It was the end of the summer holiday season, early October.
A nip in the air cooled the nights.
The chi-chi resort town of S’Agaro on Spain’s “wild coast” (Costa Brava) was quiet; barely a handful of tourists strolled its seafront boardwalk.
We were some of the last guests to stay at Hostal de la Gavina before it shuttered for the winter. And we felt like the king and queen of the castle!
Not that Hostal de la Gavina is a castle.
But with its museum-worthy tapestries and antiques and a to-die-for perch above the town and beach, it comes close to it.
Walking the Camino de Ronda
What we didn’t know until staying at Hostal de la Gavina is that one of the loveliest stretches of the Camino de Ronda passes right by the hotel.
This coastal trail goes by many names – the Costa Brava coastal trail, Costa Brava Way, Cami de Ronda, Camino Ronda and probably several more.
It’s a 137-mile (220-kilometer) trail extending from Blanes in the Costa Brava up to the city of Collioure near the French border.
We had already hiked a little of the trail from Roses; the mind-blowing cliff and sea views on that rugged stretch whetted our appetite for more.
So the first thing we did after checking into Hostal de la Gavina was to hit the Camino de Ronda.
We walked the popular 30-minute trail from the S’Agaro beach to Sa Conca.
Unlike the previous stretch we’d hiked, this stretch was very civilized – flat, wide and manicured (not paved, but small pebbly sand).
There were joggers and dog walkers and old people with canes, all out enjoying the path.
In a way, it reminded us a little of the Stanley Park sea wall in Vancouver that we like to bike along.
On one side, multi-million dollar mansions and villas caught our eye. On the other, we had stunning views of rocky coves and sailboats bobbing in the turquoise water.
Olive trees, beautiful “umbrella pines” (pine trees shaped like open umbrellas) and honeysuckle blooms scented the air.
The path also wound through some intriguing rock tunnels.
One day, we swear we’ll return to the Costa Brava and hike more of this fabulous trail!
(It’s easy to do a Costa Brava road trip from Barcelona.)
Have you been to Cadaques? See these photos of Cadaques – near Roses, it’s one of Spain’s prettiest towns!
Hostal de la Gavina: A storied past
But now you want to know more about the hotel, right?
Family-owned, it was built in the 1920s and quickly became the best luxury hotel in Costa Brava, indeed one of the finest in Spain and Europe.
Its guest list features some of Hollywood’s top celebrities as well as countless performers and world leaders.
Everyone from Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Salvador Dali to Sean Connery, Lady Gaga and the vice prime minister of Egypt have rested their heads on the hotel’s beds.
We were in good company :-).
Rooms and suites
Today, Hostal de la Gavina has 74 individually decorated rooms and suites, all with hardwood floors, Venetian Murano glass lamps and Italian marble bathrooms.
Ours was one of 27 Classic rooms with a terrace.
Think blue-and-white striped silk wallpaper, heavy thick curtains, blue silk rugs on a polished floor that creaked just the right amount, gilt-edged chairs and a marble side-table with gilt legs.
A row of built-in cupboards had polished wood doors with old-fashioned keys in the keyholes and rosettes (a work of art themselves).
The bed linens are note-worthy.
We don’t recall ever sleeping on starched white linen sheets.
Of course, these were embroidered with the hotel’s logo.
We liked how the hotel had retained certain elements from the past (a phone with a cord – easy to use!) but had modernized where needed (good silent air-conditioning and a flat-screen TV on the wall).
In the mornings, we’d pad out in slippers and bathrobes to our huge covered stone terrace for room-service coffee poured from silver pots, where we’d gaze out over pines and cypresses with a peek-a-boo view of the sea.
It was like being in a beautiful Mediterranean painting.
Interested in more romantic hotels? Check out our list of the most romantic hotels in Europe
Swimming pool and tennis courts
The hotel’s enormous seawater swimming pool is undoubtedly the only one of its kind on the Costa Brava.
In a separate pavilion, it’s accessed by walking through the hotel’s flowering gardens with fountains.
The pool itself perches over the Sant Pol beach with views of the sea.
Comfy lounge chairs are set around it, shaded by umbrellas.
At one side, there’s the elegant outdoor Garbi restaurant, where you may linger over a long late lunch (fresh grilled fish, anyone?), your wine chilling in an ice bucket.
Across the road, the hotel has two clay tennis courts with an ocean view.
In addition to the poolside Garbi (open just for lunch), Hostal de la Gavina has two other restaurants serving Catalan specialties.
We confess our budget didn’t allow us to try either of these at night – but with produce grown right on the grounds and one restaurant (Candlelight), overseen by a Michelin-star chef, we expect we wouldn’t have had any complaints.
Location of this Costa Brava 5-star hotel
Hostel de la Gavina is located on the edge of the posh resort town of S’Agaro, full of villas and apartments – a summer playground for wealthy Barcelona residents (Barcelona is about a 90-minute drive away).
Just below the hotel is a beautiful long stretch of sandy beach, Sant Pol. (No hotel chairs or beach chair rental stands are allowed on the public beach.)
With quick and convenient access to the beach, S’Agaro’s restaurants and the Cami de Ronda trail – not to mention the gracious service and ambience – Hostal de la Gavina is easily one of the top 5-star hotels in Costa Brava.
Are you a sucker, like us, for beautiful historic hotels? Then read our review of the Olissippo Lapa Palace in Lisbon
Details at a glance
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Photo credits: 2 to 6, 11© Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 7 to 10, 12 to 14 Hostal de la Gavina
We stayed at Hostal de la Gavina as media guests for review purposes. As ever, however, we kept the right to write what we like.