Conversas de Alpendre

Vila Nova de Cacela, Algarve, Portugal Book from Book from £88 per night

Perfect small hotel and an apartment for 2-4: masses of style and wonderful owners, 2km from idyllic Fábrica beach
One of my favourite hotels of all time, Conversas de Alpendre is a celebration of all things Portuguese. The peaceful gardens are full of gnarled cork and carob trees; the stunning furnishings are by local or Lisbon artisans — quirky rattan lampshades, rustic stools, woven art and traditional tiles; decor is fabulous throughout. Its restaurant dishes up regional recipes, including estupeta (tuna carpaccio), and octopus fresh from the ocean, and if you ask owners Marta and Tiago what to do, they brim with local tips: beautiful beaches, quaint villages, meadows to explore on horseback.

It's also a celebration of family — Marta's parents helped create this sanctuary, and small son Francisco toddles around the grounds, charming everyone. But it's a family that you feel part of when you stay. While there's (thankfully) no enforced conviviality, guests naturally mingle and chat, a mix of couples and small families that somehow blends beautifully. Kids play together and adult friendships are formed over carafes of Algarve wine. A recent guest spent a fortnight here, then booked for 3 weeks next summer as he left. It didn't surprise us. Everything about this place is special.

Highs

  • Just 11 stylish rooms; we were blown away by the romantic Tree House, with its panoramic views out to sea
  • Utterly peaceful and relaxing. Even when the hotel's full, you can always find a quiet hammock or outdoor sofa to read on
  • Excellent prices yet a feeling of high-quality runs throughout
  • Marta and Tiago could not be more welcoming or kind. They treat you like family, even baking cakes to help yourself to
  • Just 2km from idyllic Fábrica beach; borrow bikes and cycle there

Lows

  • The saltwater pool is unheated
  • Dinner is only served 5 days a week, and is a set menu (though you can ask for an alternative). It may look expensive but the food is delicious

Best time to go

The hotel is open all year, bar January and February. We visited at the start of May and had fabulous sunshine, and mid-twenties temperatures; April is similar. June, July and August can get very hot but the grounds are very shady and all rooms have air-con. September and October are gorgeous, like spring, and with the advantage of the sea being warmer.

Our top tips

  • Go to Fábrica beach in the morning, and you'll be able to wade over to the island at low tide, past locals plucking shellfish straight from the lagoon. Once the tide turns, you can catch a taxi boat back.
  • Talk to Marta and Tiago about how they came to set up the hotel; it's a sweet story.
  • Great for...

    Beach
    Honeymoon
    Eco
    Family
    Foodie
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 11
    • Breakfast + dinners on request
    • All ages welcome
    • Closed: 22 Dec 2019 - 11 Feb 2020
    • Outdoor Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Bicycles Available
    Room:

    Rooms

    Ten of the rooms are spread between the original old farmhouse and the modern extension (the conversion is so good we couldn't tell the difference). Decor throughout is fabulous, every detail hand-picked by Marta and her mother to celebrate Portuguese artisan style. Expect macrame lampshades, quirky mirrors and woven-reed wall hangings; whitewashed walls and the polished concrete floor allow every detail to shine. Beds have superb mattresses and are dressed in the finest linens; bathrooms are gorgeous with powerful 3-way jet showers and Castelbel toiletries.

    We stayed in a ground-floor Superior Suite, and loved how spacious it was, and how private it felt, despite leading onto the pool terrace. A pair of gorgeous Moroccan-style floor cushions won our hearts; our daughter was enchanted by a nightly turn-down service (bringing little treats and the next day's dinner menu), and by her enormous sofabed. Thick stone walls and a concrete ceiling kept the room cool and quiet; we all slept deeply, til 8am or even later - quite the treat with a small child!

    If you're here for a special occasion, book the show-stopping Tree House, perched high in a carob tree and almost completely concealed by leaves on one side. Panoramic windows wrap around the exposed sections, giving views over orange groves out to sea. Truly special.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Bathrobes
    • Coffee / tea making
    • Coffee maker
    • Hairdryer
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Pool / beach towels
    • Safe box
    • Smart TV
    • Toiletries
    • WiFi

    Eating

    Breakfast is a relaxed feast, served on the stunning outdoor terrace, where wispy wicker lights dangle over bamboo chairs and there's a hanging basket-chair, which kids adore. In keeping with the homely ethos, you can eat whenever you want, and Marta and Tiago bring it all to your table on beautiful plates, along with beaming smiles. Orange juice is freshly squeezed, the pumpkin jam is homemade (superb) and eggs cooked to order are from a local farm, with incredibly orange yolks. You also get a little bag full of homemade breads and croissants, a plate of local cheeses and hams, and a vibrant, fresh-fruit platter - we had pomegranate and juicy mango one day; plump strawberries and kiwi another.

