Finca Cortesin is a haven of effortless luxury on Spain's Costa del Sol. A world away from the bustle of nearby Marbella, the hotel is a destination stay complete with palm-lined pools, a private Beach Club and… a snow cave.
The Costa del Sol often gets a bad rap as a haven for Brits abroad and tax evasion. Yet the sublime oasis of Finca Cortesin paints a much different picture.
To step through the farmhouse-style entrance of Finca Cortesin is to feel as if worlds away from Marbella's urbanised coastline. The hotel may be a recent build, but the design takes its cue from the classical proportions of Andalusian architecture. It's at once beautifully airy and open but and luxuriously comfortable. There's three swimming pools from which to choose - you'll find us at the adults-only, 50m pool, lazing in the shade of palms and open cabanas. That is unless we're indulging in thermal treatments at the magnificent spa, home to Spain's only snow cave.
Finca Cortesin somehow takes riotous fun and makes it feel rather civilised. The outside world detaches itself softly from your senses, and is replaced by a peaceful abandonment to calm and relaxation. Even the more lively activities - there's a golf course, driving range, tennis courts, Beach Club - conspire in the wonderfully floating, gentle pace of life here. It is without doubt a great destination for late autumn and early spring escapism, but we can't imagine a time of year when this Andalusian hotel wouldn't be a welcome break.
The rooms are the stuff of interiors fantasies; effortlessly modern with hushed tones and comfortable Spanish style - don't be surprised if you feel inspired to make a Pinterest board. You can't go wrong with your choice of suite, though we would avoid the few that face "uphill", instead booking one with sweeping vistas out over the adult pool to the hills beyond.
What's for breakfast?
The question really should be: what's not for breakfast? In the rustic El Jardín restaurant, you can choose to start your day with huevos revueltos on the main terrace, or fruits and juices in the patio, should it suit. Padron peppers with jamón de jabugo and fried eggs is a must-try.
How about lunch and dinner?
There are dining options aplenty. Dive into delicious grilled fish and meats for lunch by the main pool, or retreat to the adult pool where a bar serves smaller bites. Take the shuttle bus to the Beach Club for all things sea and a bottle (or three) of refreshing local whites. For something low-key, we recommend tapas in the atrium, while golf lovers gravitate to the club lounge.
Dinner is mostly in the main restaurant El Jardín which is lovely if not spectacular - particularly when it comes to fish. Nevertheless, the Michelin-starred Kabuki Raw is the real stand-out here, serving Mediterranean-Japanese fusion fare against a quirky backdrop - no judgement if you dine here every night. In the summer months, Italian eatery Don Giovanni is open too.
Is there a bar?
Kick back with a cocktail in the Blue Bar, or take your drink onto the terrace or portico, where live jazz (not the cheesy kind) is played most weekends. During the day, the bar by the adult pool serves as a nice little escape pod too.
Decked out in warm tones and rustic touches - driftwood mirrors, conch shells, potted ferns - the spa features an indoor pool set in solid rock, steam baths, saunas and a positively arctic "snow cave" for thermal benefits. There's a wide range of excellent treatments and massages on offer too.
Alongside tennis courts and paddle courts, the hotel is home to one of Spain's finest golf courses - should you need help perfecting your swing, head to the Nicklaus Academy which benefits from all the mod-cons and stellar instructors.
Things you should know
Don't miss the snow cave. No collarless shirts are allowed on the golf course, and do bring some sport shoes if you plan on using the paddle courts. A shuttle bus takes you to the Beach Club (open Easter to September) 1km away.
Within a short walk you will find?
A very short walk will take you to the private villas which are available for rent. It will also take you to the small but lovely hotel shop in which you could easily spend a fortune. Stroll any farther and you will break out of the Finca Cortesin heaven to reality. If you do fancy partying in Marbs or pootling around Sotogrande, it's best to hire a car.
Alessandro Tomé is a contributing editor at Spear's Magazine