While the property market in many areas is moribund, top golf resorts around Almancil, 15 minutes from Faro airport, are in demand. In October 2012 Conrad, Hilton Hotels' upmarket arm, opened a Moorish-themed 154-room hotel and spa in the Ria Formosa Natural Park, with nightly rates from £200 up to £3,570 for the penthouse.
Some 1.2 million rounds of golf are played in the Algarve each year, and of those just under 100,000 are played on the three perfectly maintained courses of Quinta do Lago in Almancil.
Quinta, which was established 40 years ago, claims to be the Algarve's premier resort, where owners include captains of industry and sports stars. It is on the flight path into Faro airport but the steady stream of planes is not a concern for its wealthy owners.
Along with the golf courses there's an academy, driving range, tennis centre, gym, seven restaurants, four hotels and extensive water sports, on both the lake and the two-mile beach. There's clearly plenty to do on Quinta's 650 acres, yet Irish CEO John Dwyer realises the need to attract a younger audience.
"The average age of owners at Quinta when I took over in 2008 was 73," says Dwyer. "We are now halfway through a 10-year investment plan, continually upgrading the resort and introducing regular summer events for children and teenagers, including sunset parties and kite-surfing competitions."
Quinta has 1,200 homes, from older studios to glitzy villas. Property for sale ranges from two-bedroom furnished apartments of 1,300sq ft for £208,700 up to £15.3 million. The average sale price in 2012 for a furnished five-bedroom villa with designer kitchen and garden was £2.12 million.
San Lorenzo North: build your own villa
San Lorenzo North comprises 26 newly released plots in a prized location close to Quinta's beach and overlooking San Lorenzo golf course, where buyers are being encouraged to build a more contemporary style of villa. Plots start at £1.88 million and owners can design and build their own villa or have a turnkey project delivered to them in 16 months from £3.4 million.
"Many owners want sunshine, golf and the beach and they never leave the resort," says Joost Last, head of sales at Quinta. "We also appeal to those who want to experience local life and go hunting in the hills, surfing, or tour local towns like Sagres and Lagos."
Vale do Lobo
Four miles along the coast, Vale do Lobo is a golf resort popular with Britons. This resort is more densely built than Quinta, with mostly smaller homes built closer to the road, but it has proved equally as recession-proof.
Property for sale includes two-bedroom apartments an easy walk from the beach with good sea views from £677,000 and villas overlooking the Royal Golf Course with swimming pool and including membership of the golf, spa and gym club for £988,000.
From Essex to the Algarve
Former police officer Mark Hampton has owned property on the Algarve for five years, but two years ago moved from Essex to live there permanently.
He invested in an engineering firm and bought a 34ft sports cruiser to offer tours along the coast. "I worked for the Queen for 32 years and now I work for myself, taking private groups along the coast and showing them how beautiful the Algarve is," says Mark. "We often see dolphins and we can moor up and swim in quiet coves. The Algarve is a beautiful place and not just a tourist hot spot."
Mark's daughter Ceri, 25, is fully qualified to skipper the boat and spent last summer assisting her father.
"I love Portugal, the people, the weather and the food," says Ceri. "It's an easy, relaxed lifestyle."
CONTACTS AND FACTFILE
* Celtic Marine: celticmarine.eu; 00 351 918 606 814
* Quinta do Lago: quintadolago.com; 00 351 289 392 754
* Vale do Lobo: valedolobo.com; 00 351 289 353 101; allow eight per cent of purchase price for buying costs.
* Service charges: annual service charges at San Lorenzo North start from £20,000.
* Flights: BA, easyJet and Ryanair fly from London airports to Faro.
* VAT: In Portugal, VAT on electricity rose in 2012 from 16 to 23 per cent and on golf rounds from six to 23 per cent.