The Algarve is one of the most beautiful areas in Europe with stunning sandy beaches flanked by rich red cliffs. Nestled on the coast with a prime position overlooking the Mediterranean, you’ll find EPIC SANA Algarve. This five star luxury hotel is the perfect haven if you’re looking for some rest and relaxation, yet it also offers a great range of workout and wellness retreats.
The good first impressions actually began as soon as we arrived at Faro airport. We were collected by a lovely driver whom EPIC SANA use regularly, and it made for a great start to our trip. Pulling up outside the hotel at night, you definitely get the wow factor. It’s a triumph of modern design, with a huge open-plan lobby decorated with contemporary artworks.
It actually looks out onto the sea, as we’d discover the next morning. The friendly check-in staff suggested an in-room check-in, an excellent idea as he also showed us how certain features worked and answered all our queries about breakfast time and more.
One of the joys of travelling for me is staying in places that have elements you’d like to incorporate into your own home and this was definitely the case. The innovative bathroom had sliding walls to ensure complete privacy. However, if you left them open, the already sizeable bedroom appeared even larger.
The terrace added to the overall impression of spaciousness, and was well-equipped with side screens, a table, chairs and a sun-lounger. The views towards the swimming pool and beyond it, the azure sea, were fantastic.
Our room had all mod cons, including air conditioning, a large flat-screen TV with integrated sound system, complimentary WiFi, a safe and a coffee machine. In the bathroom, there were Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, fluffy bathrobes and slippers plus green toilet paper – this place is anything but boring!
It was the little extra touches that really made this hotel stand out though. From the welcome note sent by the General Manager to guests, to our name appearing on the TV screen, it was very thoughtful. As for the turn-down service, there was the customary chocolate on the pillow, but also a bedtime story each evening, all based on Andalucian legends. As we arrived so late on our first evening, there was also a welcome tray of cheese, grapes and chocolate waiting for us, together with an excellent bottle of Portugese red wine.
On our last day, we were treated to some delicious Portugese tarts and sherry, a lovely souvenir of a wonderful stay.
Waking up fresh as a daisy the next morning, we headed down to breakfast in the light and airy dining room. There’s also plenty of outside seating with ample shade. The choice is phenomenal with fresh fruit, cured meats, salmon, cereals and hot dishes. The chef can also rustle you up an omelette if you prefer.
We then explored EPIC SANA’s grounds, which are beautifully maintained. There are several outdoor swimming pools, with one being reserved for adults.
Dotted around the pools, there are sun loungers, day beds and funky swinging chairs.
However, my favourite relaxation spot has to be the wooden day beds overlooking the sea.
They’re next to the Love Tree, a charming feature with red and white wood hearts gently fluttering in the breeze. Guests can purchase a heart, write their inscription and add it to the tree.
Close by, steps lead down to the crowd-free beach, with its golden sands.
The cliff face is really striking, with incredible shades of orange, yellow and red.
One of the most interesting features of the resort is its wellness programs. With a variety of options including a yoga retreat, pure detox, luxury de-stress, ultimate reshape and bootcamp, they’ll help you tone up and make lasting nutritional changes. One of the guests that we exercised with had come all the way from Dubai to participate since in her words, their retreats are unique in Portugal. We sampled a yoga session with the Epic Vitality program. Paul is pretty good at yoga and qigong, whereas I’m most definitely not. We were both impressed with the yoga teacher who was so patient and it was a great work out.
We also tried the Ultimate Reshape, which involved 3 hours a day of physical training with cardio, strengthening and balancing exercises. On this program, your meals are carefully controlled and no alcohol is allowed. Staff will even empty your mini bar if you need to avoid that temptation but you won’t go hungry as you’ll be served 5 meals a day. If you’re with friends or family who don’t wish to do a retreat, they don’t have to! As we did, they can enjoy all the healthy buffet and unlimited house beer or wine, which is very drinkable. I don’t know of any other places where you can get fit whilst your less virtuous friends simply relax and eat what they want 😉
The gym is very well equipped and there’s also a separate fitness classroom and indoor swimming pool. It’s part of the wellness centre which also houses a beautiful spa with its own upstairs pools and some lovely treatment rooms with natural daylight.
I tried two of the spa treatments, the Gold Facial, which delivers a moisturizing and lifting effect. The gold particles in the cream left my skin feeling very silky and luminous. Paul sampled the men’s facial, which really unclogged his pores and softened his face. My second treatment was body transdermal mesotherapy which is included in quite a few of EPIC Sana’s wellness programs. The electric current acts effectively on fat cells to eliminate the dreaded orange-peel effect, yet is mild enough that I fell asleep. My therapist massaged my skin with powerful movements and I was surprised to find it incredibly smooth afterwards. The treatments will purportedly also assist weight-loss though several sessions would probably be required.
Perhaps our favourite treatment of all was the Sayanna couples’ ritual, taking place in an entirely private area of the spa. You have your own treatment pavilion with a relaxation lounge, changing rooms and showers plus a treatment room. This aromatherapy relaxation massage removed any tension and regenerated our sun-sensitive skin. The highlight was the private outdoor jacuzzi, with its panoramic views over the gardens and to the coast beyond.
We enjoyed several meals in Abyad, the hotel’s casual restaurant with its huge variety of fresh, healthy food.
The desserts here were hard to resist…
At lunchtimes, meals are served in the Open Deck beside the pool – great for salads, steak and fish dishes.
For my birthday, we dined in Al Quimia, the fine dining restaurant. It has a lovely terrace overlooking the gardens.
It’s also open to non-guests so a must visit if you’re in the area.
Specializing in seasonal Portugese cuisine, it’s highly innovative and beautifully presented.
The wine selection is second to none and they have a unique decanting system invented by a surgeon, enabling you to enjoy a really high quality glass of wine without being obliged to drink the whole bottle.
Chef Luís Mourão clearly takes great pride in his work, and no doubt a Michelin star beckons.
The combination of flavours is unusual, as with this pairing of meat and fruit, yet it works perfectly.
They even gave me a chocolate cake for my birthday.
There’s also the BLUUM Bar nearby for inventive cocktails based on molecular gastronomy.
Or perhaps you’d prefer to relax with a coffee in the outdoor lounge area near the pools. There was a very talented singer and guitarist duo performing on one of the nights we were there.
As you can probably guess, we were sad to leave EPIC SANA. This place really goes above and beyond and we’d definitely return though perhaps to experience a full fitness program, as in the words of Oscar Wilde, “I can resist anything except temptation”!
Have you been to the Algarve?
EPIC SANA Algarve Hotel, Aldeia da Falésia, 8200-593 Albufeira, Portugal