The Costa Dorada is a destination that can be overlooked by families when looking for a package holiday to Spain, but there is so much to see and do here to keep all the family entertained.
We booked a package holiday with Jet2 to Salou with flights from Bristol airport and it was one of the most enjoyable family holidays that we have been on.
As regular readers will know, we love theme parks so when we told the girls that we were off to one of Europe’s largest and most popular theme parks, PortAventura World they were so excited. We were last here over 10 years ago and we couldn’t wait to see what was new at Port Aventura and in particular visiting the new Ferrari Land theme park.
As anyone who has ever visited the likes of Disney or Universal will know that days at theme parks can be busy and tiring, so to make the most of our experience in Salou we chose to stay at the four star Hotel Gold River, one of the six on-site hotels at PortAventura and we were really happy with our choice.
This is our review of the Hotel Gold River at PortAventura World.
As soon as we stepped off the coach transfer provided by Jet2 Holidays from Reus airport the excitement on the girls faces was priceless as we saw our hotel for the first time.
We were really impressed by the attention to detail of the hotel’s theming and landscaping, which made us feel like we were stepping back in time to the days of cowboys and the Wild West of the USA.
The grand façade and entrance of the hotel is reminiscent of the large hotel resorts in the USA and the theming at the hotel was on par or in many areas better than similar Disney properties at Disneyland Paris.
As you walk inside, the large open plan lobby area is really impressive, with its ornate water feature at its centre and large glass atrium towering above. The public spaces across the hotel are so well maintained and spotlessly clean.
The check-in experience was a little slow and as we arrived mid-morning our room was not ready until 3pm. We were given our theme park cards which not only is your room key but also doubles up as your theme park ticket and the girls couldn’t wait to experience the rides. What I didn’t expect at a four star hotel was the fact that the hotel charge to store your luggage until your room is ready at 5 euro per suitcase, so factor this in if your arrive before 3pm.
There are also lots of added benefits of staying here when visiting Salou, one of which is you get unlimited access to one of the worlds best theme parks – Port Aventura theme park and also one visit to the amazing Ferrari Land included in your stay, so its really good value.
This is a big resort with several hotels that form part of the Wild West-themed town Sullivan City, but because it’s spread over such a wide area it never felt crowded or hectic.
There are so many photo opportunities throughout Sullivan City which we loved from its railway station and steam train to the shop facades that are actually some of the hotel rooms which run through its main street. The centrepiece is city hall, a striking brick building where our room was located, it’s also home to the hotels main restaurant, gift shop, bar and lobby.
The Gold River hotel has over 500 rooms located in several themed buildings, and there is also the smaller and more exclusive Hotel Callaghan featuring superior rooms and the super luxe 5 star Mansion de Lucy – both of which were closed during our stay at the end of May because it was not high season. If these hotels were open they might have been our preference when booking with Jet2 Holidays, but on reflection we were really happy with our standard room at the main hotel.
Our room on the 2nd floor of the hotel had two comfortable double beds and came equipped with all the usual hotel amenities that you would expect in a 4-star hotel – fridge, safe, flat screen TV, wifi and air conditioning.
I was a little concerned before we arrived that we might be a little cramped with all of us sharing one room, especially with the girls now getting older but I needn’t have worried, the room was really spacious providing more than enough space for our family of four and all of our luggage.
From the hotel photos the rooms might look a little dated in their design but this is all to do with the clever theming of the hotel. All rooms here are designed to resemble the old American West, with wood floors, white wood furniture, wrought-iron headboards, quilted bedspreads, plaid curtains and armchairs, and floral artwork – all of which added a unique touch to this hotel, I really liked it.
Our bathroom was a decent size with a really powerful shower over a bath, plenty of towels and wall mounted eco-friendly toiletries. There was plenty of wardrobe space and shelving providing enough space for all four of us and as you will know from previous trips we never travel light.
During our stay at Hotel Gold River Port Aventura, we were impressed by the wide range of recreational activities available for guests. Here are some of the highlights:
The theme park is the main attraction at Port Aventura, and it’s easy to see why – you can read our review of PortAventura World here. With a wide range of rollercoasters, rides and attractions, there’s something for everyone. From the thrilling roller coasters to the more family-friendly rides, we had such a good time here at the park, so much so that the girls are already asking to come back for a return visit.
One of the girls favourite rides was Stampeda, a dual roller coaster that reaches speeds of up to 83 mph and the two carriages race each other. Other personal highlights were the Canyon River Rapids and the Sesame Street Mission.
While many choose this hotel for its close proximity to the Port Aventura park – it’s a 5 minute walk away through a private entrance which made a huge difference for us, there is so much to enjoy here away from the adrenaline filled rides at PortAventura or Ferrari Land.
We loved the hotel pools, there are two large lagoon style pools and one for children – which were the perfect way to cool off in the afternoon after busy days having fun in the park.
