The Estalagem da Ponta do Sol is the only member of the Design Hotels Group on the Portuguese outpost of Madeira (previous Design Hotel features listed below). As CELLOPHANELAND* are big fans of great design this was absolutely the first choice for our stay on the island.
This Estalagem – a term roughly translating to ‘Inn’ or ‘small hotel’ in English – is named after its location in the village of Ponta do Sol, a name derived from its reputation as Madeira’s sunniest location, and on an island renowned for its exceptional climate, this is quite some claim. As it turned out the claim had merit, as even during our November stay, with cloudy weather over much of the island, we always seemed to enjoy a daily helping of warm sunshine at the hotel.
Many of Madeira’s hotels tend towards big impersonal blocks that fail to make the most of Madeira’s natural attractions. The charm of the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol lies very much in its modest size; it is warm and friendly, easy to navigate and yet still has enough facilities for most. Serenely gazing down upon the terracotta roof tiles of the eponymous village below, it is perched on a rocky promontory and also enjoys enviable views along the spectacular coastline.
The Estalagem da Ponta do Sol hotel is the result of a renovation of a former ‘quinta’ where the historic buildings are seamlessly integrated in to a contemporary styled hotel. Extensions housing the bedrooms are built along the cliff top and face over both the village and ocean. The public areas stretch along the promontory, making the most of the panorama using linked modernist-style spaces with expansive stretches of glass.
The Design Hotel credentials are immediately evident upon arrival with prominent design pieces in the reception: an original Eames DKR sits adjacent to a vitrine of Vitra miniatures, around the corner a wonderful Eames La Chaise and in the garden Hans Wegner and Verner Panton style furnishing. On the walls there is plenty of contemporary art including tributes to American conceptual artist John Baldessari and Anish Kapoor.
The rooms are set in two; two-storey modern buildings with the two grades of bedroom simply distinguished by the view – sea or otherwise – and whilst it is always tempting to book a view of the open waters, the alternatives are also exceptionally scenic – no dreary views of the local car park here!
These fifty-odd rooms of the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol are all of one style: sleek and contemporary. Accessed from open walkways, they are all in white with black slate flooring – there is little in extra decoration leaving you to enjoy the views via the panoramic sliding windows, or from the small terrace or balcony equipped with a table and two chairs.
Mid-century influenced, the wooden cupboards are lit with strip LEDs, beds are super-king sized, with excellent bedding and crisp linen. Room facilities are modest but more than adequate with free wifi, cable TV, air-conditioning, mini-fridge and coffee making. Bathrooms are all in the same black/white/maple colour scheme with walls in white glass and floors in black slate. Each has a large walk-in rainforest shower.
There is plenty of verdant outdoor space. The lawns and open terraces make the most of the spectacular views of the cliff-top location, as do other quieter corners with shady gardens set under the pines and palms.
In prime position, with views along the coastal cliffs, is the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol Hotel’s unheated infinity pool. You can swim whilst admiring the Atlantic stretching in to the distance or enjoy the spectacular sunsets with a sundowner at the Kabo pool bar. For warmer waters the sleek indoor pool, illuminated with ever-changing coloured lighting, is heated to 32 degrees. Adjacent is a spa area, with complimentary access, that features a steam room, sauna, gym and panoramic jacuzzi and hydro-massage bath.
A good choice of spa treatments are available in rooms which also enjoy the open sea views. They include bath rituals like a Deep Flowers Bath – appropriately for Madeira featuring lots of flowers atop a deep tub of steaming aromatic water. There are also plenty of varied massages and treatments such as a fruit tree rub or chocotherpay.
Whilst the village has some excellent dining options, we particularly enjoyed eating at the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol’s own restaurant; it was hard to think of an alternative given the unbeatable views from the strategically located dining area. The menu is unsurprisingly mediterranean-inspired with lots of fish choices and Portuguese specialities. Our favouries included the prawn tempura or Provencal fish soup starters followed by generous fillets of sea bream served with a herb risottoo or a seared tuna with a coriander, ginger and green chilli sauce.
If you are able to drag yourself away from the infinity pool and Kabo bar to enjoy the many other attractions of the island, Andre, the exceptionally helpful manager and his ever-cheerful team will help organise any number of excursions.
Ponta do Sol village itself is a small and pretty settlement within easy striking distance of Funchal, the island’s capital, and just thirty minutes or so from the airport. It dates right back to the founding of the island in the 1420’s and valued for its modest harbour which nevertheless provided important access to the west of the island. It is also one of the few villages on Madeira with a (coarse gravel) beach where there is some safe sea bathing in an area protected from Atlantic waves by a man-made jetty.
Backed by green leafy hills it is tucked in to narrow valley set between rocky cliffs. Colourful and historic buildings stretch along the sea front and line the charming cobbled back street. These are some small shops, cafes, tapas bars and restaurants, but for variety you will need to travel in to Funchal.
Other essential trips typically should include a levada walk, a jeep excursion, whale/dolphin watching, and a visit to the botanical gardens (make sure you pick the Palace one!) accessed via the scenic Monte cable car and afternoon tea at Reids Hotel.
There is so, so much more though – be sure to see our feature on Madeira excursions with the excellent Lido Tours (to come), and this delightful small hotel is the very best place from which to enjoy it.
For more information visit Estalagem da Ponta do Sol
To make a booking visit http://www.pontadosol.com
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