Lagoa, Azores

Photo: White Exclusive Suites & Villas

First impressions are everything. When you travel, they set the tone for your entire trip and provide a vision for the days ahead. Airports hardly count. Hopefully, you don’t spend enough time in customs and immigration for it to matter. So the onus is on your hotel. Good luck to them.

In the Azores, that duty falls on White Exclusive Suites & Villas. After landing on São Miguel Island, the largest island in the Portuguese archipelago, you rent a car and drive along the south shore. Usually, Ponta Delgada, the autonomous region’s capital, would be your first destination. Not today. You continue 15 minutes east until you reach Lagoa.

Lagoa was settled, in the 15th century, for its sheltered bay. Porto dos Carneiros has been used by fishermen, farmers, winemakers, and ceramic manufacturers since then. Lagoa is now known for its historic churches and convents that have grand facades and ornate altars. It’s also home to this sleek design hotel.

Photo: White Exclusive Suites & Villas

White Exclusive Suites & Villas looks like it belongs on a Greek island. The clifftop hotel sits along the rocky shoreline facing the dramatic Atlantic Ocean. It took over a 17th-century volcanic manor house that was used to produce wine. The building was redesigned with a stark-white color scheme so that the focus remains on the beautiful scenery. You can see the blue water and green hills from the lobby. Driftwood furniture and turquoise accents are the only breaks in the palette. While outdoor living—on balconies, on the terrace, and in the pool—is the real focus.

There are only 10 suites on the property. Junior Suites open onto the terrace. Ocean Suites have the best views. Unique Suites are full of history with basalt walls, stone arches, and fireplaces from the house’s original kitchen. They all feature Portuguese art and huge bathrooms. No Fork snacks are in the minibars. While tablets, not telephones, are used to contact the front desk.

So far, so good. But you still need to check out the rest of the hotel. Cardume, the rustic-chic restaurant, is only open to hotel guests. It serves mouthwatering seafood dishes (fish confit and lobster tagliatelle), interesting desserts (sweet potato brownies), and Azorean wines. Breakfast and cocktails are available on the terrace. You’ll take Portuguese biscuits and fresh mango juice under the pergola, and spicy gin and tonics (made with Azor Gin) by the fire pit. The infinity pool is heated and filled with salt water. Plus massages can be set up near one of the lookout points. It looks you’re going to get along with the Azores just fine.

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