In my recent visit to Portugal, I got to see two hotels which, in my humble opinion, were truly spectacular. If you’re looking for accommodations in Santa Cruz, I can’t recommend these enough.
Just to clarify, this is the Santa Cruz an hour north of Lisbon where you’ll find some amazing surfing spots, not the Santa Cruz on Madeira Island off the coast of Morocco.
I got to spend two nights at the Well Hotel and Spa, on the northern outskirts of Santa Cruz. This boutique hotel was incredible for several specific reasons. First of all, the location was perfect. My room overlooked the beach, but not one of the really crowded beaches in the heart of town. Rather, this secluded beach had a few locals, the occupants of the couple local hotels, and that’s about it. If you’re adventurous, you can walk down the beach a few minutes, climb over the rocks that tell you to stay off, cross the next beach, crawl through a crack in the rock and find yourself in a completely private beach all to yourself. But back to the hotel.
The room was fully furnished with everything you could want for a short or long stay. The bed was very soft, the bathroom was big and the desk was positioned perfectly beneath the window overlooking the beach. In short, very comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable, since this isn’t a place where you’re probably going to spend a lot of time in your room.
The rest of the hotel’s facilities were pretty extensive. A bar and lounge area provides a welcome drink and pastry when you arrive. There’s a full self-service kitchen available to all guests, and a huge dining room where a buffet breakfast is served every morning. It’s not your common continental breakfast, but rather a smorgasbord of epic proportions. Two dozen types of fruit get it started. There are eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, cereals, yogurts, pastries, Portuguese natas (egg tarts), juices, tea, coffee and even wine. Practically enough food to last the entire day.
Finally, there was the spa side of the hotel. Two large pools with water massages, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, a Turkish sauna, a full gym and (my personal favorite) a fully established massage therapy center. Tania, the incumbent massage therapist, is a trained physical therapist and dermatologist, and her repertoire of massages is extensive. I had the Bali massage (my first ever). While I’m partial to the deep pressure of the Thai massage, I was so relaxed after her massage, and I found a noticeable improvement with my skin. I’m definitely a fan of Bali massages now, especially those provided by the Well Hotel and Spa!
To cap it all, the decorations of the hotel were very tasteful, and the staff were incredibly, genuinely friendly. They were always on hand to help, and provided excellent, swift service. I never saw the receptionist without a huge smile on her face, and even the cleaning staff were very friendly. I certainly loved every moment of my stay.
For those who have a little more to spend, this next hotel is a true model of luxury hotels. Not just a luxury hotel, but also an eco-friendly, self-sustaining, health resort. It’s no wonder that their 14 rooms have bookings reaching ahead over two years.
When I say they are eco-friendly, they take the term to extreme proportions. Their energy is almost entirely off the grid, using geothermal heating, solar panels, rain and ground water for plumbing, and subterranean architecture and overhead pools for cooling. They have an enormous vegetable garden for all their own produce, in which they use chickens to prepare the land before planting.
It was the design that really caught me off guard. I’ve simply never seen anything like it, and don’t really know what word to use to describe it, since most of the words (quaint, boutique, etc) are trite and fall considerably short of the truth. Think of a elvish dwelling from Lord of the Rings and you might come close. Rather than use inadequate verbiage, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Areias do Seixo is all about attention to detail. It’s no flaw that their rooms don’t have TVs. Aside from a waste of energy, who wants to waste their time in front of the screen when visiting Santa Cruz, or simply this hotel. Rather, they should be spending time in the infinity pool, in one of the yoga sessions, or in the dining room eating all their homemade food including cheeses, yogurts, cereals, pastries, jams and smoothies. One of my favorite parts of my visit was when the overweight member of my tour asked for artificial sweetener for his coffee, and the waiter balked at serving it due to it’s unhealthiness.
In a nutshell, this hotel sets the standard as an ideal hotel. If you get a chance, you should at least go to visit. I’d love to spend a night there someday, if only to get an idea of how to build my own dwelling when I set up my home base.
Bonus: Noah Surf House
Under construction and due to open in 2018 is another accommodation under the same owner as the Areias do Seixo. Rather than it’s a hotel, it’s a hostel and series of bungalows, but modeled and designed based on said hotel. It was still a concrete shell when I went to visit, but if it’s anything like the hotel, it could probably be one of the best hostels in the world. But you don’t have to wait until then to visit Portugal. There are plenty of other accommodations in Santa Cruz. These are simply my recommendations. If you know of others, feel free to comment below.