My family holiday in Salou thought me that there is a more to this sunshine resort than beautiful beaches and busy bars. Check out my review.
Busy built up resorts are not really my style, in fact normally I run a mile from them. However I really wanted to visit PortAventura and I had heard so many promising things about the Costa Dorada in general, that I thought I would go and see for myself what it was really like. We had an action packed four days and thankfully managed to see most of the highlights during our family holiday in Salou.
Salou was pretty much as I expected, built up and busy! To be fair, the tree lined boulevard is impressive and spotless. The beach is also superb with lots of fancy sun bed offerings and an inflatable water park for kids. The fountain displays on the promenade are also a big hit at night-time for all the family. So although very lively, Salou has a nice happy atmosphere throughout. There are some excellent shops too and prices are very reasonable.
A family holiday in Salou is popular with Spanish holiday makers too who come from Barcelona and neighbouring cities, so there is a good mix of local and international shops to choose from. Similarly with dining options, don’t be put off by the rows of fast food outlets along the main road, if you walk along the promenade down by the area known as ‘The Rocks” there are some nice restaurants and bars to choose from. Look out for the pointed metal sculpture that resembles a ship’s sail (its called Els Pilons) and you will not only find lots of tapas bars but also some great cocktail bars to watch the sunset. We ate in Bamboo, a typical family restaurant but the pizzas were great (€11.90) and the kids menu is only €6.90!
Things to do in Salou:
One of the best things about holidaying in Salou is that there is so much to see and do in the surrounding area. If you find Salou is too busy for you, there are numerous quieter resorts dotted along the coast, that are easily accessible. Cambrils is only 7km away or 10 minutes by bus, and this is definitely worth a visit, especially during the evening time. The beachfront is lined with cafes and bars, perfect for a evening cocktail and there is a wide choice of top dining options. From tapas bars to Michelin star restaurants, you will be spoilt for choice in Cambrils. We ate in Meat Market, a good choice if you fancy a steak. They offer a choice of meats which are cooked on the stone and they even have fillet steak on the kids menu.
We also took the bus to nearby Tarragona, and this was a real treat. Walking down from the bus stop we came across the Monumento a los Castellers, which is a sculpture of the human pyramid, a famous Spanish tradition that has been celebrated since the 18th century. The Concurs de Castell festival takes place in Tarragona every two years. Thirty two teams (including children from 5 years of age) climb on top of each other to make the tallest human pyramid. It must be a fantastic sight to see! We had to settle for the sculpture instead!
Alex doing her best to join In the human pyramid in #Tarragona 🙌 There is a festival every second October called #concursdecastells it must be an amazing sight. Might have to take a trip back next year! . . . . . #ineedspain #costadaurada #costadorada #spain #instapic #instadaily #oldcity #citybreak #familytravel #travelblogger #irishblogger #familytime #summerholidays
Tarragona has a medieval centre packed with Roman ruins, including a seaside amphitheatre and a stunning cathedral. The kids enjoyed exploring the ancient ruins and I couldn’t help stopping constantly to take pictures, Tarragona is Instagram heaven! We came across an old square where locals spilled out into the centre, enjoying lunch time tapas, we simply had to join in 🙂 There is a local train that you can take if you don’t fancy walking. It stops at all the high lights and I would definitely recommend it if you plan on spending the day here.
PortAventura World is the other reason why a family holiday in Salou is a popular choice. There are now three parks, PortAventura, Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land. We spent two full days here and actually I would recommend three if you have the time. It is a great theme park that offers a fantastic variety of rides and shows for children of all ages. Don’t miss the fireworks and parade at night time! If you are planning a visit buy your tickets in advance from Attraction Tickets Direct. Not only are they cheaper but you may get 2 days for the price of 1 or free access to the water park or Ferrari Land. Read my review on PortAventura World before you go.