    Snacks are available all day, and a chef comes in to do evening meals on request, 5 days a week. We dined in twice, and the food was excellent, inspired by regional specialities. The menu is set, though they are flexible on this if there's something you don't like, and the 3 courses include a couple of imaginative amuse-bouches: perhaps foie gras with pickled cabbage, and a squid cornet filled with fish mousse and caviar (divine), along with homemade bread and homegrown olives. The main dish of traditional octopus stew was tasty; a duck magret with raspberries the next night even better. Desserts included a divine creme caramel cake. Other guests raved to us about steak cooked in front of them on a hot stone, and a superb fish fillet marinated in fennel seeds.

    For a change of scene, Tiago will recommend excellent restaurants a short drive away, including Casa da Igreja for tapas (including just-caught oysters with chorizo). We enjoyed his suggestion of a laid-back pizza restaurant in Tarifa, too; ideal for families.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Breakfast
    • Children's meals
    • Coffee / tea making
    • Coffee maker
    • Dinner by arrangement
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Organic produce
    • Restaurants nearby
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Do very little! We spent hours lazing by the pool, leaping in occasionally to cool off. There are hammocks and sofas in the garden for shady snoozes, and massages in a little hut at weekends
    • Nearby beaches are idyllic, part of the Rio Formosa Natural Park. We found Manta Rota easy with kids, but Fábrica is the stuff films are made of; white sands, blue waters, pretty shells to collect. Be aware it gets windy and there are no facilities there, bar a seasonal cafe with tiki loungers
    • Tavira is charming for a half day, all cobbled mazy streets and little shops. Wander up to the castle, eat an ice cream, stroll along the river with its Roman bridge
    • Alpendre has bikes to borrow or you can go horse riding through nearby meadows and along the coast
    • The tiny village of Cacela Velha has traditional blue and white houses, an 18thC fort, a peaceful cemetery, and killer views along the coast up to the Spanish border
    • Take time to admire the decor and curios around the hotel, every detail hand-picked: a driftwood lamp, rosemary sprigs in tiny glass vases, a low trestle table on wheels, jute rugs, cowhide chairs... it's Instagram heaven

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Cycling
    • Golf
    • Hiking
    • Historical sites
    • Horse riding
    • Kayaking
    • Kitesurfing
    • Sailing
    • Shopping / markets
    • Surfing
    • Swimming
    • Well being
    • Windsurfing
    • Wine tasting
    • Yoga

    Kids

    Small families are warmly welcomed, ideally 1-2 kids per booking to keep the ambiance peaceful. Marta and Tiago have a young son (Francisco), and they were kindness itself to our 4-year-old daughter. Staying here as a family was relaxed and easy. In the evenings, we ate an early dinner all together, but you could easily put a younger child to bed then leave your window open and dine a deux on the terrace within earshot. The gardens are extensive and there's a saltwater pool with a shallow baby section.

    Best for:

    Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    All rooms except the Tree House can fit a baby cot or have a very comfortable sofabed for 1 extra guest. The Family Apartment has twin beds in its open-plan living area plus a sofabed for 1 extra guest, and a separate double bedroom. Parents will find its kitchenette useful.

    Babysitting:

    On request

    Baby equipment:

    • Baby cot
    • High chair
    • Night light
    • Stair gate
    • Baby bath
    • Bottle warming

    Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

    Children's meals:

    On request, available all day. Our daughter - pretty fussy - loved the spaghetti bolognese and a tarragon chicken with rice. A chocolate mousse for pudding made her day.

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Saltwater pool
    • Play area with swings and a slide
    • Small football pitch
    • Basketball hoop
    • Bikes to borrow

    Kids Activities nearby:

    • Gorgeous beaches - Manta Rota (3km away) is particularly family friendly, with shallow waters, soft sand, shells galore, seasonal shops and a playground

    Families Should Know:

    The pool is unheated and unfenced; some rooms open onto its terrace. There are no bathtubs.

    Distances:

    • Airport: 45-minute drive (Faro)
    • Shops: 0.5km
    • Hospital: 0.5km
    Kid Friendly:

    Location

    The hotel is set in the small hamlet of Santa Rita in the eastern Algarve, 2km from Cacela Velha and Fábrica beach, 8km from Tavira and 45 minutes' drive from Faro airport. 

