“ Holiday village located on the Costa del Sol, Spain. „
Let me warn you in advance, this is a very long review - I've tried to break it up with separate headings for each aspect of our stay at Holiday Village.
Holiday Village Hotel in Benalmadena is part of the Holiday World group and this particular hotel was built in 2004 so is fairly new in terms of a holiday resort. Two other hotels make up this resort - Holiday Palace and Holiday Polynesia. Holiday Village has 360 junior suites. We stayed in early October 2011 for 7 days. Holiday Village is advertised as a 4 star hotel - I can't say I found anything to disagree with that rating.
The Holiday Village Hotel is approximately 25km from Malaga airport in Spain and having coach transfers as part of our all inclusive package was a welcome relief after a journey that included leaving home at 3am to board a Thomson flight at around 7am. The coach transfer from Malaga airport took around 30 minutes with a representative from First Choice/Thomson on the coach giving us snippets of information about places of interest as we went past on the journey. As we approached the hotel we were amused to see the "Roundabout of the Elephants" welcoming us to the resort.
As advised by the rep on the coach most people had filled out their registration card on the journey so as to have the easiest check in process on arrival. We had also been given a sheet on information about our stay including restaurant opening times, pool opening times, things to ask for at reception, etc. As we were sat at the front of the coach I left hubby to get our cases and went up to the check in desk with our passports which I handed in to the very friendly receptionist who greeted me in perfect English. I was asked to provide a credit or debit card to be swiped for payment of any incidental charges incurred during our stay and was happy to do this as I was advised any charges added would be listed clearly when I checked out. I asked for the remote control for the TV (I had read on tripadvisor.co.uk that they asked for a deposit for this but I wasn't asked for one). The check in process literally took minutes including placing a plastic band around our wrists to show we were "all inclusive" guests which you need to show when ordering drinks or food and was made as easy as possible by the staff member who attended to me. I was given directions to our room and a little booklet entitled "HW Passport" (HW = Holiday World). The booklet contained info about all parts of the resort including a welcome from the management, accommodation info, parking facilities, swimming pools and spa info, restaurant and bar and entertainment info, etc, as well as a handy map of the complex in the middle of the booklet.
The hotel has two zones - Oasis and Paradise, the Oasis has the main parts of the hotel down the middle and Paradise is the quieter zone (where thankfully our room was). There are more than enough lifts placed throughout the hotel making it easier to get to your room depending on which side of the hotel your room is on. I saw several people in wheelchairs during our stay which showed that the resort is wheelchair friendly.
We found our room easily enough on the forth floor, just yards from the lift but a hiccup occurred pretty much straight away - neither of the room keys worked - the keys were of the credit card type which you slot into the door. Hubby was sent back to reception to get the keys activated which took a few minutes.
We were impressed with the door leading to our room as it looked to be made of decent quality wood and quite thick (which to my mind implied it was going to be successful at keeping external noises out which proved to be the case). As we entered the room we were pleasantly surprised to find we actually had a one bedroom apartment, with a separate kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom and balcony. We were fully expecting to see twin beds in the bedroom but we were pleasantly surprised that the two beds were quite large, not quite double beds but definitely each closer to the size of a double bed than a single. There were two large wardrobes, one each in the living room and bedroom which had more than enough space to store a family of four's clothing for a fortnight's stay! Also in the living room was a dining table with five chairs, a mantelpiece/cabinet, a TV and a storage cabinet, a coffee table and large sofa (which I believe could be pulled out as a double bed). There was also a direct dial telephone in the bedroom on one of the two bedside tables.
The balcony was large enough for a table and 4 chairs as well as enough room to lie on the floor if you wished to work on your tan in private (but really there was no need to try to get a tan on your balcony as there were always enough sun beds available by the pool.
The kitchen was well equipped with a kettle, fridge/freezer with ice tray and a complimentary bottle of mineral water, toaster, microwave, salt and pepper holders and enough cabinets to store your food supplies should you go self-catering for a fortnight as well as glasses, cups, plates, cutlery, pots and pans, and a hob to cook on, etc. As we were on an "all inclusive" package, we just used the fridge for storing water and used the kettle a couple of times.
The bathroom was as big as the bedroom and had two sinks with toiletries provided such as soap, shower gel and shampoo sachets (but no conditioner), a bathtub with shower, a separate standalone shower and bidet as well as a toilet obviously. It was nice to see decent quality toilet roll in the bathroom as most hotels provide the cheapest quality toilet roll hey can source! It was somewhat disappointing to see just two hand towels in the bathroom which meant we had to ask the maids for extra towels - it seemed there was some sort of bath towel shortage as there were none available at all during our stay (although this wasn't a real issue for us). The showers were powerful although the shower heads weren't adjustable which was a slight niggle.
