Read our review of a beach hotel stay near Alcudia in Mallorca and a visit to the magnificent Caves of Drach
The Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca (or Majorca*) was a favourite holiday destination for my family when I was growing up.
I have hazy, happy memories of golden sands and learning to swim in a warm, blue sea.
Then there was the Spanish keyboard player in our hotel who inspired me at the age of three to take organ lessons.
He’s probably retired now but the seas and sand remain so 30 years after I last visited it was time to make new memories of the island with my own children.
And so we found ourselves joining hoardes of other British families in August heading to this Mediterranean hotspot.
We used our air miles (see here for more information) and flew with BA City Flyer.
Once again, we were really impressed with the service, the planes (2-2 seating) and the leg room.
Leg room on our BA City Flyer flight
The flight at just over two hours was perfect for our children, they enjoyed the taking off and landing with just enough time in between to eat, read and watch iPads.
My first impression after landing was how enormous the island’s only airport Palma is now. My parents remember it as just a ‘hut’ in the 1960s when they first went.
There is an extraordinarily long walk to collect your suitcases, something to plan for if you have young children.
We collected a hire car, fitted our children’s car seats (see here for our car seat advice) and headed north to our hotel.
It took 45 minutes to reach the Prinsotel La Dorada, a four-star resort in Playa de Muro near Alcudia.
Prinsotel La Dorada
This aparthotel has all the benefits of self-catering and a hotel stay combined.
The rooms are like apartments with mini-kitchens but you can choose to eat at the hotel or mix and match.
Our living area
The resort is a great size – just big enough. And really well designed. The rooms are located in five blocks around the pools so everybody is in a good position.
Our room overlooked an adjacent nature reserve so we had a beautiful view. Other rooms overlook the pools.
The view from our room
And the pools are gorgeous – beautifully designed in different sections to keep the interest up for children, with varying water depths to suit all.
There is also a pool for babies, toddlers and younger children with a slide and other water fun.
The entertainment was great – we all enjoyed the evening shows and entertainers were busy in the day as well, leading aqua aerobics and other games and activities.
The pools kept ours entertained but there is a miniclub for children aged four to 12 with a programme of activities. There’s also a playground and a mini disco in the evenings. Our two tried one of the activities – pony riding around the grounds (an extra €6 per child), which was a highlight, even when my daughter’s horse stopped to relieve itself on the pristine hotel gardens!
There is also a maxiclub for older children, who have access to a PlayStation.
Then there’s a crazy golf course, pool and table tennis tables for adults and children.
A nice touch in the main buffet restaurant is a children’s section set inside a train where they can help themselves to food displayed at their height.
It is a five-minute walk (200m) to the lovely, sandy Muro Beach. Here, the sea remains shallow for quite a way out – great for children.
We hired a pedalo one day for €15 and although I never made it to the hotel spa (or obviously the gym), I enjoyed two foot massages on the beach for €10 each, while the waves crashed in front of me. Bliss.
You can stay self-catering or half board or you can pay as and when you fancy for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
For evening meals, we did a mixture of cooking in our room, eating at the hotel buffet restaurant and sampling the local restaurants – a great variety which really suited us.
For more details of the hotel, click here.
Cuevas del Drach
I was keen to take my children to the Caves of Drach which I had enjoyed as a child (apart from the year we went to the wrong caves and didn’t realise – apparently this still happens now so check the website for the exact location as there are other caves nearby).
The attraction is on the east coast of Mallorca in Porto Cristo and we were glad to escape the August heat to the 21C temperature inside.
It is incredible – there is a long path and lots of steps through the caves, which are dimly lit and bursting with stalagmites and stalactites.
Finally, you reach one of the largest underground lakes in the world, Lake Martel where you sit down, the lights go off (some children may not like this) and three lit rowing boats appear, the first with musicians in, for an unforgettable 10-minute classical music concert. See here for more information on this attraction.
We also visited Alcudia old town on market day – a Tuesday morning – and haggled for a few bits before a welcome stop in a restaurant for tapas (and pizza).
