Travel journalist, Catherine Cooper, visits theme park Port Aventura near Barcelona with her family
I’m a total sucker for theme parks, and Port Aventura near Barcelona, is one of my favourites.
This year, the park has added Ferrari Land to its stable, including the Red Force rollercoaster, which accelerates from 0 to 112 kph in just five seconds, making it the fastest rollercoaster in Europe.
Port Aventura is less stressful to visit than many theme parks
Port Aventura near Barcelona, Spain’s most-visited theme park, has attractions for all ages but is especially brilliant for adrenalin junkies.
It has several roller coasters ranging from Tomahawk for beginners (accessible to kids over the age of about five, depending on height) through to the brilliant Shambhala, which was the tallest and fastest in Europe until Red Force was opened in April 2017.
There’s also Dragon Khan, which has eight loops (the kids love it, but it just makes me feel sick) and Furious Baco which accelerates to nearly 90 mph in just 3.5 seconds: you ride with your feet dangling in the air beneath you.
The park is divided into six zones which are geographically-themed, except for SésamoVentura which is for the tiniest kids.
While the park is undoubtedly Spanish in feel, in each zone you’ll find shops and restaurants appropriate to the section.
Unusually for a theme park, many of the restaurants are actually very good, as well as being relaxed spaces where you can linger and chill out. We particularly liked La Hacienda in “Mexico” which has an enormous courtyard and serves typical Mexican food, and Racó del Mar in “Mediterrània” which has a pretty floral terrace.
Port Aventura is somehow less stressful to visit than many theme parks. Opening times are leisurely: the park doesn’t open until 10am and most of the main rides not until 11 or even later, which means there’s plenty of time to have a lie-in, or enjoy an enormous breakfast buffet.
If it’s getting too hot, you can cool off on one of the water rides, or sit down for half an hour and watch one of the many shows.
There’s a large lake and plenty of greenery within the park – and a great choice of restaurants, cafes and food stalls means there’s always somewhere nearby to take a breather.
Queues can be large, though, especially at weekends or during school holidays: if you’re keen to try the major rides, it’s probably worth budgeting for a fast pass to get the most out of your stay.
There are several on-site hotels with large outdoor pools which are, in themselves, pleasant places to stay and the room rate includes entry to the park. We stayed at Hotel Port Aventura which offers special themed Woody Woodpecker rooms which will delight younger kids, two large pools, several restaurants and nightly shows and mini-discos.
Port Aventura near Barcelona is in Salou on Costa Dorada, which has a spectacular beach with plenty for kids to do: they’ll love the coloured, dancing fountains and the tourist train.
However, the town itself is full of lively bars and clubs…perhaps not to everyone’s taste.
For those who like things a little quieter and more authentically Spanish in feel, you don’t have to go very far down the coast to escape the crowds. The fishing town of Cambrils has some lovely seafood restaurants and a quiet beach and Miami Platja has stunning, peaceful beaches (though they shelve quickly so are less suitable for very small children).
For city lovers, Tarragona and Barcelona are both within easy reach by train, bus or car from Salou.
(If you’re in the market for another Spanish adventure, look out for a post on a no-fly trip from London to Barcelona coming to Feet on the Ground soon.)
How to get to Port Aventura near Barcelona without flying:
Trains from London to Barcelona take around 10 hours, including a change in Paris or Lyon.
Port Aventura Costa Dorada has its own train station, with direct services from Barcelona. Buses and private transfers are also available. Costa Cruceros cruise lines also include excursions to Port Aventura.
For more information visit https://www.portaventuraworld.com/en
Words: Catherine Cooper for Feet on the Ground
Pictures: Catherine Cooper / Port Aventura Costa Dorada