Madeira is only 35 miles by 14 miles in size and Funchal, the island’s capital, sits at the South East corner of the island.
Standing majestically on a rocky promontory, surrounded by gardens which overlook the city of Funchal and the bay, is the five star Cliff Bay Hotel. The gardens feature trees, shrubs and flowers from around the world.
Cliff Bay is the showpiece hotel of the Portobay Hotel Group, which has five other hotels on Madeira and a number of others in various cities in Brazil.
Over the past three years, the Cliff Bay has garnered countless awards and deservedly so. The whole place exudes quality in every way.
It is quite a modern hotel, but with standards and staff from a seemingly bygone age.
The rose granite floors and wide staircases were simply elegant, whilst all the public rooms were airy and so comfortable.
On arrival, we were greeted like lost friends, despite the fact that we had never stayed there before. We were immediately put at our ease.
There are nine categories of room, and you do have to do your research before booking. The hotel layout is a ‘Y’ shape on top of the cliffs, so different rooms have different aspects.
Some catch the sun before midday, some benefit from the afternoon and evening sun. The rooms range from mountain views, sea views, views over Funchal at the other side of the bay and partial sea views. The rest of the rooms are suites which come with additional services which include free juices and soft drinks, fresh flowers, daily fresh fruit and house wine on arrival. Free wi-fi is available throughout the hotel.
All of the rooms have a private balcony.
Our room was a Superior Room on the 8th floor with sea views over the bay to Funchal.
This was a very spacious room, with giant beds and a very modern twin bathroom with monsoon shower. The bathroom products were ESPA of London.
New guests are invited to a weekly cocktail and canapé reception to get to know fellow holidaymakers or to renew acquaintances.
For those seeking a relaxing swim, there are two pools, one indoor/outdoor and a larger, outdoor salt pool and children’s pool by a large terrace, almost at sea-level.
By pre-booking at reception, a free diving lesson can be undertaken.
The more adventurous, like myself, can access the sea from a jetty for swimming or snorkelling. The sea is crystal clear and warm. The variety of fish and sea creatures to be seen are innumerable and exciting. I saw colourful and exotic fish species, swimming with them at touching distance.
As may be expected at a five star hotel in a sub-tropical climate, the local food is simply tremendous. The Gallo d’Oro restaurant in the hotel has the island’s only Michelin Star with Mediterranean/Iberian influenced food that lives up to it’s superb reputation. For a gastronomic treat, this restaurant’s evening offerings have to be sampled at least once. On our stay, we took breakfast in this restaurant too.
There are other choices of restaurant on-site without leaving the hotel.
The Rose Garden is popular for breakfast, taken either inside or outside on the terrace. Each night there is a themed menu featuring food from around the world. including a Portuguese night of course.
For lighter meals, the Blue Lagoon is at sea-level, next to the large pool.
Le Cliff Bar and Bistro has an inside and outside terrace with live music each evening.
The Navigator’s Lounge and Bar has incredible views over the bay to Funchal, whilst the Cactus Bar is by the indoor pool.
No top hotel can be without a Spa these days, and here is no exception. There are eight treatment rooms as well as a Turkish bath, Jacuzzi, sauna and a well equipped gym to work off the calories from the amazing food.
There are a huge range of treatments available including a couples treatment by candle-light which comes highly recommended.
One could be forgiven for never leaving the hotel complex but there is so much to explore on the island. (See my article on ‘Madeira’).
By enquiring at reception, numerous trips can be arranged, whether sporting or cultural. These include a Jeep safari, cable car trip, canyoning, boat trips and whale/dolphin watch trips amongst many others.
There is a regular, complimentary shuttle bus from the hotel into Funchal and back, which operates throughout the day.
The island also hosts festivals throughout the year (with the exception of March and May).
The management are extremely proud of their environmental credentials with emphasis on sustainability. Solar panels contribute to the electricity, whilst the by-product waste heat from the air-conditioning is used to heat the water in the pools. Water from the local Levada water course is also used.
We gleaned from conversations that a very high percentage of guests are repeat visitors, many having been coming here year after year for decades. That says a lot and we can easily see why they do.
On our last evening we relaxed on the terrace of this five star hotel, listened to the lapping of the sea and watched the skies over a drink. We saw satellites, including the International Space Station, and countless stars. We literally had stars in our eyes.
As our stay here came to an end, we reflected on what had been a first class experience, with nothing too much trouble for the friendly staff, superbly decorated and furnished rooms, but oh that local food!
Back to the gym for me.
You can see many other photographs of the hotel at www.cliffbay.com. It is written in Portuguese, but, as they say, a picture paints a thousand words.