Review: Fiesta Cala Nova, Ibiza

Nestled next to a small beach at the northern end of Es Cana, Ibiza, the Fiesta Cala Nova is a traditional three star Spanish hotel which probably hasn’t change much in terms of style since it was built, and yet shows little sign of wear and manages to keep up very high standards.

The hotel comprises of a five floor accommodation block serviced by two smallish lifts, which also houses a reasonably sized show lounge with small stage and bar, a small games room and the large buffet dining room, complete with outdoor dining area.

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The complex also has a small garden, a nicely laid out pool area complete with outdoor entertainment area (including stage), pool bar, a reasonable sized circular pool (depths from 1.3 – 1.9m), and a small kiddies splash pool with various water play attractions for the youngsters.

Wifi is available in the lobby, although we could get a signal in our room on the first floor.  At €10 / day (cheaper as you add more days), we thought it was a little too expensive as I could get a 4GB upgrade on my mobile sufficient for our use for £20 for the week, which of course is available anywhere we went.  I don’t know if the wifi was fast enough to stream video.

The Rooms
Normal check in is 14:00, with checkout at 12:00.   You can extend your room if available for €60 from 12:00 – 18:00.   A little expensive in our opinion.

On arrival at 3 a.m., the rooms appear a little basic and small, but in the plain light of day they are well furnished with old style vanity desk, headboard and side tables, sliding door wardrobe and safe (extra charge of €28 / week applies – a bit old fashioned in our opinion).

Amenities are surprisingly good – with a large TV (No English speaking channels that we could find), and toiletries in the bathroom, but no tea making facilities.  If this is an essential, make sure you bring a travel kettle – the hotel has kettle rental but the price is quite high.

Although the furniture was obviously of an older style, we did remark on its pristine condition – we struggled to find any marks or wear on any of the furniture.

We had an unexpected adjoining room next to our daughter’s room on the first floor close to the lifts, and this proved to be an added bonus, giving us the feel of a small suite.

The room decor was bright and airy, the bed linen was crisp and clean, and throughout it was very well maintained and cleaned thoroughly during our stay.  The air conditioning was a little noisy when on full speed, which we found necessary a couple of nights after a blistering hot day (in the high twenties).

The views from any direction gives you at least a glimpse of the sea, with the best panoramic views being from the end rooms facing east out over the bay.  The north facing rooms had good sea views too – we would recommend 2nd floor upwards on the south facing rooms to ensure an unrestricted view.

Above : View from the east facing end rooms Below: Sunrise from our balcony.
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Restaurants and bars
This was supposed to be a cheap  end of year break so we booked half board, but by the end of the first day we realised we were going to spend much more in the local bars and restaurants than the price of the all inclusive upgrade at the hotel.   The drinks package was €15/day, which equated to just four drinks / day, and the package including lunch was €22/day, which meant lunch was costing just €7.  There was no way we could get lunch with drinks for less than €7 each, so it was an obvious step to upgrade to all inclusive.

The main restaurant offers buffet style breakfast, lunch and evening meals, with an option to purchase other more expensive items from the premium menu – steak, lobster etc.

The restaurant operates a very simple solution to that time old problem of keeping a table – you know, when you have to hang your handbag or sunglasses on the table to make it occupied.   Here, they operate a card system – if the table says available, you simply turn it over to reserved, and it’s yours.   It worked extremely well and we didn’t see any abuse of it – the number of buffet style hotels we have stayed at that could benefit from this simple solution – well done!

Breakfast (08:00 – 10:30) consisted of a range of hot drinks and juices, breads and pastries, cold meats, cheeses, salads, cereals, and hot foods such as proper baked beans (always something that seemed hard to find in Spain in the old days), lovely pork sausages, hash browns, tomatoes, bacon, omelettes, eggs in all styles, pancakes, churros, honestly, there was too much to eat!   We were very impressed by the range on offer and also the high quality – everything properly cooked (including the scrambled egg) and piping hot.

Lunch (a quite a late 13:30 – 15:00) was of similar high quality and again exhibited a wide range of food, both hot and cold – seriously, nobody should be complaining they cannot find something they like.

Evening meals (18:30 – 21:30) seemed even better,with the addition of two varieties of soup, and again a choice of salads, hot and cold main courses, and a wide range of desserts, fruit galore and on one night even cheese and biscuits – it would have been nice to have this every evening.

