Where is this?
A two and a half hour flight on the Costa del Sol is the beautiful garden resort of Puente Romano. The drive from Málaga airport is under 40 minutes, making it a very doable long weekend (although you may want to stay longer), and once in position, it’s an easy ten-minute coastal drive to Marbella’s old town. Round is, or in one direction. Buzzy Puerto Buns in the second.
This sprawling hotel feels like its own Andalusian town, complete with a twinkling restaurant-filled central plaza frequented by locals and Premiership footballers alike every evening, and shaded by exotic sub-tropical gardens. A seaside respite full of nooks and crannies where only frogs croak. And singing disturbs the peace. We saw both wild rabbits and dolphins on the beach at the foot of the resort.
Luxurious yet with a rustic touch so it feels homey too. Think white wooden loungers with Soho House-esque striped cushions, and soft rocking chairs under palm trees. The room’s decor is simple and modern, with lots of creams and greys, pops of yellow cushions and mirrored cabinets. At the heart of it all is the historic Puente Romano, an eponymous Roman stone bridge that has seen it all, as it dates back to the first century. It now adjoins the bustling plaza where today people in gladiator sandals sip yuzu margaritas at Nobu’s hotel branch. Since the resort was first built in the seventies, the lush gardens are well-established, offering much-needed shade from Marbella’s near-constant sun.
Eating and drinking
This is where the Spanish resort really stands out – it has 18 restaurants and bars, with cuisines spanning from Lebanon to Japan, designed to be unique rather than identifying with the hotel’s style. Admittedly, I only managed to eat at nine of them over four days, but every meal was perfectly cooked – even the poolside burger at American Diner Chats and the big crunchy organic salad at Rachel’s Eco-Lo were memorable.
Standout dishes include the seven-course Omakase tasting menu at Nobu, where the black cod with miso must be *really* excellent to beat the real people watching on site. The models splashed out with a good chunk of the Premier League – and this is it. Guacamole absolutely fell apart at our table at Sea Grill, the hotel’s finest Spanish restaurant, going down a treat with fresh sole and near-raw tuna from the Mediterranean.
This is followed by a buffet breakfast by the sea, where a stand of tropical fruits alone can keep me satiated all day. There’s a modest, classy table at Middle Eastern garden spot Jardins du Liban, gazpacho slipping on Balinese beach beds with a DJ at El Chiringuito, which has the same sound as the original Abidjan outpost. There’s even a branch of the Barcelonan gluten-free bakery Silesio, and a visit to Babette, an outpost of Michelin-starred chef Danny Garcia, is nearby.
We really appreciated the family-friendly atmosphere during our half-term visit, with Nobu even happily accommodating small children and serving small portions (and very generous portions of ice cream for dessert) everywhere. Hoi – but adult guests also had plenty of places to escape. .
Where to start? A resort newspaper, the Daily Flash, lists the day’s activities, but it must be brief because there are so many. I caught up with a few of the England players at the Six Senses Spa, where the window glazing was also complemented by soothing waterfalls and a series of thermal pools were Insta-perfect. Novak Djokovic, who has a home locally, is regularly smashing balls at the big tennis center – the hard and clay courts, where my kids enjoyed their first taste of the game so much that I’m hoping for a hint of Wimbledon. I have been
There are free yoga and Pilates classes most mornings, and water sports are available on the beach (for an additional charge). Three family-friendly pools have bridges and fountains. There are also plenty of adults-only spots like La Concha, where a Maldivian-style pool is surrounded by daybeds and backs onto a cocktail-stocked bar. The gym is a micro-village of its own, an intimate Third Space-style setup, with an epic boxing ring, spinning studio and a packed schedule of classes.
For families, the kids’ club is a real draw. Many European hotels have pokey rooms filled with Ikea children’s furniture and what a bored local teenager calls a kids’ club. Not here. London duo Sharky and George set up a packed timetable of activities (their reps even go to the resort to play on holiday, and instantly became my children’s idols). My five- and seven-year-olds’ timetable included beach survival skills (dungeon-making and water bombs), science club, candle-making, swimming in the kids’ club’s own kidney-shaped pool, and a magic show. . All this takes place in a beautifully designed villa with smog fridges full of snacks, arts and crafts supplies a la Hobbycraft and a tree house playground that I would happily live in during the summer.
At €50 for a morning or afternoon session, it’s not cheap – as can be said of resorts in general – but numbers are kept low and every child I saw begged to come back the next day. was asking Anyone worried about their children having too much fun or missing out on schoolwork can also book on-site tutor sessions with Oxbridge-style buffs. There’s also a teen club in a separate area, and a poolside mini club for under-fours (minimum age for kids’ club) to escape the sun with their parents, jigsaws, dollhouses , filled with Duplo etc.
Marbella is full of day trip options: we did nothing more than hire the resort’s bikes (kids-size and kiddie trailers included) to potter along the boardwalk to Old Town’s marina. . But those looking to explore further can take a day trip to Moorish Grenada or even Gibraltar, go horseback riding on the beach, go on off-road buggy tours and go river canyoning. Can, or take a short trip to Ronda, where an ancient bulging dominates
All rooms, starting from ‘Double Deluxe’, come with a terrace to overlook and overlook the tropical gardens, beach or pools. Rooms are a good size – our junior suite’s lone bathroom 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 taller than three storeys. Leave the windows open to fall asleep to the sound of nature in the background. Adults may prefer to stay close to the plaza, sipping cocktails on its atmospheric couches and plopping straight into bed. Or you could go for the €18,000-a-night-in-July, four-bedroom Villa La Prezza, which has a pool, solarium and gym, beach-facing balconies and no reason to ever leave (except that have enough earnings to pay for it).
The school holiday crowd is a mix of young families from London and New York and beautiful people sporting £600 Dior sliders. It’s hard to think of anyone who wouldn’t like this place. The friendly staff can’t do enough for you – from running the sun down to keeping a shade umbrella over the kiddie pool all day, sipping on a mojito or fruit kebab respectively (whether it’s from a moneyed tech tycoon, or a small child).
Low season, double deluxe rooms from €407/night, high season from €891. puenteromano.com