During the Circle of Fire, most evenings, Alves and Fonseca invite guests to join them on the cliff-top dunes, in front of the hotel, for a sing-song around the campfire
Areias do Seixo in Santa Cruz
Areias do Seixo hotel is on a clifftop, one hour north from Lisbon, near the laid-back town of Santa Cruz, on the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Encased in dunes, pine trees, cliffs, as well as the infinite ocean, the hotel is thriving on the stretch of Portugal’s Silver Coast, the surf capital of the world. This luxury eco-boutique hotel spread across a sloping site – incorporating conscious living as its cornerstone. The site’s untampered landscape also invites guests to have a barefoot escapade. Pine groves and dunes rub up against each other on the hotel’s driftwood-strewn shoreline.
Areias do Seixo roughly translates as sands of pebbles, taking inspiration from the two elements found in abundance on-site. The beach at the foot of the cliff-top on which Areias do Seixo stands lies, in fact, ten minutes by foot from the location. Positioned between the Praia da Mexilhoeira and Praia do Seixo in Santa Cruz, the hotel is a thirty minutes drive from Ericeira, the charming surfer village.
The inception of Areias do Seixo
Brainchild of Gonçalo Alves and Marta Fonseca, Areias do Seixo in Santa Cruz was born in 2010. Childhood friends and surf aficionados – Alves and Fonseca – grew up chasing waves in the Atlantic Ocean. Alves comes from a hospitality family background, while Fonseca worked in the corporate sector before curating a naturalist space. They both are partners at work. «Gonçalo and Marta’s parents had holiday homes in Santa Cruz so they used to spend most of their summers here. They have always shared a deep friendship».
The determination of constructing an ecological retreat, for themselves, soon translated into a full-fledged hospitality offering. «It was the access to wild nature that drew them to this spot. When they acquired the site, it was in bad shape». The hotel was, in fact, built on a derelict chicken factory near where they both grew up. «The farm was ground down and its materials were reused».
Their construction was blighted by a tornado that ripped steel from the girders and uprooted dozens of surrounding pine trees. «You can find the upcycled wood from the fallen trees in our interior and functional decor», shares Joana Lopes, the hotel Sales Manager. Construction began in 2005, and work concluded in 2010. A strawberry plant instead of a brick represents the cornerstone of the project. «The organic garden was the first section constructed. Due to the presence of sandy soil, we worked hard for years to make the garden soil fertile to produce vegetables».
The rustic-chic eco-lodge complex
Fourteen rooms, clamping enclaves, a greenhouse, spa, infinity pool, villas as well as townhouses. Concrete, glass, iron and wood are the principal elements in the construction of the space. The main hotel building showcases a modernist concrete-and-glass exterior. Renowned Portuguese architect Vasco Vieira – through his vision for Areias do Seixo – made a contribution to the language of sustainable modern design.
The low environmental impact buildings, tent structures, and interior elements are in harmony with the existing landscape. «Interior designers, Rosario Gabriel and Isabel Schedel worked with local carpenters to build each corner of the property. Wood procured from uprooted trees found in the neighborhood after the storm characterize all wooden furniture, from beds to the tables».
The interiors interweave sophistication with rawness, in an ambiance that advocates slow-living. Olive trees, reeds, and wooden poles come in the shape of labyrinths, representing the marriage of the indoor and the outdoor words. Further, interior details abound. African antiques, a cord of seasoned firewood, crystal chandeliers, exposed stone walls, ethnic upholstery, recycled artifacts, nature motifs, sheepskin throws, mirrors, love notes, tree trunk lamps, and wooden patios.
Rooms at Areias do Seixo
The rooms have four themes – Gold, Tree, Land and Love – all of them except one share the sea view. They come embellished with an assortment of design characteristics – each room different from the other. Curated keeping in mind lovers, the rooms are offered on dual occupancy basis, with a no children policy. «Nature is about loving. We therefore try and take care of it as much as we can. When people are in love their hearts are more open to care and heal. We bring together lovers and the wild nature».
The love rooms – Oxalá, Ouro, Mi Ma Bô, Nha Cretcheu – lean towards a romantic ambiance with suspended fireplaces and sea-facing terraces. Their names pay tribute to classical love songs and poems. Nha Cretcheu in Cape Verdian creole translates to me and you. «Marta’s ancestors are from Cape Verde in Africa. You will therefore find cultural influences here». Continuing the recycled theme, the bedside tables are fashioned from old branches, topped with granite. While the skylit bathrooms feature cruelty-free Damana botanicals, a rain shower, or a jacuzzi.
