Rebali Riads, a family-friendly boutique hotel near Essaouira, brings laid-back holidays to Morocco’s windswept Atlantic coast – with spot-on service and sunny sands a short stroll away. Large interconnecting rooms and whitewashed villas (that stretch to three storeys) are flanked by manicured gardens and private poolside terraces. Try whipping up a tagine in your villa's kitchen or ask your on-site hosts to hand deliver home-made meals. It’s not too much trouble; in fact nothing is – want to sprint across sand dunes on a quad bike? Cruise on a kiteboard? Or soak in the hammam? Consider it done, in typically hospitable Berber style.
18 rooms in six villas and seven suites, which can be booked separately; two of which (in Riad Valmar) interconnect to form a family apartment.
Noon. Earliest check-in, 2pm, but both times are flexible if agreed with the hotel in advance.
Double rooms from $121.63 (€109), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include a Moroccan-style breakfast, with fresh fruit, spiced pancakes and tagine-style eggs, yoghurt, breads, jams and pâtisserie.
For large groups the hotel can arrange a barbecue, and guests can mingle during daily afternoon tea with Moroccan pastries and mint tea; cooking lessons in Essaouira with the hotel owners should be booked in advance. The hotel also leaves out star maps for a stellar family evening on your roof terrace. Ask the concierge about camel rides, surfing lessons, or anything else you might fancy.
At the hotel
Hammam with spa treatments, steam room, tennis court, bikes to borrow, dining area, gardens, DVD library, boules, a cricket and rounders court, table tennis, swings, laundry and free WiFi. In rooms: Suites and family apartments have pool access, an iPod dock, safe, free bottled water and bathrobes. Private villas have an additional flatscreen TV and private kitchen with an oven and hob, fridge, kettle and cafetiere. The larger villas also have private swimming pools and a dishwasher in the kitchen.
Our favourite rooms
Guests can either stay in a suite within a villa (each with an ensuite, a private terrace and shared pool), or book a villa for exclusive use. Riad Sila has a private pool with a furnished terrace and three interconnecting suites on the first floor, and Riad Valmar is the largest, sleeping up to twelve people in four first-floor suites and one ground-floor room.
Two communal pools, including one shallow kids' pool, and three private pools. There’s no supervision at the communal pools, so keep a watchful eye on any little Smiths.
The hotel’s hammam sits under an elegant white dome at the centre of the hotel and a range of spa treatments – waxing, body scrubs, manicures, pedicures, massages and facials with all-natural masks – are offered from 2pm to 6pm each day. Henna painting is also available in half-hour and hour-long sessions for groups.
If you and your little dudes are serious about surfing, bring your boards and wetsuits.
The hotel has two wheelchair-accessible rooms with ground-floor showers. Yoga classes and belly-dancing lessons can be arranged.
Kids of all ages are welcome, but families with kids under 12 must exclusively book a villa. Cots for under-2s (free) or extra beds for under-18s (£30) can be added to any room type. Babysitting must be booked at least 24 hours in advance.
Rebali Riads encourages a slow-paced and stress-free stay, so onsite activities tend to follow suit – swim in your villa’s pool, settle in for a massage and body scrub in the hammam or engage in a sporting game of tennis, cricket, boules or rounders in the communal gardens. Outside the villa the pace picks up – you can ride the surf or kitesurf by the shore, rev up a quad bike and race en famille, tour the local farm and milk the goats or giddy up on a camel – a rite of passage for any visitors to Morocco. Day trips to Essaouira provides a little more local colour, with Moroccan cooking lessons, and souks to sift and haggle your way through. Spend evenings at Rebali huddled under a Berber-style blanket from off the bed stargazing from the roof terrace.
Surd-mad teens and swim-mad littles.
Riad Silar and Riad Valmar are the best suited for larger families; Riad Valmar is best suited to families with older children because it has a private pool and plenty of outdoor space, spanning three enclosed courtyards.
Rebali Riads offers a rare combination of parental peace and child-distracting activities. Onsite, life moves as slowly as the riad's pet tortoises (found in the olive garden), but thrills can be found along Sidi Kouaki's windswept coastline which has prime windsurfing and kitesurfing conditions
There’s no supervision at the communal pools, so keep a watchful eye on any toddlers or arm them with a float from the hotel’s stash.
