-fridges, air-conditioning, and flat-screen TVs in all rooms
Two restaurants, two bars, and ice cream shop
Free breakfast buffet plus all-inclusive or half-board rates
Heated indoor pool overlooks ocean terrace
Guests receive a free drink at check-in
Free Wi-Fi throughout
Rooms are dated (as is much of the hotel) and none have coffeemakers
Restaurants get mixed reviews
No outdoor pool, and hotel has no dedicated beach chairs
Less mobile guests may have problems with stairs
No on-site parking
The 74-room Hotel Sol e Mar is a mid-range option in an excellent location on the beach in Albufeira's old town. The beach is easy to access, and the city's lively restaurants, bars, and shops are within easy walking distance. Rooms are basic and could probably use an update -- furniture and features like mini-fridges are dated -- but they all have a balcony or terrace with nice sea views. The two restaurants get mixed reviews, but breakfast is free and guests can dine right above the beach. The indoor pool looks out onto the beach, but the hotel has no dedicated beach seating. Travelers preferring a hotel with an outdoor pool could check out the nearby Hotel Rocamar, which is slightly more expensive and also has a spa.
Oceanfront hotel with unintentionally retro interiors that could use an overhaul
This little place was built in the 1960s, and since some parts have not changed since then, it still has a retro vibe that doesn't exactly feel intentional. Still, many guests return year after year and don't seem to mind that the hotel is showing signs of wear and could use a little updating. The hotel says renovations are planned for late 2017, though they seem to be perpetually delayed. The reception area is on the fifth floor, along with the restaurant and bar. Rooms are on the floors below, and the outdoor lounge bar and indoor swimming pool are on floor zero. The lobby is a long, narrow space with tile floors, a long wooden reception counter along one wall, and a colorful abstract mural above. A beige leather sofa and two arm chairs provide places for guests to sit. The terrace behind the hotel, which overlooks the beach, is a bustling hive of activity day and night, drawing plenty of visitors from other hotels across Albufeira. The Sol e Mar attracts mostly mature couples, but families and groups of friends also make their way here. All are almost exclusively from the U.K. and Ireland.
Prime beachfront spot in Albufeira's old town, near restaurants and bars
The hotel is located on a narrow street that runs parallel to the waterfront in Albufeira's old town. It's a prime spot -- not many of the city's hotels abut the beach -- and almost everything travelers would be interested in is within an easy walk. The old town sprawls along a series of busy plazas and narrow cobblestone streets leading away from the water. There are all manner of international and Portuguese restaurants, plenty of bars, nightclubs, and tourist shops in almost every direction. The hotel has direct beach access and great views of the ocean. Zoomarine Algarve can be reached in 15 minutes on foot. Parking can be found on the streets surrounding the hotel in the old town, but spaces may be few and far between -- especially on the weekends. Expect about a 35-minute drive to the Faro Airport. It's a little over two hours to Lisbon and its airport by car.
Basic, dated rooms with furnished balconies or terraces and nice sea views
The hotel's rooms are basic and dated, with white tile floors, blue painted furniture, blue bedspreads, white walls, and striped draperies in shades of blue, tan, and green. Although they're clean, they could use a little updating and freshening up -- beds are hard, lamps are old, and some features like mini-fridges are well past their prime. Flat-screen TVs are mounted on the wall, and other amenities include air-conditioning and small safes. Unfortunately, there are fees for the safes, and the rooms lack electric kettles for making coffee or tea. All-white bathrooms are small, with bidets, pedestal sinks, and tub/shower combos. Toiletries come in little packets, and hairdryers must be requested from reception. All rooms have a balcony or terrace furnished with a table and chairs, and all have nice views of the sea. While it's generally not an issue, rooms on higher floors will pick up less noise from the terrace restaurants and bars -- otherwise, the sound of the surf can be nice into the night.
Two restaurants, two bars, ice cream shop, indoor pool, nice beach
Given its city-center location, the Sol e Mar is a bit restricted in what it can offer, though it manages to pack a decent amount into a small footprint. The highlight is the hotel's terrace over the beach, which includes its restaurant, a bar, cafe, and ice cream shop. Breakfast and dinner get mixed reviews, though the ocean views and sunshine are abundant. All-inclusive and half-board rates are available, and breakfast is included with all bookings. The expansive Rainbow Bar has a retro vibe, with multicolored lights and big globe light fixtures above the circular bar and disco lights over the small dance floor. Seating is on black and white leather sofas atop a black-and-white tile floor. Big windows look out over the beach, and a pool table and TVs provide entertainment.
The hotel doesn't have its own seating on the beach, which bums out some guests, though chairs and umbrellas are available all over the sand for a fee. The indoor pool is small, but it's heated and large windows look out onto the alfresco lounge area and the beach. A couple of chairs provide limited poolside seating. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel, though the only parking is on the street, which can be a beast to find in Albufeira.