Lampoon review: The Pine and Lake shelters
Constructed a few years ago, the Pine and Lake shelters lend themselves as glamping enclaves. These large safari-style tents come pimped out with shades of luxury, including a free-standing copper bath. Glass, stone and wooden exteriors mark the villas, meant for long-term stays for up to six people. They have fully-equipped kitchens, a pool, as well as some terraces. Guests here can take advantage of the hotel’s facilities and services. «The main hotel is for couples, while the villas are for families and friends».
The heart of Areias do Seixo lies in its vegetable garden. Sowed ten years ago, the organic patch is brimming with vegetables such as kale, cabbage, Portuguese cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, aromatic herbs, carrots, and more. The chef starts each day in the garden picking homegrown produce. Guests can also partake in the harvest, to touch and feel the produce served on their plates.
Culinary proposals at Areias do Seixo
The cuisine and menu – primarily drawing produce from the kitchen garden – has a strong vegetarian slant with overtones of Portuguese culinary influence. Areias do Seixo has also developed a vegan menu as a result of a collaboration with chef Cládia Salú. The plant-based menu dishes abound. Kale fritters, Nori seaweed and roasted tomato, lentil curry, pumpkin, cauliflower and wild rice, glazed pineapple from Azores, carcavelos and lime sorbet.
André Jesus, the restaurant’s head chef, has been a part of Areias do Seixo since its inception. Having worked under the tutelage of the senior chefs at the hotel, he garnered an immersive understanding of the brand’s gastronomic philosophy and ethos. «André joined Areias do Seixo very young and now he runs the entire restaurant». Some of his signature dishes include horse mackerel, olives, red peppers and crudités from the Garden, grilled octopus, rice with cuttlefish ink and coriander, lemon grass pannacotta, beetroot and chili.
Further, the wine list honors zero-to-low intervention natural wines made with local grapes, spontaneous fermentation, and indigenous yeast strains. Portuguese natural wines on the list include: Quinta da Serradinha, Vale da Capucha and Nata Cool Espera. Breakfast bakes and bread arrive from their family bakery each morning. «Gonçalo’s family owns a historical bakery, Império Pastelaria, in the city of Torres Verdes». At the restaurant, you eat at chunky wooden tables surrounded by antique dressers and vases filled with dried verbena and corn husks.
Reducing carbon footprint
The ocean breeze replaces air-conditioning. Rainwater harvest and recycling plants are installed for a circular water supply. The hotel uses geothermal energy – through radiant in-floor heating – taking advantage of the earth’s internal temperature. From the design of the property to its facilities within, environmentally sound solutions take precedence.
The hotel interiors exhibit fittings and furnishings made from repurposed materials found on-site. «A massive storm hit us in 2008 – in between the construction works. At this time, Gonçalo and Marta, along with the architect, decided to reuse all the destroyed and broken nature elements by up-cycling them into pieces for our decor». In the restaurant, there is a candlelight stand featuring broken iron pieces rescued from the storm. Wooden disks from the uprooted pine trunks are embellished on the floor at the Circle of Fire, while the remains of the same trees stand upside down in a circle around the fire.
Areias do Seixo’s activities and spa
They, through their efforts, has sculpted space for nature lovers, with immersive experiences. Surf and stand-up paddles lessons, trek, and flow, yoga sessions, functional training are an embodiment of the movement activities that Areias do Seixo provides. There are also guided dune walks, mussel-forage trips, tea rituals with garden-picked herbs, a picnic basket for two and bicycle rides among others. Wine, music and bonfires characterize evenings at Areias do Seixo. During the Circle of Fire, most evenings, Fonseca invites guests to join them on the cliff-top dunes in front of the hotel for a sing-song around the campfire.
Wellness treatments, keeping in couples, have been curated for pampering. Hot pebble massage and Turkish bath are the signatures at the hotel’s spa. Flanked by a four-poster daybed and sun loungers, the ink-green infinity pool overlooks the garden. The hotel remained closed from March to June in 2020, and from January to April in 2021, owing to the pandemic restrictions. «We usually close around mid-November, and then open for the new year. But we witnessed a change in seasonality pre-covid. We had customers coming in all through the winter as well».
Areias do Seixo
2560-046 A dos Cunhados e Maceira, Portugal
Areias do Seixo in Santa Cruz, Portugal, is a eco-boutique hotel on a protected patch of coast.