[Outside Santa Cruz, Portugal] — It’s the smells that hit you first…

After pulling into a sparse car park, no sign of life. You walk up to the huge, heavy wood doors — all big and Asian-y and intimidating, makes you feel like a bible salesman at Larry Ellison’s house — and they’re locked.

Oh no, are they closed? Did I get the date wrong?

Then you notice the small buzzer. And buzz. A big clanking noise and the antique rusted door latch opens up for you and the big door swings open.

And that’s when the smells hit. Wood fire. Strong rosemary. A waft of lavender. A swirling stiff breeze of scents that coarse through the gap and wallop your nose with calm.

Okay, this is the place.

And then you notice the small signs. Handwritten, in chalk, in that beautiful Euro cursive. Missives. All over. On posts. On tables. On the hunk of tree that serves as the Reception. Fresh, bright flowers buttonhole every nook and cranny. It’s like waking through Père Lachaise and following the “Jim —>” signs.

It’s sensory overload at first. The scents. The textures. The colors. The sweet voices. You have to focus just to gain balance. And start to notice things.

And then you turn around and the lobby looks like THIS:

Areias do Seixo lobby

Well, really, the lobby is a restaurant.  Yep, this place is going to be juuuuust fine.

Areias do Seixo is the hotel name. I don’t know what that means, but I like it.
I think you’re going to like this place…


I’d never read anything about this part of Portugal, always have only heard about the beaches of the Algarve.  I’ve seen it referred to as many things, never the same thing twice.  But basically “the Lisbon Coast”.  But when I walked outside for the first time and down the path to the beach, I ha-ha-ha’d out loud at this sight:

Areias do Seixo beach view

It’s nice, this.

Sexy is the operative word here. This places oozes Sexy.  Layers and layers of textures and colors. Inside and out. With one of the most stunning interior designs I’ve ever seen. Concrete. Steel. Glass. Flowers. Wood. Furr. It’s like what New York City’s ABC Home would look like if they built a hotel. (please do @abccarpetandhome !)

Areias do Seixo pool table
Areias do Seixo waves
Areias do Seixo back entrance
Areias do Seixo stairway
This lousy pic doesn’t quite capture it, but I just love how they built these stairs down to the surf. Coulda been any old rusting metal contraption, instead a beautifully elegant white knife-slit, cleaved into the hillside. As if Christo were a mason, not a curtain-hanger.
Areias do Seixo praia sign
Yep, that’s where we want to go.


Areias do Seixo firepit
Okay, this was awkward… At first. A wine gathering around the campfire out back, nestled amidst the crops that we’d eat the next day. All the guests of the hotel. Free wine. Everyone teetering on tree stumps. Right before sunset, the roar of the ocean behind us. All these strange people thrown together for the first time. Not saying much, talking to their spouse in mumbled breath. Darting direct eye contact. Clearing of the throat. Cheese?

And then something magical happened. Almost instantly, perhaps it was the sun setting, or the dark red wine, all of a sudden someone said something to the group, a burst of laughter. All barriers were dropped. Like someone had farted. From then on it was a grand old time. “Where are you from?” “Austria.” “And you?” “Have you seen the beach?” “Where have you been?” “Where to next?” “Oh you definitely must…” Everyone was from someplace else. All different nationalities and backgrounds and languages. Nothing in common, but everything. All right here. Soon, everyone had switched places, the laughter got louder. Exchanges of emails and promises of future meet ups.

Such a cool thing, this. This, here. Lovely how magical travel is. And the warm glow of a campfire, melting the ice.



The Restaurant at Areias do Seixo

As you’d expect for a hotel with its own working farm, they celebrate food. And boy do they celebrate at Areias do Seixo.

Areias do Seixo lobby meeting
The lobby is the center of everything, serving as a hangout, a restaurant, a gathering place. Even the staff have meetings to discuss activities of the day and other projects.

