All Inclusive Spanish resort makes a splash with First Choice

Boarding the Thompson flight at Birmingham airport, all set to head to the Costa Dorada area of Spain, thoughts of clear blue skies, bright sunshine, free drinks and a whole host of amazing trips out crossed through my mind. And I wasn’t far wrong, as the First Choice and Thompson team did themselves proud with the 4 star Aquasplash Estival Park in La Pineda, just a short journey from the popular tourist destination of Salou and including free unlimited access to the Aquapolis water park, situated just a five minute walk from the resort.

Landing in Reus airport, we were immediately greeted by Thompson representatives, who ushered us onto an air-conditioned coach to take us on to our chosen hotels. Upon arriving at the resort, we were checked in straight away and were able to begin enjoying our holiday.

With three hotels and a number of apartments, this resort isn’t short of room. It boasts it’s own spa, sports centre and three main swimming pools, as well as private ones in some of the apartment complexes. Two of the pools have their very own bar in the centre and all have a separate children’s pool and lifeguards, so if your off on a family vacation you can sit back and relax on the sun beds without having to worry about the safety of your kids.

A number of different activities are put on throughout the day in all three hotels, including water polo, quizzes, dancing and darts to name but a few. There is also a hotel run club for the children and waiter service throughout the day and night if you just want to enjoy the sunshine without getting up out of your seat for drinks.

I would have been more than happy to simply stay within the resort for the week that I was there as there is so much to do. Although the spa doesn’t come into the All Inclusive bracket, there is a smaller, free spa within the sports centre, although you do have to purchase swimming caps before entering the pool. There are also a number of pool/snooker and ping pong tables, so you really will never get bored.

The drinks available within the All Inclusive bracket are limited to just local beers, wines and soft drinks. However, there is a vast list of cocktails, ciders and other beverages that can be purchased for either one euro or with a 35% discount. The waiters and bar staff are all lovely and happy to help and the whole resort is sparkling clean throughout.

As for the food, there is one main buffet restaurant in each hotel which boasts a huge choice of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pancakes and fried eggs are cooked right in front of you at breakfast, whilst for lunch and dinner the meat is carved and served to you in an instant. There are also different theme nights, including kebab night. But if your looking for something a bit lighter, or maybe want to eat lunch around the pool rather than in a formal restaurant, you can always head to the snack buffet, which offers fruit, crisps, chicken nuggets, chips, burgers and lots more from 11am until 11pm every day.

Estival Park La Pineda

As for at night, the hotel animation staff run evening entertainment, with the children catered for in Hotel 1 with a mini disco every night. There are also outside acts, including magicians, singers and dancers, before the ‘moonlight bar’ opens at midnight if you want to carry on dancing until the early morning.

This really is a resort for any age, whether your there with friends, family or on a romantic getaway with a partner, and the hotel staff even honour special occasions, leaving a bottle of champagne on ice in my hotel room to celebrate my 21st birthday.

The resort does have its faults of course. For instance, there are a lot of ants and other bugs around the pool area, the evening entertainment isn’t the best and the All Inclusive ends at 11.30pm each night, meaning drinks purchased in the ‘moonlight bar’ have to be paid for. There is also a lot of pushing and shoving in the restaurant as there is not an organised queue. However, the positives of this resort far out-weigh the negatives, and there is also plenty to do outside of the resort if things do get a bit too much.

The beach is directly opposite the resort with a row of bars, restaurants and shops all along it. You can catch buses into the town centres of Salou and Tarragona and take part in a number of water sports on the beach, ranging from pedal boats to banana boats. Do be careful on and around the beach though as there are always people trying to sell you things, including hair braiding, sunglasses, massages and one guy even tried to sell us ‘hash’!

Then there is the Aquapolis water park, which plays host to a number of amazing water rides, including the Boomerang, Black Hole and Kamikaze. You can zip wire over the pool, chill out in a rubber ring as you go around the rapids or relax in the wave pool. There are also resident dolphins and sea lions, who put on shows at 12pm and 4pm every day and you can even pose for pictures with them. It really is a fantastic water park with lots to do for people of all ages, as there is also a children’s area and sun beds. You’ll receive tickets for the park when you check in at the hotel, which will then be swapped for wrist bands the first time you visit. It is a good idea to purchase a locker while you there to keep all of your personal belongings safe, and with the wrist bands you’ll also be given tokens to get one euro off things such as lockers, food and drinks. However, to save money, you could just keep going back to the hotel to take advantage of the free food and drink as you can go in and out of the water park as many times as you want during your stay, and don’t be tempted to hire the rubber rings that they say you need as you just queue up at the bottom of every ride and collect free ones if you need them.

If you wanted to head out further afield, do take advantage of the excursions that First Choice organise. The First Choice and Thompson representatives really are great at this resort, there is always one available in the reception area of each hotel between the hours of 8am and 4pm, and you can even ring, text or email them if you desperately need help. They are all really friendly and can help you out with anything, whether its booking taxi’s or organising a picnic with the hotel (which, by the way, I highly recommend if your going out for the day; you get a lovely lunch and a bottle of water which saves a lot of money if your heading out to places like Barcelona or Port Aventura, as the prices in restaurants are sometimes really expensive). At the start of your holiday, you’ll be asked to attend a welcome meeting with one of the reps, who tells you everything there is to know about the resort, La Pineda and the surrounding areas and you can also book any excursions you want to go on here.

Nou Camp Stadium

The excursions range from tours of the Camp Nou; home of Barcelona FC, to boat trips, safari’s, bike rides, nights out and zoo’s, amongst other things. The excursion I particularly recommend is the House of Illusion. This was by far the best night of my week and I can’t stress enough just how amazing a show it is. You do have to make your own way there, but taxi fare is only €10 each way. Once there, all of the staff are English and very polite and helpful. They open the door of the taxi for you before you walk up a red carpet to enter into a bar, where you do have to pay for all of your drinks but once your inside the main dining room all of the food and drinks are included in the price. You will get 2 bottles of wine, a jug of beer and a jug of any soft drink you want, which are immediately topped up whenever emptied. If you attend the early showing, you’ll also get a meal, which is the delicious English meal of chicken and chips. Its important to get to the bar area early as here they warm you up for the main show with card and mind tricks, before you are really blown away by top class magic, comedy and even a bit of singing. This really is something not to be missed.

Finally, there is the unforgettable Port Aventura. This amazing theme park plays host to the tallest roller coaster in Europe; ‘Shambhala’. There are also plenty of other rides, such as ‘Dragon Khan’ for thrill seekers, or water rides such as ‘Tatuki Splash’ and the rapids for more laid-back fun. Be warned though, ‘Tatuki Splash’ leaves you absolutely drenched, although you soon dry off in the scorching heat.

The average temperature for this part of Spain during the main summer months of July and August is 30C, meaning its warm enough to soak up the sun and get a great tan, but not too hot so its still possible to fully enjoy all of the amazing things that there is to do.

So, if your looking for an action packed holiday, or even just a chilled-out trip, I highly recommend the four star Estival Park.

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