Review: Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri, Cádiz

Water, water everywhere: on the hunt for winter sun, Tempus pays a visit to the tranquil pools and plush gardens of luxury Andalusian resort, Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri

If you’re one for judging a hotel by its welcome, the Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri will not disappoint. Exchanging southern Spain’s baking Andalusian highways for a quiet road along meadows of daisy and red clover, the luxury resort reveals itself as an enclave beside the ocean; an oasis enveloped in sandstone tones and a balmy breeze seasoned with sea salt. Step from the car, drift past the gleaming entranceway fountain and ease into a world of continuous comfort.

You’ll find the Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri a few miles south of the old port city of Cádiz, overlooking a pristine stretch of the Costa de la Luz coastline, getting on towards the foot of Spain. Here in the heartland of the Spanish South, where the castanets click, the cicadas hum and the air is heavy with jasmine, to quote Jan Morris, the credo has long been one of zest, beauty and unhurried movement; picking a resort that embodies these authentic Andalusian qualities can be a tiresome task, but you need look no further. Tempus can confirm, there is verve in the modernist architecture and exuberant dining settings; beguiling beauty in the artfully landscaped gardens, and never before have you encountered such tranquil waters as the pools and natural ponds that meander down towards the Sancti Petri’s sunset views.

Of the numerous hotel brands brought under the wing of premier Spanish hotel group Barceló, Royal Hideaway is its highest calibre. Each of their luxury hotels are distinctly unique yet all are united in their blending of timeless charm with original, contemporary design. Recently opened in Granada, for example, stands the Palacio Gran Vía, a converted former bank so strikingly furnished it gives the Granada Cathedral opposite a run for its money; on Tenerife, perched above La Enramada beach, lies Royal Hideaway Corales Suites, whose organic design — inspired by the intricate curves of marine coral — proudly subverts the Tenerife cliché. And Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri upholds this tradition. The social spaces feel lavishly commodious yet elegantly detailed: the modernist atrium is greened by an airy collection of giant fan palms; the dining experience extends seamlessly from sunlit glass to sparkly waterside al fresco. In every space, natural light abounds. The 42 m² rooms are sleek and stylishly fitted, decorated in calming neutrals with warming wood accents. The bathrooms are particularly luxurious; nearly equalling the room in size and perfectly appointed, the natural marble interiors are reminiscent of a Roman bath. And what better way to enjoy a morning coffee than on the intimate private balcony overlooking the striking resort and its gardens.

The meals during our stay were a particular highlight; the breakfast buffet, in particular, a cut above your usual. Beautifully presented fruits, breads and cooked options sat alongside a wholesome Vital corner, where smoothies and healthy oatmeal options — think chia seeds, nut butters and oat milks — were prepared to order. One evening we were wowed by the seafood offering, perfectly cooked and in a range reflective of the region’s renowned coastal cuisine: muscles, crab, lobster and fish in flavours that exuded ‘low-key decadence’, revitalising in their freshness.

Undoubtedly, however, Sancti Petri’s grounds are its crowning feature, a gently sweeping landscape of tree-clustered waterways and gardens of surprisingly progressive design. Walking between the resort’s five swimming pools, sun terraces and bars you sense quickly that nothing about this space is typically kitsch or filler; on the contrary, Sanci Petri’s is considered one of the best hotel gardens in the world, expertly conceived by Madrid-based landscape designer Isabel Alguacil. If traditional Spanish garden design errs on the side of sterile lawns and colourful evergreens, you might expect nothing more from one of its hotel grounds, yet here, diverse tree species pitch up beneath the palms, native wildflowers and grasses ornament the poolsides, and, lining the footpaths that so cleverly stitch together this central acre of greenery, subtle perennial plantings ooze a refreshing naturalism that is rare for a hotel garden. The effect is distractingly calming; your pace slows, you lungs fill deeply, even the children wander bewitched as they make for the family pools.

Ah yes, the pools. You could be forgiven for assuming that in conceiving this resort, architectural plans centred principally on the form and function of water; a laying down first of the glinting oasis before encircling it with sympathetic lodgings. Sure, distractions lie in the adjacent golf course, the five fabulous restaurants, the ancient city-peninsular of Cádiz itself nearby, and the bright sand of La Barrosa beach just below — considered the 5th best beach in Spain — but for the most part (if not the entire part) you’ll be lured irresistibly towards the water. It has been engineered this way. Akin to a secluded lagoon, the pools weave and curve from view, enticing in both their breadth and concealed splendour. In places they lap at the building footing, the cooling palms overhead reflected at your feet. Ranging in size they include formal lounger pools, a whirlpool annexe, a lower kids’ swimming pool (adorned with a grand dual waterslide and situated conveniently close to the sun bar), and, of course, a lavish indoor offering. And as if this weren’t quite enough, two of the adjoining suites come with their own private pools, and whirlpool baths; water, water, everywhere.

Should you tire of the pools (unlikely), there’s always the award-winning U-Spa, billed as one of the largest in Andalusia, offering facials, hydrotherapy and a menu of deeply relaxing and restorative massages. For those wishing to earn their respite with a little morning muscle work, however, the hotel’s rooftop exercise bikes boast one of the best views of the entire complex: exertion has never felt less like exertion…

After a few days of incomparable leisure, Tempus departed the Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri feeling revitalised, relaxed and curiously re-energised, the meadow-lined road easing that unavoidable transition back to reality.

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