Le Jardin des Douars

near Essaouira, Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco Book from Book from £107 per night

A laid-back countryside escape for couples, families and friends; delicious food and 2 pools
Driving inland from the wind-battered coast, past laden donkeys and fields of argan trees, Le Jardin des Douars appears like a sandcastle on the horizon. Pass through the gates, and colour explodes from the botanical gardens; birds tweet, bees buzz, and calm slips over you like a Moroccan cape. From the main ksar atop the valley, lush gardens cascade down to the oued (river) below. We spent happy afternoons spotting terrapins in ponds, lazing in hammocks and counting butterflies. Two heated jade-green pools are the focal point - a quiet infinity pool for adults, another for families to go wild. And as the sun drops, the enchanting candlelit terrace bar serves up cocktails serenaded by a frog-and-cricket chorus, followed by alfresco dining under starry skies in the warmer months.

Inside the imposing façade, plant-filled courtyards and tranquil water features give a refreshing, inside-out feel. Rooms and suites are classically Moroccan in style, with traditional tiled floors, antique furniture and time-worn doors. It’s only 15 years old, but already feels rooted here. The beaches and medina of Essaouira are 15 minutes away, but the happy vibe, slick service and genuine warmth make it hard to tear yourself away.

Highs

  • Sensational botanical gardens bursting at the seams with colour against the bright blue sky; absolutely stunning on our 2018 revisit
  • Both pools are heated to 28C, so you can swim year round
  • A wonderful balance between a family haven and a couples' retreat; adult-only areas include a pool, dining room and candlelit hammam spa
  • Feels decadent but with a well-pitched price tag
  • The inland river-valley location ensures you avoid the worst of the infamous local winds

Lows

  • No outside life within walking distance, so you're confined to eating on site (no bad thing) or trekking into Essaouira
  • You'll probably want a car unless staying put; taxis add up (although a shuttle bus option is available)
  • If here in the school holidays, you may not find the tranquility and romance you're after as many families are in residence
  • On the Essaouira flightpath, though only a few flights a week (which now include direct services from London as well as Paris, Lyon and Charleroi)

Best time to go

Unlike other parts of Morocco, Essaouira is a year-round destination. The famous summer winds keep the temperature to a bearable degree even in July and August. Locals swear by the calm other-worldly light in January and February, but it can get a bit nippy in the evenings. We'd recommend either March to May or September to November for the best overall conditions. The hotel is closed for two weeks in January annually

Our top tips

Go wine tasting at the Val dArgan, said to be the best winery in Morocco. The cheapest Gazelle de Mogador is a crisp, refreshing white (perfect with fresh fish) and the Orient du Val d’Argan is gutsy and moreish

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 25 rooms, 3 villas for 10
  • Restaurant + bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Boules
Room:

Rooms

Local Maghreb style permeates throughout, with desert hues and chunky antique wooden furniture. Unique African art and black and white Moroccan scenes adorn tadelakt walls, while Zellige-tiled floors and open ceilings add authenticity.

There's a bewildering array of different roomss - see rates for full details. The bulk are spread over 2 floors in the main ksar building (bag an upper room for views and added breeze in the summer months); others are set in separate domed buildings amongst the gardens.

We stayed in a Relax room (the cheapest), a good size for couples with a suntrap terrace to listen to the birds and bees. Grander options for romance include Luxe rooms with big baths and fireplaces. For families and friends there are triples (Beldi) and large Suites whose living areas double-up as bedrooms; we were impressed by our Babel Suite on our 2018 revisit. The three standalone Villa Suites sleep up to 10, with private swimming pools and cooks; perfect for bigger groups.

Don’t expect mod cons; there’s a deliberate absence of TVs to ensure you enjoy the peace.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Dinner on the terrace, under starry skies and silhouetted palms, feels wonderfully Mediterranean. Whether you go à la carte or set menu (3 daily changing courses), expect traditional Moroccan flavours with a French twist. It’s hard to pick a winner between the chorizo-stuffed squid and the succulent chicken, date and almond tagine we tried; both were outstanding. On cooler nights, the indoor dining area/lounge has a sociable atmosphere and large fireplace, a candlelit snug is adults only.

Breakfast is buffet style and French in flavour. Think baguettes, cheeses and hams, eggs to order, indulgent French toast with honey, delicious poached spiced fruits, nuts and cereals. Filter coffee was on the weak side, but caffeine junkies can get a Nespresso hit at an extra charge. Simple salads and light snacks (try the ceviche) are served at lunchtime; we feasted like pashas at the buzzy Sunday BBQ with ample meats, fish and salads (avocado and crab was a hit) setting us up for an afternoon nap poolside.

For a change of scene head into Essaouira; staff can recommend restaurants.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Relax and don't feel guilty. Many people hole up here for a week and barely leave. Alternate between the 2 pools, read a book in a hammock and wander the gardens
  • Spoil yourself in the candlelit hammam spa with argan pulp face scrubs, Moroccan and Oriental massages, and hot-stone treatments
  • Spend a day exploring Essaouira's old medina, ramparts and harbour. It's a great place to idle, drinking mint tea and watching local life happen around you
  • We bought beautiful blankets and beach towels for a snip in the souks - much cheaper than Marrakech's, and with a laid-back attitude to bartering
  • Head to the beach for wind- and kite-surfing (the coast nearby is world-renowned)
  • Various local companies offer camel, horse or quad rides along the dunes at sunset
  • Visit the waterfalls that flow into the sea (staff can arrange a picnic), or play a round at the nearby Mogador Golf Academy

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Camel rides
  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Kitesurfing
  • Private guided tours
  • Quad biking
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing

Kids

This is an excellent place for families as we can testify following our 2018 revisit. There's a family pool for kids to let rip at the foot of the hill, with changing rooms, gently sloping water and a segregated paddling pool for toddlers. Both pools are heated to 28C year round. There are various family accommodation options. And tortoises in the gardens!