It is a pretty, walled town with lots of atmosphere and lots to see and buy.
Alcudia old town
We went to a couple of other beaches, Alcudia and S’illot, but preferred the Playa del Muro by our hotel.
Mallorca was as lovely as I remembered. August was a touch too hot for us, so we are keen to try it out at a different time of year.
*Finally, Mallorca or Majorca what is the difference?
The Spanish spell it Mallorca, the British started to call it Majorca as they struggled with the double L sound, although both are pronounced Ma-yor-ka. So now you know!
We take our children to review the all-inclusive Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach in Corralejo, Fuerteventura
“Everybody is naked,” said my brother in a mock whisper.
The glorious beach at our hotel in Fuerteventura is full of surprises.
Not only is Corralejo bigger and sandier than any beach I can remember. With gently crashing turquoise waves, perfect for the children to try out their new bodyboards. And camel rides along sands which stretch for miles from the front of our hotel, the Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort.
Bodyboarding in the sea on Corralejo beach
But one day as we turn right out of the hotel and venture further along in search of rock pools, we unwittingly gatecrash a naturist section.
This eye-opening experience was not part of the plan for a family trip away to celebrate my mum’s 70th.
My embarrassed mum picked up her pace, I tried not to snigger like a child while the actual children with us didn’t bat an eyelid, except my eight-year-old nephew who asked if it was legal.
While I had carefully dressed my son and daughter in their UV swimsuits, the youngsters in this area were in their birthday suits, while relaxed adults strolled in and out of the sea.
And the giggle we had about it later (apologies to naturist readers) confirmed this as a holiday to remember.
The Riu Oliva Beach is a huge, all-inclusive resort set back from the sands.
We are Riu regulars and love the good food, child-friendly pools and fun feel of their hotels.
We knew this one was soon to be refurbished but the location more than made up for the slightly tired surroundings.
One of the pools at the Riu Oliva Beach hotel, next to the beach
The hotel is divided into a main tower and a lower rise annexe area better suited to families, where we stayed.
Our family room had a lovely large balcony, double bedroom and two single sofa beds for our children.
There are two swimming pools – the fish-shaped one was where we spent most of our time. It is well designed for children with varying depths and an island to swim around.
The fish-shaped swimming pool at Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort
On one side is a handy shop, filled with temping inflatables for the children and buckets and spades.
On the other side of the pool is the smaller of the two main buffet restaurants.
There is also a restaurant specialising in Asian cuisine and another boasting Canarian favourites.
Our party of 11 – aged from three to 70 – all found something to their taste.
There is children’s entertainment daily with a party at 5pm, plus an adults’ show every night at 9.30pm.
A children’s disco would also have been welcome in the early evening which we have had at other Riu hotels.
All-inclusive here means just that, all we paid for all week was a camel ride along the beach. And our inflatable dolphin for the pool!
Having all your food and drink included certainly makes it easier when you are in a big group as we were.
The nearby town of Corralejo has a pretty square, markets, a water park plus a ferry to nearby Lanzarote.
But we found plenty to entertain us at the hotel.
A camel ride along Corralejo beach
Mornings in the pool, afternoons at the beach and evenings enjoying the food, drink and entertainment.
One magic show for children was especially good.
You might find plusher venues in the Canaries but I doubt you will find one in a better spot to enjoy the landscape.
Just remember to watch where you walk if you want to explore the sands.
Or pack extra sun cream.
*For a more detailed review of the hotel, see here.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests at Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort, an all-inclusive hotel in Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, Spain, for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
We take our children on a whistlestop tour of Malaga before heading for relaxation in Estepona.
It’s one of family travel’s trickiest conundrums.
How do you please mum and dad as well as the tiny travellers?
How to balance a need for sandcastles with a desire to trek around real castles?
The answer may well lie in two less familiar parts of that very familiar destination – the Costa del Sol.
We mixed a city break in Malaga with child-friendly sun and swimming in Estepona – and everyone was happy.
