From the lush green of the jungle to the historical elegance of the plantations, from the tropical beaches to city ambience; in bamboo, wood or stone, environmentally friendly, the hotels of São Tomé and Príncipe are a mirror of the variety of landscapes, cultures and experiences of these chocolate-producing islands.
Bom Bom Island Resort, Ilha do Príncipe
Ilhéu Bom Bom, Ilha do Príncipe /// +239 225 1114 /// www.bombomprincipe.com /// €290 – €535
Zoom out of the world, disconnect from the day-to-day and be at one with nature, which, here, can elevate the spirit of the most hardened rationalist. Hidden in the jungle but close to the sea, this resort is much more than an idyllic place to spend a holiday. Amongst the white sands, palm trees, erythrinas and flowers, birds and crystalline waters of abundant fish and paddling turtles, the dream of Mark Shuttleworth, South African millionaire and visionary who believes in dragons, takes shape. HBD (Here be Dragons) brought a responsible tourism and eco-sustainable project to the island of Príncipe involving local populations and, apart from the Bom Bom resort, the jungle jewel, is recovering the plantations, re-converting them into different tourist experiences. From the kitchen garden and kitchen-lab of the Paciência plantation to the time travel that is the Sundy plantation, where you can feel the African way of life in its lively slave quarters.
Anyway, back to your holidays, immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the bearable lightness that overtakes your being to discover jungle life, some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, the Claudio Corallo plantation, where the best cocoa in the world grows, and Santo António, the smallest capital in the world, with its shy and sweet people. Back at the resort, you won’t have time to get bored. The artisan fishing, the greenhouse full of exotic species, the turtle nursery, yoga sessions, snorkelling, diving and paddle are just some of the activities available. However, if you just want to contemplate the Earth’s magnificence, sit on the balcony of your bungalow, which offers comfort, good taste and simplicity, and let your eyes wander on the horizon of lush green and blue sea. If you are focused on more earthly pleasures, cross the romantic wooden bridge to the islet of Bom Bom, order a refreshing cocktail at the bar or enjoy delicious freshly-caught fish in the excellent restaurant and give thanks to all the gods for the privilege of being here.
Pestana Equador, Ilhéu das Rolas, São Tomé
Ilhéu das Rolas, Caué Sul, São Tomé /// +239 226 1196 ///www.pestana.com/pt/pestana-equador /// A partir de €120
The adventure begins on the Ponta Baleia pier. A small boat takes us to the lovely islet where the Portuguese aviator and adventurer Gago Coutinho drew the imaginary line of the Equator, in the middle of a remarkable hymn to nature. Settle into one of 70 white, wooden bungalows (including six superior bedrooms and eight suites with a pool or sea view) and enjoy all creature comforts within a tropical environment. The near-virgin beauty of the landscape with beaches offering crystalline waters, bordered by coconut trees, the trails that lead to romantic viewpoints overlooking the sea with every possible shade of green and blue, and even the noise of the children in the fishermen’s village are like a reinvigorating balm. Stay at the resort and indulge in pure leisure, relaxing in the saltwater pool or enjoying a massage with an ocean view, or rediscover your explorer’s spirit and be guided by one of the friendly village boys, discovering unexpected beaches, volcanic phenomena, plants and local habits, the lighthouse, the Equator, the taste of freshly-caught fish. Diving, fishing, bird watching and boat rides are other activities that can be booked. To ensure relaxing days, in addition to the 7 Pedras restaurant, the Pestana Equador has three bars with buffet service, one of which is by the pool. Daydream and yield to the pleasures of the five senses, you will leave here as good as new.
