We have just returned from the Marriott Playa Andaluza resort in Spain having stayed for half term week at the end of October09. For a quality break with Kids this is a must, a superb time was had by all with the expected Marriott quality. To add to the least hassle possible experience then the Hertz 1 gold car hire at Malaga was walk through experience and avoided all queuing. If sales help is needed then Marriott’s Jeff Kemp has been consistently helpful. Without a doubt the Playa is much better for families than the Marriott Marbella resort.
The playa resort is geared to families and children whereas we felt the Marbella resort is more for those who want a quieter time. At the Playa resort there is a bespoke outdoor children's pool with water guns, fountains, water slide and fenced area giving piece of mind for toddlers. The outdoor activities pool has water polo net and goals set up with a large heated Jacuzzi with the third external pool facing the beach more for lounging. The indoor pool has a bit for everyone with two fountain jets and 4 Jacuzzis. There is an onsite restaurant and pool side bar with a separate beach restaurant. For the younger children there was a well thought out play area adjacent to the outside dining that you can watch the children from while eating giving a bit of time to enjoy some wine! The gym is also well located with a glass frontage so you can work out and watch the kids in the pool if you wanted. Note I understand the restaurant will be closed in December 09 & Jan 10 for refurbishment.
Generally we felt the Playa is better located to lively spanish centres and marinas plus a short drive from the typical white villages in the hills. Although the Marbella resort is excellent and self contained it is in a tired area, predominantly residential of the old era of Spanish sun! We also prefer the region between Estapona and Gibraltar compared to further up the coast. If you prefer there are several restaurants easily walkable from Playa and all kid friendly.
Thank you! We love sightseeing coastal villages and tasting the culinary delights of a region. Experiencing a vacation like that as a family is exactly why Marriott Vacation Club works for us. If its not to much, a few more questions.
To accomodate large families, does the Playa offer 3 bedroom villas? To get around did you rent a car/SUV? What do you recommend? How were the roads? Regarding distances, is it possible to visit the Rock of Gibralta and back to the Playa in less than a day? How far up the coast does it make sense to explore and be able to get back?
We have several weeks on deposit with Interval. Sounds like Playa is the ideal location for a back-to-back family vacation on the Costa del Sol. I welcome your thoughts.
No problem, playa has 3 bedroom apartments some with lock off facility, i'm told the size is not as spacious as those in the USA! Gibraltar can be done in a day, but don't take the Car across the boarder due to traffic queues, park and walk. I have some colleagues who have recently finished the new Marina and hotel complex in Gibraltar who say it's worth a visit to see the rock (and monkeys) - but just the once! Roads are fine but main routes busy and take a little getting used to. The road from Marbella to Estepona to the resort (not E15 motorway) is being reconstructed thus a lot of traffic/diversions around San Pedro area. The concierge at Playa has all the info and are very helpful, there were several families from the USA while we were there. Cars - your choice, a standard compact or estate/tourer has been fine for 4 of us. Distance is usually dictated by the children, living on an island they are not used to long drives!!! I would suggest May to October for seasons as better to use the outside pools.
If you go, you must take a day trip to Ronda (about an hour away)! It is a wonderful white town!
Also, Cadiz (think Christopher Columbus!) and Arcos de la Frontera are worth the time and are less than a 2 hour drive each.
The monkeys on Gibraltar are adorable! You can hire a local taxi driver to be your guide around the rock for a few hours. Certainly well worth it.
Think about expanding your territory to visit Seville, Granada and Cordoba. I love Andalucia... so pretty, quaint, the Moorish architecture, the white villages, and so much history.
And then there is also a day trip over to Tangier to think about.
Unfortunately, Marriott doesn't have a very large presence in Spain (or many other European countries, for that matter.) In addition to those you mentioned, there is also a Ren at the Barcelona airport.
I stayed 2 nights at the Marbella Beach Resort. It's been close to 10 years ago now. But, it was very nice and I can't say enough about the people working there! We were not planning on staying in Marbella but our plans changed for some reason that I don't recall. I recalled seeing in my research that there was a Marriott in the area so we found it and the guard at the gate sent us to the sales office. The 2 folks there saw my Marriott Rewards card and my Marriott credit card and began a race to see who could find me a villa faster! The first night we were in a 2 bedroom villa for about $85/night... after seeing it we decided to stay the second night. Our villa wasn't available, but they moved us to a 3 bedroom for about $115/night. Remember, this was about 10 years ago and it was off-season!
The on-property restaurant was excellent! We ate there both nights which is unusual for me.
We were there in February and had to go buy shorts so we could sit on the beach... it was that warm!
Villas were great, huge balconies with table and chairs (just like another room!). I'd highly recommend this property.
A Marriott associate I know recently returned from this property and loved it. He said he liked it better than the Playa Andaluza, I didn't ask why. Neither of us have young children so don't need the amenities of the Playa Andaluza property.
That's a great vacation story about Marriot Vacation Club in Marbella. Good to know there is a Ren in Barcelona. Do you recommend flying into Barcelona with a drive along the Costa del Sol as the destination(s)? If you had 3 weeks for a trip, what itinerary would you recommend? I've never been to Spain so if you had to do your first trip over, what would you do?
