Size: 97–112 m2
Price per night: €230–600 (about AUD$362–$944) depending on room type and season.
Design and sustainability notes
The resort design is a cross between an expansive science-fiction desert landscape (think: Tatooine) and a luxe Roman bath. Accessed (slowly) by a road, itself narrowly distinct from native landscape, its buildings seem to spring from the dry surrounding earth, like so many hills that pervade southeastern Portugal. Local driftwood of a scale reflecting the resort’s expansive theme decorates its hallways and courtyards, and hewn tables and stools help ground its restaurants to the land. Sustainability is baked in, from glass-only bottles to large Elemis shower vessels to timed light switches. Its pervasive pools offer summer guests a cool-down at every turn but waste no off-season energy heating (try the rainforest showers or spa’s saunas to keep winter’s chill at bay).
The resort’s three restaurants provide oases to a region not otherwise brimming with fine dining. While Medronho mixes tea and drinks with a home living room vibe, and Zimbro caters to sun worshippers in their native poolside environs, it is Azeitona — the resort’s flagship dining room — where the resort’s luxury core emerges, geode-like, from its earthy shell. We recommend the degustation option, tailorable to diet, and expertly paired with complements from the extensive wine collection. Remember, Iberian dinner times start around some Australian bedtimes — plan accordingly.
Its breakfast buffet (supplemented with hot kitchen items) also expresses the vibe of simplicity, with wooden tongs for grasping smoked salmon and fruits. In-room dining is available if you can’t tear yourself away from your new home.
Spa and wellness
Hidden beside the epic and predictably expansive pool lies the unobtrusive entrance to the Esteva Spa & Health Club. All bumps and bruises from overly-high-speed resort road approaches — or from those uniquely Portuguese mattresses offering, umm, firm support — melt away in cave-like massage treatment rooms and The Circuit, the resort’s homage to antiquity’s thermae. Wellness spills over beyond the spa’s walls in the form of morning yoga sessions or private classes, bike rentals, boating and kayaking in season, and an inspiring greeting of the dawn via hot air balloon.
The special touches
From the moment your bags touch the ground (or don’t, in fact, as they are swept away by industrious golf cart-driving helpers), the resort’s staff attend to guests’ needs. Evening knife and fork needed? Be right there. Six unwieldy bags need to go to the front drive in the rain? Think of it no more. Special dietary needs, change the wine pairing? Great, we love a challenge … plus, it gives us a few more minutes to make sure your evening turn-down, featuring rosemary sprigs and Elemis pillow scenting, are complete.
If you want to upgrade
While even entry-level rooms are equipped with private outdoor spaces, loungers, and marble bathrooms, more luxurious options include junior suites (which sleep three), family suites (with enormous floorplans to create space among weary travellers), and the grand rooftop suite (with your own pool).