Thought Hiltons were bland? Think again: Inside a unique haven by the U.S hospitality behemoth on the French Riviera – with beaches that rival the Maldives just moments away
- MailOnline’s Travel Editor Ted Thornhill checks into Le Hameau des Pesquiers Ecolodge & Spa
- It lies in Hyeres on a double tombolo near the ‘Golden Islands’ of Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Le Levant
- READ MORE: I’m a butler working for high-net-worth clients – here’s what’s surprised me most about the job
Thought Hilton hotels were all cookie-cutter properties favouring the bland over the beautiful?
Le Hameau des Pesquiers Ecolodge & Spa on the French Riviera is one of the more memorable reminders that the U.S hospitality behemoth also offers accommodation that’s delightfully unique.
This gem, which opened in July 2022, is part of Hilton’s ‘Curio Collection’, a set of ‘individually remarkable hotels’.
Le Hameau des Pesquiers lives up to the billing, I discover, being alluringly artisanal and transfixingly fetching, with sincerely charming service thrown in for good measure.
Ted Thornhill discovers that Le Hameau des Pesquiers Ecolodge & Spa on the French Riviera is a memorable reminder that U.S hospitality behemoth Hilton offers accommodation that’s delightfully unique. Above is the ground-floor Saliniers restaurant, with rooms above. The terrace is where Ted and his family enjoy lunches, dinners and breakfasts
Le Hameau des Pesquiers opened in 2022 and is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. Above is the spa, housed in the main building by the entrance
It’s a magical place to stay in a spellbinding location, with beaches that rival the Maldives just moments away.
The property lies in the Port-Cros National Park, on a stunning double tombolo that connects the port area of Hyeres (a favourite holiday spot for Queen Victoria) with the picturesque Giens peninsula – with the paradise ‘Golden Islands’ of Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Le Levant short ferry rides away.
In front of the hotel is the sparkling Mediterranean, behind the Pesquiers salt marshes – inhabited by flocks of flamingoes – and all around are eye-catching trees.
Le Hameau des Pesquiers is a haven, and like all the best havens, it’s easy to miss.
There’s no roadside signage, so if you’re driving approach slowly and keep your eyes peeled for a dusty track blocked by a thick wooden security gate on the left, a few minutes south of the port area.
We arrive in a Renault SUV hire car we pick up via booking.com on the outskirts of nearby Toulon, and once I’ve hopped out to state our business to reception via an intercom, the gate slides open and I park up in the (dusty) car park – then enjoy palpably feeling my blood pressure drop.
The property lies in the Port-Cros National Park, on a stunning double tombolo (above) that connects the port area of Hyeres with the picturesque Giens peninsula
The hotel comprises renovated 19th-century buildings that used to be owned by a company that mined the adjacent salt marshes
The site that the hotel is built on was abandoned for over 20 years. Above is a room similar to the one that Ted and his family stay in
Ted is particularly taken with the oversized vintage-style rain shower in his bedroom
A brush on the front porch of Ted’s room for dusting off sand
I’m staying at the 48-room hotel with my six-year-old daughter and French partner, who grew up in Hyeres.
She is stunned at the transformation of the site – for it was occupied by eerie abandoned buildings for decades.
Between 1806 and 1990 they were owned by a salt production company that mined the nearby marshes, then fell into ruin when the operation ceased.
In 2014, the local Lelievre family – whose hospitality portfolio includes the Grand Hotel Des Sablettes and La Table du Port restaurant, both in Toulon – set about transforming the hamlet into a ‘five-star eco lodge’.
They didn’t construct any new buildings, but carefully restored the old ones, blending them into the national park and recycling surplus stones and chopped-down trees into walls and fencing in the grounds.
The 1885 ‘customs building’ that once housed officers in charge of monitoring salt exports is now the hotel reception and spa, which features an inviting indoor pool.
The ‘clock building’, which dates to 1803, used to be offices for the salt firm, but today contains rooms, a bar and the principal restaurant – ‘Saliniers’ (Saltworks).
Ted writes: ‘I enjoy the therapeutic experience of simply ambling around the property’
Winner: Ted describes the hotel as ‘alluringly artisanal and transfixingly fetching’
The hotel site includes a chapel (above), dating to 1875, where a service is held every Sunday morning
One evening aperitifs are served around a firepit (above) next to the garden (to the left)
Rooms at Le Hameau des Pesquiers cost from around £200 ($251/230 euros) per night
There’s also a chapel, dating to 1875, where a service is held every Sunday morning.