We flew with Norwegian Air, which is rapidly expanding its flights from Manchester Airport.
There was good legroom, discounts on child tickets and free WiFi on board with entertainment and children’s programmes to watch on your own tablets and phones.
It’s clear why the company has won Europe’s best low-cost airline for four years running.
Our first stop – the city of Malaga – is often overlooked as just an airport.
But this is a child-friendly city – ours loved walking around the 1,000-year-old fortress palace Alcazaba and tasting tapas in Plaza de la Merced.
There are gorgeous gardens, playgrounds a plenty plus a modern, renovated port area.
There are beaches too. On Playa San Andres you can get a well-priced paella and a dip in the sea – 10 minutes’ walk from our hotel.
The Barceló Málaga, next to the train station, is one of the most modern hotels around. Our suite was straight out of a designer’s dream and bath time will never be the same again for our children after enjoying the jacuzzi in the bathroom.
The room at Barceló Málaga hotel
They liked the slide almost as much. Not outside the hotel – this one is inside – taking guests from their tasty breakfast on the first floor down to reception to explore the city.
Using the slide to get to reception
After two days, it was time to head 50 miles south for part two.
A good tip if you need car seats – there’s a company called Tots Store which provides proper modern seats and meets you in arrivals at Malaga Airport to get you kitted out.
Safely strapped in we head down the motorway.
Next stop, relaxation, as we check into the Kempinski Hotel Bahía on the outskirts of Estepona.
The town itself is more traditionally Spanish than the likes of Marbella and Torremolinos. Think packed plazas and tasty tapas at every turn.
The Kempinski is the area’s premier hotel – and you can see why.
A swimming pool at Kempinski Hotel Bahía in Estepona
It’s worth a stay here for the pool alone. Or should I say pools, there are four after all.
The main children’s one is perfect for small swimmers, winding its way under bridges and past trees so you can create your own adventures.
The beach in front of the hotel is not the most beautiful but has enough sand to bury a dad up to his knees, enough stones to keep a two-year-old happy and the gentle waves of the Mediterranean inviting everyone in for a swim with views of Gibraltar on a clear day.
The beach in front of the hotel
The hotel has four restaurants, a spa, gym and indoor pool. Rooms are spacious and luxurious with beautiful views.
Dining at Kempinski Hotel Bahía
It’s an upmarket hotel but caters for children well with a kids’ corner at the breakfast buffet, mini dressing gowns and an ice cream bar along with a children’s club at peak times.
The last night
After five days, two hotels, one city and one town, our last night was the same as our first.
The four of us sharing a paella at a beachfront restaurant.
Even on a twin-stop balanced break there are some things equally popular with all of us.
*For our more detailed review of the Kempinski Hotel Bahía, click here.
*For a more detailed review on the Barcelo Malago hotel, click here.
*You may also like this article about why Malaga makes a great city for a family beach holiday.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests at Barceló Málaga hotel and Kempinski Hotel Bahía in Estepona for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
Travel: Norwegian Air – fares from £29.90 – we received a discount for the purpose of this review.
We review an all-inclusive week full of adventure in the Canary Islands with children
“That was brilliant Mummy, I loved it. Can we get off now?”
Erm, no. We are 100 feet beneath the sea in a (yellow) submarine.
Enjoying the view from the submarine
We’ve passed shipwrecks and divers and hundreds of fish. And my young son loved every minute. But now he thinks we can just climb out and carry on exploring the pretty port where our hosts Submarine Safaris are based.
Thankfully, the appearance of a stingray draws our little Octonauts-fan back in to the view outside our viewport.
We are in Lanzarote – an island of highs and lows. The day after exploring deep beneath the ocean, we are up among its staggering volcanoes.
And it’s on a high that the holiday starts with a remarkably relaxing flight with Jet2.
Thanks to the airline’s generous hand-luggage allowance (10kg per person, double that of our last flight with a different company) we were well-equipped with entertainment for our son and daughter.
Fortunately, the four-hour journey passed without a hitch – we even arrived early.
