British designer Helen Howat, passionate about Arabian design and Moroccan architecture (she worked in the Middle East for years), acquired an 18th-century riad - formerly a Jewish merchant house then a consulate - and spent 5 years on its ambitious transformation. Her contemporary reinvention of traditional crafts meant incorporating Islamic patterns, stunning vintage pieces, clashing yet sumptuous upholstery and dazzlingly intricate tilework. The ground floor has a bespoke 54-panel wall-hanging beside mid-century modern furniture and a sunken library in shades of flame. Ascend the staircase - each riser painted differently - to 2 blue floors housing a hammam and 10 fabulous rooms inspired by Moroccan cities. At the top is the romantic rooftop dining terrace with magnificent ocean views. Artwork ranges from note-perfect kitsch paintings to Berber wall art. And, this isn't just a design showcase, it all actually works! Rooms are supremely comfortable and calming, there's plentiful hot water for the signature copper bathtubs, the food is delicious, and the ambiance is delightful.
- Great location in Essaouira's Unesco-listed medina overlooking the Skala du Port (bastion) and the Atlantic
- Breathtaking and unique restoration, everything fashioned to a very high standard; interior design buffs will be in heaven
- Lovely helpful staff
- Extraordinarily beautiful bedrooms and bathrooms, each individually decorated; good value for the high quality
- Wonderful rooftop restaurant and bar with live music and fabulous ocean views
- A vibrant and fun hangout for cool couples, but very welcoming to families, too
- Most rooms are fairly compact; don't expect much by way of wardrobes or floor space for luggage
- Bathrooms don't have showers, only big copper bathtubs with handheld shower heads
- Steep winding stairs up to the roof terrace; there's no lift (to be expected in an old riad)
- Fairly loud music is played throughout the hotel well into the evening, so bring earplugs if you intend to retire early
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- 10 rooms
- Restaurant open daily
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Steam Room
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car not necessary
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Rooftop terrace, ground-floor reception
On the first and second floors, 10 rooms and suites dazzle and delight. All have blissful beds, one-off vintage pieces and high painted ceilings. Instead of showers, the bathrooms feature signature copper bathtubs with handheld shower heads. Pricing is determined by size and view.
The green and white zellige tiles in Fez are inspired by roofs in that ancient city. The sunburst effect in Marrakesh pays homage to tannery leather dye vats. Palmeraie has art deco patterns evoking fairytale palm trees.
Berber has a wistful portrait of Princess Aisha plus tribal patterns in lamps and walls, while Maghreb has a stone-arched harem, now a small living area, and shocking pink fabrics. First-floor Safi, where we stayed, is a blues fantasy across bedroom and a salon.
For that coveted sea view, Mogador has an ocean and fishing boat-inspired design. Both Boudoir and Tangier have flamboyant Orientalist-style oil paintings; the latter also has a private sitting area. The biggest of all, Casablanca, overlooks the ramparts and showcases traditional Moroccan tilework across 2 rooms.
- Safe box
A relaxed affair, breakfast is taken on the roof terrace; if the weather less than clement you'll be in the adjacent dining room. We enjoyed mushroom one-pot omelettes, Moroccan pancakes, croissants, jams and honey, freshly squeezed juices, and excellent coffee (the best of our entire trip), gazing out over the ever-changing Atlantic.
For lunch or dinner head out to any number of eateries nearby. Or stay in for the freshest of fish (think grilled sea bass and succulent crab), tasty tagines and Moroccan sides. On our most recent visit, we really liked the seabream tagine, and the kids loved the crispy monkfish burger and zingy passionfruit mocktails. Food and drinks (including cocktails, wine and beer) are available all day. Most evenings there are live musicians to add to the laid-back and stylish atmosphere.
- Restaurants nearby
- Vegetarian options
- Step out and you're in the souks; there's a nice wood carver and his wares diagonally across the laneway
- Stroll along the sea wall for ocean views, checking the dates of the cannons, and finish up at Skala du Port, Essaouira's much-photographed bastion
- The fish market is a feast for the senses
- Learn to kite- or windsurf on the main beach
- Rachida and her team can arrange local tours and expeditions
- Back at the hotel there's a hammam (perfectly tiled, natch); you get a free 30-minute session for booking through i-escape, or the full hour-long scrub is highly recommended. You can have a massage in-room, too
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
Children are welcome and ours enjoyed the novelty of the stunning decor and the views from the rooftop restaurant. However, rooms are really set up for couples and there is not much for kids to do at the hotel.
Extra beds are only for children up to the age of 14; if travelling with teenagers 15 and over an additional room needs to be booked. Baby cots are free to borrow.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
Safi can take 2 additional beds or baby cots; 1 additional bed or baby cot can be placed in Maghreb. Marrakesh, Palmerie and Fez can each fit 1 baby cots.
Families Should Know:
There are lots of winding steps to reach the upper floors
- Airport: 20-30 minutes (Essaouira)
- Shops: 1 minute
Salut Maroc! is in heart of Essaouira's medina on Morocco's Atlantic coast.
Fly into Essaouira (25 minutes' taxi) or Marrakech (185km / 2hr45m hours' drive), or Agadir Agadir (200km/3hr30m drive).
From the Airport
Salut Maroc! can organise a transfer from all airports. We don't think it necessary but if you want to hire a car here are our rental recommendations.
Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.
More on getting to Morocco and getting around
- Essaouira 17.0 km ESU
- Essaouira 185.0 km RAK
- Beach 0.2 km
- Shops 0.1 km
- Restaurant 0.1 km