There’s the Algarve of endless golden sands and there’s the Algarve of wild untamed coastline, and Praia do Canal Nature Resort stands proudly in the latter. Its monolithic sandstone-hued architecture sits on a plateau, like a 21st-century kasbah watching over lush valleys that stretch down to a strip of shimmering Atlantic. And together with its nestled-in-wilderness setting, an air of upscale serenity hangs over these blissfully remote lodgings. A soundtrack of chirruping birdlife accompanies the hum of buggies whisking berobed guests between suite and spa. An escape into the rugged wilds of nature doesn’t often feel this luxurious.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £191.47 (€223), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, which covers both a buffet spread and cooked-to-order à la carte options.
If there are any of the restaurant’s dishes you’d love to learn to cook, ask at reception to arrange a cooking class with the chef.
At the hotel
24-hour reception, fitness centre, free welcome drink, loaner bikes, valet parking, free WiFi, concierge, charged laundry. In rooms: TV, Nespresso machine with free pods, tea-making kit, minibar, free bottled water, robes and flip-flop slippers, free bottle of champagne on arrival, set of high-zoom binoculars, premium toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
It’s hard to top cooling off in your private rooftop pool while gazing over unspoilt nature towards the ocean, and you can do just that from the Grand Suite. This room also gives you direct access to your own tidy patch of lawned garden.
Striking red-slatted loungers sit on the lawn that extends up to the water. Woven parasols throw dappled light on wicker armchairs. In-pool loungers offer broad views across the nature reserve to the wild Atlantic. The poolside scene here is a real hotel highlight.
Housed in a separate block in the gardens, the spa is another highlight of the hotel. Together with a heated indoor pool, infinity outdoor pool, Turkish bath, and two saunas (one Finnish the other bio) it offers a long list of massage and beauty treatments with premium Elemi products. There’s also a cold plunge tank and an ice fountain to help boost circulation.
Leave your sandals at home; all rooms come with funky flip-flop-style slippers you’ll happily pad around the hotel in.
Most of the hotel’s ground-floor rooms are wheelchair accessible, plus one is specifically adapted for the mobility impaired.
Little Smiths are more than welcome, though the hotel doesn’t offer any specific kid-focused facilities.There are two family-friendly suites and babysitting can be arranged for €20 an hour.
A slew of eco-forward efforts include solar panelling, water-saving systems, and refillable environmentally friendly bath products. Single-use plastics are also a no-no and the kitchen sources produce from the local community whenever possible.
Whether it’s for a pre-dinner drink or bite to eat, a table on the Medronho courtyard is a superb place to watch the sun slip over the horizon before the night sky starts to twinkle overhead.
For poolside dining soggy trunks are acceptable. For dinner, less so.
The hotel’s main restaurant is Azeitona (meaning olive), and it opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It seems like no regional produce has escaped its obsessively locavore-oriented clutches, from Rogil peanuts to Odemira cheese, Ria de Alvor seafood and São Teotónio beef, the menu is dominated by local ingredients. Madeira sauce also plays a central role in many of the dishes. Zimbro offers more casual, alfresco dining with poolside valley views and a menu that makes full use of their wood-fired oven and Josper grill. Smoky fresh-from-the-net Atlantic prawns seasoned with Alentejo garlic get our hearty approval.
A wall-to-wall brick-lined fireplace, lots of comfy sofas, patterned rugs and colourful lamp shades give the hotel’s Medronho Bar a really cosy mood – you can easily imagine holing up here over cooler winter nights. Cocktails are inspired by what grows around the hotel, such as arbutus or strawberry tree fruit.
A separate room service menu is available around the clock, plus you can have breakfast delivered to your door.
The Praia do Canal Nature Resort lies on Portugal’s Vicentine Coast in the northwest region of the Algarve and 10 kilometres from the nearest town of Aljezur.
With connections throughout Europe and beyond, Faro Airport is the closest international air hub and is a 75-minute drive away. Alternatively, if you fancy exploring the Portuguese capital first Lisbon Airport is three hours by road.
The hotel can arrange transfers from the airport, but this can be expensive and most choose to hire a car and drive themselves. This also means freedom to explore the dramatic coast and its numerous scenic coves. The hotel also offers valet parking at no extra cost.
Worth getting out of bed for
Book yourself into the daily yoga sessions, and you can start the day with sun salutations before breakfast. Flopping by the hotel’s huge swimming pool or gazing out over its infinity edge is certainly an attractive option, but you might get a touch of the FOMOs creeping up on you. Being set within the Vicentine Coast Natural Park also means a huge swathe of wild landscape right on your doorstep. Hop on one of the hotel’s loaner mountain bikes and you can explore it via a network of pedal-friendly trails – they’re marked for difficulty. If you’re worried about getting lost, guided walking or cycling tours of the Rota Vicentina are also easily arranged. The route to the nearest beach (Praia do Canal) takes around an hour on foot through lush wooded valleys. A little further up the coast, Praia da Arrifana is a sandy cliff-backed bay popular with surfers. Ask at reception about the hotel’s beach shuttle service. Being the Algarve, there are also two golf courses within 20 minutes of the hotel. By day, twitchers will find the area is a bird-watching paradise. And come nightfall, the stargazing is sublime.
When it comes to eating out, remember you’re in the middle of a nature park so don’t expect anything within walking distance. One of the nearest is a fabulous little restaurant, Trigo Vermelho, less than 10 minutes by car. It’s a colourful, rough-around-the-edges eatery serving a menu of mostly vegan and gluten-free food. About 20 minutes away is a cluster of sea-view restaurants on the cliffs overlooking Praia da Arrifana. The eponymous Restaurante Praia da Arrifana comes highly recommended for its Atlantic-fresh seafood and stunning sunsets. For the full-on local dining experience, head to nearby Aljezur and Pont'a Pé. The town is known as the home of the sweet potato, and this landmark restaurant has been cooking them – and other regional specialities – for as long as anyone can remember.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that nightlife isn’t a big thing around these parts. If you really fancy a night out, the resort of Lagos is around a half-hour drive away with a dozen or more lively bars squeezed into its town centre.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this nature resort hotel in the Algarve and unpacked their bottle of Medronho Aguardente and cork handbag, a full account of their country-meets-coast break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Praia do Canal Nature Resort in Aljezur…
A simple country lane winds past rustling Algarve meadows, up towards an elevated plateau, and emerges into an uncanny sense of remoteness. Standing like a Moorish desert citadel is the austere geometry of the hotel’s façade. An almost-hidden entrance ushers you discreetly inside. The mood soon softens as you enter an inviting lobby scattered with wing-back armchairs, wicker tables and Chesterfield sofas. Huge windows introduce you to the lush valley-meets-ocean views you’ll likely be spending most of your stay swooning over.
Sat in the middle of an otherwise untouched nature reserve, the setting of this resort is the main reason people come. The rugged beauty of the Vicentine Coast demands exploration – by horseback, mountain bike, or jeep safari, take your pick. But there’s pampering aplenty too, of course, with a panoramic spa, lake-like infinity pool, and levels of service as elevated as the privileged plateau setting.