Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri
The resort hotel Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri is a 5-star beach-side resort hotel in the Barceló hotel group, one of Spain's largest hotel and vacation operator. Novo Sancti Petri is a resort town near Chiclana de la Frontera in province of Cádiz, in Andalucía.
In the above map we can see some of the resort hotels along the Playa de la Barrosa, a 6-km long beach that has been in part protected by setting the resorts hotels behind the dunes. We can also see the golf courses of the town. The Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri is at the extreme east of the town. More than 25 years ago we had an excellent golf-holiday here, and just a couple of years ago we stayed in a different 5-star hotel on the beach, the Gran Melia Sancti Petri.
The name "Sancti Petri" is Latin for "de san Pedro", or "of Saint Peter", patron saint of fishermen.
In ancient times El Poblado de Sancti Petri was a Phoenician settlement, then became a fishing village, but is currently abandoned (poblado is best translated as "settlement"). According to the Wikipedia article there are plans to redevelop the whole area.
In 1988, an urban and tourist macro-project was started in an area of Playa de la Barrosa that was baptised as Urbanización Novo Sancti Petri, which actually has nothing to do geographically or historically with El Poblado de Sancti Petri. Urbanización can have several different meanings, but generally it is a set of houses that result from a single development plan, often destined for second homes or as a holiday resort.
So Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri is set at the eastern end of the development of Novo Sancti Petri. Booking offers four 5-star hotels at Sancti Petri, the Royal Hideaway, the Gran Melia, the Hipotels Barrosa Palace, and the Iberostar Andalucia Playa, all rated "fabulous" (the fifth is the 5-star Aparthotel which is part of the Royal Hideaway site). Oddly, for the same 5-day period in July 2021, etc, prices changed radically between €1,333 and €2,493 depending upon which 5-star hotel you chose.
Above we can see the Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri on the left-hand side of the site, and on the right-hand side we can see the access road to the Aparthotel that occupies the same site. On the left we can see the open public parking that provides access to the public beach. One point worthing noting is that the hotel site is quite substantial and is set back from the beach, so the hotel main entrance is in fact about 600 metres from the sea (all slightly downhill).
It was interesting to note that if you visited one of the Iberostar's hotels or even the Gran Melia you would quite regularly see golf bags and golfers, the Iberostar's hotels actually run free buses to the local course. However, during our entire stay in the Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri we did not see one golf bag or golfer.
Our stay covered the end of one week, the weekend, and the beginning of the next. Upon our arrival the hotel appeared reasonably full, however over the weekend the buffet restaurant became noticeably more crowded with families with small children. I don't remember seeing any non-native Spanish during that period. The second week, remained reasonably full, but there were now some English-speaking families present. I guess the nature of this particular resort hotel, maybe linked with a competitive pricing model, makes it particular attractive for families with small children.
We knew where the hotel was situated, so it was not that difficult to find, however the hotel does not have an obvious address that was uniquely resolved by our car GPS. Urb. Loma Sancti Petri will take you in to a residential area set back from the beach and hotel area, whereas C. de la Barrosa would have been more helpful. For example, the Gran Melia Sancti Petri being centrally located was much easier to find.
Also being at the end of the development area does mean that it would be quite a walk to get to the central shopping area or the local golf courses (+/- 2 km). However, it's just a 5 minute car ride, and in addition the hotel delivered a daily newspaper to our room. Again from the Gran Melia Sancti Petri, being centrally located, the shops and golf are just a short stroll away.
Above we can see the beach, and way in the far distance we can just about see the dark reddish-brown building of the Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri.
COVID rules and restrictions
All the usual restrictions were underlined and applied, e.g. social distancing, masks, hand sanitisers, etc. Positives were that there were plenty of automatic hand sanitisers, and that all the services appeared to have masks ready for clients who might have forgotten (I was handed a fresh mask twice in the reception area of the spa). There was a claim that the public spaces and the hotel rooms were regular sanitised, but the only evidence we saw was a label in the hotel room and someone giving some seats in a public area very perfunctory spray. In the first three days we did not see anyone regularly cleaning surfaces in the public areas, e.g. in the lifts, etc, but after that, all we could see were people cleaning the lift buttons, seat arm rests, table tops, etc. All staff wore masks, and in the restaurant areas tables were always cleaned after every client (but not seat arm rests, etc.). Also the buffet area had a one-way system with hand sanitisers at the entrance. Given the size of the resort, social distancing was not a problem, except in the restaurant area. Most people dined in the buffet area, so it could get a little crowded. Yet the resort had several other bar-restaurant areas available and unused, and these areas could have been commandeered to lower the seating density in the main buffet area.
