19 May 2017

Staying at the HPB Bena Vista property on the Costa del Sol

If you regularly follow my blog, you'll know that I'm a member of the HPB scheme which entitles me access to a property portfolio across Europe. And you'll also know I'm a massive fan. You can read more about the scheme here.

In my endeavours to stay at all the properties in the portfolio, I recently stayed at the HPB Bena Vista property which is in Estepona on the Costa Del Sol.
The view from the clubhouse

I chose this property simply because we were travelling in April and it promised to have the warmest weather out of all the properties in the scheme at that time of year. Plus, the flights to Malaga Airport were short and cheap and the transfer to the property from the airport was under an hour. And, since we were travelling with our two year old son, this was essential. 

The property we selected was a two bed, ground floor apartment with a private garden. And, as always, the place was absolutely immaculate. They'd set up a lovely, little cot in the second bedroom and both bedrooms had a private en suite. The garden was south facing and completely self enclosed so ideal for our son to play in. We even had a little coal BBQ- all perfect for a small family get away.

The entrance to the complex
We also loved the position of Bena Vista because it was situated close to bars and restaurants. Some of the properties we've stayed in have been fairly remote and required a drive to get to amenities. Whereas this place had bars, restaurants and supermarkets on its doorstep. 

In fact, right next door, there's a lovely bar called Restaurant Los Arcos which we ended up going to most days! The bar has a lovely enclosed outside area complete with children's play park, enabling us to sit having a drink, a meal and relax while our son played in a safe, enclosed area with both Spanish and English children. We ate there once and the food was pretty good too.

The playpark at Los Arcos
Bena Vista does have a beach which is literally 5 minutes walk away. But, to be honest, it's more of a stony crop on the edge of a building site! Considering the beautiful beaches on the Costa Del Sol, this is not somewhere you'd choose to hang out (unless you had an interest in watching Spanish builders at work!). However, there were numerous beaches within 10 minutes drive in Espepona, Puerta Benus and Marbella. I've written about my favourite beaches here.

The resort also had two swimming pools but they're not heated. So, in April, even with a wetsuit on, our son could not be coaxed in! 

All great, so what's the catch? Well, we had a lovely holiday and we were really lucky with the weather considering it was April. But there are a couple of things that might put you off.

Our lovely enclosed garden
Firstly, the road. Randomly, the whole Bena Vista resort is built on the edge of a pretty main road. And, when I say a main road, it's like the A3 or A34 in England. Busy day and night and only passable via the numerous footbridges dotted along it. Our apartment was several rows back from the road, but you could still hear it, even with the doors closed.

Secondly, I can't even talk about how many keys we had to grapple with in order to navigate around the complex. Now, I understand the need for security, but surely there has to be a solution that doesn't require a key for the front door, two keys for the back door, two keys for the other back door, a key for the side gate, one for the swimming pool, one for the laundry room, one for the Club House...the list goes on. In fact, because we were outside the main HPB complex, we couldn't even get into the main area because we didn't have the key. The whole system needs a complete overhaul.
Gorgeous swimming pool

Look, if you're looking for a remote, isolated and picturesque resort, I'll be honest, this place isn't going to be for you. Although the grounds of the complex are beautifully maintained like all the HPB properties, it is on the edge of a really main road. I'd recommend HPB La Gomera or HPB Almeria if you want peace, tranquillity and unspoiled views. 

However, if you want to be near amenities, to be able to walk to bars and restaurants and if you're travelling with children and need to be able to entertain them, this place is ideal. Although I loved HPB Lanzarote with it's nearby bars and restaurants, the property we had here was much nicer and the enclosed garden was ideal for a toddler. However, you didn't need to hire a car in Lanzarote.

All in all, we had a lovely stay there and we would definitely return. Another great property from HPB.

30 April 2017

Best family friendly beaches in Marbella and Estepona

We recently took a trip to Estepona staying in the HPB property there called HPB Bena Vista. Although there was a beach near to the property, it was more of a building site really, so we looked further afield to Marbella, Estepona and Puerta Benus for nice beaches.

These are the nicest family (and parent) friendly beaches we found on our travels:

El Cristo Beach in Estepona

This was the nicest beach we found and the one we kept going back to. Just past the marina in Estepona, El Cristo Beach is a small cove which means the water is more sheltered and laps gently over the shallow shore. 

Directly on the beach there is a small, shaded play park which my son loved playing on. There's a little beach bar called Havana Beach Bar Chiringuito which sells beers (yes!), wine (yes), ice-creams and restaurant food. So once you get there, you don't even have to leave.

Plus, the beach and water is super clean. We got down there are 9am one day (yes, we are keen) and there was a tractor down there ploughing and flattening the beach. Which my son especially loved! The beach was never busy, but perhaps that's because we were down there so early everyday!

Playa de Levante in Puerto Benus

You may not think that Puerto Benus would be an ideal place for children. But, actually, Playa de Levante or Playa Puerto Benus is really family friendly.

Another sheltered cove, this water is calm and shallow (so slightly warmer than some other beaches) and the sand is fine and not too rocky.

There are lots of bars and Chiringuitos along the beach, but we struggled to find one that wasn't overpriced and over styled. In fact we had one of our worst and most expensive meals at the Levante Beach Restaurant. Much better to bring a picnic lunch down and chill out under one of the umbrellas.

El Faro Beach in Marbella

OK, so this isn't exactly the most picturesque beach in the area and, because it's just off the centre of Marbella, the clientele can be a bit, well, suspect. However, if you're looking for a beach that's perfect for Mummy and for toddler, then El Faro Beach would take some beating.

The beach has a large play park planted in the centre of it which is completely in sight of all the bars and restaurants. Meaning Mummy can have a little drinky while Daddy plays with toddler on the slides (and sometimes steps in to help). 

You're spoilt for choice for family friendly beaches in Marbella and Estepona, but these are the ones we especially enjoyed. Spain does this so well by combining adult playtime with family playtime. Wish we had a bit more of this sort of thing here in the UK!