Basking in the glow of compliments from other passengers on the children’s behaviour, we left the plane, expecting to further bask in the ‘guaranteed’ winter sun of the Canary Islands. Unfortunately it stayed firmly hidden behind clouds for the duration of our stay.
Still, we had a bright welcome from the wonderful hotel staff at the ClubHotel Riu Paraiso Lanzarote Resort.
Family pool at the ClubHotel Riu Paraiso Lanzarote Resort
It’s in a great location on the outskirts of Puerto del Carmen, sandwiched between the sea and a glorious volcanic vista.
The huge, 600-room, spotless complex, is set in beautiful grounds and we had a fabulous suite away from the reception and restaurants.
We were glad of the longer walk back to the room (and my daughter’s pushchair) after thoroughly tucking in to the sumptuous food on offer.
The hotel is all inclusive with a large, main restaurant and two other options for dinner – an Asian and a world food restaurant which was our favourite.
Thankfully, most of the hotel’s six swimming pools are heated and our children particularly enjoyed ordering drinks at the swim-up bar.
Children are well catered for with a playground and the RiuLand club.
The entertainers work hard to ensure they have fun during the day and at the evening’s ‘Mini Disco’ where a particularly hilarious entertainer kept the adults as amused as the children.
Beach and nearby attractions
We wrapped up well to enjoy the expansive Playa de los Pocillos beach, which is just across the road.
It was too cold to swim in the sea, but Josh and I went one better with our trip in the tourist submarine, where tour guides talk you through a memorable hour-long view of sea life.
Submarine Safaris at Puerto Calero in Lanzarote
Inside the submarine
There were more creatures to see back on dry land at Rancho Texas Lanzarote Park.
They have sea lion, eagle and parrot shows plus ponies, canoe rides and a water park with slides.
We couldn’t leave Lanzarote without exploring its volcanic history so we hired a car and drove to Timanfaya National Park. The black, rocky landscape makes it hard to believe the last eruptions here were in 1824.
Timanfaya National Park
Staff demonstrate the hot earth by setting dry bush alight, cooking food and creating great gushes of steam out of the ground.
Visitors also take a coach trip around the volcanoes – ours ended with a round of applause.
Whether our fellow passengers were moved by the sights or just grateful to be back in one piece after navigating the narrow, winding mountain roads and sheer drops, I wasn’t sure.
Thank you Lanzarote – for the volcanic highs, the oceanic lows and everything in between.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests at ClubHotel Riu Paraiso Lanzarote Resort, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
Travel: Jet2 – we received a discount for the purpose of this review.
Five reasons to book a family-friendly all-inclusive holiday at this hotel on Corralejo beach
The location is the big selling point of this hotel. The Riu Oliva Beach sits on one of the best beaches in the Canary Islands – the Grandes Playas de Corralejo.
The sweeping beach has perfect white sand and the warm sea has rolling waves ideal for playing and a bit of bodyboarding.
It’s a great beach where you can take a camel ride or a stroll. But a word of warning if you do walk – turning right eventually takes you to a naturist section!
The hotel is soon to be refurbished. When we stayed, the rooms were a bit dated but a good size and kept clean.
A family room at Club Hotel Riu Oliva Beach
Our family room had a double bedroom, two single sofa beds in the lounge, a kitchen table and fridge plus a good sized balcony.
The hotel is being refurbished to look like this
The hotel is split in two, the original high rise section and a low rise villa area better suited to families.
The villa area has a lovely pool shaped like a fish, with an island in the middle and varying depths.
The main hotel section has an older, oblong-shaped pool and small toddlers pool.
The pool at the main complex of Club Hotel Riu Oliva Beach
There are four restaurants and it is all-inclusive.
The two main restaurants – one in each area of the hotel – serve the same food.
We preferred the one in the villa section which felt less of a canteen.
There is also a Canarian restaurant which does tasty steaks and an enjoyable Chinese restaurant. You have to book both of these in advance.
The RiuLand club for children wasn’t the best we have seen but the staff were great. There is a small playground, and they do an outdoor show at 5pm every day.