The only niggle we had with the room during our stay was that the air conditioning didn't seem to work very well. You need to insert a room key in a slot by the front door to activate the electricity in the apartment and we tended to leave a key in the slot when we went out hoping this would mean the apartment was cool enough on our return. We tried several different variations on the settings over a day or two before we asked reception to have the air conditioning seen to but after sending someone to check it they advised us that it was set at 18 degrees, which was the norm and that it was working fine. We didn't really feel this was the case and this meant we had some trouble getting to sleep at nights - with temperatures in the late 20s outside during the day and early 20s at night we were finding that the temperature was too warm in the apartment during our whole stay.
We didn't have any need to phone room service during our stay so I comment on this aspect of the service but our room was cleaned every day to our satisfaction and toiletries and towels were replaced as needed. The room service maids at Holiday Village are very efficient and very friendly too. They always gave us a smile and a friendly "Hola" every time we encountered them.
As previously mentioned, we were on an "all inclusive" package, which meant food and drinks were "free" at the resort during our stay. The restaurant where we had most of our meals was called La Perla. La Perla is open from 07:30 to 10:00 for breakfast, 12:30 to 14:30 for lunch and open for two evening sessions from 18:30 to 19:30 then 20:00 to 21:30 for dinner. When you check in they give you a set time to attend the evening session and luckily ours was for 8pm (although we met others who didn't seem to stick to the sessions they were allocated - this didn't cause any issues as far as we could tell). I assume the two evening sessions are to spread out diners so they don't all turn up at once. The half an hour in between seems to be to replenish the food and clear and set tables.
I had read a few reviews on Trip Advisor before staying at the Holiday Village and was a little bit concerned as some people had said they had found the food repetitive and sometimes cold. I have to state here that during our 7 days at the hotel and numerous meals there at no time did I find myself bored of the food and the hot food was hot and the cold foods (e.g. salads, desserts) were chilled. There was so much variety available at every meal; I can't imagine how the fussiest of diners could not be at the very least satisfied with the variety and quality of food available. By the end of the second day I had resorted to sticking to mostly salads for lunch and dinner as I was so scared I would return from holiday having put on at least 5 kilos!
For breakfast there was full English available every day as well as continental and unlike many hotels I've stayed at the food was always replenished quick enough that there were no queues of people waiting. The only queue I saw was the one where people were waiting for their Spanish omelettes to be freshly made to order.
During breakfast there was a large selection of breads available and a toaster with fruit juices and tea, coffee, milk, etc. There was always a bucket of ice next to the juice machine and it was always stocked with ice. There were also a couple of fizzy drinks machine where you can serve yourself drinks such as Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta or Sprite. At lunch and dinner the waiting staff are available to serve you with alcoholic drinks with your meals and they are very quick to serve you and always with a smile. All of the restaurant staff we encountered were cheerful and nothing seemed to be too much trouble. One thing I felt was slightly lacking in the restaurant was the lack of drinking water to help yourself with, although the staff were always happy to bring you glasses of water from the bar. My husband, who loves fish and seafood, was very happy with the variety of fish available during the week and to my dismay (as I'm rather squeamish) he was delighted with the octopus, squid and mussels available as well as salmon, sea bass and other fish. For lunch and dinner there were always a couple of soup options available, an amazing salad bar including items such as cold pasta, gherkins, Russian salad, prawn salad, various cheeses, ham, boiled eggs, coleslaw, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, biscuits for cheese, etc.
I have to mention specifically (as I couldn't figure out how this was achieved) was that the various breads available throughout the meals was always fresh. I've encountered stale bread so many times at hotels over the years that I was delighted with the variety and the constant fresh bread on offer.
As well as La Perla there are two other restaurants in the resort - Don Genaro, an Italian restaurant which is open from Thursday to Sunday evenings and Pancho Villa, a Mexican restaurant open from Monday to Wednesday evenings. If you are all inclusive you can book one night per week at each of these two a la carte restaurants. We didn't bother to eat at the Italian as there was generally pizza and pasta available in La Perla but we did eat at the Mexican on our last evening which we didn't particularly enjoy. At the Italian restaurant there was a harpist playing all evening which was very pleasant to listen to (we heard the harpist as she played outside the restaurant one evening). At the Mexican there was a Mariachi band playing who we didn't get to hear as they played inside on the evening we ate there and we were seated outside.
If you plan to go out for the day you can arrange with reception to have a picnic to take with you which is a fabulous idea, we didn't take advantage of this as on the two days we left the resort we were only out for the morning. I must admit that we skipped lunch at least twice during our stay as we were still full from breakfast and the one day that we got back from the Beach Club across the road and didn't want to have a sit down meal in the restaurant we just got some snacks from the outdoor bar (Oasis Bar) which included items such as burgers, hot dogs, salad, toasties, fruit, etc.