As you would expect from a 5-star hotel, the welcome was almost perfect. Baggage was picked up and delivered to our room. The car was parked in the underground garage. And reception were waiting for us, and had prepared all the usual paperwork and keys, etc.
Here we have the main entrance to the hotel. Two points worth noting, firstly the "no entry" that you need to ignore and drive in to depose the bags, etc. And secondly, the impressive central fountain, that did not impress, because it was not working.
We can see the architectural style is adobe, or mud-brick, a typical Spanish heritage rammed-earth building material. In this particular case it's a purely aesthetic design-choice, but one that I personally found agreeable.
The only criticism I had concerning our welcome was that the porter did not introduce the room to us, e.g. explain the electric curtains, air conditioning, TV, wall-safe, etc. However, everyone was professional and friendly.
On the positive side they gave us back our car key, with a tag indicating the parking space. They also explained how to find our car and gave us an entry-exit card to the underground garage.
Above we have the reception hall, which highlights a couple of characteristics of this hotel. Firstly, the sense of space which is not overpowering, but still very comfortable. Secondly, a preponderance of modern art decoration, which I personally found more imaginative than the usually fare you find in resort hotels.
As compared to the Gran Melia Sancti Petri the underground garage was a distinct positive, and I must say the overall impression concerning the welcome-reception, etc. was more positive in this hotel.
Given that site slowly descends to the beach, the main entrance is on the 4th floor. The hotel consists of 7 blocks, starting with A at the entrance and ending with G nearest to the beach. There are a total of 6 floors, but in most cases the rooms were distributed over the top four floors, the lower floors being used for the spa, garages, etc. This meant that there were a few large open spaces inside the blocks.
I knew that the site might involve a lot of walking about, so I asked for a room close the basic amenities. We were well served with a room very near the reception area and very close to the main dining room and the main pool on the floor below. Our particular room had some features designed for those with mobility issues, i.e. extra space, large walk-in shower, the odd handrail, etc. Overall the room was about 24 square metres, with a covered terrace of about 9-10 square metres.
The room shown above is almost identical to our room, the only differences being an alternative decorative bedhead (ours was a little more abstract) and a slightly smaller wardrobe with a storage space above it. So that means the same bed, pillows, throw over the bed, 55" flat-screen TV, desk, coffee machine, mini-fridge, etc.
Positives:- Space, clean and modern with thoughtful decorative elements, decent TV, good lighting options, decent terrace, full-sized mirror, large wall-safe for portable computers, etc., coffee-machine, kettle, iron and mini-ironing board, 2 USB ports, decent collection of power-points, and electric curtains. In addition there were two small bottles of water left in the room each day, and 4 soft drinks, 2 salted and 2 sweet snacks free in the mini-fridge.
Negatives:- Bedside lights could only be switched on-off together, no entertainment options on the TV, and no loungers on the terrace. On the bed there were two pillows, but both were a bit too soft for us. In addition there was a third smaller signature pillow with the name of the hotel embroidered on it. Given COVID they should have been removed.
And two things that have always bugged us. Firstly a throw on the bed, which just collect dirt and dust, and with COVID who knows what. Secondly, the coat hangers were those stupid ones that are designed to stop theft, and need to be un-hooked and re-hooked each time. On the positive side there were plenty of coat hangers.
Above we have an example of the bathroom, ours was identical except that the bath was replaced a large walk-in shower.
Positives:- Large walk-in shower with both a hand shower and a rain shower. Decent collection of high-quality towels. Unpretentious but useful bathroom amenities, i.e. shower cap, vanity kit, shaving kit, and two dental kits. Plenty of kleenex's, and a hair dryer not permanently attached to the wall. Two real-sized XL bathrobes and slippers. Dispensers of soap, shampoo and hair conditioner in the shower, and again next to one of the hand-basins.
