Port Aventura is a theme park four hours from our home in Capestang France, heading south over the Spanish boarder with good prices and lots to do for kids of all ages. Four million people visit this amusement park each year located south west of Barcelona.
Salou Tarragon Spain is a seaside resort community on the Daurada coast with white sand beaches and the warm Mediterranean Sea.
With bags packed, we left Capestang before 9:00 am to head towards the Pyrenees Mountains, travelling straight to Salou. By 1:00pm, we arrived to check in to our hotel room, located directly on the park grounds. By the look of the queue wrapping around and around, all of France had the same idea during fall break. You could only hear French spoken in the line-up.
People were told that check in is after 3:00 and to leave their luggage in the locker room until then, and go enjoy the park. They received their passes and left, while others decided to wait out the two hours in the lobby to unpack for their holidays.
We finally got to the counter around 13:30 and a lovely lady happened to hear us talking Hungarian, and sure enough her mom is Hungarian too. She checked us in to our poolside room, that happened to be ready for us. What luck!
We put our bags down, let the kids explore the pool area while we got ready for the park. Camera in carry bad, extra battery, GoPro tucked next to it, hand wipes, Kleenex, water bottle; all in check before we ventured out on foot towards the gates to the adventure park.
Alfonz decided best to walk around the park first, check out all the different areas: Polynesian, Mexico, Far West, China, Sesame Street and lastly Mediterranean; to get a feel of where the appropriate rides for Daniel and Angelina are located.
Angelina is 120cm tall, making most rides possible with a parent. Daniel is 140cm making most rides possible without a parent except for Shambhala, Dragon Khan, and Hurakan Condor, the three rides Angelina is not allowed on. The rest, Daniel may board on his own.
I had to take Angelina on the Sesame Street rides as well. She’s the size of most six-year-olds, yet i did not mind, reliving my childhood.
Fat chance, Daniel and I waiting to walk through anything first, were on the first water ride we passed and spent the rest of day soaking wet. The water ride was Daniel’s first experience of a full size ride and left him with an adrenalin high and wanting more. That is what we came for after all!
They also have Costa Caribe Aquatic Park, a water amusement park, but it closed at the end of September for the season. Also a note to others travelling to Port Aventura, summer hours are until midnight, however during fall and winter the hours are until 19:00. A wee bit disappointing however the kids are still small and were tired out by then anyway.
Our first day, we wondered around until 18:30, and Daniel and I sat on every ride we passed. We took photos of the universal studio scenes set up around the theme park. Originally, PortVentura park was owned by Universal Studios, and their influence still remains.
We snacked in the park, and let the kids wonder into each store window-shopping. The rule was they could pick one souvenir but had to wait to choose it until the last day of our holidays to let them really think about what they want.
Our first evening we went for dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was very substandard. How can you screw up pizza and pasta? We left full, so our goal was accomplished, but no more.
Even though the pool was empty of guests, we took the kids swimming. It was cold, a nice refreshing swim after walking for hours. Our idea took off, and many people decided to brave the elements and joined us. A young group of guests decided to stay poolside to have a few drinks. Oh to be young! I only lasted a few minutes in the 20-degree water, and left to take a warm shower in our room.
The rest of my family joined me in the room for showers a half hour later and then we were ready for bed. The kids shared one bed, and after a few unkind words, ‘don’t touch me, you’re too close…’ They both fell fast asleep.
The next morning, we took the kids for a morning walk to the town of Salou, looking for provisions to prepare a simple evening meal. At the hotel service desk, we asked how far to walk to the town, and they said 15 minutes on foot. Not true, 30 minutes on foot, and longer with children. All the same we enjoyed our walk.
We ended up on the beach, which has mountain views towards the West. The crescent shaped shore was riddled with hotels and shops, and beach stands renting plastic chairs and serving drinks to the few visitors this time of year.
The weather was warm, warmer than a usual summer day in Vancouver measuring 24+ degrees. I can see white pinkish skin, freshly exposed to the sun, laying out in desperation of a summer vacation on this fall day. As we walked by the only chairs with people on them, I heard them talking English with a strong British accent. Poor blokes.
A rally car race was setting up along the boulevard next to the beach, as the next day was a huge event and the town of Salou was in full preparation mode for it.
We walked back to the car and spotted a grocery store where we spent 10€ on provisions for the day.
We spent the entire afternoon going on roller coasters, bumper cars, merry-go-rounds and even went through a haunted house in Halloween fashion.