Most of the buildings were used as accommodation for saltworker families. Now they’re honey-hued hotel rooms par excellence.
Ours is enormous – a family room with a giant double bed, sofabed, two terraces (front and back), outdoor hot tub and elegant wooden décor. I particularly love the over-sized vintage-style rain shower – and there’s a hat-tip too for the brush on the front porch for dusting off sand.
On-site activities? For starters, I enjoy the therapeutic experience of simply ambling around the property.
In the reception area there’s a magnificent giant wooden seahorse guarding the entrance. From there, walkways formed of small planks of wood laid over sand connect the various buildings, lorded over by towering pine trees.
There’s also a beautiful Middle-earth-esque evergreen oak decorated with little lanterns. I half expect Gandalf to stride out from behind it.
Opposite its gnarled branches is the Saliniers restaurant and its lavender-lined terrace, where we enjoy lunches, dinners and breakfasts.
Ted’s room comes complete with a giant double bed, sofabed, two terraces (front and back), outdoor hot tub (above) and elegant wooden decor
Pictured left is the Willy-Wonka-style orange juice machine in operation during breakfast, which also includes artisanal spreads and honey from the hotel’s hives (right)
Taste buds are tickled at a little picnic spot with parasols next to the beach, where superb lunches (above) are served up from a cute little blue kitchen trailer
The service is prompt and chirpy and the food is impressive – the sea-bass ravioli with octopus ink and slow-cooked tomatoes on the lunch and dinner menu is delicious, as is the calamari carpaccio starter.
And breakfast is an utter joy, with bowls of pastries and plates of fruit placed at every table and guests treated to a buffet that includes mouthwatering homemade jams, honey from the hotel’s beehives, and orange juice from a giant self-service Willy-Wonka-style orange-crushing machine.
The hotel has its own verdant garden that’s harvested for ingredients for several of the properties in the Lelievre portfolio.
One evening, aperitifs are served around an adjacent firepit, a thoughtful chance for guests to chat with each other and members of staff.
We sip rose as a chef procures vegetables from the garden to slice up and serve with hummus.
Taste buds are also tickled at a little picnic spot with parasols next to the beach, where superb lunches are served up from a cute little blue kitchen trailer.
The hotel lies a short drive from Hyeres’ old town, pictured above. Hyeres was beloved as a holiday spot by Queen Victoria
The paradise island of Porquerolles (above) is a short ferry ride away from the Giens peninsula
The picturesque island of Port-Cros (above) can be reached by ferry from Hyeres’ port
Ted and his family visit the mainland beach of L’Estagnol (above), where the water is ‘bathtub warm and shallow enough for small children to walk in for a good 70 metres from the shoreline’
And on the glorious beach itself, staff deliver drinks and organise sunloungers and parasols. No need to throw any towels down at dawn in this neck of the woods.
When we’re not at the hotel, enveloped by tranquillity, we’re lolling on the frankly astonishing beaches of Porquerolles and Port-Cros, where shoals of fish swim around swimmers’ legs in gin-clear waters, and lazing on the stunning family friendly mainland beach of L’Estagnol, a 30-minute drive away. There the water is bathtub-warm and shallow enough for small children to walk in for a good 70 metres from the shoreline.
Le Hameau des Pesquiers isn’t quite perfect – there are slip-ups by the staff, such as forgetting to make up the extra bed for our daughter and giving us decanters of water in the restaurant, but no glasses to drink it from (every time).
But the staff are so lovely these minor oversights are easily forgivable – and besides, we’re just too relaxed in this beach-comber-chic oasis to care.
Ted and his family are hosted by Hilton and Le Hameau des Pesquiers Ecolodge & Spa for their two-night stay on a bed-and-breakfast basis, with one complimentary dinner. Visit www.hilton.com/fr/hotels/tlnleqq-le-hameau-des-pesquiers-ecolodge for more information. Rooms from around £200 ($251/230 euros) per night.
PROS: Stunning location, beautiful grounds and rooms, charming staff, impressive food.
CONS: Minor slip-ups from staff.
Rating out of five: *****
Ted hires a Renault Captur SUV via booking.com. He picks up the vehicle on the outskirts of nearby Toulon, which is connected to Marseille and Hyeres by frequent train services.
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