Review: First Choice Holiday Village Costa del Sol

We recently enjoyed a 1 week holiday abroad with our 22 month old son to the First Choice Holiday Village Costa del Sol and stayed at the resort from 24th April to 1st May 2015.

Overall the holiday was OK, and it makes me sad to have to write that the holiday overall wasn’t bad but wasn’t great.  It was a combination of a few areas of the resort and accommodation that made the experience not up to its full potential.

Pre-holiday communication

First Choice have a excellent App that you can download the moment you book your holiday, so that you can select items such as extra legroom, pre-book flight seats, order extra luggage allowance etc.  This is very useful and for this trip we took advantage of pre-booking our flight seats so that the three of us could sit together.  First Choice also have a dedicated Twitter account where I made the request for a travel cot to be in our room at arrival, and to my knowledge this tweet was picked up and answered.

Rating : 4 out of 5

Accommodation

The holiday complex is very large and very much like a little Village as the name suggested.  We had previously stayed at the Holiday Village Majorca, which was excellent, but still very much “hotel” in feel.  The Costa del Sol Holiday Village however felt very much like a little secure village in the middle of nowhere.  There is an onsite basic supermarket, selling everything you could need such as milk, bread, snacks; games rooms for rainy days and a large multi-floored hotel feel to the place.

In the complex, the rooms are separated into one part of the village with the entertainment (such as the Splash pool, swimming pool, lunchtime restaurant) all located across the road.  We traveled with a small child and elderly parent on our holiday this time, and found that the average time to walk from the hotel apartment to the lunch restaurant for example took around 20 mins, so not ideal in any way.  It also involved crossing a major road via a spiraling bridge, and although all of it was securing fenced in, it wasn’t ideal for those with very small children to watch or disabled people who would struggle with the distance/height changes in the road.

Our apartment room was fairly large but lacked that modern feel that we were used to from our previous holiday village experience.  It did however have a good size working kitchen including fridge, cooker and microwave, which meant that if you really wanted to feel your family outwith the all inclusive meals you could.  We liked this a lot as I was able to give my son a snack in the morning or at night, outside of the main restaurants. The bathroom was large a spacious, but felt very dated and generally unclean.  There was noticeable mildew on the walls of the shower and felt like it needed a makeover soon.

Our family room consisted of one bedroom with twin single beds (larger than UK size for sure) and a pull out bed in the living room.  Overall, we found that we would put the toddler down in the bedroom and use the living room mainly so that we weren’t disturbed by our toddler rolling around all night.

The accommodation was fair and large enough for our 3 person family, but I felt the place was dated and needed a makeover for sure.  It wasn’t as luxurious as we had previously experienced in the Holiday Village Majorca, and for that reason felt let down by it.

Rating : 3 out of 5

Food

First choice cater exclusively for All Inclusive holiday bookings, and this has many advantages.  One being for families that you know that there will be no hidden extras when the children want a drink or an ice cream at all times of the day – this works well with entertainment at night too, and not having to worry where your purse is all the time to pay for something.  However, I found the standard of food on offer at the Holiday Village was poor and limited compared to what I would have liked to see for the money.

Our toddler is nearly 2 yrs old and a good solid eater.  He enjoys fruit/veg and a balanced diet that rarely includes chicken nugget/fast foods but is home cooked classic style meals that I make for the family each night.  Personally I have also taken more interest in eating well the past 6 months, so like to have a good variety of healthy foods in my diet.

The food on offer during breakfast was a good selection of fairly standard breakfast time items such as cooked breakfasts, fruit, cereals, toasts etc.  Overall, good quality and good variety. All meals are served in a buffet style at the main restaurant that we attended each night .

Lunchtime and dinner time selections however were particularly poor and lacked healthy items I found overall.  There was a large selection to choose from each day, but would often struggle to find something that looked healthy or appetising to eat.  I found that trying to find something suitable for our toddler that wasn’t “deep-fried” a challenge, as most items labelled for the kids selection was chips and chicken nuggets every meal – not what I want to be giving my children all day long.  We craved vegetables and by the end of it, when one meal had Brussels sprouts you thought Christmas had come along early!  The reality is that all three of us ate foods we wouldn’t normally want to eat and far less food that we would at home, and ended up losing some weight as a result.  We did purchase some items such as bread and cheese for our room to have snacks as we wished, and this helped keep tummies full.

Overall, I found the quality of food for the all inclusive nature of the holiday wasn’t up to the standard I would expect for a 4-star holiday.

Rating for adults – 3 out of 5

Rating for kids – 2 out of 5

Entertainment

Without doubt the village had tons for families to do each day, and most was catered for older children and adults.  We found that our toddler loved the splash pool, smaller children pool that wasn’t too deep, and children’s small play area with a slide.  There was pool tables inside, many different swimming pools to choose from, and a small arcade to play in too for older children.  The First Choice Kids club ran a 30 min free “Stay & Play” session each night before dinner for younger children to use the soft play area with their parents, which was nice, but would have liked the option to use it more especially with a small toddler and some rainy days in our holidays.

Nighttime entertainment during our visit seemed to be a bit amatuer-ish, giving the vibe that as it was out with the main holiday season that the shows and acts at night were to keep us entertained rather than their best offers.  That was fine and expected, as it was just the start of the summer season for the hotel, but again found that the night time entertainment really didn’t keep us entertained for long and ended up back at our hotel room most nights.

Rating – 3 out of 5 overall

Extras

We decided for our holiday that we would rent a car for the full week, and this is a great choice for all families with younger children or those who like to get out and see the area.  The Holiday Village felt very out of the way from any local shops or attractions, so really the only way to get away from the hotel and see something new, was to use transportation.  The hotel does provide a free shuttle service each day, but we loved the option of renting our own car and using it whenever we liked.

Using the car, we went on day trips to local markets, the Costa del Sol Cable car ride, local Aquatic Marina, trip round Marbella, and popping out to the local larger supermarket for items we couldn’t get onsite such as fruit and biscuits for our little one.

During our stay I reached out to First Choice via email and twitter a number of times to say that we weren’t satisfied with the quality of the village in our experience, but all attempts to get replies were responded with that they “couldn’t find my email” or “just speak to the reps”.  No-one seemed to want to own our issue with the accommodation and lack of quality and this definitely made me think twice about using First Choice again.  Given the wide variance in quality of food and accommodation between all the Holiday Villages it would appear, I felt we couldn’t trust the branding to give us what we wanted on a expensive family holiday, and will need to closely look at reviews and ratings before going on another one.  It has definitely changed my opinion on what we can expect from a package holiday and what we look for.

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