Just Back From

Sun, Sand, and a Beautiful Boutique Hotel on the Portuguese Coast

by Johanna Peet
Casa A nice landing place after a day at the beach. All photos courtesy of Casa Mãe.

Johanna Peet, of clean skincare brand Peet Rivko, found a beachy retreat in the Algarve region of Portugal.

So, what brought you to Lagos?

A friend suggested Casa Mãe, a beautiful boutique hotel based in Lagos, and it seemed like the perfect base for a trip to Portugal’s Algarve region.

What was the best tip you got before you left? And where did you find it?

I did a bunch of research online about where to go along the coast and several suggested renting a car. That was definitely the best decision. Our hotel had parking behind the main building and it was easy to pick up the car from the airport and make several day trips with the hotel as our base. The Algarve region is all about beaches, nature, and hiking – having a car allowed us to explore far more than we could have with public transportation.

How did you get there?

We flew Norwegian Air from New York City via Copenhagen into Faro International Airport. At the airport, we rented a car and drove to Lagos.

What did your itinerary look like?

We spent five nights at Casa Mãe, exploring several towns and beaches along the western and southern coastline. My husband loves to surf, so we centered a lot of our exploring around finding good breaks. 

We stayed in a room in the main building of the hotel and then moved into one of the casitas, which was completely worth the splurge. We probably spent about two full days just hanging at the hotel and three days out and about. It’s an ideal place to escape city life and relax by the pool. The minimalist rooms were also the perfect backdrop for snapping product photos for Peet Rivko and enjoying my nightly beauty routine.

The scene at Praia da Marinha. Photos by Johanna Peet.
The exterior of Casa Mãe.

What did you know by the last day that you wish you had known on the first?

I should have extended the trip. It would have been great to add a few days to explore Tavira or another beautiful hotel like Farmhouse of the Palms.

This was especially great:

Casa Mae was the perfect introduction to Portugal and the Algarve region. The hotel itself was an abandoned estate that the owner meticulously renovated, maintaining much of the original exterior designs and staying true to the modern Portuguese aesthetic. Do not miss out breakfast. They have a great menu featuring local produce and fish, and all of the ingredients are incredibly fresh. The gift shop, called Lola, features items by several up-and-coming Portuguese designers. The rugs in the hotel are from a local line called Rug by Gur, and one of my only regrets is that I didn’t take one home with me.

But this wasn’t:

We didn’t fall in love with the town of Lagos itself. It felt touristy and more commercial than we expected, without the charm of other smaller towns in the region. I’ve read on the internet that it ends up being more of a party destination in the summer. If not for the hotel, we wouldn't have spent much time there.

This was touristy and worth it:

An afternoon at Praia da Marinha. You’ve probably seen it on Instagram. It’s a stunning beach with massive rock formations and turquoise blue water. It was off-season when we went, so not crowded, but I could easily see how it would be a destination in the summer. (Wouldn’t stop us from coming back.)

What’s the local speciality?

Seafood. My favorite part of eating in the Algarve was by far the fresh seafood. So many restaurants have a fresh catch of the day.

Speed round of favorites.

1. Meal or meals: Bugagem.
2. Neighborhood to explore: Sagres.
3. Thing you did: Driving along the coast and stopping at tiny beaches along the way.
4. Casual hangout: The bar at Casa Mãe, because we loved getting to know the staff and learning more about the area from the team there.

Left: A sunny spot for an afternoon nap; Right: Peet Rivko products on display. Photos by Johanna Peet.
A guest room at Casa Mãe. Photo courtesy of Casa Mãe.

One place you didn't get to visit, but wanted to:

The town of Tavira and the beautiful hikes along the coast.

Any surprises?

I knew the beaches would be beautiful, but was still blown away. The nature and food combo in Portugal can’t be beat. The trip on the whole was also incredibly inspiring. The alignment of beautiful nature and innovative design is exactly what our brand seeks to achieve.  

You can’t stop thinking about:

How friendly everyone was on our trip and how relatively affordable Portugal was compared to other European destinations. The quality of food, design, and nature is exceptional and we felt so welcome everywhere we went.

The Instagram moment:

Pretty much any room at Casa Mãe. The hotel is impeccably decorated and features rugs, ceramics, and artwork from local Portuguese designers.

What's the #1 tip you'd give a friend who wanted to go?

Rent a car and spend your days hopping from town to town along the coast. I love to be organized and plan out my vacations, but the Algarve is a region that is perfect for spontaneous discovery and figuring out where to spend your time once you get there. Don’t feel like you need to map out your entire trip. Leave room to explore and choose your own adventures.

Would you go back?

In a heartbeat.

Guest room entryway. Photo courtesy of Casa Mãe.
Guest room bathroom. Photo courtesy of Casa Mãe.

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Navigating the Cliffs of Sagres, Portugal
The Living is Easy in Cascais, Lisbon’s Charming Coastal Neighbor