Only two criticisms of the main restaurant.  Firstly, the food could be rather bland.   When they advertised beef in peppered sauce, or pork in mustard sauce, or spicy potatoes, inevitably there was just insufficient flavour to identify it. I had two disappointments; the pork steaks in mustard sauce, a classic Portuguese favourite of mine but which didn’t have any mustard flavour, and the other being a beef goulash, which is my absolute favourite dish but again had none of the goulash spices and transformed into a very nice but plain beef stew.

The second slight disappointment was sometimes the menu displayed wasn’t what was actually on offer.  For instance, I had been looking forward to the cream of tomato soup since lunchtime only to find it was something entirely in the restaurant.

As mentioned by one or two other reviews on trip advisor, the range of meals was quite vast for a three star and on that basis it is hard to find fault – but occasionally the menu would appear quite random – with such things like vegetable spring rolls appearing with no other Chinese food to match them up with.  A minor point which in no way diminishes what we felt was a plus point for the hotel.

The staff in the restaurant are particularly friendly and helpful, and our baby grandson was soon charming all the female staff with his laughs and huge smiles.
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Outside, the pool bar offered snacks, consisting of hot dogs and burgers for the normal all inclusive menu, and a wider range of food for those on the premium package.  Strangely the pool bar charged €3.40 for a plate of french fries to go with the free food, while in the main restaurant the fries were included in the all inclusive package.  This was a strange situation which we brought to the hotel’s attention and they explained it was group hotel policy and out of their control, although they agreed to pass on our comments back up to the group management.

The pool bar stays open from 08:00 a.m. until after midnight (although the guest sheet says it closes at 18:00). while the lobby bar opens from 18:00 until 01:00 a.m.  The restaurant is closed except for meal times and this leave only the two bars available for drinks.  A slight disappointment was on the final day when torrential rain during the morning made it impossible to use the pool bar, but the hotel management didn’t open the lobby bar as expected (even the tour rep had said it was bound to open) leaving the guests unable to get a drink – not fair when you are on all inclusive but have no where to use it.

During our stay none of the bars were crowded and the atmosphere was very relaxed.

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The range of drinks is reasonable although we did see a few guests moan about the lack of specific types of wine, and a lack of cider on sale.  Luckily I don’t drink too much so I had no problem finding something to drink.

The only slight negative comment would be the pre-mixed cocktails available from the pool bar – I tried the love on the beach, which was reasonable, the strawberry daiquiri was Ok but not fantastic, but the pina colada was positively ‘yulk’ and tasted nothing like a true pina colada – which happens to be my favourite poolside tipple so a little disappointed with that.  All of the cocktails lacked the essential crushed ice, which compounds the problem.   However, I found the Rosado wine mixed 50:50 with sprite was a reasonable compromise and we polished off a few bottles of Rosado during the week in this manner.

One thing to note, the plastic cups used on the pool bar can have very sharp edges, and by the end of the week I had a sore lip from drinking from them.   They have straws on the bar (in short supply as like many other hotels they are trying to phase them out for environmental reasons) – I would recommend you use one.

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The pools

The main pool is a reasonable size and gives you a good opportunity to swim – and it wasn’t so crowded that you couldn’t do a full length or two.  It had disabled access via a lift, and normal pool ladders – but no steps leading down in to the pool that could be used by people with mobility problems (not everyone wants to be lifted on the chair into the pool, but can’t negotiate a ladder).

Unfortunately my aim to have a seven o’clock swim before breakfast was thwarted as the pool didn’t open until 08:00, which also meant you could not take in the beautiful sunrise from the pool’s balustrade facing out to sea.

Further up there is a sizeable children’s paddling pool with lots of slides and water features to keep the kids occupied.

Sunbeds were plentiful and despite the usual morning rush to get the towels on (well, queue in this case) , we didn’t experience any problems in finding somewhere around the pool to sit.  The pool seating area next to the bar is also quite expansive and well shaded, which is where we tended to sit.    Note, smoking is permitted at all parts of the pool and it was impossible to find an area where non-smokers (which includes Sue and myself) could sit without having someone sat next to you blowing smoke in your face.   Fortunately we only experienced one of my dreaded ‘vapers’, who look like something from the steam age as they issue clouds of white fumes from every available orifice, totally oblivious of those sat around them.