    By Air:
    Fly into Faro (50km) then hire a car.

    Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

    Airports:

    • Faro 50.0 km FAR

    Other:

    • Beach 2.0 km
    • Shops 1.0 km
    • Restaurant 1.0 km

    Our guests' ratings...

    Based on 14 independent reviews from i-escape guests

    10/10
    Room
    9/10
    Food
    9/10
    Service
    9/10
    Value
    9/10
    Overall

    We had a lovely nine night stay in the Family Apartment of this beautiful garden hotel. The apartment had glorious views across orchards and olive groves to the sea and was furnished to a very high standard. Marta and Thiago and their staff were charming and helpful and the food was excellent: breakfast was extensive and elegant and dinner was delicious too (we ate in twice). Our favourite beach was Fabrica, only a short drive away (there are sun beds for non-locals like ourselves). On the hotel's suggestion we also went on a great boat trip around the Rio Formosa conservation area (which covers 22 plus kilometres of coastline and thus prevents over-development of this part of the Algarve), and visited the highly entertaining Medieval Festival in a nearby town too. We had fantastic food at local restaurants, all recommended and booked by the hotel as well: they clearly know people as we seemed to be given the best table everywhere we went! Our one quibble from our stay was that the music by the pool was played on loop for hours: we understand that low key 'mellow' music is necessary when people's musical tastes vary so much, but after the umpteenth laid back cover version of the same song we had to ask the staff to put something else on instead! A minor point but a bit more variety would have been great. However overall we had a really fantastic stay.

    9/10,

    Incredible place. Me and my partner had the most perfect holiday here. The family and staff are wonderful - nothing is too much trouble. They kindly organised a transfer from the airport for us and answered all our questions about recommendations for activities and restaurants before our trip. We ended up eating on site 3 out of 4 nights because the food was that good. You get 5 courses and they will cater to any dietary requirement and the chef will often personally check in with you about whether you like certain ingredients. We also had a lovely meal at a local seafood restaurant by the beach - a short taxi ride away. The rooms are cleaned thoroughly every morning while you have breakfast - you can have breakfast anytime of day which is really lovely for those who like a lie in and more of a brunch. The salt water pool is gorgeous and there are plenty of seating areas / day beds in both sun and shade for you to choose from. We grabbed bikes from the hotel and visited the beach and also went horse riding along the beach one day. Although there is plenty to do in the area there isn't really the need leave the accommodation too much as its such a beautiful setting that if your looking for reading, swimming, eating holiday - then this is the one. The snacks that are available throughout the day are delicious - bruschetta, platters, salads etc. In the evenings we sat by the pool playing cards with a drink before candlelit dinners on the terrace.
    I cannot wait to go back.

    10/10,

    It is a perfect place to go with a baby and yet have a stylish holiday. The staff and the owners parents who were standing in for them were fantastic. So warm and nothing was too much trouble. The food superb as were our rooms. Just a blissful place. Would certainly return and my daughter could not have chosen a more perfect place to go on my first holiday as a granny!

    10/10,

    What an amazing place!! The hosts where lovely and very welcoming! The whole place gives you a very relaxing vibe and the service was superb. The Tree House that we stayed in was a DREAM! We where there for the full moon - we couldn’t have asked for a better experience!!

    10/10,

    This was the most amazing room we have had. It was not just pretty: every single detail was perfect (we have renovated homes to we tend to spot anything!) The same can be said of the whole place.
    The service was second to none with the owners treating us like family popping by. Genuinely. The area is stunning: the Fabrica beach is superb, the food around there is delicious, making us wonder why there are not more Portuguese restaurants in London!

    10/10,

    Beautiful, relaxing and welcoming. Exceptional food.
    Fantastic massage and great horse riding through the sea.

    10/10,

    Great place to stay and relax. Helpful and friendly staff.

    8/10,

    Friendliness of owners and staff was exceptional. Beautiful estate

    10/10,

    Excellent. We loved it. The food was superb, and it was so much better than staying in a large hotel. Plus they manage to appeal to different types of people (couples/families with kids) which was really nice - we often find “family hotels” a bit narrow. Thanks again.

    10/10,

    Beautiful converted building, exquisitely furnished.
    The owners were away but we were very well looked after by their family and charming, helpful staff. The breakfasts were good and dinners were outstanding. We stayed in November and so it was quite cold in the evenings and the room heater struggled to keep us warm and the dining room was really cold. Otherwise - excellent! We highly recommend this hotel and look forward to visiting again.

    10/10,

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