There's no kids' menu but small versions of adult meals are available for a reduced rate, and the chef can pack a picnic lunch for camel sojourns or whip up a baby food when needed. If you have fussy eaters, tell the accommodating staff before noon so they can concoct something more to your child's taste. If eating in-villa, high chairs are available for free and staff can deliver food (or ingredients for self catering, if you've requested them) to your door at an arranged time. For relaxed mealtimes with a toddler it's best to take your meals in the large light-filled dining room.
Babysitting costs £20 for every two hours and must be booked at least 24 hours in advance.
This bijou Berber village may be a little windswept, but this is still Morocco, so a day without sun is rare; however, if you do find yourself caught inside on the odd dreary day, you won’t get bored. The hammam is housed in a distinctive domed building at the centre of the hotel, where guests can steam and and scrub their troubles away. The hotel’s film library has U-rated films, so an afternoon spent sunk into the cosy sofas in a family pile will while away the time; or a range of board games and toys will engage active children until the showers have stopped.
Watch the sunset while you dine on your villa’s roof terrace, then let your meal settle as you stargaze.
Think linens and anything that flows; you'll want to beat the heat.
There's no restaurant because guests tend to eat at the Zellige-tiled tables by their shared or private pool: however, there's a tented terrace with a few hammocks and some wrought-iron tables and chairs near the communal gardens, where guests can dine if they've notified the hotel owners before noon. Guests in villas can cater for themselves (your hosts will gladly order ingredients for you), or the hotel's chef can prepare a menu, set the table and tidy up afterwards. Although often a small menu, dinner and lunch are always a tasty treat. Dine on traditional Morrocan fare such as tagines, cous-cous, brochettes and grilled fish; the lemon-chicken tagine is just sublime. Afternoon tea is also served here daily.
No bar, but you’ll find a bottle of local wine in your fridge and a top-up can be ordered in for a late-night rooftop tipple.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 10am, afternoon tea from 4:30pm to 5pm.
None, but as long as you liaise with staff about your preferred times, all meals can be brought to your villa for fuss-free fine dining. Staff are happy to heat baby food or milk at any hour of the day.
Dunes, camels and sunken forts form the sparsely-inhabited windswept landscape of Berber village Sidi Kaouki, with bustling blue-tinged town Essaouira a 30-minute drive away and Marrakech a two-hour desert drive away.
Essaouira’s Mogador Airport is just a 20-minute drive away from Rebali Riads, and Marrakech’s Menara Airport is a three-hour drive away, but flights touch down there from a wider range of destinations. Fly direct to Essaouira from Luton Airport, or connect at Lisbon Airport; trans-Atlantic flights connect here too. Travellers from across the Pacific reach Morocco via Tokyo Narita and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Call our Smith 24 team to book your flights and arrange transfers (€110 both ways).
With diddly squat in the way of trains and Rebali Riads’ tucked-away locale, you’ll find a car essential; especially when the family’s in tow. The hotel offers transfers for up to four people, to and from Marrakech Menara Airport, for €110. Both Marrakech and Mogador airports also have a range of car-hire services and parking is free at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Rebali Riads encourages a slow-paced and stress-free stay, so on-site activities tend to follow suit – swim in your villa’s pool, settle in for a massage and body scrub in the hammam or engage in a sporting game of tennis, cricket, boules or rounders in the communal gardens. Towering strip malls glimpsed near Sidi Kaouki will likely be a mirage – the place is as much of a giant sandpit as you’d expect a desert to be. However, the village offers both an authentic glimpse into the Berber lifestyle and miles of unspoilt Atlantic coastline. Windsurfing, kiteboarding and surfing can all be arranged at the Sidi Kaouki Surf Club a short walk from the hotel. The club house has all equipment available to rent (for novices and experts alike), and a small café serving Vietnamese food. Giddy up on a camel – a rite of passage for any visitors to Morocco. If camel trekking doesn't appeal, quad-biking outift Palma Quad can take you dune bashing for up to half a day; the larger bikes can hold a parent and child over six, and over-12s can man their own bikes. A Berber lunch (€18 a person), including transport by donkey, gives a glimpse of the village's traditional lifestyle. Little guests will be well received (expect plenty of cheek pinching); however, alert the hotel to any fussy eaters beforehand. The hotel can arange a local farm visit (€12 a person; under-16s are free with two adults) to help with milking the goats. Wide-open desert vistas ensure high-quality putting; Essaouira’s first golf club, Golf de Mogador, has manicured greens and a sleek clubhouse. Young golfers are encouraged on the course, but it’s best suited to teenagers.