Negatives:- As is usual in almost every hotel the plugs in the hand-basins were hard to use and didn't hold the water in the basin. Secondly, the shower cap was not replaced after use.
The pools and gardens
Certainly the pools and gardens are probably the most important features of the Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri, and I think they are also unique in the region.
The above photograph is taken from the roof of the Aparthotel, and only shows part of the site, i.e. the main pool and a second pool. Further down towards the beach there is an adult pool and two pools for children.
The below photograph is taken from the roof of the hotel, and you can see the Aparthotel on the far side. Again you can't see the adult pool and two pools for children nearer the beach.
So let's start our little walk through the gardens. You can walk out from the reception on the 4th floor to a large terrace overlooking the main pool.
However, to get to the gardens and pools you need to go down to the 3rd floor, using the lift or stairs from the upper terrace. Below we have an evening view of the largest pool, which oddly was the one less frequented by guests.
Walking past the main pool is where the gardens come into their own, because running right through the middle of the gardens is a cascading stream.
So the gardens have pathways leading down past the different pools, alongside our cascading stream, and arriving at the children's pools and the site barrier before the dunes, beach and sea.
There are two or three gates that provide access from the resort complex to the public pathways leading down to the beach. As you can see (or not see), the beach is about 200 metres further down the slope.
Interestingly there is a guided walk through the gardens, with six information panels highlighting the different planted areas and how the overall garden has been designed and laid out.
So in addition to the children's pools, there is also a second pool (above) and an adult pool (below).
The walks through the gardens were for us, and I think for many guests, the true "signature" of the resort, both day and night.
We were on a half-board formulae that included a buffet breakfast and buffet dinner. Food is always a challenging topic when travelling or staying in a resort. What did you expect, and was it better or worse than expected? How did it compare with hotels of the same standing, etc.?
The resort had a main buffet restaurant, the Almadraba, the Atunante à la carte restaurant (with an orientation to tuna), La Brasería, and La Bahía beach club (also available for breakfast). In addition there was the Prado del Rey piano bar, The Dublin Bay Irish pub, La Zumería pool bar, and the Sunset cocktail bar.
We only used the Almadraba, the main buffet restaurant. Let's start with the overall restaurant layout. It consisted of a main room that actually had about 3 different zones, depending how far away from the buffet they were. In addition there was a large semi-covered terrace protected by a mid-height glass wall.
One of the reasons why we did not use the terrace or the beach club was simply because of the strongish, fresh sea winds.
Above we can see the actual area that we preferred, which was the probably the quietist and brightest part of the room without being exposed to the wind, etc. As you can see, place settings, seats, etc. were comfortable, and certainly better than that found in a 4-star resort.
Below we can see the general presentation of the breakfast, which presents all the usual elements, plus a bar of multi-vitamin drinks, etc.
Concerning dinner, the hotel offered a daily theme, namely, Italian (Monday), Spanish (Tuesday), Mexican (Wednesday), Andalucían (Thursday), Marinero (Friday), Asian (Saturday), and International (Sunday).
These three photographs demonstration some of the dishes of the Asian evening dinner.
Below we have the presentation of the Marinero (sea food) menu, which is always a favourite with holidaymakers. There was an open grill section supporting the daily dinner menu, and on our last two days there was also an outside barbecue.
The themed menus were always accompanied by the usual displays of cheeses, salads, etc.
The general presentation and layout of the buffet restaurant was, in our opinion, superior to a 4-star resort hotel. However, we preferred the layout in the Gran Melia Sancti Petri, simply because it was less "canteen-like", in that all the food options were not presented in a long line, one after the other.
Concerning the dinner options, we were slightly disappointed with what might be called the main dish options. A very positive element was the daily themed menus, however frankly the main disk options were multiple, but we still had a problem finding one we liked. This was partly due the canteen-like presentation, and partly due the simplicity of what was on offer. At times what was offered looked distinctly 4-star resort quality, no insult intended, but we expected more from a 5-star resort. Again we felt that Gran Melia Sancti Petri did a slightly better job on the main dishes.
