An events calendar of festivals, gatherings, fairs, markets, exhibitions, sports, social entertainments and concerts throughout the Algarve may be viewed at www.visitalgarve.pt
One of the most popular theme parks in the Algarve, Zoomarine is located on the outskirts of Albufeira and is a mixture of a marine centre, zoo and amusement park. The main attractions of the park are the spectacular aquatic displays of dolphins and sea lions, and the fun fair for the kids. For an additional cost, you can spend time swimming with the dolphins too. Conservation and education are the by-words of Zoomarine.
There is also an aquarium, exhibition centre and areas to see various types of animals. To cool off in the heat of the day there are a couple of swimming pools, bars and restaurants. Zoomarine is firmly aimed at children, but it is a great family day out and a welcome holiday diversion from the beach or sightseeing, especially for the kids. At around € 70 entrance fee for a family of four, it also represents good value for money.
However, bear in mind that in high season it can become very packed.
There are entertaining shows repeated throughout the day (although less regularly out of season). Each show lasts about thirty minutes and there are enough of them to keep you going all day. If you want a good seat then get to the show early as they can get packed. Keep off the blue seats if you want to keep dry though!
The most popular shows are those with the dolphins and with the seals and sea lions (if you don’t know the difference between a seal and a sea lion, you’ll find out here). If you’ve been to Sea World in Florida, don’t expect these shows to be as grand as they are there, but they are all well done and very entertaining.
Apart from the aquatic shows there are also tropical bird and bird of prey shows. Wandering around Zoomarine, you’ll find various areas where you can visit animals such as seals and alligators, parrots and flamingos in more natural habitats. There is also an aquarium with an interactive section for children and a children’s play area. If you want to see some of the projects undertaken by Zoomarine, have a look in the Exhibition centre and there’s also a 4D cinema, which shows a digitally animated information film – an amazing experience.
After all that education, you’ll be ready for a sit down for something to eat or drink in one of the restaurants and cafes. These are plentiful and are also pretty good value for money. Further entertainment for the kids is provided by a number different fun fair rides. These are all free and include a rollercoaster, pirate ship, big wheel, log flume and an altogether more sedate kid’s train and a carousel.) It can get pretty hot at Zoomarine, and there is not a lot of shade to be found. You may be glad therefore to find they have two large free outdoor swimming pools to cool you down. So don’t forget your swimming costumes and towels.
Dolphin Interaction Programme
It’s not cheap and you’ll have to be 8 years or older to take part (take proof of age, just in case).
Despite the cost it is very popular, and in the summer it is definitely best to book in advance, to avoid disappointment (phone up – they speak good English). If you do book on the day, you may well spend a long time queuing, and there are no guarantees you’ll get a slot for that day. If you don’t get a slot, you can book an alternative session on another day (and you will be able to get in for free for your session).
In the summer, if you can, then book your session early before it gets too hot and busy.
You are allowed to take two spectators into the interaction area free of charge. A spectator may be accompanied by 2 children (under the age of eight). Additional spectators will need to purchase a spectator ticket.
What do you get for your money? Well, you’ll spend about half an hour with a trainer talking to you about dolphins and conservation, and why this is better for dolphins than taking a dolphin watching boat trip. You’ll find out what to expect and what you can and can’t do when you get in the water. You will be provided with a wetsuit (to go over your swimming costume), a towel and a locker.
Divided into groups of 6, you get to spend between 30 and 40mins in the water with the beautiful dolphins, swimming with and being pushed around by them.
Zoomarine will take some great photos of your experience. You can purchase these and/or a DVD afterwards, and are not that expensive, so well worth having.
You do not need to book in advance for entrance into the park and you can pay at the gate or through an agent. However, you can book Zoomarine at most hotels and all travel agencies or book over the phone with a credit card. It’s worth shopping around for the best prices before you book. Apparently the Modelo supermarket is usually cheaper. Once you are in then all activities are free. The only thing you’ll have to pay for is food, drinks and gifts. If you do want to take part in the dolphin interaction programme, it is very worthwhile booking this in advance, as it is very popular. You can do this with a credit card over the phone.
Getting to Zoomarine
It is not really worth considering Public transport to get there. Luckily Zoomarine run their own free buses from all the major tourist areas across the Algarve. You can pick up information at your hotel or local travel agents. If you are travelling by car, then it’s worth arriving early before all the coaches when it’s less busy.
