Overlooking a protected lagoon on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, a few hours’ drive west of Marrakech, one finds La Sultana’s Oualidia Hotel. It’s a beautiful stone built property, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, presented in the style of a large, exclusive villa, with terraces that run down to the tidal lagoon; writes Andrew Forbes.
There’s a spa with indoor pool, stunning outside infinity pool, intimate gourmet restaurant and 12 very special guest rooms and suites, including a treehouse. Expect exceptional service from a well-trained and elegant staff; and a relaxing atmosphere where peace and tranquillity washes over you in calming waves.
The road network in Morocco seems under constant upgrading; and my journey to the La Sultana was relatively easy, on good quality roads, although there were stretches of rough track where construction was on-going.
I arranged my own taxi from Marrakech for the 190km drive to the hotel from the international airport. As we drove through the dry and dusty landscape, warm air buffeted me from the open passenger window, whilst rhythmic gnawa music played on the radio. My driver spoke no English, just Arabic and French – so our bouts of conversation were short but nonetheless friendly. The drive to the hotel is an interesting start to an exotic escape to one of the Morocco’s most sophisticated seaside hideaways.
(For my return trip I used the hotel’s transport in an upscale people carrier, with a multilingual driver, smartly dressed in a suit).
The fishing village of Oualidia is on one of Morocco’s beautiful stretches of Atlantic coast; it’s a community that has been developed for higher end domestic and international tourism.
The resort is hidden from the main road – just a modest sign made from the local stone indicated the sandy track that winds down to the water’s edge. It’s an exclusive enclave, but this also means that you are not close to the village – it’s at least 20 minutes’ walk or a short taxi ride if you want to head into the village and eat with the locals.
The hotel looks like a large estate house, painstakingly constructed with honey-coloured stone, each piece carefully crafted to fit – it’s a striking aesthetic.
I was met at the gate and my luggage was swiftly whisked away as I was led through the gardens of palms, cactus and flowers, past the fish pond, fountain and the shoreline terraces up to the reception building.
The reception maintains a homely, warm style with a fireplace and low-key seating, whilst at the same time infused with elegance with cut roses from the garden, sparkling silver accessories on the reception desk and immaculately presented team. Bespoke design details are everywhere, showcasing beautiful Moroccan craftsmanship.
Luxury in Morocco, especially as a La Sultana property (see my review of the La Sultana Marrakech hotel here) is a refined affair. I am greeted by the Front Desk Manager and invited to enjoy a hot mint tea overlooking the lagoon.
I am escorted to a Berber tent on the sandy shore of the lagoon. Offering cooling shade and furnished with sofas and tables, it’s a unique place, in true ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ style, to start my Oualidia experience and one that certainly captures the imagination.
Dressed in white, a waiter brings a silver tea pot, an ornately decorated glass and a tiered tray of Moroccan cookies. Placed on the table in front of me, the tea is poured in the typical North African style, with the pot lifted higher and higher from the table as the tea fills the glass below, the mint and green tea gently foaming as it fills with air.
After my relaxing tea, soaking up the view out across the lagoon to the rocky headland, I am led up the stone steps from reception to the main house and my suite.
The hotel accommodation includes a 120 m2 apartment, 2 suite deluxe, 2 suites, 2 duplex suite and 4 prestige deluxe rooms. There is also a treehouse, built around a lagoon facing tree in the grounds.
Occupying a privileged corner of the house with a private garden terrace, my Suite Deluxe, at 55 m2 felt more like a small, private apartment than a room. The main room included a large alcove filled with a daybed, covered in white cushions.
Against the far wall was the super king size bed, with curtain canopy, allowing it to be closed off for intimacy.
Easy chairs, with a coffee table laden with the welcome amenity provided a focus for the centre of the space.
The suites had extravagant features like the large crystal chandelier, yet overall the look and feel was one of understated elegance with light fabrics and finishes conveying a relaxed and serene ambiance. It’s all part of the hotel’s ‘hideaway’ feel, in keeping with its natural setting and relaxing style.
The requisite modern amenities were all there; LCD TV, aircon, etc. although the CD player with iPod docking station was a little out-of-date, without an Apple ‘Lightening connector’ or Bluetooth functionality.
Although the garden terrace had a small dining table with chairs, there was no in-room dining facilities in the suite.
There was a charming, small covered terrace overlooked the internal courtyard of the hotel; furnished with authentic, antique carved low wooden chairs.
The main terrace had a large day bed, two sun loungers and a filtered sea water spa.
A tray of Moroccan cakes & cookies, walnuts, and sweet raisins; a bowl of juicy oranges and a bottle of Medaillon Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Vin du Maroc 2013 was the generous in-room welcome amenity.
The Moroccan wine was delicious; spicy, rich, and aromatic. It’s the best Moroccan wine I’ve enjoyed in a long time.
The bathroom is prepared in the charming La Sultana way, with rose petals on the vanity and on the floor. Plenty of branded La Sultana bath and body products are in the shower and beside the large tub, together with other grooming amenities.
The walls of traditional, pale tadelakt blend perfectly with the marble of the vanity and the light floor, making the space feel filled with light
There is a large walk-in shower, separate W.C. and the also a large marble tub.
Here was the dressing area too, with complimentary cotton slippers, as well as leather Moroccan babouche slippers.
Within the wardrobes expect to find a security box and also a minibar with complimentary soft drinks.
The lagoon’s seawater is used throughout the hotel, in the spa baths around the main pool’s sunbathing terrace, and also in the spa baths on the suite terraces. In addition the filtered, ionised water is used in the spa, which has been created at the heart of the hotel, feeling as if it has been carved out of the elaborate stone walls. This is where, in addition to the large pool, and treatments rooms, you will find an exercise area.
Eating here is all about the spectacular lagoon setting – so that means that tables both on the terraces, the beachside as well as within the sunken restaurant are positioned so views are maximised.
Breakfast is a real feast, with a beautifully presented choice of hot and cold local and international dishes.
Dinner is an elegant affair. What’s more, the menu is inspired by the sea and many of the local seafood and fish delicacies can be enjoyed seasonally. The area is renowned for its oysters, sea urchins, lobsters and crayfish etc.
In fact the hotel has its own tanks for keeping live seafood and shellfish in tiptop condition.
Pool and Terraces
The lagoon is tidal, but when the lagoon is at its highest the striking infinity pool appears to merge with the water beyond. Around the pool edges are cabana, daybeds loungers and filtered seawater spa pools.
Time seems to slow down here; the ambiance is truly relaxing. Maybe it’s all that fresh Atlantic sea air; the expansive views; the mesmerising sunsets; or the healthy food.
However, if you can be compelled to leave your poolside sunbed, then there’s plenty of water sports and activities on offer. I even went out on a fishing boat to try my luck. I tell you, I caught a big fish…but it got away.
Tel: +212 5 24 38 80 08