The Essaouira medina is small and compact, and few hotels (apart from the prestigious L’Heure Bleue Palais) have the space for a pool. Some larger hotels outside the medina have pools, but often lack much of the charm of the riad guesthouses of the medina. Get the best of both worlds by staying in a medina riad and taking a day trip out for lunch to one of the poolside restaurants outside the city. The bonus is that being set back a little from the coast, these locations are also warmer and less windy – perfect for topping up your tan! There are many to choose from, but here are my top three.
Les Jardins de Villa Maroc
Of the lunch + pool deals around Essaouira, Les Jardins de Villa Maroc is the most sophisticated option. Run by the eponymous medina riad, this pool-side restaurant and cocktail bar is hidden among olive and argan groves. It is decorated like a boutique hotel in the woods, with a sympathetic blend of modern Moroccan design and country chic. Sun-loungers and day beds are dotted around a pool heated by the combustion of argan husks. Generous buffet barbecues are offered at lunchtime with great salads and desserts, and the 250 dh fee includes use of the pool, showers, towels and a shuttle from the medina. There is also a bar, offering refreshing cocktails, an indoor area for chillier days, and wifi throughout. Reservations essential.
Great for: sophisticated lounging, cocktail in hand, posting pics online to make your friends jealous.
A new kid on the scene for the summer season of 2015, Dar Caravane is run by Didier Spindler, of the popular Caravane Cafe in Essaouira medina. The dining area features a similar eclectic decor of Didier’s own artworks and pieces he has collected on his travels. The menu, like Caravane Cafe, features a fusion of European, Creole and Moroccan flavours. The emphasis is very much on good food and good company, with the magnificent gardens and compact pool an added bonus. The big attraction, though, is its proximity to Essaouira – just before Diabat, it is practically within walking distance and a petit taxi can get you there. Newly opened in May 2015, shower and changing rooms facilities plus an alcohol licence are on the cards. Suites are also available for those who can’t pull themselves away from the lush green setting.
Great for: a bite to eat and a dip at any time of the day or evening in a green oasis surprisingly close to the city.
Reservations on: 05 24 78 48 04
Dar Kenavo is great for kids and those who prefer to see the weather in the morning before making plans. It is built in a rural riad style in gardens which feature a kids’ play area, vegetable and herb patches and a games space as well as a pool. It’s more sun-bleached shabby chic than poolside sophistication, which gives a homely, welcoming atmosphere. The whole place is adapted for clients of reduced mobility. The simple but healthy lunch offer usually consists of a selection of salads of raw and cooked vegetables plus gratins, so although reservation is essential, it is practically possible to do so on route. Dar Kenavo is a little off the beaten track in Herrerta, but with your own transport is easily combined with a trip to the Wednesday market at Ida Ougourd or you can arrange for a grand taxi to take you there and pick you up.
Best for: families, people with reduced mobility and the spontaneous
Reservations on: 06 61 20 70 69