Depending on how much time you have you can also pay a visit to Barcelona, it is only an hour by train from Salou. It is a great city to ramble around as well as being home to some of Europe’s most visited attractions. Enjoy some tasty tapas and watch the local street artists perform on the Ramblas, take a tour of the Nou Camp, Barcelona’s football stadium, or visit the famous Sagrada Familia. There is so much to see and do in Barcelona, you will need to plan your day in advance!
Where to stay:
Cambrils was where I originally wanted to stay. However I found it lacks a choice of good quality family apartments. For those screaming at me right now, I know Cambrils Park is a great family resort but it is enormous and personally I prefer a smaller complex. You also need to book it a year in advance, and I’m never that organised! We decided to mix things up a bit and stay two nights in Camping La Siesta in Salou and two nights in the Gold River hotel (one of the PortAventura hotel’s) and check out the benefits of both.
Camping La Siesta is an ideal choice if you want to stay in Salou but want a quiet area to relax at the same time. In fact although it is only five minutes walk from the promenade you would think you were miles away. It is like an oasis in the middle of a busy resort. Don’t get me wrong, the pool area is busy but you can enjoy a quiet time at your bungalow if you feel like it. We stayed in the Caribe bungalows and I was really impressed. They are modern, brightly furnished and come with a huge BBQ, sunloungers and the biggest hit of all – a hammock! We all loved the hammock and it was the first thing my kids did when they got up in the morning and when they came back from the pool. Luckily they could both fit into it as there would have been murder otherwise!
It’s the little things! Like a #hammock on your porch after a long journey ❤️It’s my first time to try a #campsite abroad and the kids are loving it. Our bungalow is a fab compete with BBQ and the all important hammock! @sunway_holidays #salou #familyfun #familytravel #ineedspain #costadaurada #familyholiday #summerholidays
The swimming pools are great for children, there is a splash park for small children and a great choice of slides in the main pool which we all enjoyed. There is a regular day and evening entertainment program here too so it is ideal for families who are looking for a lively atmosphere. We booked it through Sunway Holidays who offer a wide range of family holidays in Salou.
We also spent two days at one of the PortAventura hotels, the Gold River. The reason we moved hotels was because I was reviewing PortAventura World so I want to get the most out of our time at the park. The Gold River is a great choice if you want to stay at the park. The family rooms are really spacious and come with a kitchenette. The Wild West theme was a big hit with my kids as they spent lots of time climbing in and out of props that were lying around!
We were staying on a half board basis but never ate in the buffet restaurant at all (I’m not a fan of buffets!). Their dine around system means you can eat in any of the restaurants in the park (you need to prebook at reception) and use your dining credit. There may be a supplement to pay depending on which restaurant you choose. We ate in the Gold River’s own a la carte restaurant, Opera. It has a lovely outdoor seating area which is beside the main square so we could relax and enjoy our meal while the kids played happily. The kids disco is on here too and the kids loved the dance lessons to Despacito!
The main reason for staying in a PortAventura hotel is to have unlimited access to the park and being only a few minutes walk proved a God send. We were able to come and go as we pleased which was particularly good at night time. There are little or no queues during the evening. We were able to see the parade and fireworks display and then walk back to our hotel afterwards. For more details read my review of PortAventura.
If you are planning a visit to @portaventuraoficial in #Spain make sure you go at night time. The parade and #fireworks are great at midnight 👌 . . . . . . . #costadorada #costadaurada #familytravel #themepark #portaventura #portaventuraworld @spaininireland #ineedspain #irishtravelblogger #travelblogger #familyfun #familyholiday #salou #fireworkshow @costadauradatur
My overall feeling about the Costa Dorada in general is that it is a superb family holiday destination. Salou is busy, built up and not pretty but it has so much to offer for families. The neighbouring resorts of Cambrils and La Pineda are more relaxed if that suits your style. You will find some of Spain’s best beaches, fascinating cities and one of Europe’s largest theme parks on your door step. What more could you want?