Hotel Review: Hotel Capo d’Orso, Sardinia in Italy

Lyrics by Rowena Marella-Daw

Sardinia is a world in itself. Although ranked as the second largest island in the Mediterranean (after Sicily), this less traveled gem has a more enigmatic and intimate atmosphere. The northern region of Gallura, in particular, is blessed with rugged coastlines and headlands lined with secluded coves framed by towering granite rocks and boulders. The shimmering waters resembling liquid gems of jade, turquoise and ultramarine contrast with the blinding white sand to create a hypnotic tableau that attracts discerning visitors to these shores.

But it’s not just about the natural beauty of the island. Sardinia has its own culture and traditions thanks to the waves of ancient occupants – the native Nuragic civilization, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals and Byzantines.

Alongside Italian, the native language, Sardinian or lìmba sarda sarde is widely spoken. And if there is a local expression to remember to raise your glass to health, it’s “A cent’anni!” or “May you live to be 100”. Indeed, this mantra seems to work, as Sardinia happens to be one of the five designated blue zones in the world with the highest concentration of centenarians. Life is too short, so let’s focus on making the most of this beautiful island.


Hotel Capo d’Orso is located on the slopes of a private bay in the park of Cala Capra

Protecting Sardinia’s natural beauty is paramount and my destination, Hotel Capo d’Orso, is one of many luxury hotels leading the way in preserving the island’s precious habitat. Located on the slopes of a private bay in Cala Capra Park to the northeast, this five-star property is part of the Delphina family of hotels and resorts, the first Italian hotel chain to use 100% green energy from from renewable sources.

True to its philosophy, the Capo d’Orso hotel was designed and built to blend in with nature, discreetly nestled in hills and lush vegetation. The hotel’s overall design is earthy and indigenous — from the handrails carved out of branches to the stone walls and decorative accents showcasing local craftsmanship.

A maze of narrow paths winding through dense vegetation can be disorienting for first-time visitors like me, but everyone finds their way eventually. Each turn reveals a surprise; it could be a hammock with an amazing view of the sea, a wooden deck by the water or a path leading to a private beach.

The native flora is dominated by Mediterranean maquis – junipers, pines and olive trees, myrtle bushes, laurels, cypresses and a few cacti, while the secret gardens are enlivened by copious beds of hydrangeas and creeping bougainvillea. Arriving at the end of May, I saw an abundance of jasmine flowers filling the air with their sweet fragrance, infusing a romantic mood to this place.


gold capo suite
The majority of rooms and suites have a veranda or balcony with views of the Mediterranean Sea

The open-air lounges, restaurants, thalasso pools, spa and restaurants of the Capo d’Orso hotel are spread over terraced slopes offering stunning views of the sea and nearby islands. The same goes for the 86 rooms, the majority of which have either a veranda or a balcony. Those with an unobstructed view are the most sought after, and my Executive Sea View Junior Suite has a spacious circular veranda from which I watched the sailboats sail by. The style and decor retains vestiges of a bygone era (the hotel was built in the 80s), with wrought iron headboards, bathroom tiles and diamond-shaped patterns on the apply.


Capo dorso food
Romantic restaurants include Gli Olivastri, surrounded by centuries-old olive trees

An al fresco breakfast on a sunny day is hard to beat, and the hotel offers plenty of seating options for couples who prefer a private nook or a spacious sea-view terrace. cooked lunch are of high quality and I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of gluten and dairy free options on offer.

Romantic restaurants abound here. The view from the terrace of Il Paguro restaurant whets the appetite, and I strongly advise you to arrive just before 7 p.m. to get the best table. The menu changes daily and offers fresh catches, seafood specialties and traditional dishes, such as Su Porcheddu (roasted suckling pig) and my favorite dessert, Seadas – fried dumplings filled with cheese soft and topped with honey. Other intimate seaside dining spots include Gli Olivastri, surrounded by centuries-old olive trees, Île Flottante and L’Approdo for pizza lovers.

