"Magical, romantic retreat with fabulous Atlantic Ocean views, well-placed for exploring the Azores."
Need to know
- 9 suites and 2 villas, suitable for families.
- Located on São Miguel, the Azores (Portuguese islands in the Atlantic)
- Check out time 12pm (but flexible if need be)
- From 200 euros (low season)
- The location - totally remote with unblocked sea views - is truly magical.
- Staff are utterly delightful and incredibly helpful.
- The fish is incredibly fresh – you can see octopus fishing happening in the morning.
- The infinity pool is the best you’ll ever swim in.
- It’s located in an area of extreme natural beauty – the hikes nearby are out of this world.
There are few vistas that truly take your breath away, but the view from White Exclusive Suites & Villas on the Azores is one of them, with nothing but unbroken Atlantic Ocean to gaze at for hundreds and hundreds of miles. Coming to the Azores feels as remote as you can get in today’s ever-connected world, and it’s worth the two-hour plane journey from Lisbon to do so. White is beautifully and seamlessly embedded into its natural surroundings, feeling at once part of the landscape while offering a luxurious experience.
The hotel opened a year ago, offering nine stunningly appointed suites. Decor is pared back and focuses on white, grey and light rustic-looking wood, well-suited to the hot climate. It is design-led in a laid-back way: airy and cool in the truest sense of the word, without trying too hard to be so. The lobby is blissfully serene, with low wooden tables, high ceilings, white finishings and glossy magazines and pitchers of grapefruit and cucumber-infused water artfully dotted around. When we make our way to our Unique Suite, we find exposed basalt stone walls, windows overlooking the sea, a plush bed and sofa, and plenty of luxury trappings: sumptuous bath robes, a good selection of cashews, cookies and other treats, and Susanne Kaufmann shower products.
But despite all this, our favourite thing about the hotel is the outdoor area. The infinity pool appears to drop off into the sea, and has wide, plush sun beds embedded around its rim, so you’re truly as close to the water’s edge as possible. Meals are taken at tables and chairs next to the pool, which makes for a magical, peaceful setting. Breakfast is presented to you and includes everything you could possibly want: fresh juice, eggs, cheese, breads, ham, yogurt. Dinner is a la carte, centred around a fire pit and an excellent opportunity to sample fresh seafood, meat and local fish. Do try the tuna, served in a delicious crust, and the sweet potato brownies alongside coconut ice cream, washed down with fabulous local white wine from Pico Island. Full and happy, you can then lie back and look at the stars - with minimal light pollution, it’s a sight to behold.
Some come to the Azores to relax and White is perfect for that - it’s a serious honeymoon destination. Spa options are bespoke and al fresco. One morning, we enjoy an hour-long full body massage treatment, listening to the sound of waves crashing into the cliffs. It culminates with a Tibetan singing bowl treatment, which involves the masseuse placing metal bowls of varying sizes on and around us, before striking them with different gongs to create multiple sounds and resonances. They penetrate through the body and result in an almost out of body, super relaxing experience.
But what White truly excels at is organising excursions that allow you to see the best of the island. We are taken out on a boat to the famed Ilheu de Vila Franca, where we snorkel amid parrot fish. The waters are unbelievable; bluer than the Caribbean’s turquoise but no less transparent. One day, White's charming staff arrange for us to do a beautiful walks to the famed Lagoa do Fogo and Furnas, hiking around lakes and hot springs, where geothermal heat from the soil is used to cook stews. Restaurants bury pots of meat and vegetables at 4am, returning to dig them up come lunchtime. White will also help you tour the island on ATVs, cycle or go canyoning. Even the roadsides are beautiful, with lush green trees on the mountains and naturally occurring purple hydrangeas growing in abundance.
The Azores has only in recent years become more of a tourist destination, with direct four-hour flights from New York. Islanders want to encourage tourism, but to do so in a sustainable way, ensuring resources are enjoyed but not exploited. For its part, White is deliberately small, wanting to offer a luxurious and special experience to a handful of guests at a time. If you’re looking for a reason to visit, White is it.