Spain is best known for its gorgeous coastline, beaches and weather – but in Spain’s beautiful Costa Dorada, there is also a theme park that would rival Disneyland Paris and is the perfect destination for family holidays.
Our first PortAventura experience was over 10 years ago and we still have fond memories of our holiday.
We decided to head back to Spain’s largest theme park with Jet2 Holidays to find out how Port Aventura has changed and what is there for tweens and teens.
Staying on-site at the Hotel Gold River – PortAventura World
There are six on-site hotels to choose from at PortAventura World, all with their own theme and style – we stayed at the 4* Hotel Gold River – PortAventura World with Jet2 Holidays on a full board basis which was excellent value.
We all loved the theming of the hotel and the resort, which was based on the fictitious Sullivan City, cleverly creating a really immersive Wild West experience.
This was one of the best decisions we made for our trip. Staying onsite meant that we had easy access to the park and could come and go as we pleased. – you can read our detailed review of our stay here.
In addition, staying onsite gave us access to added benefits, such as tickets to the Port Aventura theme park for each day of our stay, a day at Ferrari Land and discounts on the third park Caribe. Other benefits include access to the park through a dedicated hotel guest entrance, discounted express passes and discounts on merchandise.
PortAventura World consists of three parks and is situated on the outskirts of the coastal resort of Salou on Spain’s Costa Dorada, just an hour south of Barcelona.
Port Aventura is massive, the main park is split into 6 themed worlds with more than 40 rides and attractions, in addition there is also the Ferrari Land theme park and the huge Caribe Aquatic water park.
You need several days here to experience everything – it’s on the same scale as any of the large theme park resorts in the USA, so I’m glad that we booked a package through Jet2holidays which is really good value.
Tip – A PortAventura express pass is well worth purchasing especially if the park is busy. We made the most of our time at the park with Express passes. As a hotel guest you get these at a discounted rate and you can spend more time enjoying the rides rather than waiting in line.
The girls excitement levels went through the roof as we first entered the park through the Gold River hotel guest entrance, and after checking the map to see where we needed to head to, it was all about rides, rides, rides.
I knew we would love it here as soon as we set foot inside the park and saw the theming of the park.
The Far West area continues the Wild West theme of Sullivan City, where our hotel was located – the attention to detail here is superb and it’s also home to two of the parks wooden rollercoasters, which the girls in particular were really excited to try out.
After taking in the sights and sounds of the Far West, the first stop for us was Stampeda, and we had great fun racing each other on this dual 46mph wooden roller coaster, I didn’t realise it would be this extreme!
Next up was the more family friendly Tomahawk coaster which cleverly weaves around the tracks of Stampeda making it feel much faster. We just missed the opening of the new Uncharted coaster based on the recent movie staring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, which looks like an impressive addition to the park.
After lunch we were off into Mexico, where the girls loved the twisting and turning of the Yucatan spinner ride and the even more extreme Serpiente Emplumada.
The main attraction here is the 100m vertical drop tower Hurakan Condor which freefalls at more than 99mph, it’s so tall we could see it in the distance as we stepped off the plane at Reus airport.
This was way too extreme for us (it made Disney’s Tower of Terror look like a child’s ride in comparison) so we skipped it for the El Diablo mine train, another fun wooden coaster for families.
After a busy first day we were looking forward to check into our room at the 4* Gold River hotel. We booked a full board package with Jet2 Holidays and its well worth the upgrade – dinner is served buffet style and we were impressed with the choice of dishes on offer.
Breakfast at Gold River the next morning was excellent and set us up for another action packed day. The benefits of having a dedicated hotel guest entrance to the park meant that we could bypass the large crowds at the main gate allowing us to get into the parks much quicker.
With the weather already starting to warm up we started off on the Grand Canyon Rapids to cool off, before heading down to one of the most beautiful areas of the park, the Mediterrània.
