“ Hotel in benidorm, Spain. „
Following the complete lack of summer this year in Scotland, I decided to book a short break to Spain at fairly short notice, travelling with my sister and my daughter in October. I was pretty sure I wanted to go to Benidorm as many of the Spanish resorts close down towards the end of that month whereas Benidorm is open all year round. I had initially planned to book at hotel in the new town but my sister was intrigued by reviews on Trip Advisor for the Villa del Mar hotel which was available within our budget and was very highly rated.
The reviews swayed me a bit too, so I decided to book the break at the hotel, despite the fact I was completely unfamiliar with both the hotel itself and where it was located.
Benidorm has two large beaches, with Levante being the most popular, and Poniente being larger, but generally quieter. The beaches are separated by the old town and the Hotel Villa del Mar is located just past the old town at the start of Poniente beach.
The hotel is located right on the beach front, with only a fairly quiet road keeping it from the beach itself. Round here the promenade has recently been renovated, and this enables you to take a long walk past the beach if getting sand in your shoes isn't your thing.
I think it's worth saying before I go any further with this review that the rooms at this hotel don't have balconies. This is one of the first things you notice when you approach the hotel, along with the stylish use of blue on the exterior of the hotel. Any reputable travel agent will point out the lack of balconies - and pictures do make it very clear there are none - but if a balcony is important to you, then this might be a deal breaker.
The hotel has four stars and the lobby, which is airy if not particularly large, is manned 24 hours per day. The bar and restaurant area are located to the right of the reception desk and there are internet terminals and seating on the left hand side which is also where the hotel's two lifts are located.
Unlike other hotels I have stayed at in Benidorm, the Villa del Mar isn't massive and only has 108 rooms. Generally I don't mention how many rooms there are in a hotel when I review it but I think it's worth mentioning here because larger hotels in Benidorm and other Spanish resorts can sometimes feel impersonal.
When we arrived the reception was only manned by one member of staff and he was very busy meaning we had a bit of a wait. When he did serve us he took copies of our passports and then prepared the room keys for us. We were staying on an all-inclusive basis so needed a key each to access food and drink. Some hotels I have stayed at have been reluctant to give my daughter a key but the Villa del Mar weren't so patronising.
We were given a written guide of the hotel facilities including restaurant opening times and given some information about where the pool was located and where to find out about entertainment in the property.
The Villa del Mar was completely renovated in 2010 and the attention to detail in the renovation is to be admired. When you exit the lift the corridor on your floor will be dark but the lights are activated by movement, ensuring you don't stay in the dark for long.
Rooms either have a pool view or a sea view. Sea view rooms have Jacuzzis in them but I preferred to opt for a pool view room as they have more space for three travellers. The doors to the rooms are quite narrow but the rooms themselves are incredibly spacious - as one would expect from a four star hotel - and featured a large double bed which was, in typical Spanish style, formed from two single beds pushed together, and a white faux leather sofa bed.
There is a plasma TV on the wall, a shelf for storing suitcases, a desk and chair and a large wardrobe which also houses a chest of drawers and a safe. There is also a fridge in the room.
If you want to use the safe it costs Euro3 per day. I did have issues with the safe in our room for two days running with the PIN code I had set on the electronic keypad not being recognised. I called reception and maintenance were at my room within five minutes to fix it.
The bathroom is equally spacious and while there's no walk in shower, the shower in the bath is fantastic and offers several options including multi directional jets of water. There are two wash hand basins and there's also a line to use to dry your swimsuit which stretches from one end of the bath to the other. There is a glass shower screen which unfortunately didn't quite catch all the water splashing around the edge so you do have to ensure you use the bathmat provided.
When we arrived we had no problems finding space for our clothes clothes etc and the only problem we had was the fact the sofa bed hadn't been made up but a quick call to reception sorted this out in a matter of minutes. The bed was really comfortable and my daughter had no complaints about the sofa bed either. The beds have one long pillow each and several cushions so we felt no need to ask for extra pillows.
All rooms have air conditioning and having stayed in several hotels over the years which have installed noisy systems I have to commend the Villa del Mar for spending the money on installing a system which is both quiet and effective.
Maid service was very good with our rooms cleaned to a very high standard each day. The maids were very friendly too.
Because we stayed on an all-inclusive basis we used the hotel restaurant extensively. All meals are served buffet style but there is always a chef on hand to cook meals to order if required. This is a nice touch because it caters to guests who have specific food intolerances and also enables families to request more basic meals for fussy children. The hotel staff are happy to stress they will cater to all tastes and actively encourage guests to take advantage of the chefs.
The restaurant isn't particularly large but apart from one day we never had any problems finding somewhere decent to sit. Breakfast comprises of pastries, breads, cold meat and cheeses, fruit and cooked items. The bacon isn't brilliant - sadly it never is in Spanish hotels - but the chef will cook eggs any way you want them and the sausages were appreciated by my fussy daughter. My only gripe was rather than present hash browns or even some patatas bravas for breakfast, chips were served.
Lunch and dinner always offered several types of prepared salad along with a huge array of items to make your own including cheeses, fish and meat, along with a choice of 8 or so hot dishes. Fish, as is the norm in Spain, featured prominently at every meal but pasta was served at each meal with a selection of sauces on offer. Waiting staff would take orders for drinks almost as soon as you sat down.