Zoomarine, Estrada Nacional 125. Km 65. Guia.
Albufeira, Algarve 8200-864 Portugal
Zoomarine is the only theme park that is open all-year round. Out of season it is closed on Mondays.
It opens at 10am daily and stays open until early evening. (7.30pm in the height of the season).
KRAZY WORLD & ALGARVE ZOO
Krazy World is a children’s theme park and zoo near Algoz, just north of Albufiera. Apart from being a theme park, with mini-golf, a petting farm, pony rides and a fairground, it is also home to the Algarve Zoo which is home to reptiles, snakes and the like. If you are on holiday with the kids, then places like this can be a godsend, providing a day of children’s entertainment. Not as extensive as Zoomarine, but cheaper and still good fun.
Krazy World is home to Amazonia, which is part of the Algarve Zoo. It consists of various areas for crocodiles, alligators, turtles and also has a Reptilium housing snakes, iguanas and the like. There is also an arena where there are daily live shows with the crocs, alligators and snakes.
There are two mini golf courses. The first is the Krazy Golf, 18 holes of mini-golf with obstacles to avoid, and there is the newer Jungle golf course. This is an 18-hole course set in prehistoric times.
The petting farm is a bit more exotic than you would find in the UK. Instead of goats and rabbits, you’ll find lamas, deer, wallabies and even camels to make friends with. A favourite with children are the pony rides, where the trained staff will supervise children’s rides round the corral.
In the heat of the day, a swim in the large swimming pool may be in order. There are sun-beds around it for your use. Next to the pool is a children’s playground, with the usual swings and seesaws. There is also some adventure climbing equipment for them to play around on, while you relax with some cool refreshment.
When you’ve got your energy back there is also a small children’s fairground with a few rides to entertain them until its time to leave.
There are a number of bars throughout the park where you can quench your thirst. If you’re hungry then you can try Marianna's Pizzaria serving pizzas, pastas and various other meals, as well as snacks all day long.
Location and getting there
Krazy World is near Algoz, which is about 12 km north of Albufeira and is easily accessible by car. Krazy World buses are available from various locations throughout the Algarve and can be arranged by buying your ticket through the hotel reception or travel agent.
Krazy World is closed during November and December. At other times of the year it is open from 10am daily. In the low season from January to June and from September to October it closes at 6pm and the park is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. In July and August it closes at 7.30pm and is open every day of the week.
Lagoa de Viseu, Apt 3, 8365, Algôz, Portugal
Telephone: (00351) 282 574 134.
AQUALAND WATER PARK
Formerly known as The Big One, Aqualand is located near the town of Alcantarilha in between Albufeira and Armação de Pera about 15 km from Albufeira on the main EN 125 road. This is a family water park with some exciting rides and a safer area for younger kids. Aqualand Water Park
Aqualand Water Park could be just what you’re looking for, if you’re up for a bit of excitement and wanting to do something a little different with your family on your Algarve holiday. It is one of a number of water parks that the Algarve has to offer. Which one you visit will probably be determined by where you are staying, but most of them are pretty good.
It is not as new as Slide and Splash, and is showing its age a little. But don’t let that put you off, as there are some great rides and your sure to have a fantastic time.
It’s a great place for children, although there are plenty of adults who will enjoy it just as much. There is a wide selection of rides ranging from the adrenaline pumping through to the more sedate. Younger children are also catered for with their own shallow water, supervised area.
Aqualand, as with the other water parks, is only open during the summer months, and in the height of the season can become crowded with some longish queues for the rides. In between times there are plenty of place to relax in the landscaped gardens.
There are a number of slides for adrenalin junkies, although there are some height restrictions. All slides are manned for safety.
Not for the fainthearted is the Banzai Boggan, which you slide down from a height of 23 metres on a surfboard and then try to stand up on it at the bottom (more difficult than it sounds!)
Equally scary is the 36m high Kamikaze slide, providing a steep run of not far short of 100m. This is the highest in Portugal and quick, with descents taking only about 4 seconds! The Corkscrew (Anaconda), so named because it spills out of the top like a bunch of snakes. There are five tunnels to choose your speed of ride.
The Crazy Race is a massive 4-lane water slide so you can race your friends (or stand at the bottom with a stop watch as official timer if you’re like me) and the Crazy Leap is a short but steep slide where you fly off the end (from a few feet in the air) into the pool.
