VIVOOD is a landscape hotel up in the mountains on Costa Blanca, Spain, a 30 minute drive from Benidorm. It’s not as intimate and paired back as Juvet in Norway, and not as luxurious and caregiving as Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico, but it’s by far the most Bond villain experience I’ve ever had – and that’s one of the best accolades I could possibly give a hotel!
What makes a lair fit for a Bond villain? It needs to be be situated off-grid in a beautiful landscape and have awesome type of architecture that I can only describe as minimalist and flamboyant at the same time.
VIVOOD certainly gets points for its location in the beautiful Guadalest valley, even though you’re not exactly off-grid you’re certainly under the impression that you are.
Following the pattern of other landscape hotels all rooms are minimalist, freestanding buildings, roughly facing the the same direction into the valley. The 39 suites and villas are complemented by a reception building, the restaurant/lounge and the spa to form a distributed complex of cubic buildings cased in steel and glass.
The villa consists of three rectangular volumes connected by a staircase, the rear is the kitchen and living room, the middle is the technical room (with an infinity pool on its roof) and the most forward and lowest volume is the bedroom and bathroom, which has a sun terrace on its roof. The change in elevation and view from the different areas really helps in separating how you perceive them. From the living room you feel like a master of your mansion, looking out over your outdoor areas which also frames a picture of the landscape. From the bedroom, and especially the bed, it’s just you and the view.
While there’s a good connection with the outside from most areas there’s also almost complete privacy, even though the villas and suites are situated quite close to each other. You can’t see your neighbours, but the bedroom and shower is in view from people walking on the path to the lower villas. The upper room and infinity pool can only seen from a few houses far across the valley, vertical planks that give character to the sides of the villas helps with this.
Modern technology is cleverly integrated throughout the villa. All lighting is integrated and a tablet can be used to play music on Spotify, watch security cams throughout the building or play Netflix. Speakers are integrated into the bed and a projector screen that doubles as a blackout curtain can be rolled down from the ceiling. A similar curtain can also make showering a bit less stressful if you don’t have exhibitionist tendencies.
The floors and all counter tops are stone with the walls painted in a matt, dark grey color. The appliances and furniture certainly feels high-end, but the walls detract a little from the overall ambience. An honest material finished in dark grey, like concrete or steel, would have made me jump up and down from excitement. The windows are certainly impressive though, floor to ceiling and wall to wall with just a small black frame to bind together the three sections per wall. The bedroom features front and back windows, the living room a front window and the staircase ceiling is also a big window.
For rooms that are so focused on the views we were a little disappointed to see dirty windows. In the living room they had rain and water marks all over them and in the bedroom palm marks was prominently featured center of view.
On the negatives, the check-in experience was a missed opportunity to set us up for the experience of VIVOOD. After waiting with no real acknowledgement in the reception, we were summoned when a driver was ready to take us and our luggage to the villa. He showed us in and how the tech worked, but not any more than that – he seemed friendly though but my spanish is non-existent, so maybe something got lost in translation.
When I first saw the food menus I was a little afraid that they were over-ambitious with the limited amount of guests that are on the premises at a given moment. But when you look closer you see that a lot of the elements are shared between dishes. This is a good thing since it means that you can have some variety and still have a good throughput of the ingredients in the kitchen. I would categorize the food as simple, international style regional. High quality but not anything you couldn’t do at home. The dinner room is amazing, all steel interior with a wide open view towards the valley.
Prices are a little bit on the expensive side for what you get (€22-28 for most mains), but I think you’d have to take a drive to find anything better. Lunch poke bowls are properly crafted and refreshing, but €16 for a grilled chicken salad with some rice is a little bit steep. The set menus, €23 for lunch and €45 for dinner, is better value though, but I just don’t want to eat multi-course meals multiple times per day on vacation. The final nitpick is a lack of non-alcoholic beverage options for dinner, some apple juice, non-alcoholic cider or ginger ale would go a long way. Overall the food is adequate, but you don’t go here for a gastronomic experience.
The spa was much better and might be seen as a destination in itself. Especially the Five Elements experience (€92 per person) was one of the best spa rituals we’ve tried. Nordic sauna is fire, the Hamman is earth, a shower walk is water and a floating experience in salt water is air. Ether is the fifth element, symbolized with the main infinity pool in the spa.
There was a really nice progression through the elements and amazing architecture as you go along. Most places really played on the available height of the building and had different types of connection to the outside world. The sauna felt like a big, dark cavern with only a point to let in natural light; the hamman had two strips of natural light that interacted with the fog to create truly magical place. The shower walk is not for the shy as a glass catwalk provided a sequence of different types of rain at different temperatures – with a bench at the very front for taking in the outside world. I’ve not tried floating before, but this was a truly magical space, a mirror box that went completely dark as you float around in complete emptiness.
The main pool is only accessible before or after treatments, so it’s an exclusive place and not available on its own. It has the best view of any spot in the hotel, with a raised location and gigantic window to take in the valley. When you sit completely still in the pool and the reflections perfectly mirror the outside world, it almost feels unreal.
One of the most classic hikes in the area, the 11 km/3 hour walk around the Guadalest reservoir, is accessible right from the hotel compound. This is a really easy hike along paved rural roads with good views over the landscape, and especially Guadalest castle and VIVOOD from across the valley. Many other hikes are also in the area and some good sport climbing in the Escada Castellet crag some 20 minutes away by car.
Off-season, in early january, the villa costed €288/night. In july it looks like it’s going for €440/night, including breakfast. The least expensive room (double suite) goes for €205/night during the summer. I think that this provides really good value for the experience, especially off-season. January is very off-season though, the sun never reaches the lower villas and the temperature is consistently below 10 degrees Celsius which makes it hard to utilize the outdoor spaces. April, May, September and October would probably be better periods.
Some of the amenities, like the heated infinity pool and integrated lighting makes you feel truly special. But the rooms are also more than just big windows and technology. The spaces themselves have perfect proportions, high ceilings and room to move around. There are sharp architectural details that provide tension; the saw-tooth pattern with interplay of cold and warm light in the staircase is one example. I think that my favorite spot is the table behind the sofa in the upper room, it’s one of the best writing spots I’ve ever sat at. I’m also a sucker for private outdoor pools and showers, the pool checks the list here but the views from shower is quite unique as well. It’s one of the most sexy places I’ve ever been, and with the big windows everywhere (including the spa where you need to wear nothing more than spa thongs) the exhibitionist side in you will get it’s fair attention.
The food might not be worth the trip in itself, but the spa is. The room was spectacular but the cleanliness left me wanting. The views of the valley are to die for, but the hotel grounds was littered in black hoses and raw dirt. All in all, I have mixed memories of VIVOOD, and it’s mainly about unfulfilled potential. Maybe a spring or fall trip might unlock what it could be.
VIVOOD Landscape Hotel, pool villa €288/night off-season, €440/night high-season. https://www.vivood.com/en/