run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Family travel review: Abama, Tenerife

Ritz Carlton Abama Tenerife
In holiday-planning, picking Tenerife was the easy part: if you want some winter sun, a not-too-long flight (it's around four hours), budget airlines, all-year sunshine and no risk of Zika virus, then the Canary Islands are the best (only?) option - and Tenerife is one of the most family-friendly around. 

But which hotel/resort/villa to pick? We spent so long trawling websites and Tripadvisor that I thought a full review of the Moorish-style Ritz Carlton Abama, from where we've just returned from a week's break, and its family-friendly credentials would be useful for those looking too. So, here goes:

The Location

The Abama is about a 30-minute drive from South Tenerife airport, and we then prebooked a transfer with Kiwi taxi. The company was cheaper than a hailed one or a hotel transfer, at €47 for a mini van; you can also pre-order a free car seat which normal taxis don't offer. (Although it wasn't the newest/cleanest car seat around, it worked!)

The Abama is quite isolated - there are no villages or shops that you can walk to - but there's a shuttle to a big international mall, and a local village about a five-minute drive away. We, however, (and I'm a bit embarrassed about this) didn't end up leaving the resort - for the first time ever..!

The Abama is pretty self-contained - if you want to potter to shops or outside-resort restaurants or attractions, you'll need to hire a car (or taxi). 

 The Kids Factor

Little known and under-advertised (and brilliant) fact about the Abama: kids under four eat free. And those meals aren't the usual battered hotel fare: each restaurant had its own menu, always with healthy options like grilled fish, chicken breast, steamed vegetables, etc. And if you ask for fruit for dessert, you get this huuuuge exotic fruit platter that you can all very happily share. 
The restaurants all have kid-friendly plastic cutlery, plates, crayons and activity sheets (and very clean high-chairs) too. We would go for dinner with tiny man at 6ish, get him to sleep in the buggy then go for our dinner at 8ish, but there's an easy nanny booking system (see below) and lots of parents did that.

Activity-wise, there's a big, bright and well-stocked Ritz Kids area - you can leave 4-12 year olds, and there's a really full and fun-looking activity timetable  - but parents of younger tots like us could stick around and the toddlers can use the big ball pond, toys, books, gardens etc, as well as join in with activities (tiny man loved the model-making, and rushing around on their toy cars, ball pit, and slides).

Lots of parents also used the local nanny services - the hotel has a list; the nannies I saw were all English ex-pats and parents were happy with their services - where you can drop younger kids at the club with a nanny.

Other kid-friendly touches included lovely, helpful staff all over the resort, a little train to the beach (which isn't a long distance away, but down a steep cliff) which tiny man loved; baskets of free fruit by the pools, lots of equipment in-situ (eg a potty was whisked to our room in minutes), pool-side toys and rubber rings etc, a very shallow rock area on the main pool where tots loved to play, plus a kids-only pool. One issue, though, is that whilst the pools are heated, it was only to 26 degrees, so when the weather isn't boiling that can feel a bit chilly to little ones. Another thing to note: about three of the restaurants (namely the best ones, with the Michelin stars) are no-kids-zones, so you have to either book a sitter or give them a miss.

There are 500 acres of grounds and lots of smooth paths for long buggy walks. The hotel itself can be hard to navigate due to its size (and corridors looking the same) but you soon get used to it.

The Weather

Tenerife is known as the Island of Eternal Spring - temperatures hover between 18-25 degrees C in Autumn/winter/spring and hit the 30s in the summer. We went in mid-January and enjoyed pretty decent weather: it was between 20 and 22 most days. A few cloudy spells made the odd afternoon too cold for bikini donning on the beach (so we did the typical 'Brits under hoodies and towels' thing, obviously..)

The Grown-Up Stuff

The Abama is so big that whole pockets of it are kid-free zones - families have enough space that they don't notice, and adults can relax (there's even an adults-only breakfast restaurant). There's an amazing spa - it's spacious, and booking a treatment gives you access to its water experience - saunas, hydrotherapy pool, plunge pools, ice rooms, and more - so go an hour ahead of time if poss. I had a 60-minute Espa facial which was incredibly relaxing - and my husband even noticed 'something's different?' after.. 

There are buzzy bars in the evening, with live music most nights, and a super-relaxing adults-only infinity pool, outside the Mirador restaurant, with big beds, extra-comfy loungers, and just the sound of tinkling water. 

The Food

... really makes the hotel stand out compared to others where food is included. It's great quality, presentation and there good variety - although you pay accordingly. We went half-board, which gives you access to the amazing buffet breakfast (see video below, it's so sped-up because there's so much choice), and dinner each evening. 

Three course-meals (but not drinks, even water, which is €6 a bottle in some of the restaurants) at three restaurants are included (the 20-20 steakhouse, an Italian called Verona, and the one we found the best - the Spanish Txoko, with tapas, cured meats and more. The presentation was always lovely; there was a great atmosphere, and staying there for seven nights we didn't get bored of the menus, although the vegetarian options are pretty limited (it's Spain! You really have to like cheese if you don't like meat.)

There are almost a dozen restaurants in total, and you can easily spend €300 at M.B., which has two Michelin stars, or Japanese Kabuki restaurants. But they're said to be amongst the best in Spain, so could be worth a try!

The Beach 

... is really nice - golden sand, a cove to swim in, crabs lying on the rocks (tiny man's fave), and a train and funicular to access it. 

It can get a bit busy as it isn’t a 'private' beach so is accessed by locals, but Abama guests have access to loungers and it was never packed during our stay.

There's also an epic golf course, so I'm told as I know nothing about this, and we visited the tennis centre to find pristine hard courts. There's an activity timetable with things like beach volleyball, volcanic stone-painting, cookery lessons, and most parts are free, as well as a well-equiped gym with classes too.

The Rooms

... are really spacious compared to the average hotel. We were super lucky to be upgraded to a family suite, giving us a huge lounge and dining area as well as a big bedroom and enormous Asprey toiletry filled-bathroom (the tub happily accommodated all three of us, plus a large family of rubber ducks.), plus a big terrace with loungers which was brilliant for us to relax on during tiny man's nap-times.  If you don't want to share a bedroom with your kids, you’ll need to opt for a one-bedroom suite, or two interconnecting rooms. 

You can also choose to be based in the Citadel, the main building of the hotel, or surrounding villas, most of which have sea views but they are separate from the main building.   That does mean lots of golf buggy-driving, which is always fun, but being in the main building is easier if you have young kids - you can push a buggy to most of the restaurants, and usually find step-free access: although sometimes you'll need to use a hidden, internal lift, the staff are really happy to help.

Top tips

Pre-book restaurants long before you arrive - popular times and restaurants get full fairly fast. Tag-team with your other parent / friend to get some relaxing time at the pool / beach / spa if you can. Hunt around for a deal - we found BA Holidays had the cheapest package for our dates, but prices vary wildly.


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