Le Kaouki, is a blue-and-white restaurant with beach views from its roof terrace. Affordable dinners – fish tagines and couscous – and candlelit dining makes this the perfect place for a child-free meal. La Pergola, a Franco-Morroccan restaurant, serves a table d’hote in languorous surroundings; sit on the shaded terrace to give careering children some space. Tiring of tagines? Windy Kaouki serves tasty pizza and pasta dishes, or take a 20-minute taxi ride into Essaouira to dine at Villa Maroc, which has low-lit tables in elegant surrounds with a Moroccan and European-influenced menu.
If venturing to Essaouira, follow the scent of sizzling fish to find gargottes (food stalls) in the souk – where vendors will grill sea urchin, crab, sardines and all manner of caught-that-day crustaceans, on the spot. Sidi Kaouki has a sparse selection of shops with a limited selection of food and drink; pick up snacks, baby food, nappies and other essentials, including some sweets and souk snacks to store in the villa and hand out as treats, from Essaouira's superette shops.
Kemia at Smith-approved Heure Bleue hotel is a intimate spot to enjoy cocktails with a range of seafood tapas. The vibrant blue and crisp white walls of Taros are the perfect setting for a tipple or two anytime of day, or night. In the day, enjoy a refereshing glass of white wine with the catch of the day while dining on alfresco, overlooking the ocean, and come evening, retire inside to one of the moasiac-lined lounges where you can order tall cocktails and cigars.
Arriving at Rebali Riads is like encountering a palm-tree shaded oasis after a thirst-riddled desert trek, if you've arrived with a travel-weary family in tow. Pristine white villas (each equipped with a fully-fitted kitchen for self-catering) and luxurious suites decorated in cool Berber-chic style, with Zellige-tiled tables on a private dining terrace and grassy-banked pools – a real luxury in sun-parched Sidi Kaouki – invite you to lie back and barely move until you leave. It’s an easily achieved feat – meals are brought to your villa, the spa is a short sarong-clad stroll away and villas also have a private cinema room, with a selection of DVDs, board games, books and toys to borrow. The sleepy unspoilt village surrounds are deceptively desolate, offering a fascinating glimpse into the Berber way of life, and any teens in your family troupe will take to the area's famed board, wind and kitesurfing like a fish to water. Essaouira is easily reached by car (or by camelback if you're so inclined – just ask your hosts) where the hotel's chef can accompany you to help you pick out ingredients from the souk before teaching you how to whip up traditional tagines and pastries. If you do choose to stay onsite, kids can use the tennis courts or seek out the chameleon in the hotel’s communal garden and parents can make use of the elegant hammam at the heart of the hotel. Top off the languid days with a poolside meal, before ascending to the roof terrace for a spot of stargazing.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Rebali Riads’s Guestbook below.
Having a self-contained house to ourselves (two couples), which was well-equipped and comfortable. There is a pool just outside to flop beside if you want. We ate 'in' both evenings, as it was so good. In the morning we asked if we could we have fish, and the result that evening was perfect sea bass fillet fresh from the market. There is a hammam and a very good visiting masseuse. Gaze at stars in the huge sky from the rooftop. The guided walk through the argan forest, along a huge beach with crashing surf, to a Berber village above the 'cascades' was enjoyable. If you are an experienced rider, on no account miss an expedition with 'Equi Evasion' 20 minutes away by car; riding their Arab stallions on (the other) huge beach and through the dunes is unforgettable.
Total peace and quiet. Although it is certainly nice to be rustic and away from the big town of Essaouira, dogs, chickens and donkeys can be heard (all part of the charm).