I loved walking around the Mediterrània area, its designed to look like a Spanish coastal town and like the rest of the park the attention to detail is amazing.
The parks largest store, disguised as Records de PortAventura is also here and was a frequent stop for the kids as they stocked up on park merch. You’ll also find some of the parks best restaurants here Raco de Mar and my personal favourite Vinosfera Tapes.
Chloe was brave enough to go on the main roller coaster here, Furius Baco, a winged coaster. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted as you are launched from 0-135kh/h in just three seconds and takes you over the parks main lake before returning back to the station.
Tip – The park is busiest – and hottest as you would expect in the peak summer months of mid June, July and August so if possible visit outside of these months or you will definitely need an express pass to make the most of your time at the park.
The tropical themed Polynesia area was next, home to the parks main water ride, Tutuki Splash volcano and also one of the parks best shows, the Polynesian dance performance on the sand at Pareos en Bora Bora.
Tip – Download the Port Aventura World app to your phone before your visit. The app proved to be incredibly useful, providing us with information such as park opening times for Port Aventura, Ferrariland, and Caribe Water Park. It had a search feature that allowed us to explore the various park areas, rides, shops, restaurants, and quick-service kiosks in more detail through the interactive map. We could also check the opening times of rides and see which restaurants were open or closed on a particular day. Additionally, the app provided a schedule with timings for shows, character meet and greets, and parades.
Port Aventura is not all about thrill rides, for families with younger children this area of the park is perfect. Dedicated to Sesame Street this is an even bigger and more impressive version than what you would find at Seaworld or Busch Gardens in Florida.
As we stepped into the colourful world of SesamoAventura it brought back so many memories of when we were last here and the fun we had when the girls were really young.
There are so many family friendly rides here, from Tami Tami a surprisingly fast junior rollercoaster to taking a plane ride with Grover providing great aerial views of the park.
One of our favourites here was their most recent ride Street Mission where you jump in a New York cab to help solve the mystery of who stole the cookies. It’s a really competitive 4D ride as we all tried to outscore each other playing mini games shooting at cookie targets- if you have ever been on Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney this is even better.
Magic Fish was another hit for the kids, an interactive water ride where you zoom around a circular pool at speed – it’s just like the Hydras challenge at Legoland Windsor.
After a quick lunch in the park at the Tex-Mex themed Iron Horse restaurant using our full board benefits, we were off to check out the last area of the park China.
China is just as impressively themed as the rest of the park with realistic architecture, there is even a version of the Great Wall of China here. What captures your attention in this section are the parks two main coasters which dominate the skyline.
Shambhala is the parks tallest ride at 76m high and also boasts the longest drop and on Dragon Khan we counted eight twisting loops within 70 seconds. I got nervous just watching them and even for an adrenaline seeking teen, these rides are extreme so we cooled off at Angkor.
This interactive family raft ride was so much fun as you float through an Angkor Wat-inspired temple, jungle scene and village. What made this ride so memorable was the fact that the rafts have water guns installed, so as well as shooting at targets on your adventure, you also get to shoot water at people on other rafts in the final battle – you come off soaked but it’s a great way to cool down from the heat.
It wasn’t just the big coasters that impressed us – there were plenty of smaller rides and attractions that were just as enjoyable especially for families with younger children ranging from tea cups to a Chupa Chups themed balloon ride.
After a busy day, we headed back to our hotel to relax and have fun at the three pools at the Gold River before dinner.
We slept soundly and were up bright and early ready to discover more of the Port Aventura World on our last full day. When you book a stay on-site at Port Aventura as well as unlimited access to the main park you also get a one day entrance to Ferrari Land, Port Aventura World’s most recent park to open.
FerrariLand opened at 4pm so we spent the day revisiting all our favourite parts of the main park, from Stampeda and Furious Bako to the amazing Sesame Street Mission.
Ferrari Land with its beautiful Italian theming and race track-inspired attractions, is the latest theme park at PortAventura World opening in 2017 and is definitely worth a visit. – you can read our full review here.
