Our First Family Holidayby Paige Russell-Tate
Four weeks ago, we arrived home from an incredible week of sun and fun-filled family time in Benalmadena, Spain. We all had the most amazing time, we were actually poorly for the first day, which wasn’t a great start to the holiday, but we soon got over it. My little boy Oliver, however, was poorly the whole time we were there. Before I tell you all about it though, I want to tell you a little story. A few months before, my partner Louis and I, were looking for family holidays, half board, and not in the greatest of places as we only had a small budget. We woke up one morning to my father-in-law saying he will pay for the holiday, as he wanted to treat us for our first holiday and wanted us to go somewhere a bit more child-friendly. Louis and I were so excited as we had been looking for a good few months for the perfect first-holiday destination. We went into travel agents to see what they had to offer, and we looked online. Eventually, we decided to go somewhere that Louis had been before, Hotel Polynesia in Benalmadena, Spain. Benalmadena is a stunning town on the Costa-del-Sol in between Malaga and Marbella.
As soon as I saw the hotel, I just felt drawn to it. I knew that we wouldn’t find anywhere else as perfect and as suitable for us as a small family. It looked stunning, in a beautiful terracotta pink colour, surrounded by palm trees and was in a great location, close to what Louis already knew from when he’d been before. So, 12 weeks before departure, we booked it through a travel agent and the countdown began.
Like I mentioned, the hotel was stunning. The entrance had two sets of beautiful glass doors, going into the main reception area. The hotel was L shaped, so there were numerous corridors and lifts and row upon row of balconies. Louis and I couldn’t stop watching videos of it before we went because we were so excited to see what it was like. Everyone on the video reviews said it was big, but you can’t put into words how huge it actually was. It is located about 14 minutes away from Fuengirola and 17 minutes from Benalmadena, both beautiful places. They have many beachfront bars, restaurants, shops, lovely beaches and fantastic promenades to walk along. Hotel Polynesia is located on a hill with the most stunning views overlooking Caravajal Beach which is a 10 minutes’ walk away and just a few minutes’ walk from the beach club, which is run by the hotel complex. The hotel is gorgeously decorated to give a South Pacific feel, with inside waterfalls, water features, an inside rope bridge going over the huge lagoon pool, birds of paradise aviary and a turtle enclosure. The rooms were stunningly modern, with marble floors to marble worktops in the bathroom.
The room had a spacious open plan kitchen/living room with all the things you need such as a sofa, a dining table and chairs, a breakfast bar into the kitchen and doors onto the open balcony. The bedroom was spacious with an extra-large bed, wardrobe and door onto the balcony. The bathroom was fabulous, two sinks, a bath and a stand-alone shower and of course the obvious a toilet. We had the most fantastic view from our balcony as when we arrived at the hotel the receptionists couldn’t find our booking for some reason, so we were upgraded to a pool and sea view on the 5th floor. I couldn’t have wished for a better room, even if some balconies below us had an extra-large balcony with a hot tub included (these rooms are very limited and come at an extra cost).
Out and about in Benalmadena
We got into a really lovely routine where we’d either go out for the day or stay in the hotel around the pool. On the second day of the holiday, we spent the day in the Benalmadena town centre. We caught the bus from the hotel which drove through Torremolinos and Benalmadena. It made me realise how big this place actually was and how much there was to do. We visited the sea life centre on a very hot day, thinking we’d get out of the sun, but it turned out not to be the best idea as it did get very hot and stuffy indoors. It was great though, we all enjoyed it. We visited the sharks and jellyfish, starfish and seals, but it wasn’t easy getting around with a pushchair. I would recommend if you go with a baby, to take a baby carrier instead of a pushchair. We then walked along the very long promenade in Benalmadena, it was fabulous to see all the bars and restaurants full already at 12 pm. We headed back to the bus and we were on our way back to the hotel when we decided to give the pool a go. We love to explore when we are on holiday, but we also like to relax and chill out and I think we worked out a perfect balance. We wanted to spend time around the pool but at the same time, we wanted to try and explore a little. So, during the day we would go out and explore and then mid-afternoon we would go back to the room and get our swimming stuff on and go and chill around the pool for a couple of hours before dinner. This was perfect for us as we had a baby and couldn’t chill around the pool all day.
Out and about in Fuengirola
We visited Fuengirola a few times during our stay because we loved it so much. The first time we visited we went to the market on Sunday. It was great. Loads of stalls and loads of people and very big. The stalls mainly consisted of knock-off designer bags, belts, t-shirts, jumpers, purses, shoes and sunglasses, amongst some trinket stalls, food, and various fresh food stalls. We finished off at the market for 12 pm and had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted, so we decided to go for some lunch in a place called Gali Gali Beach Club. Fabulous food. It is set right on the beachfront, so as your having your drink or eating something you can look out onto the incredible beach. Fuengirola is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a chilled, but an adventurous holiday. After Gali Gali, we took a walk around Fuengirola town. Beautiful.
