[LAGOS, PORTUGAL] — After landing in Lisbon all stinky from the flight, you jump in the rental and haul ass straight down the A2, crossing the rugged mountains that keep all the cold air from the North trapped on the rightside of the equation and make the Algarve warm all year.

You book across the Algarve on the A22, toll after bitchy toll, slavingly following the GPS because your brain is fried. And then you get off near Lagos, and enter the Twilight Zone. A big grey area on the map. Lots of blank space, few roads. Your cell service goes dark.

The GPS tells you to head around a spiraling road, around the bend, under the bridge, turn right, turn quick right, then left. The roads get narrower and narrower, rougher and rougher. Your mirrors fondled by the trees as you creep down the lane, wondering who will be whipping around the corner next.

Surely, this can’t be it?


Entrance to Casa Arte hotel

Soon the crumbling walls lining the scary-narrow road abruptly open up to a nice landscaped entrance, walls tightly tucked. 

Okay, okay. This must be it.

The entrance road winds low around a hill, hooks sharp right… Is this it?… and, like the Propylaea to the Acropolis, you soon realize that the road in was purposefully designed to surprise you when you make the turn; framing the view perfectly.

Ahhhh, right. This is why I’m here…

Casa Arte in the trees

The extra cool Casa Arte hotel is a sparkling clean, modern masterpiece set in the rolling green hills outside of Lagos, Portugal.

The name speaks volumes: It’s an art house. Or is it a house of art? Or both? I just call it cool.


Casa Arte terrace chairs

I remember seeing this picture on an article in Conde Nast Traveler and thought “Wow. I gotta go there.” And so, that’s how I got here.



With only five rooms, each in itself a work of art, you feel like you’re staying in someone’s house. You are. The remarkably tasteful owner Saar, a Dutch transplant, curates this place like it is a Chelsea gallery. Every square corner of this place has some little surprise that makes you smile. As does she and her cute barking dog, Harry.

“This is one of my favorite hotel finds, ever.”

Saar and Freek bought the house from an architect, then transformed it into their own work of art. The five rooms all have their own names and personalities, each as quiet and private as can be, with art you want to steal, furniture you’ve seen at MoMA and beds you want to nap in.

Holy cow. It’s like a perfectly-framed work of art, but you sleep in it.


I hate B&Bs.

Always hearing someone else peeing (or visa versa) and always some insistent old lady asking you what time you want breakfast tomorrow. “Oh, I don’t know… the MORNING???”  I’m on vacation for cryin’ out loud…

Not here though. Even though Casa Arte has only five rooms, I’d never call it a B&B. Certainly, they have beds. And most definitely an amazing breakfast. But all other comparisons end there. 

The layout of this feisty little boutique hotel is ingenious, feels like everyone gets their own wing. Never heard a peep from anyone else. And everyone gets front row-center to watch the peachy Algarve sunset glow each night. All the white makes you think you’re wearing rose-colored glasses.

Stupid B&Bs….

This place is the complete opposite. And Sarah’s husband is a master chef and will cook meals on some nights for the guests. But breakfast is what everyone raves about..


Everyone seems to be heading to Portugal right now, for good reason. The rest of Europe already knows all about Portugal, but in the States, it’s hard to find much good info in the travel press about Portugal outside Lisbon, until of late. You’d think it was a new country. All we get is endless Caribbean cruise ship crap. We’re always the last to know.

Some of the best sand beaches in all of Europe.  You can go beach-hopping all across the southwest Algarve and the Case Arte is the perfect base to hit them all. The most forty minutes away. Check out the next post for all the best beaches I found for you.  The eastern end of the Algarve tends to get chock-a-block more crowded, with hi-rises and large developments built for English pensioners.  


Casa Arte location

The town of Lagos is 12 minutes away, has some nice charm to it, but not much.  But what it may lack in style it makes up for in its central location. From here, you can easily hit multiple beaches in a day, including the near-empty stunning beaches that march all up the western tip of Portugal. 


Casa Arte map location

Beach Beach Beach Beach Beach Okay, Geography Lesson time. Pull out your Google. What makes the location of Casa Arte outside Lagos so perfect is you are within 20-40 minutes of nearly all the best beaches in the wild and woolly western Algarve. You can do a different beach every day. Often several. No hi-rises. Few other hotels. Big surf. Dramatic cliffs. Few people. Much sun. All those pics I just showed you (forgive me) were all reached from right here…


Here’s a great review in The Telegraph and Lonely Planet’s short review, Trip Advisor’s review, a brief bit in Travel & Leisure’s top Algarve pics, and the UK Conde-Nast Traveller’s review as a family-friendly hotel,

A great guide on The Algarve from Conde Nast Traveler, Trip Advisor’s Algarve Guide. The Telegraph’s excellent Algarve guide — a lot of Brits come here, so you’ll find a ton of info if you google English travel publications. And this is an excellent roundup of the Algarve from The Guardian. And Fodor’s guide. And here’s a great review on

Last visited April 2015.


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