For the less adventurous Aqualand Water Park has a choice of more relaxing rides such as:
- Surf Beach a fun pool with real waves.
- Rapids white water rafting sitting in a rubber ring
- Congo River a more relaxing version of the rapids (without the rapids). A gentle journey floating down in a rubber ring.
- Flying Carpets slide down with a carpet
If you have smaller children, then they can have hours of fun in the Mini Park, a shallow water area with gentle multi-coloured slides, some in animal shapes and water sprinklers etc. For your peace of mind, this is staffed with specially trained attendants.
After all the daredevil rides, you can relax by or take a swim in the large outdoor swimming pool, or have a snack and a drink from one of the kiosks. If you want a sit-down meal indoors, then there is also a restaurant, although I don’t think the food is particularly cheap.
Aqualand opening times
Aqualand Water Park is open from 10am to 6pm daily.
Daily coaches are laid on to get you to and from the park. These pick up from various towns across the Algarve. Currently pick-ups are from Albufeira, Vilamoura, Lagos, Portimão, Praia da Rocha, Alvôr, Carvoeiro, Armação de Pêra, Galé, Montegordo, Vila Real de San António and Tavira. There is a charge of a few Euros for the bus, (which is dependant on where your pick-up is from) and it can be booked from Hotel receptions, travel agencies and other outlets.
If you are driving, the Aqualand Water Park is easily found on the EN 125 road to Portimão, just west of Alcantarilha. There is parking in front of the main entrance.
Aqualand Contact Details
Tel: (00351) 282 320 230
Address: E.N. 125 - Sítio das Areias - Apartado 11, 8365-908 Alcantarilha
Aqualand Water Park website: www.aqualand.pt
SLIDE & SPLASH, ALGARVE
Slide and Splash, Algarve, is self-proclaimed as the best water park in Europe, It is based in Lagoa, a few kilometres north of Carvoeiro. Of the five water parks in the Algarve, it may not be the biggest, but is certainly one of the most popular.
It has a good variety of rides to suit children of all ages. However, you don’t have to be a kid to have a great time here. If you like a bit of speed and are not too bothered about heights, then there are adrenalin pumping rides for grown-ups too. Try the Black Hole or the Kamikaze. For the more faint-hearted there are also more sedate slides for you to enjoy yourself on. Failing that there’s also a large swimming pool and a Jacuzzi.
Rides at Slide and Splash, Algarve
Generally the rides, particularly the thrill rides are for children over 5 years old, although some are not fior the under-12s. Below is a selection of the rides and activities available at Slide and Splash.
Black Hole - This is probably the best known and popular ride in the water park. It is also the most exciting. You enter at the top on a double tube with your partner and then slide down through the sharp twists and turns in the pitch black before plunging into the pool at the bottom. If you are claustrophobic however, you might think about giving this ride a miss.
Multilane slides - just for young kids, it’s a child size version of the larger slide.
Soft Slides - These are multi-lane water slides with humps in them leading into a pool at the bottom. These are aimed at older children and adults.
The Snail - At 150 metres long, this is a long and twisty thrill ride.
Plunge - Two slides. Build up some speed and then get thrown off the end above the water and plunge into the deep pool.
Blue Hole - a ride on tubes (although not everyone does) down twisting blue tunnels to the pool below. Children under 12 are not allowed on this ride.
Body Slides - there are a number of different slides to choose from, each twisting and turning in different directions, giving an exciting ride to the pool at the bottom.
Banzai - this ride is two water slides side by side. The idea is that you come down head first on a mat and have a race with the person on the other slide. When you reach the pool at the bottom you can surf laying on your mat for quite some time.
Rapid River – float down the twisty-turny river on a tube. There’s also the Troubled River.
Kamikaze – two high parallel slides to race down, for the speed merchants amongst you.
Other activities at Slide and Splash, Algarve
It’s not all adrenalin pumping rides at Slide and Splash. There’s plenty to keep the smaller kids happy. There is a children’s area with very shallow pool with smaller sides and tubes to go through and also a large dragon slide which dominates the pool.
Additionally, there is a large swimming pool for a swim or more sedate time in the water and for the adults, a Jucuzzi to enjoy. There are also a number of grassed areas where you can relax, have a picnic or just soak up the rays. Fairly open so you’ll be in the sun for most of the day.