Some people have commented that if you really wanted a "decent" sit-down meal you had to go to the one of the resorts themed restaurants, and pay the extra. I can't comment on that, but I'm not surprised that some people saw this as a negative.
To end our review of the food on a positive, I must put in a good word for the desserts. Generally speaking, and this was equally true of the Gran Melia Sancti Petri, Spanish resort desserts tend to look good, but taste all more or less the same, and are a bit too sweet for us, i.e. it looks like it might be strawberry based, but it turns out to be mostly over-sweet cream with a touch of colouring. We usually end up going for the ice cream, which also tends to be a little sweeter than needed. However, this time the desserts looked and tasted equally as good. Its always an issue of personal preferences, but I always found more than one sweet that looked good and tasted equally as good.
The hotel claims to have the largest spa in Andalucía (spa in the generic sense and not medicinal baths). It certainly covered a large area over two floors and included a number of different pools with different jet treatments, etc. In addition there was a sauna, steam room (hammam), and a kind of Roman tepidarium, associated with a cool pool and a cold pool, plus the usual showers, etc. Also there was a series of treatment rooms for massages, etc., and nearby there was an indoor heated pool. It was quite crowded, and there was little information concerning how to move through the different pools, etc.
I was more interested in the sauna and hammam, and as such I was quite disappointed. The sauna was below par for a 5-star resort. It was about 6 metres long, and had two rows of superimposed benches. The wood was dark stained, however there was a full hight window. So the atmosphere was very un-sauna-like, and the temperature was set far too low at just under 80°C. The hammam (steam room) was much better. It was a largish circular, fully tiled room with the usual bench seating, and the temperature was perfect. The dry Roman tepidarium was a waste of space, a dark circular space with a temperature of perhaps 40-45°C, so totally uninviting. As a hotel guest the spa was not expensive, but even at that price it did not deliver.
The Gran Melia Sancti Petri also had a very small spa area, which was far from perfect and probably did not merit the name "spa", but on the other hand it delivered a decent sauna.
As already mentioned, to access the beach you needed to leave the hotel site and take one of the public pathways down through the dunes. As you can see below, the beach can be quite a varied experience depending upon the time of year.
I guess that all the 5-star hotels put on in in high-season some form of nightly entertainment, if only music in a disco area. However one evening we had the chance to see something more typically Spanish.
The hotel has an amphitheatre which was able to host an impressive mix of tradition Spanish dancing and equestrian skills.
Drawing a comparison between Royal Hideaway Sancti Petri and the Gran Melia Sancti Petri, the first thing to note was that the Melia was significantly more expensive.
Globally I would say that the welcome and friendliness was on the side of Royal Hideaway. Whilst the rooms were more or less the same on paper, the Royal Hideaway room was better maintained, the terrace larger, and the amenities, etc. (e.g. larger TV) were superior. Again I would give my vote to Royal Hideaway for the hotel itself, i.e. it was better maintained, more spacious, and the decoration was more to my taste. The availability of underground parking in the Royal Hideaway was a big plus for us. Royal Hideaway appeared to have a problem with their lifts, because I counted least 5 failures of different lifts during our stay. The outside space (e.g. gardens and pools) of the Royal Hideaway was outstanding, but the Melia might be a better option for a golfer, and access to the beach is easier. The overall layout of the buffet was better in the Melia, but both hotels need to improve on their main-course options. I would give a slight advantage to Royal Hideaway for the thematic menus each day, and the desserts were better.
During July 2021 we stayed in five different hotels, some reservations made directly with the hotel and some through a booking agency. I'm not sure if it is a post-COVID characteristic, but my impression is that they now send out more contact emails than in the past.
We have booked with Barceló in the past, but did not use their app. Naturally we received an email confirmation of our booking, which had included a couple of additional requests concerning the room and parking. Five days before our reservation we received a reply from the hotel indicating that they had taken on-board our requests, and a day later we received an email informing us about their "We Care About You" anti-COVID guarantees. Then two days before our arrival we received separate messages to myself and my wife inviting us to use their app "to make our stay even better". Three days after our stay we received a "Thanks for trusting us!" email.