by Alice Mariscotti-Wyatt
I’ve been to several hotels I didn’t want to leave before. But at Faja dos Padres that sentiment became literal, as leaving meant a 300-metre cable car ride up some sheer cliffs.
Plus, I also didn’t want to leave. This small banana plantation / hotel combo in subtropical Madeira was something special – and somewhere pretty close to my idea of paradise.
An Island within an Island
Faja dos Padres describes itself as an island within an island. It’s pretty much true. Though it’s located about 15 minutes’ drive away from Madeira’s capital, Funchal, it’s got that worlds apart thing going for it. That’s because it’s set on one small piece of land at the base of 300-metre-high cliffs, so the only ways to access it are the previously mentioned cable car, or by boat. It’s so set apart it even has its own microclimate.
From the viewpoint at the top of the cliffs, you look down on a narrow strip of sunlit coastline, with a few small red roofs and a pier the only signs of habitation. During the dizzying descent they grow larger until you land at the bottom in a subtropical world, where cobbled paths roam through alleys of banana plants and other vegetation. Hand-painted signs point you to a wine cellar, restaurant, and the beach.
A note on that beach: Madeira isn’t known for its beaches, and though Faja dos Pedros has one, it was too rocky to be used as an access point to the ocean. Instead there are loungers set next to the pier, and steps for entering the marine blue sea. I’m beach-crazy, but I found it acceptable. A grey lining to the lack of sand was that the water was beautifully clear, and great for snorkelling around the rocky shoreline.
There are not a lot of rooms here – and those there are have all been repurposed from historic buildings on the site – so some led previous lives as a warehouse or barn, as well as settlers’ homes. The result is simple self catering accommodation with plenty of character.
We were allocated Seifia’s house. While it’s described as the romantic accommodation, it’s nothing luxurious. But who needs marble bathrooms when you’re living 10 feet above the waves with sea views from your living room? We fell asleep to the sounds of the sea rolling in, and passed the afternoons with a beer on the private patio wrapping around the house.
Daily Banana Bread
Because it’s self catered, it’s easy to retreat into your own little world here. After a trip to stock up on local cheeses and absurdly cheap wine, there was no reason to leave this tiny tropical land at the foot of the cliffs.
We fell into an idyllic routine, where every morning began with a walk through pathways shaded by banana leaves and tropical greenery. At the seafront restaurant we could heap our plates high with a breakfast spread that included freshly baked banana bread, as well as plenty of fruit and mango smoothies.
Then there was swimming, sunbathing, reading and napping to occupy the rest of the day. For a special treat, the restaurant would do take-away for anyone staying there. We simply needed to pick what we wanted off their menu and they’d prepare it before they closed at 6pm. We carried home a wicker basket with extremely generous portions of fish, potatoes and herb coated vegetables.
How to Open Paradise
The fact that there’s a restaurant there means that this paradise isn’t exclusively for the hotel guests. Faja dos Pedros is open to the public, with many coming to visit this organic oasis just for the day. We saw people visiting both independently by the cable car, and on organised boat trips, docking near the restaurant.
I heard in the height of summer this little hideaway can become busy with day trippers, but when we stayed in October, it felt more like a secret only a few would ever see. If you want to visit, take a look at their website here.
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