Praia do Canal Nature Resort is the first five-star hotel on the west coast
The Algarve’s west coast is a haven for nature lovers, surfers, and anyone looking to escape the crowds in the summer. Mostly untouched, the wild coastline is not synonymous with luxury. That is, until now.
Far from the madding crowd
Open since the beginning of the year, Praia do Canal Nature Resort was created for peaceful and tranquil nature escapes in understated luxury. Standing on the edge of a pine forest overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Aljezur, it is the first five-star hotel on the Algarve’s west coast. Already part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World chain, the hotel focuses on health, wellness and sustainability. Not only is it built using eco-friendly materials, but the hotel also hires local staff, bringing the soul of the local community into the resort.
Ochre-coloured buildings with a Saharan aura stand within a barely touched 220ha property strewn with wildflowers and indigenous trees. Architect João Favila Menezes designed these minimalistic structures to blend in peacefully with their surroundings. The main U-shaped building includes the reception, large sitting room, bar and restaurant, whilst 56 rooms fit discretely within separate units.
The hotel’s organic essence comes to life in the lobby. Huge bay windows draw in natural light and vegetation, reflected in the natural materials used for decoration. A central fireplace gives structure to a layout composed of leather sofas, restored wooden furniture and tree trunks that serve as tables and benches. With these elements, interior designer Constança de Castro Fernandes created a combination of warm shades of green and brown to give comfort throughout the seasons.
On the wall, a large 3D tile panel by artist Maria Ana Vasco Costa brings texture in shades of green. At the entrance of the bar, a large three-panel drawing of a heron by Bárbara Gil reminds guests the hotel is located on a migratory route. And, hidden in the room’s opposite corner, the little Terra shop invites you to discover a selection of locally produced goods such as handwoven baskets and linen tunics.
Cleverly named after the local drink, the Medronho Bar is where guests meet to relax with a cocktail made by head-barman João. An avid nature lover, he makes the most of what Mother Nature has to offer on the property year-round, including figs in summer and wild juniper in autumn. The long bar is lined in locally sourced cork, and in the adjoining room, colourful carpets lead to a wall-to-wall fireplace flanked by yet more panoramic windows.
A tasty reference to Portuguese gastronomy, the Azeitona (olive) restaurant is where breakfast and dinner are served. Algarve and Alentejo flavours take centre stage in chef Marcelo Santos’ kitchen. His most popular dishes include fresh fish from the local market, served with sweet potato from Aljezur, Carolino rice from the Sado with pumpkin and Algarve orange, and black pork from Barrancos with chilli paste served in a bolo lêvedo (soft bread from the Azores). Dessert includes a special ingredient locals call alcagoitas, regional peanuts, which the chef serves with a chocolate mousse.
Every indoor and outdoor nook of the hotel is ingeniously used to create a peaceful reading corner or to highlight a piece of craftwork. On the far end of the central terrace, a hidden viewpoint with dozens of hanging lanterns and pomegranate trees – whose red colour matches the poolside cushions – invites us to sit and contemplate the view: A large meadow with a majestic eucalyptus tree, pine forests and, beyond, the sea.
The long alley flanked by Arabian-style construction is where we find the rooms. Separate from the main building, these are divided by type. On the lower floor, Junior Suites have direct access to a private garden, and on the upper floor, the Deluxe rooms have a small terrace. The Family suites, with space for eight adults, feature a plunge pool, as does the Grand Suite Rooftop, boasting a panoramic terrace with a heated marble pool, shower and sun beds.
In every room, large windows yet again draw in nature and the sea. Soft-toned fabrics are used in the airy bedrooms, and spacious bathrooms are made of beautiful white marble. And because we’re so close to the beach, you can forget the traditional hotel slippers. Here you get a pair of fun flip-flops and a beach basket to go with your white bathrobe.
The large turquoise infinity pool appears to stretch into the sea, as submerged stone beds keep sun-worshipers cool. The bright coral-red sunbed cushions and wooden deck chairs bring a burst of colour contrasting with nature. Here, lunch is served poolside at the Zimbro (juniper) restaurant, with a menu of snacks prepared in a wood oven.
The Esteva (rockrose) Spa and its 24-hour gym conveniently adjoin the pool. Inside, the cosy atmosphere is bathed in natural light shining down from a skylight. Facilities include a sensory shower, a Turkish bath, two types of saunas, an ice fountain, and an ice-water tank. Plush oversized chairs sit by the heated indoor pool, looking onto a small private outdoor pool. The two treatment rooms with vaulted ceilings offer a selection of massages and beauty treatments using Elemis Spa products and locally sourced aromatic herbs.
There are also plenty of sporty and foodie activities to keep guests entertained. Yoga classes are taught poolside by the delightful Sofia. Four hiking paths, which can also be explored by bike, are indicated around the property. And picnics can be prepared by the chef, who also takes guests on a shopping trip to the local market followed by a cooking class.
Surf lessons can be booked on one of the local beaches just a short drive away. And speaking of driving, a car is absolutely essential when staying at Praia do Canal. The resort is totally isolated and reached by a very bumpy dirt road. A word of advice: leave your sports car at home! It is a small price to pay for such peace and tranquillity.
Visit Praia do Canal Nature Resort’s website.