Restaurants in Slide and Splash, Algarve
The water park has a couple of restaurants, but in busier periods there can be log queues. To avoid these you could bring your own picnic. There are also a number of fast food kiosks selling burgers, snacks and drinks etc. Value for money isn’t too bad, but you are a captive audience, so it’s never going to cheap.
If you are not travelling by car, then you can get one of the buses laid on by the park, with transport and entrance included in the price. Pickups are from various towns throughout the Algarve. Check at your local tourist office or hotel for details.
Slide & Splash is not open all year round. The season starts at the beginning of April running through to then end of October. It opens at 10am daily and shuts at 5pm at the beginning and end of the season, staying open to 6pm during July and August.
Directions to Slide and Splash, Algarve
Slide and Splash Water Park is well sign posted, located off the EN125, a 5-minutes drive west of Lagoa.
Slide and Splash, Algarve
E.N.125 Vale de Deus-Estombar
Contact Tel: (00351) 282 340 800
Aquashow Family Park can be found in Quarteira, next door to the popular tourist resort of Vilamoura. It is a fun water park for all the family and has a selection of rides for adrenalin-junkies as well as more gentle rides for those of a more thrill-averse disposition.
Apart from the water rides, it is also home to a bird park with birds of prey and tropical birds, such as parrots and macaws. There are bird demonstrations and shows throughout the day, giving you some time to dry off from the water slides.
The park is open all year round, but the water attractions (which is the bulk of the park) are not. The main season is from the beginning of June until then mid-October.
Algarve Rides and Attractions
This is the highest rollercoaster in Portugal, let alone the Algarve, and towers an impressive twenty or so metres in the air. It’s really just a high-powered log-flume, with the ride lasting bout 5 minutes and speeds of over 70km per hour reached in parts. Unfortunately if you are below 1.2 m in height you won’t be allowed on.
This is a huge white slide in a ‘V’ shape. From the top you drop down what feels like a near vertical drop in a rubber ring. At the bottom of the ‘V’ you’ll fly up the other side before being funnelled down a chute and into the collection pool. A high speed thrill ride, not for the faint-hearted.
The Wild Snake is coiled round a large central tree-trunk. From the top, you launch yourself into the dark tunnel on a ring, finally being spewed out of the snake’s mouth into a river which then gently transports you at a far more leisurely pace to the end.
This is a 1000+ capacity pool, covered by a huge arched metal frame. Although it looks like a greenhouse, it is actually a wave pool. Just grab a ring and ride the waves. More sedate than the white-knuckle rides and good fun, but can get very crowded.
A 5-lane water slide. Climb up to the top and then ride the water over the humps into the pool at the bottom. It’s great for races and good fun for all ages.
There are a number of different water slides with names like ‘Spiral’, ‘Snail’ and ‘Red Thunder’. There are different slides to suit all dispositions, from adrenalin-junkies to nervous parents.
Aqualandia is a children’s water park within the Aquashow water park. It is designed for the younger members of the family with a shallow pool with gentle slides. Enjoyable and safe for the kids.
If you’ve had enough of the thrills and spills of the other rides, or you just want to cool off, then there is a decent sized swimming pool for you to use. It is surrounded by sunbeds and umbrellas for a rest afterwards.
There’s a Jacuzzi to soak away the tensions from those white-knuckle rides.
Birds of Prey and Exotic Birds
For something a little different, you can go and look at the birds of prey and the colourful exotic birds which live here. There are demonstrations during the day of the birds of prey and parrot shows for your amusement.
Museum of Portuguese History
This is a selection of wax animatronix monsters and historical characters set in animated scenes. Narration is provided in both Portuguese and English.
Restaurants and Cafes
Aquashow has a restaurant, a couple of snack bars and a picnic area (but only for food bought in the park). You are not allowed to bring your own picnics. There are plenty of seated areas outside and grassy areas where you can sunbathe.
10am-5.30pm (7pm Aug)
Semino - EN 396
8125-303 – Loulé
Contact Tel: (00351) 289 389 396
Atlantic Park used to be called Wet and Wild. It is the smallest of the Algarve water parks and is aimed at younger children (not as much daredevil excitement as other Algarve water parks). There are a number of water rides, children’s Quad bikes and bouncy castles, with daily high-diving shows in the summer. The park also has a good restaurant.