What’s the coolest is that it’s a hotel wrapped around a restaurant wrapped around a farm.  You’ve heard of farm-to-table, but this is like bringing the table-to-farm (beds, too!).  All situated on a stunning cliff overlooking the crashing Lisbon Coast.

“This isn’t a farm-to-table restaurant, this a bringing-table-to-farm restaurant.”

After the glorious breakfast — of fresh eggs laid rightthere — the chefs trickle in. Stocks begin to simmer, filling the whole lobby with intense flavors. Menus are planned, plucked right from the garden. The chopping of the daily prep echoes throughout the lobby.

Areias do Seixo chef in garden
You know something good is about to happen when you’re having breakfast and you see the chef sprinting out to the greenhouse to pull up something fresh.

Service begins. And the call-and-response chorus of “Yes, chef!” sing-songs you into anticipation of the first course.

Areias do Seixo kitchen staff

I loved sitting at the bar and watching all the action. “Yes Chef!!” Grown here. Cooked here. Eaten here. Kinda cuts the whole farm to table thing down to just feet.

This is a place where every single, small detail has been thought about. It’s a family-run place and it feels like it, everywhere. The glassware. The forks and knives. The signs. Intricate flowers, everywhere. The menus. So much love in every inch. God, I loved this place.

Areias do Seixo wine glasses
Areias do Seixo lobby bar at night
Areias do Seixo working garden
Areias do Seixo greenhouse
It has to be a pretty short list, the number of hotels with their own greenhouse. Count this one at Areias do Seixo. Has to be about the prettiest greenhouse ever built. Set high on a cliff, catching the cool, moist breeze that comes off the ocean roaring below, the sun doing its job year ’round.
I think I see lunch growing in there… dinner, too

The Rooms at Areias do Seixo

The rooms are all stacked up the hill. Definitely spend to have the ocean view.  I tried, but everything was booked. Here’s how amazing the rooms are (from the hotel’s website):

At the time way back in 2015, all the cool rooms were booked. But I really wanted to stay so rented one of their new townhouses in the back for not much more money.  They are privately owned, but the hotel manages them. They are great for a family — sleeping in many bedrooms and floors — but they have a completely different feel than they other hotel rooms in the main building — you HAVE to check out the website and links below.  The rooms are even cooler looking than the lobby.

[NOTE: Recently I’ve seen posts about the modern townhouses and it looks like they’ve redecorated them to have some of the funky feel of the sexy rooms in the main building.]

The great boutique hotel website Mr & Mrs Smith listed Areias do Seixo as one of the Top Ten Sexiest Hotel Rooms in the world. I will book more in advance next time.

Areias do Seixo building
Here’s what the Areias do Seixo hotel looks like. Sitting high on a hill, each room ingeniously stacked and set back so you look over the gardens, the chickens and the crashing surf below… and not your neighbor. Like an ’79 Lincoln Continental with one-way tinted windows, you can see out, ain’t nobody seein’ in.

— Last visited April 2015. Updated May 2024 —

More Information About Areias do Seixo

Areias do Seixo is about 35 minutes north of Lisbon, so easy to get to if you land and want to get to the beach.  This is a destination hotel, so there’s not much going on around the nearby area, although I hear Peniche is awesome and the coast of Sintra is supposed to be great with an amazing restaurant right on the water. But three or four days here, you never really want to leave.

Here is the hotels’ website: http://www.areiasdoseixo.com/en/hotel-overview.html

The dependable reviews from i-escape.com

The often contradictory reviews on Trip Advisor. Mr and Mrs Smith’s always awesome overview.  And Tablet Hotel’s great site, which is where I found out about this place. A great review in the UK Conde Nast Traveller site. Here’s an awesome video of the whole hotel on a site I’d never seen before. And a great overview in The Independent.

And just a fantastic story and overview from the amazing Nelson Carvalheiro — the king of all cool things in Portugal.

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