Roça Belo Monte, Ilha do Príncipe
Belo Monte, Ilha do Príncipe /// +239 225 1152 /// www.belomonte.com /// Tudo incluído €379 – €620; B&B €297 – €477
An exclusive boutique hotel where classic plantation architecture inspires elegant design and a multi-star service in the middle of the jungle. Make this your starting point to explore an unspoiled world, where pure nature and the friendliness of the local people offer bliss, before enjoying the stunning waters of some of the most idyllic beaches. There is a range of accommodation options, but facilities are common, including air conditioning, Wi-Fi and satellite television. In the Manor House, there are three individual suites with access to a terrace for tea, while, in the former hospital of the plantation, which overlooks a large patio, there is the luxury of four suites. The restored houses of the plantation workers were converted into rooms that open onto a wooden deck; a veritable observatory of the sounds and rhythms of the forest. Guided tours, diving, hiking and snorkelling are just some of the activities available, as well as access to magnificent tropical beaches, such as the famous Banana beach. If so much activity gives you an appetite, it’s worth knowing that the Theobroma Plantation restaurant offers traditional cuisine with a contemporary twist and a South African influence. And for evening cocktails, as the sun sets on the horizon, soak up the peaceful atmosphere of the Cartwright Bar & Terrace in the shade of old tropical almond trees.
Pousada Roça São João, Angolares, São Tomé
São João de Angolares, São Tomé /// +239 226 1140 /// rocasjoao.com /// €38
This is not any old plantation. Besides the lush vegetation, the sea view and the fantastic experience of sleeping in the bosses’ quarters, surrounded by colonial-inspired objects and furniture, you can succumb to the pleasures of the finest São Tomé cuisine, enjoying the creations made with local products by João Carlos Silva. Famous for the television programme Na Roça com os Tachos, the chef’s inventiveness offers a luxurious sensory journey of the islands’ flavours, with its epicentre in the fresh herbs picked from the nearby kitchen garden or forest. The menu costs the best-spent €15 of your life. With the integrated development on the horizon, this ambitious project combines tourism and agriculture, cuisine and culture, history and environment in a magical green world.
Pestana São Tomé Ocean Resort, São Tomé
Avenida Marginal 12 de Julho, São Tomé /// +239 224 4500 /// www.pestana.com /// A partir de €141
The Pestana Group, a Portuguese hotel giant, owns the only five-star establishment in São Tomé, a hotel with 115 rooms and suites with breath-taking sea views, a wide range of services and facilities and service to match. Linger on the hotel’s private beach or in the pool that merges with the sea; take your first diving class at the nautical centre; work up a sweat in the gym and spoil yourself in the spa. Try the local food to the sound of the best African music played live at the resort restaurant and dance away the night at the hotel club. If you want to try your luck, why not visit the Pestana Casino. And if your trip is not just pleasure, it’s worth knowing that the hotel is well prepared to host all types of business events. The airport is a 15-minute drive and the city centre just five minutes’ walk.
Omali Lodge, São Tomé
Praia do Lagarto, São Tomé /// +239 222 2479 /// +239 222 2350 /// www.omalilodge.com /// €140 – €430
Here, there are more than 30 tastefully decorated rooms and suites with an attention to small details, an endless list of activities, a luxurious location and service with a genuine smile. It is for these and other reasons that the Omali is a boutique hotel. The sea-side lodge is the ideal refuge for a relaxing holiday ad for those enjoy discovering something new: the hotel has a network of partners that offers a long list of activities, ranging from cultural guided tours to hiking in the national park, bird, cetacean and turtle watching, diving or fishing. In addition to this, there is an inviting pool and a restaurant where contemporary cuisine and the fish are the order of the day. Your perfect home in the capital.
Mucumbli Turismo Rural, Neves, São Tomé
Ponta Figo, Neves, São Tomé /// + 239 990 87 36 /// www.mucumbli.wordpress.com /// €60
In the north of the island, next to the Ponta Figo plantation and near Neves, is your own private piece of Eden. There are six wooden chalets with magnificent balconies overlooking the sea, ideal for observing the fishermen and the exotic birds’ flight. In the relaxing restaurant, which is an open space made out of wood and bamboo, they serve delicious, fusion-influenced cuisine made with local ingredients. Below, there’s a black sand beach and warm water, where you can paddle after visiting the area, discovering plantations, other incredible beaches, the depths of the Azul lagoon and the excitement of Neves.
by Patrícia Brito
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