After being back from Hawaii for nearly two weeks in July, we were understandably starting to miss the beach again! So, deciding that we wanted to do a short-haul trip, Spain seemed to be the ideal solution. After some research on the coastal areas, we settled on El Vendrell, and specifically Calafell, in the wine-growing region of Penedès (in the North-Eastern part of the country).
Less than an hour’s drive or taxi from Barcelona, this area of the Costa Daurada is easily accessible, and a perfect place for a relaxing and sunny beach holiday.
Set opposite the beautiful beach of San Salvador, the hotel was originally a sanatorium, harnessing the sunny climate and healing waters of the sea for health & wellness.
Fast forward 90 years, and is is now a Marriott Group 5* hotel, with apparently one of the largest spas in Spain.
The lobby of the hotel is very large, light and airy, with high ceilings and modern decor. The reception staff are friendly and welcoming, although we found that levels of English comprehension differ between staff members. As my Spanish is woefully lacking, I don’t consider this to be a negative aspect! The hotel seems to be just as popular with Spanish guests taking a seaside holiday as with other nationalities, so it definitely has more of a “local” feel to it, which we liked.
The lobby area leads though the bar and out to the back of the hotel, with direct access to a beautiful private beach. We spent most of our 10 days here!
If you can drag yourself away, there is also a very nice rooftop pool area, other sun decks, and of course the spa, with a heated pool and fantastic facilities. I had a very relaxing spa pedicure, as well as my first ever Ayurvedic detox massage, which I intend to talk about in a separate little post. Highly recommended!
We stayed in a duplex sea view suite, which was very spacious, with a separate living room downstairs, one full bathroom, and another en suite off the bedroom.
The decor of the room was appropriate for the seaside location, and very light and airy. It was in need of some TLC in places, but mostly in good order. My experience is that 5* can mean different things depending on the country and city. It’s all about knowing the country and managing your own expectations.
I did read some negative reviews about this hotel before we visited, which we just couldn’t understand once we were there! It’s such a relaxing and friendly place. And the majority of the service is of the 5* level I would expect.
The housekeeping was a little hit and miss, but nothing worth complaining about, and, again, some of it was due to language differences! Also, as it’s a seasonal hotel, I imagine there are some staff changes during the later summer months, when some return to college or back home.
Dining and the local area
The hotel itself has some good dining options, with daily breakfast and night buffets, an a la carte restaurant (La Tarrassa del Mar) and a fine dining restaurant, Lo Mam, by Catalan chef Jordi Guillemarea (which we have yet to try). Both La Tarrassa and the buffet were of a really good standard.
There is also a nice menu for snacks and light meals in the bar area. And a beach club restaurant serving lunch and lighter meals close to the ocean (although be warned, the servings are very American-sized, so not so much on the light side!).
Less than 5 minutes walk down the promenade takes you towards the main town, which is a typical buzzing Spanish seaside spot.. although I imagine very quiet in the winter! There are all sorts of shops with everything you could need – casual clothes stores, bazaars, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and many types of eateries!
A couple of places to note:
Restaurant Pizzeria Giuseppe, a casual beachside venue serving pretty authentic Italian style pizza and pasta, and with some good, though inexpensive red wines.
Oroma Coffee, a great little independent coffee shop serving brunch, breakfast, and lots more! This is our go to when we wake up too late for breakfast at the hotel. Soo much better than Starbucks!
A fantastic and very rustic little restaurant, which looks as if its been there forever, in an old fisherman’s cottage-style building. Serving delicious traditional tapas and some more unusual local specialities. Again, the portions are pretty large, so you may need fewer tapas than normal depending on your hunger level!
Self-catering & markets
If you’re self-catering or just want to buy some good supplies for snacks or picnics, there is a large Lidl supermarket around 5 minutes walk from the hotel.
A little further along, the Mercat de Calafell is also well worth visiting. As well as a large supermarket, there are some fantastic independent shops/stalls selling delicious local ham, cheese, fish, wine, and all good things. There’s also a good health food store. Visiting the market was one of our favourite things to do!
constructed in the 11th century as a border castle between the French Empire and Al-Andalus, with an incredible history, the castle is definitely worth the 1.4 mile leg work-out to get there!
For a pretty small entrance fee, you get to wander the historical remains, including the 15th century prison, and the 8th and 9th century tombs under the current church building. With some pretty spectacular views of the Calafell area to boot!
Check the opening times before you visit, and note that it is closed in the afternoon from 2pm, and reopens at 5:30pm.
We stayed at Le Meridien Ra Beach Hotel in both July and September. The weather in September was still warm enough for the beach, with a couple of more cloudy days. Note that the hotel is a seasonal one, and is only open from May – September.
Calafell is also easily accessible from Barcelona by train in around an hour, with many services running daily
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about this sunny Spanish coastal getaway, and feel inspired to visit for the first time, or to return to an old favourite.
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adios for now and travel safe!