Le Jardin des Douars

near Essaouira, Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco Book from

Reviewed by Ben Reed
A laid-back countryside escape for couples, families and friends; outstanding 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 10 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.


  • The sensational botanical gardens burst at the seams with colour - perfect against the bright blue sky
  • The 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, restaurant 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


  • No outside life within walking distance, so you're confined to eating on site (not a bad thing) or trekking into Essaouira
  • And you'll probably want a car unless you plan to stay put; taxis add up (although a cheaper shuttle bus option is available)
  • On the big side of boutique (25 rooms, 3 villas), but it didn't feel crowded to us
  • On the Essaouira flightpath, though there are only a few flights a week (which now include direct services from London!)

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 October and November for the best overall conditions.

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
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • 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


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

There's a bewildering array of different room categories - see Rates for full details. The bulk are spread over 2 floors in the main ksar building (bag a room up top for the views and added breeze in the summer months), whilst others are set in separate domed buildings amongst the gardens.

We stayed in a Relax room (the cheapest), which was a good size for couples with a suntrap terrace to listen to the birds and bees. There are other, grander, options for romance (Luxe rooms have big baths and fireplaces), and a range of choices for families and friends, from triples (Beldi) to large Suites in which living areas double-up as bedrooms. There are also 3 standalone Villa Suites sleeping up to 10, with private swimming pools and cooks; perfect for a big group or extended family.

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

Features include:

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


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 beef, date and almond tagine we tried; both were outstanding. On cooler nights, the indoor dining area/lounge has a sociable feel, while 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, and delicious poached pears with cinnamon. Filter coffee was on the weak side, but caffeine junkies can get a Nespresso hit at an extra charge. Simple salads and light snacks (don't miss the ceviche) are served at lunchtime; a buzzy Sunday BBQ offers a mind-boggling selection of meats, fish and salads (avocado and crab was a hit) to set you up for an afternoon nap by the pool.

For a change of scene you'll need to head into Essaouira; staff can recommend restaurants.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Cooking classes
  • Restaurant


  • 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


This is an excellent place for families. 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 fun activities.

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. The Villa Suites each sleep up to 10 (in 2 double bedrooms and 2 triple bedrooms), have space for 2 baby cots and have a private pool (heated to 28C year round) and cook.


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
  • Quad biking

Families Should Know:

The pool is unfenced and unsupervised; the gardens and house are set over many levels with steps everywhere; the ponds are open and unfenced


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

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