The second time we visited Fuengirola we went to the Bio Parc, which is a small zoo, set in the middle of Fuengirola town. It was great. We saw chimpanzees, orangutans, crocodiles, tigers and lemurs, to name a few. Visiting Bio Parc was a great day out for the three of us. I would definitely recommend visiting if you ever go to Fuengirola, kids and adults will love it.
The third time we visited Fuengirola, we just went for a walk around, some lunch and a paddle in the sea for Oliver. Lunch was tasty, we stopped off at a Spanish restaurant on ‘Food Mile’, which is a side road just filled with restaurants next to each other. Definitely worth a visit if you are looking for somewhere yummy to eat. Oliver then dipped his toes in the sea but made it very clear that he didn’t like it as he screamed every time the water touched him. Fuengirola beach is beautiful, clear waters and golden sands. Perfect.
The Visit To The Beach Club
The Beach Club is a water park which is run by the hotel. It was included in our All-Inclusive package, but can be paid for separately. Everything at the Beach Club has been carefully considered for all kinds of guests, whatever your age or preferences you’ll always find something suitable for you. The Beach Club has different zones for different age groups and various activities.
The Beach Club includes:
- A VIP area; this is a private area where you can enjoy all the exclusivity of the holiday. Here, you can find Balinese beds and a hydro massage area. Perfect for relaxing. Also has an incredible view looking straight out into the sea.
- A wave pool; this only operates during September and October. A massive wave pool that makes you feel like you are in the middle of the ocean. Great for adults and children. You will most probably have to be able to swim confidently.
- Water slides; one slide enters straight into the wave pool and the other is a lazy river.
- Pirate ship pool; an abandoned pirate ship is at the heart of this pool with slides and water fountains coming out at each end. This pool also includes 5 Jacuzzis and a huge waterfall.
- Southern Caribbean Sea; four large elephants enter into this incredible pool, with water squirting out their trunks. This pool is fabulous for babies as it has a shallow end where they can sit in the water, but also gets deeper the further you go in.
We visited the Beach Club once. It was great, I enjoyed the view of the sea as it is located right on the seafront. I cannot put into words how big the Beach Club is. Unfortunately, the bar is located at the entrance, so if you chose to sit furthest away from the entrance, you do have a long walk to the bar. We also tried the VIP area, which was so relaxing, I didn’t want to move. However, we found that it would have been designed for older children that are walking and swimming, as there wasn’t much to do for babies. Despite this, we still enjoyed a relaxing day in the sun.
The main reason we all go on holiday is for, of course, family time. It was amazing to spend so much time with Louis. It made us feel like a proper little family. We had never been on holiday together before, so not only was it our first family holiday it was also our first holiday as a couple, to have that quality family time was really special. It is a memory I will never forget. Having Louis around for the full 7 days took a massive weight off my shoulders and I felt I could relax a bit more, as he was another set of hands to help with Oliver when there was a problem, which was nice as I don’t get that much at home. We made so many happy memories that we will treasure forever.
In the hotel there were 3 restaurants all together; an all-inclusive restaurant, Polynesian style restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. The all-inclusive restaurant had a balcony so you could sit outside and watch the sunset over the sea, which is gorgeous. So, there was definitely enough food to keep us going for a week. We visited the Polynesian style restaurants 2 times during the stay - the food was delicious. I tried things I wouldn’t have normally tried at home, so it was also a bit of time to let my hair down a bit and experiment with food and really soak in the culture. Most nights after dinner we would go to the bar and sit outside, as it was still warm at night-time and have a drink and play cards, either poker, rummy or crazy eight, while Oliver slept beside us. Towards the end of the holiday, we went into the arcade at night and played a few games of pool and a game of bowling, as there was a bowling alley in the hotel. These were happy nights. This would be the time that Louis and I would spend together properly. And then to end the night, we’d put Oliver in his travel cot and we’d snuggle on the sofa in our room and watch a bit of TV.
Can We Stay Just A Bit Longer?
Overall, we had the most amazing time. It was a perfect mix of fun, excitement but also some well-deserved relaxation. It was great to have Louis there 24/7, Oliver really enjoyed playing with him and just loved having him around. Benalmadena is such a lovely place and we would love to go back as there is so much more we want to explore. The hotel was just utter perfection, I couldn’t have dreamt of a more perfect hotel. It makes me quite emotional thinking back to the views and the fun we had there.
The staff were fabulous help. Whenever we needed help finding somewhere or needed help booking a taxi or excursion, they would always be happy to help. They were friendly, approachable and easy to talk to. On the second day, we were posted a welcome pack which included leaflets and excursions and were given the option of going to a welcome meeting but didn’t end up going to that. The hotel also provided an app where you had the staff to talk to 24/7 if you needed help or information. Being a young couple on holiday with a young baby is quite daunting, to say the least, but it did put my mind at ease knowing there is someone there to help if you need it.
All in all, it was a truly special holiday and we will be most certainly be looking to go again. It was one of those holidays that you get goosebumps just thinking about it, and we have all come back with the most amazing, special memories.