Dar Maya is tucked away on a backstreet in the heart of Essaouira’s historic medina, within walking distance of the beach.
Touchdown at Essaouira’s Mogador Airport (www.onda.ma), which is 20km away from the riad; it’s served by regular flights from Paris. Or, land at Marrakech Menara Airport (marrakech.airport-authority.com), 180km away, which sees regular arrivals from throughout Europe, including London Gatwick and Heathrow.
If you’re adventurous enough to try driving in Morocco, there’s a car park a five-minute walk from the hotel that costs €2 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast, is largely a laid-back beach city where hanging out on the sand or eating your fill of fresh seafood are order of the day. Sandy Essaouira beach is an easy walk from the hotel, and offers plenty of watersports as well as camel and horse rides.
Explore Essaouira’s rivers and beaches on a quad bike with Palma Quad, www.palmaquad.com, or head out of town on camelback with Zouina Cheval in the village of Diabet, www.zouina-cheval.com. For an eco-conscious Argan grove tour, try Ecotourism et Randonées; trips culminate in a traditional Moroccan tea (www.essaouira-randonnees.com).
If you're a golfer, you're in luck: Mogador Golf Course (+212 (0)5 24 47 94 00) is ranked among the world’s top 20 most exciting courses, though the 18-hole Gary Player-designed golf course has Atlantic views good enough to distract you from your game… If cooking's more your thing, learn from the best at L’Atelier Madada, the top spot to discover the delights of Moroccan cooking (www.lateliermadada.com).
At Hôtel Océan Vagabond, the bar and restaurant have their own little swimming pool and garden, as well as a lounge with a fireplace (Boulevard Lalla Aicha; +212 (0)5 24 47 92 20. The menu at relaxed, romantic Elizir is an interesting mix of Moroccan and Italian cuisines; the service and ambience are top-notch (Rue Agadir; +212 (0)5 24 47 21 03).
La Table by Madada is a chic, romantic restaurant tucked away in the old medina; the food is highly rated by locals (Rue Youssef El Fassi; +212 (0)5 24 47 21 06). Caravane Café is a lively medina spot with quirky decor (Rue du Qadi Ayad; +212 (0)5 24 78 31 11). Les Jardins de Villa Maroc is 10km out of town but you can laze by the pool at its secluded stone house, which was until recently a private residence (Route Essaouira-Marrakech, Essaouira; +212 (0) 24 47 67 47).
Watch the sunset from the terrace at seafood restaurant Il Mare, overlooking the cannon-bedecked battlements, then stay for the music: it’s a popular nightclub, too (Rue Yamen Scala; +212 (0)5 24 47 64 17). Taros is rumoured to be Essaouira’s best drinking den. The medina hotspot has spectacular views from its terrace, DJs and live music and top-class cocktails. It serves food, too (Place Moulay Hassan; +212 (0)5 24 47 64 07).