There was an excellent magician who visited and the evening shows for all are good fun.
The only complaint was the lack of a children’s disco around 7pm which we have seen at other Riu hotels.
*For a full review of the holiday, see here.
(We stayed as guests of the hotel for this review. For prices and information visit the Club Hotel Riu Oliva Beach website).
On a beach, with great pools and an amazing breakfast – why this Estepona hotel is a family favourite
Definitely a big draw at the Kempinski Bahia, there are three outdoor pools and a small indoor one.
The largest outdoor pool is heated. It winds its way under bridges and past palm trees and we all thought it was great.
It is perfectly designed for children’s games, large and varied but little ones are never too far from the side.
We spent many happy hours in there pretending to be pirates or explorers.
We had a junior suite for the four of us with one double bed, one single and one sofa bed.
There was also a large bathroom with separate bath and shower. And a lovely balcony with great views over the pool and all the mod cons you need.
A room at Kempinski Hotel Bahia
It had tasteful decor and plenty of space and the twice-a-day housekeeping service kept everything spotless.
Breakfast is included and it is one of the best we have had at a hotel.
A good choice, there is even a children’s area with cereals, tiny pastries and fresh fruit. Our little ones loved choosing from their own area.
There were also fresh juices and on-demand omelettes at the egg station.
If you have any room left after breakfast there are other bars and great restaurants.
Dining at Kempinski Hotel Bahía at the sea front restaurant
If you stay half board, you have a set amount of Euros each day to cover your evening meal and drinks. Children aged 0 to 5 are free and children aged six to 11, receive a 50 per cent discount.
Otherwise, the food here isn’t cheap but it is very tasty. If you want to venture beyond the hotel there is a boardwalk to half a dozen restaurants about 10 minutes walk away.
The hotel is about two miles from the centre of Estepona, a charming town near Marbella.
It’s next to a busy road but also set on a beach with views stretching along the Costa Del Sol. Gibraltar is visible on a clear day.
The beach is a mix of sand and pebbles with sun loungers and sports equipment available.
The beach in front of the hotel
A short wander along the beach and boardwalk brings you to Laguna Village, a small development of shops, bars and restaurants.
The services and the staff
The hotel has a tennis court, a spa with the full range of treatments available, a kids’ club which is open in peak periods and grounds you can explore.
The staff were so friendly, one man on reception even put our son’s drawings of his holiday on the lobby walls to showcase them which made his day.
It’s those little touches that make a holiday.
A high end, luxury hotel in a great location. It’s worth splashing out for the pool and the breakfast.
*For a full review of our holiday, read here.
For more information and rates visit the Kempinski Bahia website.
(We stayed as guests of the Kempinski Bahia, all views are our own.
Malaga is well worth a family break with its parks, port, beaches and castles
Malaga is a very green city and its main park, called the Parque de Malaga, is an oblong oasis of huge trees, curving paths and children’s playgrounds.
It is situated between the port and the city and on a hot day is an ideal place to grab a bit of shade.
A view of the port and park area of Malaga
The new port
This recently-developed area has wide, open walkways and plenty of shops and restaurants.
There is a huge underground car park and a small version of Paris’ Pompidou Centre for modern art.
We ate a meal here at one of the small outside stalls and it was a great spot to people watch.
Malaga’s most famous historical site is child-friendly.
The Alcazaba is child-friendly but watch little ones on the raised wall areas
There aren’t too many steps but you have to be careful when walking along some of the walls. This Moorish palace has great views of the sea and the city.
There is no shortage of restaurants on squares to indulge in tapas. Our children liked the variety of the options and the Spanish cheeses.
Plaza de la Merced is one of the best squares with plenty of places to choose from.
Top tip: When in Spain with children, it is better to eat your main meal out at lunchtime as the Spanish eat their evening meal very late. Try to eat early evening and the best restaurants will be closed or very quiet.
Malaga’s beaches aren’t pure white sand but they are plenty good enough for an afternoon’s entertainment.
