Santa Bárbara Eco Beach Resort is a boutique stay that whispers rather than shouts. Take its fuss-free design that melds effortlessly into its coastal setting above Santa Bárbara beach, aided by low-profile studios and villas well spaced around the manicured grounds, which are planted entirely with native species. Interiors are subtly coastal-themed in soothing blues and greens set against polished concrete, warm timbers and bamboo screens (not a nautical cliché in sight). Its eco-friendly ethos is executed with quiet confidence, too; organic produce from the on-site farm supplies the restaurant; spa treatments are organic and seaweed-based (natch), and pay enough attention and you’ll notice that its furnishings are frequently made from salvaged finds.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Azorean wine and a plate of local delicacies including cheese and charcuterie
Rooms vary by location rather than (generous) footprint and are all dressed in a soothing palette of blues, greens and browns that nods to the hotel’s coastal setting. The studios appeal with access from your private deck to a photoshoot-worthy lap pool. For a Jacuzzi to call your own, opt for a Retreat studio or villa.
Overlooking Santa Bárbara beach, the main saltwater pool has built-in, submerged loungers and is fringed by a wooden deck dotted with metal-framed sunloungers and thatch parasols. A paved path takes you up to a wooden platform above the pool with wooden lounge chairs and views over the beach. Blue & Green studios and villas share access to a sprawling saltwater lap pool; Retreat studio and villas come with a private Jacuzzi. The plunge pool at the wellness retreat is your indoor option.
What resembles a plant-strewn greenhouse is in fact the hotel’s wellness retreat, comprising a gym, curtained treatment sala and raised plunge pool. The gym comes with free weights, a rowing machine, exercise bike and treadmill and personal training is available. Between the main pool and the beach, an additional massage hut sits on the cliff.
Surf gear, beach kit and laid-back threads for dinner.
As you walk on by the pristine garden beds, reserve a little admiration for the fact that they’re planted with 4,000 trees and plants that are native to the Azores. In-room spa treatments or breakfast in bed are both available on request.
Welcome; those aged 11 or under are charged as children. Cots can be provided free and the hotel can arrange babysitting (at extra cost). Villas are ideal for families with either two bedrooms or a sofa bed in the living area.
All little Smiths except toddlers; the pools, cliffs and pond in the garden don’t mix well with mobile under-fours.
Two-bedroom villas, either Blue & Green or Retreat, come with pool access or a private Jacuzzi respectively. For a single child, studios include a sofabed in the living area.
You’ll need kids who can swim if you’re staying in Blue & Green studios or villas, all of which open onto a shared lap pool. The main pool is unheated and saltwater. The wooden-sided plunge pool at the wellness retreat is a warmer indoor option.
Villas come with kitchenettes that have a fridge freezer and microwave. The restaurant and beach club have highchairs and dedicated kids menus; their all-day dining set-up is child-friendly, too.
The hotel can arrange babysitting (at extra cost) with seven days' notice.
This is a hotel that’s been built to blend harmoniously with its natural surroundings, from the choice of materials (sustainable cork and wood over steel frames) to its low-lying profile; from energy-saving measures (efficient lightbulbs, little light pollution, rainwater harvesting) to the vast kitchen garden, including a hydroponics and aeroponics greenhouse, which supplies Santa Bárbara and its sister hotel with organic produce. Spa and bath products are Voya – an Irish, organic, seaweed-based range. Filtered water is supplied in glass bottles, refilled daily. Food waste is composted, the hotel has a strict recycling policy and some hotel furniture has been made from upcycled materials. The hotel works with local suppliers on São Miguel and all staff are trained in sustainable practices.
At a restaurant facing the sea, the best tables are all about the finest views – on the terrace on balmy evenings, or beside the window on cooler nights.
Longs and a T-shirt or shirt for Mr Smith; a flowing dress or hippy-chic top for Mrs Smith (crochet, beading, chunky jewellery will all fit right in).
Dinner at Santa Bárbara is a local affair: Azorean meat, Atlantic fish and seafood and vegetables, fruit and herbs from the hotel’s 4,000-square-metre organic garden inspire a seasonal, changing menu that celebrates farm-to-table fare. Chef André Fragoeiro’s cuisine is pan-Asian, often fusion, including curries, ramen and salads that take you from India to Japan, via Korea and Thailand – although as his signature dish, Tuna Wellington, suggests, you can expect the unexpected. The dining room itself makes the most of stellar sea views across the resort towards the beach through floor-to-ceiling windows with tables indoors and out on a covered terrace. At lunchtime, a selection of sandwiches, pasta and salads are available. Down by Santa Bárbara beach, the Beach Club is a casual spot for snacks or lunch and serves salads, sandwiches and poke bowls.
