relaxed and family-friendly without sacrificing luxury

relaxed and family-friendly without sacrificing luxury

    (Puente Romano)

(Puente Romano)

Where is it?

A two and a half hour flight away on the Costa del Sol is the beautiful garden meandering resort of Puente Romano. The drive from Malaga airport takes less than 40 minutes, making it a very doable long weekend (although you may want to stay longer) and once you’re there it’s a ten minute easy coastal cycle path into Marbella’s old town in one direction, or on the other hand the lively Puerto Banus.

The massive hotel feels both like an Andalusian town in its own right, complete with a sparkling, restaurant-crammed central square where locals and Premiership footballers alike flock nightly, and a seaside retreat full of shady corners set amidst extraordinary subtropical gardens, where only croaking frogs and singing larks disturb the peace. We spotted both wild rabbits and dolphins on the beach at the foot of the resort.

style

    (Puente Romano)

(Puente Romano)

Luxurious but with rustic touches to make it feel cozy too. Think white wooden loungers with striped Soho House-style cushions and soft rocking chairs tucked under palm trees. Room decor is simple and modern, with lots of cream and greige punctuated by yellow pillow-pops and mirrored cabinets. The focal point is the historic Puente Romano, the Roman stone bridge of the same name that has seen it all and dates back to the first century. It now borders the nightly crowded plaza where people in gladiator sandals now sip yuzu margaritas at the hotel’s Nobu branch. As the resort was first built in the 1970’s, the lush gardens are well landscaped and provide much needed shade from Marbella’s almost constant sunshine.

Eat Drink

This is where the Spanish resort really excels — it has a range of 18 restaurants and bars, all idiosyncratic and not identical to hotel styles, with cuisines ranging from Lebanon to Japan. Granted, I only managed to eat and drink at, um, nine of them over four days, but every meal was prepared to perfection — even poolside burgers at American Diner Cheats and huge crunchy organic salads at Rachel’s Eco Love unforgettable.

    (Puente Romano)

(Puente Romano)

Standout dishes include the seven-course omakase tasting menu at Nobu, where the black cod with miso has to be *really* great to top the truly epic local folks; Models sprinkled with a good portion of the Premier League – and that’s it. Guacamole right at our table at the Sea Grill, the hotel’s signature Spanish restaurant, was a treat alongside fresh Mediterranean sole and near-raw tuna.

Then there’s the breakfast buffet by the sea, where the tropical fruit stand alone could have filled me all day. There’s understated, excellent mezze at the oriental garden eatery Jardins Du Liban, gazpacho on Balinese beach beds accompanied by a DJ at El Chiringuito, which has the same atmosphere as its original Ibizan outpost. There’s even a branch of Barcelona’s gluten-free bakery, Celicioso, and the near-impossible stepping into Babette, an outpost of Michelin-starred chef Dani Garcia.

We appreciated the genuinely family-friendly vibe during our semi-annual visit, with even Nobu happily accommodating the little ones and always happy to provide smaller portions (and very generous helpings of ice cream for dessert) — but grown-up guests also had plenty of places to retreat to.

facilities

Where to start A resort newspaper, the Daily Flash, lists the day’s activities, but it has to be brief as there are just so many. I saw a few English players at the Six Senses Spa, where even the window panes were filled with relaxing waterfalls and a series of thermal pools were insta-perfect. Novak Djokovic, who has a home nearby, regularly smashes balls at the massive tennis center – hard and clay courts galore, where my kids have enjoyed their first taste of the sport so much I’m hoping Wimbledon beckons.

There are free yoga and Pilates classes most mornings, and water sports are also available on the beach (for an additional fee). Three family-friendly pools have bridges and fountains. There are also plenty of adults-only areas like La Concha, where a Maldivian-style pool is surrounded by daybeds and backed by a cocktail-stocked bar. The gym is its own micro-village, a cavernous Third Space-style facility with an epic boxing ring, spinning studio and busy schedule.

    (Puente Romano)

(Puente Romano)

For families, the kids’ club is a real draw in itself. Many European hotels call a tiny room full of Ikea children’s furniture and a bored local teenager the kids’ club. Not here. London duo Sharkey and George have a packed schedule of activities (their reps fly to the resort to play even during the holidays and instantly became my kids’ idols). The schedule for my five and seven year olds included beach survival skills (cave building and depth charges), science club, candle making, swimming in the kids club’s own kidney shaped pool and magic shows. It all takes place in a beautifully designed mansion, with Smeg fridges stocked with snacks, arts and crafts supplies a la Hobbycraft, and a treehouse playground that I would very much like to live in for a summer.

At €50 for a morning or afternoon session, it’s far from cheap – as one might say of the resort in general – but the numbers are kept low and every kid I saw was begging to come back the next day. Those worried their kids are having too much fun or missing schoolwork can even book on-site tutoring with Oxbridge-style Boffs. There’s also a teens’ club in a separate area and a poolside kids’ club for kids under four (the minimum age for a kids’ club) to escape the sun with their parents, filled with puzzles, dollhouses, Duplo, and more.

Outside the curriculum

Marbella is packed with day trip options: we went no further than hiring the resort’s bikes (kids sizes and baby trailers included) to ride along the promenade to the old town marina. But those wanting to explore further can take a day trip to Moorish Grenada or even Gibraltar, horseback riding on the beach, off-road buggy tours and river canyoning, or take the shorter drive uphill to Ronda, which was home to an ancient bullring dominates.

    (Puente Romano)

(Puente Romano)

Which room?

All rooms, starting with the “Double Deluxe”, have a terrace for lounging and overlooking the tropical gardens, the beach or the pools. Rooms are a decent size – our junior suite’s bathroom alone was more spacious than our London eat-in kitchen. Deluxe Two-Bedroom Suites are perfect for families — and none of the traditional-style, whitewashed buildings are more than three stories tall. Leave the windows open to fall asleep to the sound of nature in the background. Adults may prefer to be close to the plaza to fall off the moody sofas straight into bed after a cocktail. Or you could opt for the four bedroom Villa La Pereza for €18,000 per July night, with pool, solarium and gym, balconies overlooking the beach and zero reason to ever leave (other than maybe earning enough to pay for it ).

    (Puente Romano)

(Puente Romano)

best for

The school holiday crowd is a mix of young London and New York families and beautiful people wearing £600 Dior loafers. It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t love this place. The friendly staff can’t do enough for you — from sunbeams to keeping kids poolside shade umbrellas all day, to throwing a tantrum (be it from a wealthy tech tycoon or a toddler) with a mojito or a fruit kebab.

details

In the low season, deluxe double rooms cost from €407/night, in the high season from €891; puenteromano.com

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