Puente Romano, Marbella: relaxed and family-friendly without skimping on luxury

·6-min read
 (Puente Romano)
(Puente Romano)

Where is it?

A two-and-a-half hour flight away on the Costa Del Sol is the beautiful garden-winding resort of Puente Romano. The drive from Malaga airport is under 40 minutes, making it a very doable long weekend (though you’ll want to linger longer), and once in situ, it’s a ten minute, easy coastal cycle to Marbella’s old town in one direction, or buzzy Puerto Banus in the other.

The vast hotel feels both like an Andalusian town of its own, complete with a twinkly restaurant-packed central Plaza where locals and Premiership footballers alike flock each evening, and a seaside respite full of shady nooks amongst extraordinary sub-tropical gardens where only croaking frogs and singing skylarks disturb the peace. We spotted both wild rabbits and dolphins on the beach at the foot of the resort.

Style

 (Puente Romano)
(Puente Romano)

Luxe but with rustic touches so it feels homely too. Think white wooden loungers with Soho House-esque stripy cushions, and gentle swing chairs tucked away beneath palm trees. Room decor is simple and modern, with lots of cream and greige, punctuated by yellow cushion pops and mirrored cabinets. At the centre of everything is the historic Puente Romano, the eponymous Roman stone bridge which has seen it all, dating back as it does to the first century. It’s now adjacent to that nightly-packed Plaza where people in gladiator sandals today sip yuzu margaritas at the hotel’s branch of Nobu. As the resort was first built in the Seventies, the lush gardens are well established, offering much-needed shade from Marbella’s near-constant sunshine.

Food & Drink

This is where the Spanish resort really stands out - it has an array of 18 restaurants and bars, all idiosyncratically designed rather than identikit hotel-style, from cuisines stretching from Lebanon to Japan. Admittedly I only managed to eat and drink in, er, nine of them over four days, but every meal was perfectly-cooked - even poolside burgers at American diner Cheats and huge crunchy organic salads at Rachel’s Eco Love were memorable.

 (Puente Romano)
(Puente Romano)

Stand out dishes include the seven-course Omakase tasting menu at Nobu, where the black cod with miso has to be *really* great to beat the truly epic people-watching on site; models sprinkled with a good chunk of the Premier League - and it is. Guacamole smashed right at our table at the hotel’s most quintessentially Spanish restaurant, Sea Grill, went down a treat alongside Mediterranean-fresh sole and near-raw tuna.

Then there’s the sea-side buffet breakfast, where the tropical fruit stand alone could have sated me all day. There’s understated, excellent meze at Middle Eastern garden spot Jardins Du Liban, gazpacho slurped on Balinese beach beds accompanied by a DJ at El Chiringuito, which has the same vibe as its original Ibizan outpost. There’s even a branch of Barcelonan gluten-free bakery Celicioso, and the near-impossible to get into Babette, an outpost from Michelin-starred chef Dani Garcia.

We appreciated the really family-friendly vibe during our half term visit, with even Nobu happily accepting little ones and everywhere pleased to offer smaller portions (and very generous ice cream portions for dessert) - but adult guests had plenty of places to escape to too.

Facilities

Where to start? A resort newspaper, the Daily Flash, lists activities of the day, but it has to be concise as there are just so many. I spotted a few England players at the Six Senses spa, where even the window glazing was filled with relaxing waterfalls and a series of thermal pools were Insta-perfect. Novak Djokovic, who has a home locally, is regularly smashing balls at the huge tennis centre - hard and clay courts aplenty, where my kids 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 available at the beach too (for an extra charge). Three family-friendly pools have bridges and fountains. There’s also plenty of adults-only spaces such as La Concha, where a Maldivian-style pool is surrounded by day beds and backs onto a cocktail-filled bar. The gym is a micro village of its own, a cavernous Third Space-style set-up, with an epic boxing ring, spinning studio and packed schedule of classes.

 (Puente Romano)
(Puente Romano)

For families, the kids’ club is a real draw all of its own. Many a European hotel calls a poky room full of Ikea children’s furniture and a bored local teenager the kids’ club. Not here. London duo Sharkey and George have set up a packed timetable of activities (their reps fly in to the resort to play too during the holidays, and immediately became my kids’ idols). The timetable for my five and seven year old included beach survival skills (den-making and water bombs), 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 villa with Smeg fridges full of snacks, arts and crafts equipment a la Hobbycraft and a treehouse playground that I’d very happily live in for a summer.

At €50 for a morning or afternoon session, it’s far from cheap - as could be said of the resort in general - but numbers are kept low and every child I saw was begging to return the next day. Anyone worried about their kids having too much fun or missing out on schoolwork can even book on-site tutor sessions with Oxbridge-style boffs. There’s also a teen club in a separate area, and a poolside mini club for those under four (the minimum age for kids’ club) to escape the sun with their parents, filled with jigsaws, dolls’ houses, Duplo and more.

Extracurricular

Marbella is packed with day trip options: we didn’t go any further than hiring the resort’s bikes (kids’ sizes and baby trailers included) to pootle along the boardwalk to the Old Town’s Marina. But those who want to explore further can take a day trip to Moorish Grenada or even Gibraltar, ride horses on the beach, go on off-road buggy tours and go river canyoning, or take the shorter trip uphill to Ronda, where an ancient bullring dominates.

 (Puente Romano)
(Puente Romano)

Which room?

All rooms, which start at the ‘double deluxe’, come with a terrace for lazing on and gazing out at the tropical gardens, beach or pools. Rooms are decently-sized - the bathroom alone of our junior suite was more spacious than our London kitchen-diner. Deluxe two-bedroom suites are perfect for families - and none of the traditional-style whitewashed buildings are more than three storeys high. Leave open the windows to fall asleep to the sound of nature ribbeting in the background. Adults might prefer to be near the Plaza, to fall straight into bed from cocktails on its atmosphere-packed sofas. Or you could go for the €18,000-a-July-night, four-bedroom Villa La Pereza, with pool, solarium and gym, beach-facing balconies and zero reason to ever leave (except perhaps 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 ‘gramming beautiful people sporting £600 Dior sliders. It’s hard to think of anyone who wouldn’t love this place. The friendly staff can’t do enough for you - from racing the sun to keep shady parasols over kids poolside all day, to stopping a tantrum (be it from moneyed tech tycoon, or toddler) with a mojito or fruit kebab respectively.

Details

Low season, double deluxe rooms are from €407/night, high season starts at €891; puenteromano.com