One particular thing I found disturbing about the main restaurant (and this is through no fault of the hotel) was that people were shamefully wasting food. Even if it's all inclusive, what is the benefit of wasting whole plates of food? It was shocking enough to see children leaving plates piled high with food barely touched but it was appalling to see adults doing the same thing. I imagine you could feed 100s of people a day on the amount of food that was left on plates by greedy people! We asked the restaurant manager on the second day of our stay why they didn't put signs up politely asking people not to waste food in this manner but this doesn't seem to be the done thing.
As well as the children's separate shallow pool available there were numerous activities to keep occupied and entertained at the resort. Various "Kids Club" activities took place during the day with First Choice staff running these sessions from toddlers through to sessions for 12-15 year olds such as discos, chocolate parties, sweetie bingo, which each ran for about 90 minutes. Near the main restaurant was a large board detailing what activities were running at what times each day and parents were able to sign their children into these activities. It seemed very well organised as we got chatting to various families whose children attended these sessions and children needed to be signed in and out by a parent to make sure they didn't go off with anyone aside from their parents.
I would mention here that although we don't have children and we specifically booked our holiday at a time when we (wrongly) assumed there wouldn't be many children around, there were lots of toddlers around with parents and dozens of school aged children around. It was great to see the kids enjoying their holidays so much as there was such a variety of activities available and whenever we saw them coming out from the Kids Club, they always seemed very happy with how they had spent their time. It was great to see the First Choice staff running the sessions doing their work with such enthusiasm too - it was like watching kids being supervised by BIG kids! There was also a games room with electronic machines such as racing games and pool tables.
As well as the children's entertainment available there were activities such as mini golf for people of all ages, tennis courts and a football pitch. There were evening activities for grown ups such as bingo in one of the bars and live bands every evening in the Piano Bar where we spent every evening after dinner.
There's a shop on site called Shop'n Village which stocks items such as souvenirs, t-shirts, children's novelty clothing and footwear, beach towels and bags, snacks, soft and alcoholic drinks. Although I purchased a couple of souvenir items from here, I noticed that the prices for items such as conditioner and sun tan cream was quite high (more than double what you'd pay here), so it's worth buying them from outside the resort or bringing them with you.
The outdoor swimming pool area is open from 10:00 to 18:00 for swimming but you can lounge around on the sun beds earlier or later if you wish.
There's table tennis near the pool, pool tables by the Piano Bar and a billiards room. Whilst the restaurants, bars, swimming pools and most activities are located on lower ground floor, you can go down one level further to the Health Club and indoor swimming pool. Here there's a gym, sauna and Turkish bath available to use. On this level there's also another bar and a laundry room where you can iron your clothing.
There's an internet room available from 11:00 to 01:00 which I didn't have any need to use so I can't comment on the price and there's also a Medical Centre open Monday to Fridays during the day.
There are numerous toilets around the hotel, near the bars, in the restaurants, etc, so you don't need to go far from anywhere in the resort.
You can arrange car hire through reception quite easily and the car will be dropped off at the hotel for you and collected from the hotel too for your convenience. There are bus stops right outside the hotel and regular buses going in either direction with easy access to local places like Benalmadena Marina and Fuengirola and access to places further out such as Marbella and Porta Benuse. Reception are always happy to provide info on bus timetables and local tourist info.
The Piano Bar (aka La Colonial) is next to the main swimming pools and was the busiest bar in the evenings and is open from 10:00 to 24:00. Although we knew in advance that the all inclusive facility included things such as soft drinks, beer, wine and local spirits; we were pleasantly surprised to find that quite a few cocktails were available as well and my husband who normally only drinks single malt whiskey was happy with the local whiskey available. The staff at the Piano Bar were amazing, always smiling, always efficient and even when I went to the bar and there were half a dozen people ahead of me, I never had to wait more than a couple of minutes to get served. They are very generous with the shot sizes so you need to be careful about how many drinks you have, especially when drinking during the day as the heat obviously makes you thirsty and when you're used to UK spirit measure sizes, measures here can get you drunk if you're not careful! This bar also serves light snack such as sandwiches and biscuits and you can sit indoors or outdoors with your drinks.
The Sala "Malaka" indoor bar is open from 20:00 to 23:15 and this is where you can go if you want to be entertained during the evening, such as bingo.
The Jalapa Oasis Snack Bar is open from 10:00 to 18:30 where you can get drinks served at the bar and help yourself to light meals. There were enough tables and chairs by this bar for those who didn't wish to have a sit down meal in the restaurants and as with the other bars and restaurants, the service provided was cheerful and efficient.
