Whistling pine groves, rushing waves and the gentle shiver of wind-whipped sands provide the soundtrack to Portugal's Costa de Prata (Silver Coast) - a quietly beguiling stretch of Atlantic coastline that's just a 40-minute drive from Lisbon, and home to enchanting boutique hotel Areias do Seixo.
Dreamed up by owners Gonçalo and Marta Fonseca as an ode to love, the 20-key hotel (made up of 15 individually designed rooms and 19 self-catering villas) stretches across seven hectares, yet, amazingly, still manages to feel blissfully intimate. The exterior is a modernist vision - all glass and polished concrete - with futuristic lines cleverly juxtaposed against a backdrop of shape-shifting, bleached-blonde dunes. Enter through the heavy, steel-studded wooden door - the sort you might stumble across in a Moroccan medina - and you'll be greeted by a vast open-plan reception. Bedecked with shabby-chic furniture, log fires and floor-to-ceiling windows, it's the kind of space that would make both architecture aficionados and interior design buffs swoon in delight.
This quirky, rustic feel runs like a thread throughout the entire hotel: there are mystical lanterns that hang in the moody spa, bare wooden floorboards in the hallways that blur the lines between indoors and out and seductive soft furnishings at every turn, including sheepskin throws draped across low-slung driftwood chairs in the bedrooms. Of course, these details all make for a deliciously comfortable stay. But, dreamy aesthetics aside (and we're certainly not complaining), it's actually the atmosphere we'll be coming back for next time, and the time after that. Why? Because not only will the owners remember you by name, they'll also remember your favourite song - and play it to you around the campfire (Gonçalo and Marta gather guests around a firepit each evening for wine and song as the sun goes down). Peaceful, laid-back and refreshingly down-to-earth, Areias do Seixo plants a pole in the sand for design-conscious hospitality with a whole lot of heart.
Featuring one of four design themes - Gold, Land, Tree or Love - each room has been artfully decorated according to its own unique character. Our favourite is Nha Cretcheu, which means "sweetheart" in Creole (Marta's mother hails from Cape Verde). Graced with an elevated four-poster bed hewn from driftwood found just outside, the bedroom has a suspended log burner complete with a stash of logs, widescreen windows that lead to a private sea-facing patio, a sumptuous, cloud-like outdoor shower and swimmable indoor whirlpool bath.
Set back from the main property, villas include the three-bedroom Townhouse, which has its own outdoor plunge pool, and four-bedroom Villa Blue Superior - complete with its own breath-stealing rooftop terrace. Then, secreted away in the shadow of the dunes, there's the hotel's crowning jewel, Shelter - a see-it-to-believe-it tented idyll suspended over a private lake. Honeymooners, this is your spot.
What's for breakfast?
Served from the open kitchen in the hotel's light-filled dining area, breakfast comprises an impressive buffet of local cheeses, hams, seasonal fruits, fresh-out-the-oven bread and homemade jams, as well as straight-from-the-coop eggs, cooked to order.
How about lunch and dinner?
Crafted around the bounty of the kitchen garden, lunch and dinner menus are unfussy and seasonally focused: think baked potato-sized mussels, wild mushroom stews and eucalyptus sorbet with orange from the Algarve. Chef André Jesus has a particular flair for charcoal grilling - don't miss his Iberian black pork, sizzled to perfection over open flames.
Is there a bar?
Yes, in the same, airy space as the reception and dining area. Distinguished by invitingly slouchy armchairs and an open fire, it's the place to come for intricate, herb-infused cocktails, served from 1pm until late. Pull up a deckchair outside and watch the sun go down to the beat of bossa nova-influenced jazz.
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
Admirable. Sustainability was built into Areias do Seixo's DNA from the get-go. The property is kitted out with solar panels and runs on geothermal energy, most furniture is made from repurposed local timber and air conditioning is eschewed in favour of natural ventilation. Needless to say, you'll find no single-use plastics in sight, and all food is either grown on site or sourced as locally as possible (catch anything from the sea and the chef will happily cook it up for your next meal).
How about amenities?
Step into the sanctuary-like, stone-grey spa for a sauna, Turkish bath or massage, or take a culture trip to the hotel's cinema room, which is stocked with over 90 titles and an overflowing larder of homemade snacks. Outside, there's a decked area and infinity pool that melts into the horizon, with bikes available to borrow from reception should you get the urge to explore the area on two wheels.
What about accessibility?
All rooms are at ground level, so most of the hotel is entirely accessible by wheelchair, but there's also a lift, should it be required.
What's the crowd like?
Loved-up, mostly - although it's not in your face at all. Single travellers are welcome, as are families, with children aged 10 and over allowed in the pool between 9am and 12pm, accompanied by an adult.
Within a short walk I can find…
Sand - and lots of it. Aside from the breathtaking beaches, there's not much to see within a short walk of the hotel, but if it's a taste of local life you're after, then hop on a bike and pedal into the nearest village, Santa Cruz - around a 10-minute ride away.
Things I should know…
Book ahead. Although this stretch of Portugal's coast is less crowded than other parts, Areias do Seixo is fast gaining legendary status on the boutique circuit, so you'll be jostling for rooms with the repeat visitors who make an annual pilgrimage back to its special sands.
Doubles cost from £263 a night on a B&B basis.