Le Jardin des Douars

near Essaouira, Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco Book from Book from £80 per night

A laid-back countryside escape near Essaouira for couples, families and friends; beautiful garden, spa and 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, Suites and Villas 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
  • All 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 - especially of renting one of the fabulous staffed villas
  • 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 or shuttling into Essaouira (no bad thing with fantastic restaurants)
  • 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
World Favourite Family Hideaway

    Best rooms for families

    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.

    Parents 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
  • Baby cots
  • Baby baths
  • Bottle warmers
  • Potty

Some equipment may need to be requested in advance

On request

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

A kids' menu and high chairs

  • Boules court
  • Ping pong
  • Board games
  • Family pool
  • Beach
  • Windsurfing and kitesurfing
  • Camel and horse rides
  • Cookery lessons at L'atelier nearby
  • Quad biking

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Foodie
Romantic
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 25 rooms, 5 villas for up to 14
  • Restaurant + bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Babysitting
  • Creche / Kids Club
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • 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 rooms - 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 standalone Villa Suites sleep up to 14, 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

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
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 23 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

We stayed here for a week during October half term with our 8 and 5 year old children. It is a beautiful place - lovely pools and landscaping. The weather was great and the pools are heated so this provided most of the children’s entertainment. There is also a ping pong table and boules so other things to do too. The buffet breakfast was great, the lunches are superb. Dinner is ok but not that many interesting vegetarian options. We stayed in a Doueria Suite. Spacious and pretty. It was right at the edge of the resort which is good if you like not having to worry about your children being noisy but a bit of a walk from the family pool. It was also adjacent to the laundry room so there was noise of washer dryers until about 11pm at night. Didn’t bother us but might bother some. The staff are amazing - they love children and are so playful and sweet to them. We had a great holiday and would definitely return in the future. We went into Essaouira a few time and also to a beach called sidi koauki that was recommended by staff. Very pretty beach and has a great informal beach side place for lunch (les moulins et dromadaries). Lovely vibe and great seafood (plus kids menu). Definitely recommend that.

9/10,

We had 3 rooms during the week including a free upgrade for 4 nights to one by the adult pool. All of the rooms were amazing. The food was excellent and the service was some of the best I’ve experienced. The staff were so attentive, always smiling and genuinely looked like they cared. Value for money was superb. Tips on the area: a car was really useful because the local area had plenty to offer and the drive from the airport is really straightforward. La Fromagerie restaurant in the hills overlooking Essaouira was worth a visit but only if you like a lot of cheese. Horse riding on the beach should not be missed, especially at sunset; we went twice. The Medina at Essaouira had so much to offer, with some really good Moroccan restaurants at a really reasonable price. We went on a food and art walking tour which was really interesting and strongly recommended. Only thing the hotel lacked was Croissants at breakfast - strange for somewhere with such strong French influence.

10/10,

After Marrakesh and a long dusty road trip we all felt that we had died and gone to heaven. The staff were delightful. They welcomed us with lovely smiles and were kind and helpful without ever being intrusive. It felt like a beautiful serene haven, soft music on the terrace, mint tea and cake at teatime, delicious food, 10 minutes from Essaouira if you wanted life outside. Everything felt effortless and beautiful yet had clearly been carefully considered. It was very hard to leave and we will be back. A happy place.

9/10,

Beautiful spot. Food was lovely, especially the breakfasts. Service was very attentive. The room was brilliant, but a bit chilly and we had very slow water pressure in the bath (shower was great). Could've done with a kettle.

8/10,

This is a beautiful haven off the beaten track. Perfect if you want to chill. The standard of the food is exemplary and great value, would recommend the beef wellington. Staff are really friendly too. Would highly recommend the spa. Confusion over the booking though as we thought we had a free hammam, when it turns out we had a golf discount (which is a room discount), which was great but we only found that out when checking out.

10/10,

Food is good but very samey if you are there for more than a long weekend.

9/10,

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,

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