Sardinian wines are excellent, but Cannonau is known to have more than three times more antioxidants than other red wines. Mirto is the islanders’ favorite drink before and after dinner and the Sardinian answer to Limoncello. This dark purple tonic is distilled from myrtle berries and tastes similar to blackberries, but stronger and more potent. It’s an acquired taste, and the less intense Mirto non-alcoholic sorbet is quite refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.


capo d'orso pools
Set aside time to explore the three-level outdoor thalasso pools

Thalasso thermal pools vary from resort to resort, and in my personal experience, bathing in temperature-controlled seawater that is rich in sodium and minerals has real health benefits. Set aside time to experience the three-tiered outdoor spa pools where hydromassage jets help relieve muscle pain and aid circulation.

It is also reassuring to know that only micro-filters are used to purify the water as part of the hotel’s commitment to harnessing nature’s blessings. Those who fancy a relaxing outdoor massage can book one at the thalassotherapy center and SPA L’Incantu.


capo d'orso hammock
You can relax in a hammock with a view of the Mediterranean

To do or not to do, that is the question. Some visitors will have already thought about the activities they want to do at Hotel Capo d’Orso: climb the granite hill where the bear statue awaits; explore the bustling nearby town of Palau; explore the archipelago of La Maddalena, sail, play golf, hang out with the jet-setters in Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda or simply laze on the beach.

If you have at least a week, you can do all of the above. But if you only have a few days, sail around the bay and explore the cozy coves scattered around La Maddalena, Caprera Island and the Costa Smeralda region. Some beaches are remote, accessible only by boat. Luckily, Hotel Capo d’Orso has its own pier, where a few motorboats for hire are moored, including its own 1927 vintage ship, the Pulcinella, which is sure to add a touch of glamor and nostalgia to the experience of navigation.

costa smeralda boats
The Costa Smeralda region can be explored on a boat trip

Aboard a motor yacht, my companions and I cruised the coast before dropping anchor on two secluded beaches. The second, Cala Napoletana, is a sight to behold. Located at the northern end of Caprera, the cove is divided into two intimate beaches by granite rocks. This remote location can also be reached on foot, and those willing to trek over rough terrain for a good hour are rewarded with magnificent views. Arriving by boat gave us a different perspective, and while brave souls plunged into the cold water, I was quite content to soak up the scenery and watch curious fish soar around.

The coastal town of Palau is a short drive from the hotel, and there’s a viewpoint along the way. Palau has its share of beautiful beaches, as well as a main port from where regular ferry services ferry visitors to La Maddalena. Palau is worth a visit for a bit of shopping. There is a shop just opposite the marina selling a wide range of pastas and local specialties to take away.

In a word

sardinia church
The spectacular coasts of northern Sardinia are undeniably the crowning glory of the island

The dramatic coastlines of northern Sardinia are undeniably the crowning glory of the island, and finding a sanctuary, such as Hotel Capo d’Orso, that helps protect the natural environment makes all the difference.

But there is much more to this island to explore. Mountains and rustic highland villages, ancient ruins, vineyards and farmhouses are the foundations of Sardinia’s identity and pride. And if you’re curious about the secrets of longevity, the island’s hardened centenarians love Pecorino cheese, drink Cannonau wine in moderation, and lead active lives. I’ll drink to that.

Getting There

The nearest airport is Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, and if you don’t like driving, private car and helicopter transfers can be arranged. The drive to Hotel Capo d’Orso along winding roads takes just under an hour, but time flies when you take in sweeping landscapes along the way.


The Capo d’Orso Thalasso and SPA hotel is open for the season until 15e October 2022.

Rates per person per night in a double room start from €220 half board. If you’re planning a Sardinia holiday for 2023, it’s best to book now to get the best rates and a better choice of rooms.

Address: Cala Capra, Palau (SS), Sardinia
Call: + 39 0789 790307
E-mail: [email protected]

Hotel photography courtesy of Delphina Hotels and Resorts.

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