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Douaria Suites are small self-contained houses in the garden, with 1 double bedroom, 1 twin bedroom and a lounge with space for another 2 single beds. Family Rooms have a double bedroom and a lounge area with space for 2 single beds or 1 single bed and a baby cot on request; some have an outdoor terrace so you can enjoy an evening drink whilst the kids sleep. Beldi rooms have a kingsize bed and a single bed plus space for a baby cot. The split-level Mogador Suite sleeps up to 6; the Royal Suite has 2 bedrooms (a double and a twin) plus a lounge with a single bed. Villa Suites each sleep up to 10 (in 2 double bedrooms and 2 triple bedrooms), with space for 2 baby cots and private pool (heated to 28C year round) and cook.

Babysitting:

On request

Baby listening:

No baby monitors so bring your own; some rooms in the main ksar will be in range from the restaurant - enquire when booking

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • Baby baths
  • Bottle warmers
  • Potty

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

Children's meals:

A kids' menu and high chairs

Kids Activities on site:

  • Boules court
  • Ping pong
  • Board games
  • Family pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beach
  • Windsurfing and kitesurfing
  • Camel and horse rides
  • Cookery lessons at L'atelier nearby
  • Quad biking

Families Should Know:

The pool is unfenced and unsupervised; the formal flowering gardens and house are set over many levels with steps everywhere; the ponds are open and unfenced; there's no lawn/large area to run around/kick about in

Distances:

  • Airport: 10 minutes' drive (Essaouira)
  • Shop: 15 minutes' drive (Essaouira)
  • Hospital: 15 minutes' drive (Essaouira)
Kid Friendly:

Location

The hotel is set in a river valley, 15 minutes inland from the coast and the beautiful walled town of Essaouira. The location means you avoid the worst of the infamous winds, gain a few degrees in sunny warmth and can relax in comfort.

By Air:
Fly into Essaouira (10km), Marrakech (177km) or Agadir (191km). Click on the links below for a list of airlines. The hotel can arrange transfers from either airport - see Rates - or you can hire a car (useful for exploring and going in and out of town; roads are good). See our car rental recommendations.

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

More on getting to Morocco and getting around

Airports:

  • Essaouira Mogador 10.0 km ESU
  • Marrakech Menara 177.0 km MAR

Other:

  • Beach 10.0 km
  • Shops 10.0 km
  • Restaurant 10.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 29 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

Fantastic oasis close to the beach and town. Shabby-chic in character, rustic in design. We loved it.

9/10,

Very nice and kind staff in a nice hidden place outside the beach town of Essaouira. Pretty garden and pretty swimming pools as well. It is a good place for couples as well as for families with older and younger children. The hotel provides very good quality for the price. Please note the hotel is not walkable from Essaouira, but taxis can be provided by the hotel. Thanks very much your kindness. We had a delightful 4 night stay.

Andre, Marjolein, Charlotte, and Emmeleine

9/10,

A highly comfortable oasis just outside bustling Essaouira. Staff were incredibly welcoming, the service was impeccable, the food was varied and very high quality, the room was spotless and the gardens and pools absolutely beautiful. Perfect for families and couples alike. We loved it. The only minor point was that the hotel allows day visitors to the pools. When a family of eight arrives they can take over and - naturally - stay all day.

10/10,

I loved the surroundings - in the botanical garden, the heated (adults only) pool, the hammam and massage I had, the food and Moroccan wine was yummy. Very relaxing

10/10,

We loved our stay at Le Jardin des Douars. From the heated pool for the kids to the beautiful gardens and amazing food, our every need was met. The only minus was we'd booked a room without a terrace and missed the extra outdoor space, so would change that next time. Can't wait to go back.

9/10,

Brilliant hotel; super chic but at the same time child friendly. The staff were amazing, kind, diligent and very good with our two boys. Nothing was too much effort. We hope to book again as this ticked all adult and children-friendly boxes - a treat to dine with boys in PJ's, with candles and wine with lots of other people doing the same thing.

10/10,

We had a lovely and restful stay at Le Jardin des Douars. The food was so good that we preferred to stay at the hotel for our meals. The staff made every effort to accommodate us and were always friendly. Our son was able to play at the kids' pool without adults complaining. The hotel setting and gardens are beautiful and relaxing. Massages, facials, and the hammam scrub are highly recommended.

10/10,

Very lovely hotel with pretty garden paths to wander around and for children to play. Separate swimming pools for children and adults.

10/10,

This is a beautiful hotel tucked away in a spectacular setting. We stayed here for two nights after spending two nights in Essaouira. Our room was lovely with a very comfortable bed. This hotel is all about the gardens which are gorgeous, we enjoyed exploring the grounds and came across little tortoises, terrapins, beautiful birds and of course, a cat. Morocco has so many cats! There is a pool for adults and a separate one for families which we appreciated. We hung out at the adult pool which is beautiful. We had a delicious lunch sitting in the beautiful patio area and it was perfect. This is a great place to retreat to for a couple of nights. I found the spa disappointing but my husband enjoyed it.

8/10,

Beautifully designed. Reminiscent of a palace in the desert. The grounds were wonderful. Both pools very pleasant. Service very friendly. Management very receptive of the one small improvement we suggested.

10/10,

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