I probably wouldn't fly into Barcelona to head to Marbella. But, it may work for you... Stay a few days in Barcelona seeing La Rambla and Gaudi's architechture, drive from Barcelona to, say, Valencia which is about 350km, stay a few days in Valencia and continue down to Marbella with an overnight or two somewhere in between. But, it is over 1000 km from Barcelona to Marbella. Not sure how much can be coastal driving vs. major highways.
And, the driving is easy on the main roads... just stay to the right unless you're passing. If passing, pass and move back to the right. Just like home! In some of the small towns, the roads look like small walking pathways where you'd never expect a car to fit... somehow I did and they really were meant for cars! :-) Many towns in Europe are like this in medevial towns or the old town centers. Don't rent a large car if you don't need it! Many towns have an old town center that is now pedestrian only... no cars, so you need to be aware of that so as to avoid a traffic ticket months later after you have returned home!
For my travels, I plan to split Spain into two or probably three trips... Andalucia (loved it!), central Spain as a 2nd trip and northern Spain as a 3rd trip. It's just too big with too much to see as compared with some other countries that I can see in 2-3 weeks.
My suggestion would be to fly into Madrid and spend a few days there with day trips to Toledo, Salamanca, Segovia, and/or Avila depending on which interest you. Or make a connecting flight directly to Malaga if you're not interested in these towns. Other than one or two museums, Madrid doesn't hold any interest for me personally (although I haven't been there!).
From Madrid, either fly to Malaga or take the high speed train to Seville. I've gone through my photo albums in an attempt to recreate what we did, here it is as best of my recollection...
Feb 2, 2001:
Flew from JFK – Madrid – Malaga (arriving on Feb 3)
Pick up rental car
Lunch at restaurant on beach (literally) in La Herradura on the Costa del Sol
Drive to Granada
Hotel - Hotel Alhambra, Granada (only available 2 nights, we were supposed to stay in a gypsy cave... he chickened out!)
Dinner in the hotel’s dining room
Hire private guide for day tour of Granada (very well worth the money!)
Tour Alhambra Palace and Gardens, Granada
Tour Cathedral and other siteseeing
Hotel - Paradore de San Francisco Hotel (formerly a convent, 1 night, the paradores in Spain are former palaces, convents, monestaries, etc. and are beautiful!)
Dinner at Los Manueles Restaurant, Granada
Feb 6 (not on original itinerary.. a spur of the moment decision):
Drive to Alpugarra in the Sierra Nevada (one of the mountain towns)
Continue up to top of Sierra Nevada where skiing trails located
Hotel at top of mountain – 1 night, don’t remember hotel name
Sierra Nevada – no skiing today, 100 kph winds and mountain is closed
Drive to Cordoba, 1 night (don’t remember hotel name)
Tour Cathedral and town
Drive through Baena (wonderful olive oil at Nunez de Prado)
Hotel – Casa de Carmona (formerly the mayor’s home and 16th century Lasso de la Vega Palace), 1 night
Dinner at hotel
Drive to Seville
Hotel – Hotel Alfonso XIII
Flamenco show at Los Gatos
Tour Museo Taurino (bull ring)
Tour the Real Alcazar Palace
Drive to Palos de la Frontera (where Columbus sailed from to America)
Picnic lunch at La Rabita (the monastery where Columbus planned his trip to America). 'Borrow' a big bath towel from your hotel to serve as your table cloth.
See the replicas of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria
Drive to Jerez
Hotel – Hotel NH Avenida Jerez (1 night)
Tour Domicq distillery (Sherry and brandy of Jerez) and more siteseeing
Drive to Ronda, stop at Arcos de la Frontera
Hotel in Ronda – Hotel Husa Reina (1 night)
Siteseeing around Ronda
Dinner – Restaurante Pedro Romero
Sunrise horseback ride in Ronda
Drive from Ronda to Algeciras
Picnic lunch along the way with fabulous views
Hotel – Hotel Guadacorte Park in Algeciras
Feb 14 (original itinerary called for multiple days in Morocco):
Ferry to Ceuta, tour of Tangier, Morocco
Feb 15 (not on original itinerary but added since Morocco was dropped):
Hire taxi driver to be our guide for the day
Hotel – Rock Hotel (2 nights)
Tour around Gibraltar some more and relax on the Mediterranean side
Feb 17 - 18 (not on original itinerary but added since Morocco was dropped):
Brunch in the Gibraltar Marina
Drive to Costa del Sol
Hotel – Marriott Marbella Beach Resort (2 nights)
Dinner at Marriott’s restaurant both nights
Mimosas on the beach at sunrise
Drive around Costa del Golf, visit markets, etc
Lie on beach
Have a great time!
Flew Malaga – Madrid – JFK
I would probably drop the unexpected detour to Sierra Nevada. Also, there was probably no need to spend the night in Carmona although the hotel was extremely lovely and the food terrific!