The haunted house was very scary for Daniel in particular. They had employees (actors) who were dressed up in their favouirte Halloween charters walking the streets of Far West, scaring the park visitors. Grown women were screaming and children were crying. A few times the small children were so scared they ran away from their parents, other youngsters strategically placed themselves on the safe side of mom, trying not to be noticed by the man is costume and looked straight down to the ground. If the actor picked up on this, they would scare the hell out of them. A few times I laughed so hard. I couldn’t believe that the employees were allowed to chase after people, and one teenage boy was brought to tears, as their parents looked on. I saw the parents smirk a few times when they turned their heads.
Uncle Fester from the Adams family was there, or at least someone that looked like him. He sharpened his butter knife along the ground and then licking it. He was very pale, with yellow eyes and dressed as if her had just escape from the insane asylum. Daniel loved his character, and thought he was the best!
Regan, the girl from exorcist was in her bed, possessed by the demon Pazuzu rolling through town, with her crazy hair. She looked exactly like the original character from the movie. She periodically spun on the spot freaking people as she tried to lick them while snapped a shot with her. She looked like she was lying down, but she was maneuvering the bed with her feet. She was my favourite.
Inside the haunted house were narrow creaking hallways leading to different rooms. We passed dead people in coffins, made out by their shapes in the dark and they would pop up and scare us. In other rooms the people would just storm us out of nowhere, brushing up against us, with eerie music playing.
The scariest room was the butcher’s meat room. The floor was on an angle and you had to walk up to get to the small door, just big slightly smaller than a regular door. There must be something psychological about that, we passed by body parts on table and then the butcher came with his mallet swinging. Two girls ahead of us were being chased, and the one behind hung to her friend’s purse, screaming out of fear. One sounded like she was crying. Daniel was hysterical by this point, clinging to me. He wanted to go ahead of me and I kept saying stay behind so I can protect you. Alfonz and Angelina had a totally different experience. They were unaffected by it all. Daniel with his vivid imagination is a different story. He was very upset when he came outside, and I pointed out to him the other two people who were visibly upset from our group.
After I asked him, why did you find this so scary? He said because they were real people, that you can touch and if by chance one was real, he could actually get you. Huh.
The only thing I found disappointing were the ride start times. The park opens at 10:00. The rides start between 11:00 and 13:00 end by 19:00. Which meant no parades, fireworks or late night shows which we looked forward to from the brochure and online sites.
Port Aventura is know for their entertainment, like the Bubble Show, Rock Symphony – Mystery, parades… however the price was right at 50% off regular rates. You get what you pay for. We paid 40€/person with breakfast, hotel and park pass included. If you arrive early and stay late, it is never a problem.
We saw the end of the Sesame Street show which the kids loved and we had our photos taken with Ernie and Bert. They had a variety of Halloween themed events on as well, like the parade, and two weekend shows. Two singers were putting on a show in Far West next tot he dinner and lunch shows.
I would recommend to people bring snacks and drinks to their Port Aventura holiday if they are on budget. The average price of a drink is 3€ and the cheapest lunch we found was 40€ for four grilled cheese sandwiches, one popcorn and four sodas.
And if you can go off the resort to eat dinner, you may find a better deal. Probably not it Salou as it caters to the tourist. Dinner on site was not very good, and very expensive. Cost was 60€ for pasta and pizza, and it was far from high quality. I had a highball, gin and tonic extra lime, for 7.50€, it showed up with lemons but in all fairness it was very strong, with at least three shots in it and one put me at my limit.
In the summer the line-ups for the rides are long, 1-2 hours however in the fall we had short 20-minute line-ups or no line-ups at all. Many times we waited only a few minutes to go on a ride.
The last day before check-out we decided instead of packing up the van and spending a third day at Port Aventura, we decided to head towards France with a few hour stop in Tarragona.
Before we left, we decided to walk around the park before 11:00am checkout to buy the children the souvenir we had promised.
Nothing was open except one gift shop, and the children searched for what they wanted. Daniel had his heart set on one particular gift, and asked me to check to see if any other Halloween shops were open. We ended up visiting China, Polynesia and lastly Far West, except all the shops were closed. Sadly we went to join Alfonz and Angelina defeated.
Angelina picked out a Monster High black wig with two white streaks. Very scary indeed! One last try we asked the lady at the gift shop if she had a black baseball cap with the meat clever stuck in the top and at first she said I am so sorry we are sold out. But then, she remembered, and found the last one in the cupboard below the till! Daniel was the happiest child in that moment.
I would recommend Port Aventura to everyone. Disney land is an entirely different experience, and there is no other Disney. For us heading north to Paris to Europe Disney was an expensive choice, plus the weather was cold compared to Spain on October. For our family we made the right choice. And at these prices, we will come again.