If you read my post on Furnas, you know that I was iffy about visiting (thanks, Anthony Bourdain!), but I totally loved it! One of the main reasons that I loved Furnas was our fabulous hotel – the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, where we spent 24 glorious hours!
Dan and I almost didn’t stay at Terra Nostra, but we made a last minute decision to stay one night at the recommendation of a friend and the reviews of Terra Nostra online! Definitely a great move, it was fun to spend a night away from our digs in Ponta Delgada, and it allowed us to experience the lavish Terra Nostra Gardens without all of the crowds (see below!).
The Terra Nostra Garden Hotel
Although our stay was somewhat of a “last-minute booking” by my standards, we booked over a month in advance (haha). Check-in was smooth, parking was free and easy in their parking lot, and Terra Nostra upgraded us because it was our honeymoon, (ahem, “minimoon”) and I clearly noted this on the reservation)!
In terms of space, the hotel is outfitted with a very natural brown, yellow, and gray color scheme and is quite large, with two buildings of hotel rooms, a large pool area, two restaurants, and a number of common areas, which seem to be rather popular throughout Portugal! Kind of like old-school vacation lodges (à la Dirty Dancing). We did not run into many other guests, although there were certainly a number of vacationers at the hotel.
Hotel Terra Nostra also offers a very nice indoor pool and a steam room! The pool has full glass windows and the pool area is an excellent place to take a nap!
After check-in was complete, Terra Nostra took our bags and we headed up to our upgraded room, the fabulous Magnolia Suite!
The Magnolia Suite
As I mentioned, Terra Nostra was super kind and graciously upgrade us to their best room, the Magnolia Suite, since we had just gotten married! It was even in a magazine!
The Magnolia Suite was so, so nice, and much more than we expected! The room was set up in two parts. One side contained of a living area with a brown leather sofa and a coffee table looking onto a large flat screen television and a minibar with complimentary coffee and lots of snacks for purchase.
The second half of the room included a super comfortable king bed facing in the opposite direction of the living area, a closet area with all of the necessities, including a bathrobe, hair dryer, and a safe, and the sizeable bathroom featuring Portuguese bath products!
My favorite feature of the hotel were the gorgeous Hydrangeas that they left on our clean robes at turndown!
The bathroom contained two sinks, a joint shower and bathtub, the loveliest toiletries, and – the best – grey towels and shoes for the Terra Nostra Garden!!
And, saving the best for last, the Magnolia Suite also had a private balcony overlooking the Terra Nostra Gardens! We loved this little balcony and enjoyed a few cafes on the terrace!
As you may know, the highlight of any visit to Hotel Terra Nostra (and Furnas really) is a visit to the Terra Nostra Gardens. Owned by the hotel, the Terra Nostra Gardens are located directly behind to the hotel.
The centerpiece of the Gardens is its enormous pool. Unlike a normal pool, this is a thermal pool, heated from the depths of the Earth! This pool is seriously huge, and even contains a little concrete island in the middle. The water is a murky brown color from the Sulpher in the water, but Terra Nostra does a very good job of hiding that unpleasant smell. The pool is between 3.5 and 5.5 feet by my estimate, deeper towards the middle, and the water is very warm. Bath water warm. And, like the legends say, the water definitely has healing properties! Our skin was so so soft after spending two days in these waters!\
Just behind the large pool are two smaller “hot tub” pools. These very glamorous pools contain warmer water than the main pool and jets, just like a real hot tub! These get very crowded during the day, so they are best enjoyed during off-hours!
The actual “gardens” of the Terra Nostra Gardens start at the entrance and spread out via a variety of trails, all well marked and totally safe. We walked a lot of them, and the gardens are absolutely beautiful! We even saw a black swan! While the pools get crowded, the Gardens, since they are so large, tend not to feel as crowded during the day. Bring some coins for food to feed the ducks!
There are several “points of interest” in the Gardens, which are laid out in a free brochure given out at the entrance and in the hotel. I recommend spending no less than two hours here, and that is if you are just visiting the Gardens and nothing else!
Now, the best part about staying at Terra Nostra is that you get free access to the Terra Nostra Gardens 24/7. Yes, all hours of every day! We visited the pools both during business hours and in the early morning and late night, and they are so much better without outsiders! For example, on our second day, we were in the large pool by about 8:30 a.m. and it was practically empty. Same with the smaller hot-tub pools. My only caution is that during off-hours, the hotel does clean and empty the pools, so one may be closed during an early morning session!
Hotel Terra Nostra has some of the best food in Furnas, including the famous cozido (the food cooked in the thermal waters). Of Terra Nostra’s two restaurants, one is quite casual and the other more upscale.
My favorite of the two is the casual Hotel Terra Nostra Bar, located on a patio near the entrance to the Terra Nostra Gardens. The Terra Nostra Bar is most certainly casual but they have amazing cocktails, and often live music! I tried my favorite cocktail of the entire trip (and maybe ever), a Pina Colada made with pepper and Himalayan sea salt! It was really tasty.
Our second venture into Hotel Terra Nostra food was dinner at Hotel Terra Nostra. We did the tasting menu for €32/person, and, while expensive for Furnas, it was a very, very good deal. The menu allows diners to choose one dessert, one main course, and one dessert. Highly recommended!!
Our final meal at Hotel Terra Nostra was complimentary breakfast in the Hotel Terra Nostra Restaurant. Like most nicer European hotels, Terra Nostra puts out quite the breakfast spread and includes all of the local Azorean treats!
Dan and I really enjoyed our 24 hours at the Hotel Terra Nostra and would have liked to stay an extra day! I highly recommend this hotel for honeymooners are anyone trying to have an upscale experience in Furnas!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Hotel Terra Nostra Garden: Rua Padre José Jacinto Botelho, 5, 9675-061 Furnas, S. Miguel – Açores, Portugal. T: +351 296 549 090. Reservations can be made online.
Hotel Terra Nostra Gardens: Open to the public 10:00 – 18:00. Open to hotel guests 24 hours a day. €8,00 per adult, €4,00 children 3 – 10. Free to hotel guests.
ON A BUDGET
To save some money on food and drink while staying at Terra Nostra, have a meal next door at 3 Bics Pub! 3 Bicas is cheap as is, but its especially cheap after eating Terra Nostra. Also, remember that you can enjoy the Terra Nostra Gardens without staying at the hotel by paying the €8,00 entrance fee.
3 Bicas Pub: R. Pᵃ José Jacinto Botelho 44-64, Furnas, Portugal (next door to the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel). Open daily 10 – 0h (12:00 a.m.). Small snack bar with very reasonably priced food and alcohol – a good alternative to eating at the Terra Nostra Hotel.