I really enjoyed the food here and didn't find the food particularly samey. The soups in particular were lovely and even though I whinged a bit about the chips earlier I have to say that they were excellent - perhaps because they weren't actually frozen before being cooked.
There was also a small display of "gourmet" food which was actually a small tapas selection available at each lunch and dinner. This varied from duck pate to a shot of gazpacho and was always worth checking out.
There was always a good selection of desserts, with some of the cakes in particular being works of art, and a very good range of fruit, mousses and ice cream.
The food was almost without exception piping hot and the waiting staff ensured dirty plates were removed quickly and the entire restaurant remained spotlessly clean at all times.
Bars & Entertainment
There are three bars in the hotel but during my stay I only got drinks at two. The main bar is located beside the restaurant and most of the seating is located outside the front of the hotel - which is fine on a balmy day but not quite so good when it rains. To be fair, it's still under cover but on a windy day it can be uncomfortable to sit here.
The best bar in the hotel however is in the Chill Out Zone, which is located on the roof of the hotel. This bar has pretty limited opening hours unfortunately, only being available for use between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm and opening up again at 4.00 pm until 9.00 pm. Along with the bar and some tables and sofas, there are also some loungers and it goes without saying that this was a favoured spot for sun worshippers.
The best time to visit however is for sunset and we thoroughly enjoyed a cocktail as we watched the sun slowly set over Poniente beach.
Finally there is a "disco" style bar in the basement of the hotel and it's here there is some entertainment laid on. Entertainment is pretty basic however and we only visited to play a game of bingo one night which was interesting due to the hotel entertainer struggling with numbers in English. The hotel caters to a lot of Spanish guests and we were the only Brits joining in but we had great fun and some of the Spanish guests helped our erstwhile bingo caller when he struggled with his English. The bar wasn't open when we visited but it does open when there is live music.
~~Pool & Spa~~
The pool is a little remote from the rest of the hotel and you do have a bit of a walk upstairs to reach it. There is a lift for disabled guests too. The pool is covered at all times, with loungers dotted around the area outside. It is heated in winter and I can only surmise the reason for it being covered is to enable it to be used all year round.
There are no toilets by the pool and there is no bar either, meaning you have quite a bit of a walk from the pool if you need these facilities. To be honest I can see why the rooftop chill out area is so popular with sun worshippers because the pool area, although beautifully designed, isn't the best in town. There are beds you can lie on which are in the water and are ideal if you want to cool down without having a swim.
It is worth reiterating the fact that the beach is so close to the hotel however and this perhaps explains why the pool area doesn't have much in the way of facilities.
The water was pretty cold when we visited but my daughter had a great time splashing around once she warmed up while I sat on the beds watching her. There is a small gym located close to the pool too which has treadmills and cross trainers.
There is also a small childrens' pool one level down from the main pool and this also has a small climbing area and some ping pong tables. There is also a soft play area for smaller children in the basement and there are regular mini discos held here along with other activities for them.
The hotel spa is located on the 9th floor beside the roof terrace and is home to the best Jacuzzi I have ever visited. The Jacuzzi overlooks the chill out bar and the view extends to the beach and out to sea. There is a small bubble pool which is filled with cold water, and personally I ignored, but the main Jacuzzi pool is huge and has space for several people to comfortably use at a time. When I went I was on my own and for me this offered the most relaxing experience of my holiday, helped along by delicate mood lighting and ambient music.
I have to say I absolutely loved the Hotel Villa del Mar and I can now see why it is rated so highly on Trip Advisor.
The hotel staff are incredibly helpful and friendly and go out of their way to ensure any problems are dealt with swiftly. Eduardo, the hotel manager, makes a point of introducing himself to guests and wants to know of any problems they may have. Reception staff were without exception friendly and helpful and the one thing that struck me during my stay was how customer focused this hotel is.
I've stayed in several all-inclusive hotels in the past and they have all offered cheap local spirits and insisted guests could only have a set number of meals. This wasn't the case at the Villa del Mar, with branded spirits being served and the staff cheerfully informing us we could have lunch and drinks after we had checked out and had time to kill waiting for our transfer back to the airport. It's touches like this which I really appreciate and it sets the Villa del Mar above chains I have stayed in before.
My only real gripe about the hotel isn't actually something that is their fault and that is the fact it wasn't really good for my daughter. The hotel is great for families with younger children, couples and more mature guests who really do just want to chill out and just relax but for teenagers it loses points because the area is rather quiet. Even the old town didn't have much to offer her in the way the more brash new town does.
The hotel is part of the Magic hotel group and you can take advantage of all inclusive in their sister properties in town and perhaps the entertainment may have been better there had we visited one. There are two hotels in the old town which are a short walk away.
The hotel does have wifi available in the lobby and it is free - which softens the blow a bit when you have internet obsessed daughter and the computer terminals in the lobby want Euro2 for half an hour online - but that's was the only entertainment my daughter seemed interested in unfortunately.
Overall however I really loved this hotel and felt we got great value for money. The rack rate for a pool view room staying all inclusive is Euro71.25 which I feel for the level of service on offer is wonderful.