There were plenty of beds available around the 3 pools but what I didn’t expect was that there were no pool towels supplied as standard for hotel guests, you either had to pay a deposit and hire them or bring your own.
However, apart from this minor issue the pools were fab and I really liked how the pools themed ‘oil slick’ look, so its in-keeping with the surrounding theme, which is all down to the clever black pool coating. If you wanted a snack or drink when at the pools the River Bar restaurant was open serving drinks and fast food items.
A small playpark is also available to hotel guests located close to the swimming pools of the Hotel Gold River and directly opposite Mansion de Lucy.
A highlight of the hotel in particular for Holly was the on-site gift shop which carried many of the main items sold in the park. Another bonus of staying on site is that any purchases we made throughout the shops in the theme park got delivered back to our hotel later that evening.
As part of our package with Jet2 Holidays, we enjoyed a full board basis at the hotel which is well worth upgrading to as we felt it offered excellent value for money especially when dining in the parks during the day.
As you might have experienced in a Disney resort property, dining times for both breakfast and dinners had to be prebooked via the Port Aventura dining website accessed on your smartphone via a QR code. We found the booking system flexible, allowing us to amend our dining times if alternatives were available.
The day begins with their breakfast buffet at the Grand Hall restaurant, offering a wide variety of hot breakfast items to cereals, fruit and pastries. As with most theme park hotels it was rather busy in the restaurant but the staff here were excellent, quickly removing used dishes from our table and it was really well organised and clean.
The full board package allows you to eat at any fast service dining outlet or restaurant at the theme park for lunch and we found this really good value. Each adult had 19.90 euro to spend toward the bill and children had €13.50, so I would recommend using this at one of the restaurants rather than the quick service outlets for the best value.
Many of the restaurants were closed but our favourite was Vinosfera Tapes, a beautiful tapas restaurant serving great food, excellent service and in a gorgeous setting in the Mediterranean section of the park. If you do go here, I highly recommend the patatas bravas and the 3 mini cheeseburger main.
We also stopped by for lunch at the Iron Horse restaurant, serving a tex-mex menu which was ok, but the levels of service and food quality were much better at Vinosfera Tapes.
The Grand Hall buffet restaurant at the hotel is also the main dining option for guests each evening. With several live cooking areas and multiple stations the selection each evening was very good and more importantly varied meaning we didn’t get bored of what was on offer.
There was a choice of Spanish and international cuisines, ranging from fresh fish and meats to salads and an impressive choice of desserts. I’m not a huge fan of buffets but every night was different and the food quality was excellent.
If you want a change from the buffet each evening you are also able to dine at the hotels stylish Grand Opera restaurant which serves an a la carte menu. Similar to lunch if you decide to eat here your half board provides credit toward the cost of the meal. We never had a chance to try this out as the kids were more than happy with the choice of food available at the Grand Hall buffet each evening.
Evening entertainment at the hotel
Off the main lobby is the lobby bar, beautifully designed in the theme of an old western saloon. This was one of our favourite places to relax at night after our evening meal.
For families with younger children, there was also a nightly mini disco and character meet and greet each night at the Gold River Saloon just off the central plaza forecourt of the hotel. A small play park is also in the resort which looked great fun for younger kids.
Location and proximity to the parks
This hotel is located in Salou on the Costa Dorada, and what makes this location really stand out is that its just a 20 minute transfer from Reus airport which is where we flew into from Bristol with Jet2 Holidays, so its perfect for families not wanting a long transfer time, It’s also really accessible if you are arriving from Barcelona, making Port Aventura easy to reach by train or car.
One of the significant perks of staying at the Hotel Gold River is its location, its so close to the theme park that you can see one of its main rollercoasters Stampeda as you relax by the pool.
A pleasant five minute stroll through the hotel grounds and we were at the private guest entrance to the park, which also meant you miss the huge lines of visitors waiting at the turnstiles at the main entrance when the park opens. Although you pay more to be staying at a hotel in Port Aventura, I do think its well worth it for the convenience, being able to easily return to our hotel for a break or to enjoy the sunshine at the pool before going back into the park later was perfect for us.
For those looking to explore further afield, the hotel is also within easy reach of other popular destinations in the Costa Dorada region. We walked to Salou one morning from our hotel and we were really impressed by its beaches and coastline, while the historic city of Tarragona, with its ancient Roman ruins and beautiful beaches, is just a short drive away.
We had such a wonderful family holiday here in PortAventura World, we could have easily have spent another few days here as none of us wanted to leave. PortAventura is a great alternative to Disneyland Paris for families looking for a fun and exciting holiday.
It’s well worth staying on-site and the Hotel Gold River – it’s a great theme park hotel and we really enjoyed our stay here. It’s location and theming make it such as unique hotel to stay at.
Ready to book
Prices for a family of 4 staying at the Hotel Gold River – Port Aventura World with flights from Bristol airport to Reus, start from just £493pp for a 4 night stay on a half board basis booking through Jet2 Holidays.