Tangier was fun even if it was the hokey tour with the mandatory stop for a camel ride photo op. etc.. The bus ride from Ceuta to Tangier was extremely sobering... you really do see what third world countries look like. It is so sad, you aren't even allowed to take pics from the bus at the border crossing. These poor people carrying everything on their backs and heads. Just so sad. And, then to see women actually washing laundry in the streams. Really does bring tears to your eyes.
In other travelers' eyes, we probably did too many 1 night stays... I would probably stay 2 nights in some of the places we stayed 1 night.
Or, with your additonal days, you can spend more time in Marbella at the Marriott. And, of course, Gibraltar and Ronda and some other locations can be done as day trips from Marbella.
But, in the end, we were happy with our choices... only wished we had more time to spend. Morocco will be a separate trip for me some other year.
There is a program on PBS called 'Spain... On the Road Again' with Mario Battali, Gweneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman (food critic from NY Times) and Claudia something (a Spanish model/actress). I'm a foodie so I really enjoy it. But, in addition to the food, they shot all over Spain for this production. It's now in re-runs but worth looking out for. I think I've watched each episode 2 or 3 times.
And, for car rentals, check prices at kemwel.com... I've found them to be cheapest. They are a reservation service. All cars that I've rented with them have been with Europcar (although they do deal with many car rental agencies). They are certainly cheaper than renting w/ American rental car agencies and just as reputable. But, for the best prices, be prepared to drive a standard shift, automatics are very expensive in Europe.
Don't forget that the Spanish take a siesta every afternoon which can really mess up your itinerary unless you plan for it!
Buy your picnic lunches early before grocery stores close for siesta... wine is soooo cheap in the grocery stores. My favorite wine in Spain cost about 1.50 USD per bottle in the supermercado.
See the museums and sites that you want before/after siesta hours!
Wow NewHiltonMembr - an 18 day 17 night itinerary? Whew, I need a vacation just to plan that! Congratulations on an excellent recap and thank you for the time spent authoring your post. I appreciate what you've done, it provides an excellent starting point.
I spent a little time today exploring Google maps. Driving from Madrid to Marbella is about 8 hours, so the high speed express to Seville is a better option. I'm really interested in visiting the Alhambra and Marbella to Granada is about 2 hours so that looks like a good day trip.
I'll have to continue. Thanks again!
We go to Spain every year and have stayed at both the Marbella and the Playa resorts (we own at Playa). Frankly, I would stay at either of them again. I prefer the Playa slightly - it has a larger indoor pool and more hot tubs indoors (though the single one at Marbella is larger). That's important to us because we always go in off-season when it is cooler outside. The advantage to the Marbella is that it is closer to grocery store, but with a car there is no problem.
Rent a small car - its much easier to park when you go sightseeing than it fyou rent a larger SUV or something else.
We love Spain, but you really have to do it right. Stay at least a week in whatever part of Spain you go to and drive around the area. Realize that the roads are not as stright as in the U.S. and, thus, it takes longer to get most places. Our favorite thing to do is to get off the main roads and just drive. when you see something in the distance that looks interesting - drive to it. Find a local restaurant for lunch (we don't speak any Spanish, but we do have a condensed dictionary of food and essential terms).
We enjoyed Gibralter, much different that we expected. We did take our car over and had no problems - remember to take your passport - you are changing countries and Gibralter is not toally EU integrated. If you don't spend too much time in Gibralter you can go north up the coast and see some really great sights.
We loved Ronda. Quaint. We also like our day trip to the Alhambra in Granada.
But we also love the other parts of Spain so just stay on the Costa del Sol for a week and then go someplace else. If you go up the coast you can stop in Orihuela or Alicante for 4-5 days and do some day trips from there. Then on to Valencia, again for 4-5 days and then Barcelona and spend the remainder of your time in the city and taking some day trips.
In each case, don't stay on the coast - go inland just driving around to visit old churches, castles, cemetaries (they really are quite lovely and interesting), convents/monasteries, etc.
If you want to do something other than the coastal parts, you could do the West side of Spain - Seville, Caceras, Oropesa, Avila, etc after you left the Costa del Sol. Again, whatever you do, stay in one place for a minimum of 3-4 days and see the surrounding area. Then go to the next place.
We typically go to Spain for about 8 days and spend 4 in each of 2 places that are within 100 miles of each other. Then we just drive around and find all kinds of interesting things. We usually have a few spots of daytripping pre-selected, but ask around or just drive to find other gems that aren't necessarily in any guidebooks. We learned this from some friends of ours who have been to Spain 20+ times and have never been sorry that we took their advice.
As I plan my next bucket trip, the key places I want to see are definitely the Alhambra, Granada, Cordoba, Toledo -- the medieval places. I read your wonderful email about your trip, but am wondering about accessibility and tours from Malaga. I know you rented a car, but I can't drive a stick shift and also don't speak Spanish. To quote Three Dog Night, "I never been to Spain," so I don't know about train service, speed, and closeness to these sites. If as in most of the places I've been recently, there are are tours offered through the hotel that would be great. But I'm considering even doing a group tour unless it looks like I could get to sites in Al-Andalus easily by train or tour.
Any hints would be greatly appreciated! Do you think flying into Madrid, Seville, or Malaga is best?