This Hotel Turned Its Spa Into a Massive Master Suite With a Floatation Room, Sauna, and Indoor-outdoor Fireplaces

When COVID-19 shut down Rio do Prado's spa, the hotel came up with a brilliant idea for the space.

Exterior of master suite at Rio do Prado
Photo: Courtesy of Rio do Prado

Hotel public areas can be considered another coronavirus casualty: Gone are the days when guests can simply enjoy a buffet breakfast, a facial, or in some cases, a run on the treadmill or swim in the pool. But guests at Portugal's Rio do Prado — just an hour’s drive from Lisbon — can still book a spa treatment. In fact, they can book the entire spa. The 4-star boutique property recently transformed its 1,080-square-foot spa into a spacious master suite. Rates start at $580/night and include a couple’s massage lesson, reserve wine and cheese, and a premium breakfast.

Interior of Master suite at Rio do Prado
Courtesy of Rio do Prado

“I know of hotels where you can book private massages in your room, but I don’t know of hotels where your room is the spa,” says Rio do Prado’s owner, Telmo Faria. He realized he couldn’t keep the spa the way it was during the pandemic. Fortunately, it didn’t require major remodeling. All of the amenities — including massage tables, floatation room, sauna, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and his and hers bathrooms — remain. Faria just added a king-sized bed, a mini bar, and a 65-inch Apple TV. From the outside, the spa looks like a motorcycle ramp meets massive Chia Pet. Native grasses grow on the roof, and aromatics are planted for guests to pick and use in the spa’s Turkish bath.

Spa soaking tub at Rio do Prado
Courtesy of Rio do Prado

“Travelers used to want to stay the night and spend the day touring the region,” says Faria. “Now we want them to stay on site.”

Located just minutes from Portugal’s largest saltwater lagoon, Rio do Prado — which translates to "river of meadow" — is comprised of separate buildings housing a restaurant, water treatment plant turning used shower water into toilet water, workshop/giftshop, and a greenhouse providing produce for the restaurant and doubling as an event space. Rio do Prado’s 20 regular suites all have outdoor entrances and patios with fireplaces.

Pools at Rio do Prado
Courtesy of Rio do Prado

All guests have access to the library boasting more than 15,000 books on floor-to-ceiling shelves. They can also take advantage of the tool wall and woodworking machinery in its “library of things.” It’s not uncommon for guests to leave with lamps they’ve built themselves. For this reason, Rio do Prado is marketed as “The Maker Man.” Its sister properties in nearby Obidos include The Literary Man (a hotel that belongs on every book lover’s bucket list) and The History Man, a restaurant inside the 700-year-old medieval city’s walls.

Faria was raised by farmers just outside of Obidos. As kids, he and his brother made a deal about the land they each wanted to inherit. Faria chose the plot he’d eventually build Rio do Prado on in 2012. After 12 years serving as mayor of Obidos and a career in research, he took a risk, venturing into hospitality. Now, he’s taking another by forgoing the spa for a master suite. “We aren’t indifferent to what’s happening in the world,” he explains. “We’re just focusing on individualization.”

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