Yesterday, someone asked me what the English word for Pousada was. Google seems to think the direct translation is hostel, but that doesn’t quite fit, certainly they may have the laidback hostel feel, but with the touch of family that comes with a bed & breakfast, and certainly at Pousada Sambaquis, also with lashings of the personal attention that you’d expect at a top boutique hotel.
I chose to stay at Pousada Sambaquis as many travellers do, based on the excellent reviews online and the photos showing a lush tropical hideaway but still close to the amenities of the island, but have been taken aback by the place on so many levels.
The pousada is a couple of streets away from the main beach strip on the South coast of the island, but hidden in an almost jungle like courtyard so it’s quiet and relaxing inside. The gorgeous pool is surrounded by palm trees and a multitude of flowers, and the gardens themselves are so lush that they have been visited by nearly 30 different species of bird.
The staff, owner Alex, and the housekeeper Maria, who everyone describes as the heart of the pousada, went out of their way to ensure that my stay was as comfortable and personal as possible.
Alex is a nature lover and an encyclopedia of the local birds & fauna, knowing all the best trails and hidden waterfalls. Maria is like everyone’s favourite auntie, always with a beaming smile, even when I crawled out of bed late after a few too many cachacas I was still met with a smile and an offer of coffee…which I gladly accepted. Staying at Sambaquis you feel like one of the family, which makes for a much more authentic and satisfying stay than if I’d gone to a chain hotel.
The breakfast is served in the shady enclave next to the pool, and has to be one of the nicest hostel breakfasts I have ever had. Maria bakes fresh bread every day, as well as making delicious pastries served alongside fruits, cold meats and cheeses, and selections of granola & yoghurt. In the afternoon the smell of fresh baked goods came floating out of the kitchen making me excited for the next morning.
The rooms are immaculate and shady with views over the courtyard pool, fridges restocked daily with beers, water & soft drinks, comfortable beds and air conditioning for the hot IlhaBela days. My room had a lovely balcony from which I could see the mountains in the distance and on one evening I sat out there and watched one of the most impressive electrical storms I’d ever seen, which cleared the air for beautiful weather the following day.
Alex is able to provide some personal tours, he knows the island and everyone knows him, with the park rangers greeting him like an old friend. He took me on one of his favourite national park trails, visiting a secret waterfall and an observation deck looking over the jungle listening to the sound of the toucans.
Whether you call it a guesthouse, a hostel or a B&B, Pouso Sambaquis has to be one of the friendliest and most pleasant places I’ve stayed at on my travels for a long time, and is an absolute must for your visit to IlhaBela.