The sea really is that blue, I thought, as I sat on my terrace looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. It wasn’t just the sea that would provide a delightful backdrop to my stay, but also the culture and food of the Costa Brava.
We chose the romantic 32-room Hotel Vistabella in Roses, Spain, for a home base for a few days. Located on the top of a small cliff in the Bay of Roses, between two sandy coves, the hotel was easy to find by our small group of non-Catalan, non-Spanish speaking travelers. The hotel feels isolated, largely due to its cliffside arrangement, but it’s located an easy drive to the city center of Roses as well as conveniently located to several nearby fishing villages. If you’re really adventurous, you can plan a day trip – a long one – to Andorra, wedged between the Spain and French borders.
All but four of the rooms at Hotel Vistabella have views over the Bay of Roses. Those four have garden views. The garden is nice, but this dramatic of a location isn’t worth saving a few bucks – make sure you have the view.
The rooms are set up in a townhouse or bungalow style, you walk outdoors to get to it. We had a double room with sea view, an entry-level room, decorated in an unfussy modern Mediterranean style with colors that evoke the sea. It was simple, yet comfortable, and felt more like a small apartment that a staid hotel room. With our traveling friends right next door, it was easy to feel at home.
Amenities were as expected at a 5-star hotel, and included a large shower (some rooms have jetted tubs), upscale European toiletries, and robes. My favorite part of the room was the outdoor terrace which had a table and chairs and a stunning view of the sea. Many glasses of wine were enjoyed here as watched the sunset, and I sat there one morning in my robe enjoying a cup of coffee.
There are only a few rooms with two beds, so if you’re traveling as a family, be sure to make this request when booking. Some rooms can accommodate a rollaway.
For additional pampering, Hotel Vistabella has a small spa with an indoor pool. Make reservations early if you want a treatment.
The hotel has four restaurants on property, all of which have great views.
- Restaurant Brancs is a Michelin-starred restaurant featuring Catalan inspired cuisine. It’s as elegant as you would expect for a Michelin star and is located on the hotel’s sweeping terrace.
- Balco de Mar (Balcony of the Sea) is located on the second terrace, closer to the sea but still with a great view of the bay. As the name implies, fresh seafood is the mainstay of the menu, although you’ll find other local specialties. Although we are not adventurous seafood eaters, we ate here for dinner one evening and found plenty of choices.
- La Tapa offers tapas, those ubiquitous Spanish appetizers, and small plates. This was one of our favorite spots for a late lunch on those days we stayed at the hotel.
- The Blue Bar has cocktails and a few small plates and offers couches and lounge chairs to enjoy the view along with your beverage. We spent a lot of time here. Every place at the hotel, except for the aforementioned four rooms, has a great view.
During prime season, the hotel also offers grilled dinners on the beach at the bottom of the cliff. These barbecues attract hotel guests as well as boaters who hop in their dinghies and come to shore.
To get to the beach, whether to enjoy the water or for the barbecue, there are stairs that lead from the restaurant to the sand. It’s suitable for families although note that European beach attire may be different from what you’re used to back home.
While we were able to get along speaking English at the hotel and the surrounding small villages, be aware that it is not as widely spoken as in Barcelona. The front desk staff was multilingual and able to answer questions and help with all your needs. The restaurants always had at least one menu with an English translation, so don’t hesitate to ask if you’d feel more comfortable. The clientele was overwhelmingly European, you’ll hear lots of different languages and accents, and the hotel staff walked that fine line between gracious helpfulness and European reserve.
The Hotel Vistabella is located at Avda. Díaz Pacheco 26, Cala Canyelles-Petites, Roses (Girona). It’s about a two and a half-hour drive from Barcelona, an hour from Girona, and about an hour from the French border. Nearby towns include Figueres, about half-hour away (stop off and see the Dali Museum), where there is a train station. A bus station is located in the city center of Roses, about five minutes away.
Rates start around $800/night during high season, and a minimum stay – often four nights – is usually required. You can enjoy this beautiful 5-star hotel in shoulder season for around $300/night. These rates include use of the spa (treatments additional), parking, and wi-fi. Book online directly with the hotel or you can go through a booking site such as Expedia or Travelocity to compare rates and make your reservations.