The Bela Vista is a gem in the hotel industry in its own right, and this, despite its unfavourable location for such a high-standard hotel. Originally a family home, the Bela Vista first opened as a hotel particulier in 1918. In 1934, it opened as a three-star hotel of 14 rooms until it was taken over by current management in 2011. The building's long-standing history and the changing surrounding landscape has been really well documented - original photographs tracing the hotel's development hang in the Blue House at the entrance of the property.
Once past the main gates and into the little haven of luxury sealed off from the bustle of the street outside, the hotel's main building, the original late 19th century castle complete with turrets, stands tall on the small site that also comprises a new accommodation wing to the right hand side and the Blue House close to the entrance gates, where there are an extra seven rooms.
The charm of the hotel is largely concentrated in its main building due to the original features and unique restoration by Portuguese designer Graça Viterbo. Clearly marked by the house's history and by the designer's flair, the Bela Vista is a stunning addition to the Algarve's hotel offering.
Up the main stairs into the reception area, the staff was friendly, lively and helpful. Through to the lobby area, where check-in is done with guests, we sat in high-backed Louis armchairs upholstered in heavy blue and yellow velvets, bringing out the colours in the Azulejos, which are elaborate decorative tiles depicting historical scenes and are a typical element of Portuguese culture.
The lobby is a multitude of navy blues and mustard yellows; the Baroque décor is so busy in this area that at first it is difficult to tell where the tiles end and the armchairs begin! However, the flamboyant surroundings grow on you as the elegance and strong character of the hotel unravel each day. The lobby area, complete with the original 19th century grand piano, and the living area with its beautiful fireplace, make the hotel more homely, and more like a wealthy family home, which was Viterbo's aim when it came to designing the interiors.
Cosy and sophisticated, the restaurant adjoins the lobby with interior seating and a large outdoor terrace that runs the entire length of the building. As the building stands on a cliff, the balcony seems to hang in mid-air above the large sweeping sands of the beach below. Stairs lead off to the right, down to the pool area. The pool is lined by a row of palm trees on each side and is surrounded by smart cabanas where guests happily lounge while waiting for the waiter to bring them fancy-looking cocktails. In the evenings, at sunset, a DJ plays what one might describe as a cross between lounge and electro music. For guests wanting to head to the beach, no need to mingle with other tourists outside as there is private access to the beach.