One of the many beaches in and around Malaga
The man-made Playa de la Malagueta is nearest the city centre and has a playground.
We also liked Playa San Andres near our hotel and the quieter Playa de la Caleta.
We visited at the end of October and found the temperature of the sand and sea to be perfect.
Often overlooked as an industrial gateway to the Costa Del Sol, Malaga is actually very child-friendly. Well worth a couple of days.
Near a beach, with modern rooms, we explain why the Barcelo Malaga hotel on the Costa Del Sol is a good family choice
It has a slide
Not just any old slide in a playground, this one is inside the hotel and takes you from the first floor breakfast room down to the lobby.
Our children were beyond excited by this wacky feature and loved whizzing down after breakfast.
Our family room was split in two divided by a door you could pull shut.
The ultra-modern room complete with jacuzzi bath
There was one double bed and a sofa bed with plenty of space around both.
The bathroom was massive with a jacuzzi bath which the children loved using, they spent hours enjoying the noise and bubbles.
There is also a double shower. The decor is ultra-modern with funky wallpaper and moody lighting, there’s even an okay view of the hills beyond Malaga from the huge window.
Cava was available but so too was plenty of fresh fruit, continental and cooked options.
The pastries were fresh, the service good and there was lots of choice. The room where breakfast is served is on the first floor next to the slide – it is fairly bland but spacious.
It is right next to one of Malaga’s main stations, the Maria Zambrano station.
That makes it straightforward if you are catching the train from the airport.
It is a fair walk into the heart of the city but just 10 minutes to the nearest beach, Playa de San Andres, which has a couple of good chiringuitos or beach restaurants and a playground.
The nearest beach is about a 10 minute walk away
Eating and drinking
There is a nice, small bar with some cool booth-style seating next to the lobby, there are also some seats outside but it is not a view to write home about.
You can eat and drink in the funky lobby bar area
The El Anden restaurant serves local food all day long. There is a terrace bar in high season but that was not open when we visited.
Smart, sleek and well-positioned. The Barcelo Malaga hotel has enough wacky touches to be a hit with children and adults.
*For a full review of our holiday, click here.
(We stayed as guests of the hotel for this review. For more information and rates visit Barcelo Malaga).
Five family-friendly attractions for children to enjoy when visiting the Canary Island of Lanzarote
This is a real experience, the chance to dive 100 feet down in a tourist submarine from the pretty marina at Puerto Calero with Submarine Safaris.
Tour guides talk you through the memorable hour-long trip and you get the chance to spot a diver, shipwrecks and a stingray amongst other things.
Combine with a visit to the town’s market and you get a great trip out.
Submarine Safaris at Puerto Calero in Lanzarote
Timanfaya National Park
The last eruptions here were in 1824 but the volcanic earth still draws the crowds. Fortunately there is a huge car park and well organised activities.
Staff demonstrate the hot earth by setting dry bush alight, cooking food and creating great gushes of steam out of the ground.
Visitors then take a coach trip around the volcanoes – the roads are narrow and winding with sheer drops but the coach drivers know what they’re doing.
Visiting Timanfaya National Park is a spectacular day out
Take a trip to Texas
Well not quite, but Rancho Texas Lanzarote Park has a wild west theme. It is a zoo and water park.
There are sea lion, eagle and parrot shows plus ponies, canoe rides and a water park with slides. A full day’s entertainment near Puerto Del Carmen.
Hire a car and explore, the children will be fascinated by the volcanic landscape.
Just a few miles inland from the beaches the land turns black. Young ones will feel like they’ve visited the moon.
Lanzarote’s landscape will wow visitors of all ages
The best in Lanzarote for fine white sand is probably Papagayo beach near Playa Blanca.
The island is second only to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands for good beaches.
Papagayo beach is one of the best in Lanzarote
Other options to try are Famara in the north and Playa Quemada – the “burnt beach” – with its black rocks for something a bit different.
Have we missed your favourite? What are your top tips for families visiting Lanzarote?