A free-flowing space that leads to the restaurant and the terrace, the resort’s bar is a panoramic spot for a light lunch, snacks or evening drinks. Here, canvas chairs are lined up to take in the sea view through floor-to-ceiling windows, and wood-framed sofas with calico upholstery beckon you to sink into them with an apéritif under the warm glow of pendant lights fashioned from repurposed oil containers. The cocktail menu includes all the classics, a good choice of gins and a handful of original concoctions with an emphasis on rum that befits its Azorean setting. On the wine list, you’ll find tipples from the Azores, Portugal and a good selection of organic bottles (wine tasting can be arranged through the concierge).
Breakfast is served in the main restaurant, 8am–11am; an all-day menu is available from 11am until 7pm; dinner is 7pm–10pm.
A selection of dishes can be ordered to your room either from the all-day or dinner menus, depending on the time of day (see last orders, above).
Santa Bárbara Eco Beach Resort is west of Ribeira Grande on São Miguel’s north coast in the Azores.
Ponta Delgada airport is a 20-minute drive away. The hotel can arrange private transfers from €40 each way.
There’s a free open-air car park at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
The forested mountains, riverine valleys and Atlantic coastline of these wild islands lend themselves to adventure, and none more so than São Miguel, the archipelago’s largest. Hiking, horse riding, cycling and off-roadtours can all be arranged through the hotel; order a chef’s picnic to take with you. Thrillseekers can make a date to go kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing or canyoning; surf lessons are available through the hotel’s beach club, and the concierge team can arrange Scuba, snorkelling or whale watching (April–October). The island offers less energetic pursuits, too: regional wine tasting (through the hotel), a day at organic farm Quinta dos Sabores (culminating in dinner), or a trip to Parque Terra Nostra gardens, home to an avenue of Ginkgo Biloba and a vast camellia garden. Finally, an Azorean rite of passage – thermal baths come in many guises on São Miguel: beside the sea at Ferraria; in bucolic bliss at Poças da Dona Beija, and (possibly our favourite) forest-fringed at Caldeira Velha.
Small is beautiful at Tasquinha Vieirain Ponta Delgada – a diminutive dining room of Scandi-simple wooden tables and chairs matched in size by its modest menu of seasonal, locally sourced meat, fish and plant-based dishes; no bookings are taken, but it’s worth taking your chances. Also in Ponta Delgada, in a grey-and-pale-wood dining room dotted with pendant lights, feast on Japanese fare that celebrates Azorean produce from triggerfish to veal to octopus in prettily presented plates at Õtaka. A short hop across the island you’ll find Carduma restaurant at Santa Bárbara’s sister hotel White Exclusive Suites & Villas: chef William Blake wants to take you on a culinary world tour prepared with Azorean meat, freshly caught fish and seasonal produce grown at Santa Bárbara’s farm.
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 coastal hotel on São Miguel and unpacked their surf wax and pineapple jam, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Santa Bárbara Eco Beach Resort in the Azores…
Named for the sandy surf beach it sits above, Santa Bárbara Eco Beach Resort is an understated boutique stay of villas and studios in green, green grounds on São Miguel’s north coast. Should Santa Bárbara’s rollers not tickle your surfboard, there’s a photogenic saltwater pool where you can soak up the views. The brainchild of businessman and surfer João Reis, the resort has eco credentials as green as the seaweed-hued upholstery in its quietly coastal-themed interiors. Not only was the hotel designed using sustainable materials such as timber and cork and integrated into the landscape with an emphasis on the surf-lapped scenery of its setting, but also everything – from the farm on site to healthy cuisine at the restaurant, to organic spa treatments at the hotel’s wellness retreat – is assuredly planet-friendly on the downlow. It’s not hard to see why you’d want to keep São Miguel pristine: natural wonders – forests, mountains, lakes, beaches – are concentrated in this Atlantic wilderness, and the hotel’s concierge is on hand to help you explore the island your way, be it hiking, biking, diving, whale-watching or even a romantic waterfall-facing picnic.