The Village Cavern (aka Irish Pub) is open from 23:00 to 02:00 and serves alcohol till closing time although the all inclusive drinks are only available till midnight. We popped down here a few times and found that people were ordering three or four drinks each just before midnight so they were well stocked up for the rest of the evening. I was quite surprised to see so many children in this bar as this bar doesn't open until 11pm and I personally thought it was quite irresponsible for these parents to have their kids up so late - twice we were there till closing and kids were still hanging around with their parents, some children even fell asleep on chairs whilst their parents carried on getting drunk. When we visited this bar there was always some form of music on be it karaoke, a DJ or a live band.
On our last evening we went to the Irish Pub again intending to stay for a short while but this was made impossible by the Assistant Manager who delivered a bottle of champagne to us on the house saying it was because we had been such pleasant guests all week which was a nice surprise, so we ended up staying much later than we had intended!
The resort has two outdoor swimming pools outside the hotel - a children's shallow pool and a larger pool for everyone's use. At its deepest the pool is just deep enough for me to stand up and be immersed to just below my shoulders (I'm 5'7). There are signs around the pools clearly stating that small children must wearing swimming pants but people don't seem to take notice of this. During our stay, the children's pool was closed off at about 3pm one afternoon when a child soiled the pool. Two days later, the main pool was evacuated for the same reason. I think there need to be stronger measures in place to prevent this from happening, there are enough life guards and staff on duty to ask parents to remove their children from the pool if they're not wearing swimming pants or maybe small children should not be allowed in the larger pool at all.
There is also a Beach Club across the road from the hotel which is shared with two other neighbouring hotels (which are part of Holiday World as well) which is open from 10:00 to 18:00 on weekdays and until 20:00 on weekends. You can order all inclusive drinks at the Beach Club bar but any food needs to be paid for. There are several zones at the Beach Club including waterfalls, wave pools and a couple of large water slides. Tennis, football and basketball courts are situated here as well.
It is made clear in the hotel literature and signs around that sun beds shouldn't be reserved in advance with towels as these will be removed by staff - I like this policy as I've noticed people at other hotels put towels out on sun beds early in the morning and then don't turn up at the pool until the afternoon.
On the upper level of the Beach Club is the VIP Zone which you need to pay for separately to access. Here you can spend relaxing time away from the majority of holiday makers in an idyllic area with luxurious sun beds and a swimming pool with several Jacuzzi areas. We were lucky enough to be awarded access to the VIP Zone for a day and we intended to stay for a couple of hours the day before we left but we enjoyed it so much that we spent the whole day there and had the place to ourselves for most of the day bar an hour or so when a family of five joined us for a while. Whilst in the VIP Zone we were served drinks by the staff every 40 minutes or so and also given a free bottle of champagne. This area is open from 10:00 to 18:00 but we stayed until just before 7pm and surprisingly we weren't asked to leave. I understand the normal cost to access the VIP Zone is about 40 Euros.
On the last day we were to meet at reception by 9am to get the coach back to the airport. We went down 15 minutes early to check out and this was as easy a process as it was to check in. I was advised that there were no incidental charges to go on our bill and handed back the remote control. We were given a survey to fill out by the First Choice staff with requests for feedback on anything that needed improving. We just mentioned the air conditioning which we still felt didn't work properly and the fact that something stricter needed to be done about children soiling the pool!
Avenida del Sol, PK 215.6
2960 Benalmadena Costa, Costa del Sol,
Tel: 0034 952 579700
I can't easily quote prices for our stay at Holiday Village as we booked through lastminute.com and paid £700 in total for flights, transfers, luggage and all inclusive accommodation when booking just two days in advance. Various people we spoke with during our stay seemed to pay quite varying amounts, some paid nearly double the amount we paid having booked a month in advance. From the information we were given by First Choice, if you want to upgrade from self catering to all inclusive after arrival it costs around 40-46 Euros per day for adults and 23 to 29 Euros for children. Personally I would recommend booking all inclusive in advance if staying at Holiday Village.
We really enjoyed our stay at Holiday Village and although we like to go to different places for each holiday I honestly feel that I'd like to return - the service was exceptional throughout our stay and we came away with wonderful memories. The rooms were spacious and comfortable and very clean, no insects to "bug" me (excuse the pun) and enjoyable food and drink! Even though there were a few minor niggles, I'm still very happy to give Holiday Village a strong 5 out of 5 stars!
p.s. for anyone wishing to see more photos, I've added some here (remove the space between "12" and "&page"): https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=6ea1f85f0f0c1a12 &page=play&resid=6EA1F85F0F0C1A12!122