Address: EN 125 Quatros Estradas, 8100 Loulé – Portugal
Tel: 289 397 282
Aside from the usual bars, and discos (Albufeira or Praia da Rocha being the disco capitals of the Algarve), traditional forms of Portuguese entertainment tend to revolve around town “feiras” (fairs) and “festas” (festivals) which for the most part are linked to a public holiday, often a saint's day. During these occasions, processions through the streets take place (often religious) and are frequently backed up by craft fairs and musical events.
Perhaps Portugal 's most internationally famous product is port wine. Excellent varieties of port are available at many outlets in the Algarve and it is also one of the products that is most easily affordable to the visitor. Portuguese olives are also a delicious speciality as is olive oil, honey (of which there are many different types originating from many different Algarvian locations) and chouriço, which is a delicious type of spicy sausage (a little like pepperoni).
Aside from edible items, the Algarve is noted for its production of lace-work (traditionally a cottage industry centred in the coastal fishing communities) particularly in the eastern Algarve . Ceramics are also a traditional product of Portugal and the Algarvian workshops produce quite exquisite azulejos (classic Portuguese blue and white illustrated tiles) and will often design to order.
Further, high quality leather work is produced at Almodôvar and Loulé.
Leaving aside the cottage industries and things traditionally Portuguese, there are main shopping areas in all the major towns, especially Portimão and Faro. Most of the larger towns have hypermarkets on the outskirts, the Lidl, Modelo and Continente being the most prolific.
In addition, over recent years new purpose built shopping villages have appeared in the Algarve , e.g., Forum Algarve on the edge of Faro, the exclusive Quinta Shopping Centre on the doorsteps to Quinta do Lago, Almancil and Algarve Shopping at Guia. At these places you can find just about everything, CDs, electrical goods, fashion clothing, furniture, garden supplies etc., as well as a range of fast food outlets and snack bars.
There are several amateur Portuguese groups who put on small scale productions at local venues.
The principal English speaking amateur group, “The Algarveans” are always on the look out for new members both performers and back-stage staff (contact membership secretary Jackie Major on 282 687 410). Lagos and Silves have from time to time very good performances of ballet, opera and theatre.
For the more professional productions visit the brand new theatre in Faro.
The main museum in the Algarve is the Infante Dom Henrique (Henry the Navigator) Archaeological Museum in Faro which is housed in the building which was formerly the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Ãssunção (Our Lady of the Assumption).
The museum houses an extensive collection of Roman and medieval items including much from the Islamic period. Here you can see the famous “Ocean Mosaic”, the Almohad Talbet of Silves, busts of Roman Emperors unearthed from the ruins of Milreu and much more.
However, smaller museums can be found in many Algarvian towns including the Regional Museum at Lagos , the Olive Press Museum at Tavira, the Parish Museum at Olhão and the Municipal Museums of Loulé, Aljezur and Silves.
In addition to the Municipal Museum at Silves (built around an wonderfully preserved medieval Islamic well) one can also visit the award winning cork factory museum (Museu da Cortiça) in the Fabrica do Inglês complex.
American and European films are very popular in Portugal and are subtitled rather than dubbed. Apart from individual cinemas dotted around in many of the towns, the main cinemas tend to be in the large shopping centres; for example there are multiple screen cinemas at the “Modelo” complex in Portimão, “Algarve Shopping” in Guia and at “Forum Algarve ” in Faro.
Ticket prices tend to be very reasonable and often there is one day in the week when prices are reduced. Portugal receives all the latest main-stream film releases many times even before they're released in the rest of Europe.
The regular mainstay of traditional and uniquely Portuguese pastimes is the singing of Fado. It has been said that this is the Portuguese version of the blues, vocalists being accompanied usually by two guitars, one Spanish and one Portuguese (which resembles some kind of complicated medieval lute!). Fado, although somewhat melancholic (like the blues) is also quite beautiful to listen to and furthermore, it is an activity in which many Portuguese actively participate from the local bank-manager to the humble shepherd.
There will be at least one Fado venue and often more, in most towns – usually they are fairly intimate restaurants with guitar players in residence who provide the accompaniment for anyone who wants to get up and give his turn. But, Fado is taken very seriously and renditions of traditional Fado songs are more often than not beautifully sung and with great passion. An evening of Fado will frequently continue almost until dawn. For the visitor, Fado really has to be looked for and so enquiries will have to be made at the tourist information office, but, better still, find a kindly citizen to advise on the best places to experience this event and it takes place not just all over the Algarve , but all over Portugal.