Ferrari Land offered a mix of rides for younger children as well as extreme thrill-seeking experiences, and I do mean extreme. The parks centrepiece ride was Red Force, the tallest and fastest coaster in Europe. I watched in amazement as the F1 car style coaster accelerates you from 0-112mph in just under five seconds and vertically up 376ft!
I thoroughly enjoyed the simulator experience of Flying Dreams, which reminded me of Disney’s Soarin’. The Italian-themed atmosphere was enchanting, and the combination of rides for different age groups made it such a unique and enjoyable experience.
Exploring Ferrari Land took us around 2.5 hours, but it was certainly worth the visit. With Ferrari Land ticked off, we headed back to the main park to watch the closing parade from our favourite spot for drinks at Vinosfera Tapes whilst the girls had their final fix of Sesame Street before the park closed. The parade didn’t disappoint, and it was the perfect way to end our trip to Port Aventura World.
Shopping at Port Aventura
As you will know from our adventures, we are partial to some retail therapy and its pretty good here and well priced, strangely there is also a SuperDry store in the Polynesian section of the park. I really liked the location specific theming of the shops – in Mexico the girls picked up some Mexican mementos but it was the store in China that still remains my favourite – bringing back memories of our visit from over 10 years ago.
We couldn’t resist buying a Cookie Monster toy, a Ferrari Land themed Woodie Woodpecker plush (the mascot of the Port Aventura parks), and a souvenir mug. My youngest daughter insisted on getting a cool Cookie Monster T-shirt to bring back home.
Food at Port Aventura
The quality of meals here in the theme park is really good and much better than what you would expect. It’s well worth upgrading to the full board package when you book with Jet2 Holidays as Port Aventura World have a dine around system.
With this benefit, we could eat at any restaurant or fast food outlet in the park which was really good value. There may be a small supplement to pay on top, as each adult has 19.90 euro credit for lunch and 13.50 euro credit for children , but in our case this was always minimal and that was after choosing main meals and drinks.
Flights with Jet2
Our flights from Bristol Airport to Reus were with Jet2 and the experience and customer service from Jet2 Holidays was excellent. As we had really early morning flights to Reus with Jet2, we loved the fact that they offer a twilight check-in service at Bristol airport. We never travel light so it was good to know that we each had a 23kg hold and 10kg cabin allowance included in our Jet2 Holiday package.
The twilight check-in allowed us to check in our hold luggage the night before our flight, so the next morning we could go straight from our hotel at the airport to the departure lounge and start enjoying our holiday. The Jet2 staff members were friendly, helpful, and the whole process was quick and hassle-free.
Flight to and from the UK were excellent and with a flight time to Reus of just under 2 hours its an easy destination to reach, making it perfect for families. We were fortunate on the outbound flight to have the front row so we had so much space to stretch out and relax but even in the standard seats on our return flight we had ample legroom, making our flight comfortable.
The level of customer service offered from Jet2 Holidays was equally as impressive as our flight. Arriving at Reus, we were met with a warm welcome from a group of Jet2 holidays staff members who were available to guide us to the coach transfer area for the 20 minute transfer to our hotel.
This was so well organised and taken care of by Jet2 holidays and also the range of options that we could contact the Jet2 team on if we needed to including Whatsapp which I thought was excellent.
We loved our return visit to Port Aventura World, so much has changed with new rides, hotels and even a new theme park – Ferrari Land.
The mix of rides and attractions on offer for all the family makes Port Aventura World one of the very best theme parks in Europe.
A visit to Salou and the Costa Dorada is a great destination for a family holiday that offers the sunshine, beaches and theme park experience that you would find in Florida but without the 9 hour plane journey.
The girls are already talking about their return visit, they loved it here.
*Disclosure: This was a press trip organised by Jet2 Holidays but all opinions are entirely my own.