The pool water was relatively warm due to the intense sun, and always clear and seemed clean, although I never saw anyone testing it – I assume this was done prior to the pool opening as the water was too clear not to have been properly managed.  We had no issues using the pool or letting our baby grandson use it.

Outside
The hotel sits to the north of the main town of Es Cana, which itself is quite a small resort with a small cluster of restaurants and bars in its centre, a couple of amusement arcades with dodgems and other fairground attractions, and the normal compliment of grocery and gift shops, and car/scooter/quad bike hire.

Right next to the hotel is a small road that leads down past the camping site Cala Nova and another small grocery store, a couple of very nice bars and restaurants set in the sand dunes, which then turns into a wooden walkway suitable for wheelchairs that leads all the way down into the closest beach, Cala Nova bay.  It’s a five minute stroll at most, slightly downhill but nothing that would cause anyone issues on the return journey.  The wooden walkway is a nice touch – I imagine the original path was unmade and quite rocky and undulating.

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There isn’t a vast amount of sand, but there’s enough for two or three rows of sun beds (payable to the guy on the beach) and a small area of sand for towels.    The sea is shallow but beware of the quite strong currents and breakers especially as the tide is coming in.   I got knocked off of my feet a couple of times.  However, the water is deliciously warm and its hard to resist taking a dip.

For those of sensitive nature you might find a certain amount of nudism on the beach – plenty topless bathing during the day, and if like me you ventured down to see the sun rise at 7 a.m. then be prepared to meet up with a few naturists happily splashing around on the waves as they greet the morning sun.  It’s quite an experience actually as there are some that sleep in tents on the beach (you can smell the camp fires from the hotel’s pool area at night) and first thing in a morning they are sat around in circles, playing soothing tunes on guitars, drumming on their bongo drums or doing yoga or Pilates as the sun rises.  Quite surreal.  Or may quite real, depending on your viewpoint.  It all seemed perfectly natural to me.
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The sands are clean and well kept without having that mechanical manicured look found on fully maintained beaches.

Head out of the hotel onto the main road, take a left and this brings you to the Coral Beach hotel.  Turning left here takes you down a very pleasant promenade looking out to sea, mostly tiled path with the last few yards being a wooden platform walkway – unfortunately this leads directly onto the main Es Cana beach which might present difficulties to those in wheelchairs or with pushchairs – we carried the pushchair the few yards across the beach before you join back up with the main streets.

Alternatively you can turn right down the main street to the small cluster of shops, past the car hire and local doctors clinic, directly to the main Es Cana beach.

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The beach here has a few nice bars – we tended to use The Pins (Pines) bar, which had a nice menu and a good beachfront complete with sunbeds.

It is worth noting that unlike the Cala Nova beach, the sea is slightly more placid on this side of the rocky outcrop and probably more child friendly.

From here you can walk up the beach front to the main town and small marina, or take the route up the main road which leads to more shops before dropping down to the harbour which is also the dropping off point for the local ferry taxi to various points around the island.  The beach also provides a number of water activities including pedalos of various sizes, water rides, paragliding and other activities.

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Entertainment

Back at the hotel there is a reasonably good programme of daytime activities including the inevitable boules, darts, water polo and aqua-aerobics, and in the evenings there is a varied programme which always starts with the resident animation team organising some children’s disco / games, but then followed by the somewhat tedious “bingo” game before the adult entertainment starts.

We were treated to an opera style singer who had been runner up on Britain’s Got Talent in 2016 (glad we missed that), a couple of dance troupes (the final one being slightly amateurish), a quiz, a strange display of owls and other birds, and a rather good karaoke session that put some of the paid singers to shame!  At the end of the day we had to remember this is a three star hotel not Caesars Palace in Vegas, but nevertheless I don’t think we’ll be seeing any of the acts on a cruise ship anytime soon.  I’ve got to say, in all fairness, that while the animation guys were not my cup of tea, the kids loved them and I would happily bring back my to young granddaughters who would have had a great time.  The only thing I would recommend is that they get a better DJ – they cocked up the karaoke, the singer’s backing tracks and even the dancer’s music.   Get some practice in!

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Summary

The Fiesta Cala Nova is about 30-40 minutes by taxi from the airport, which costs around €45 each way.  If this is your preferred method of transport then I would recommend you look at hiring a car for the week – free parking was relatively plentiful in the hotel and adjacent streets and the roads were fairly easy to navigate, even without satnav.

Bus transfers take somewhat longer depending on how many drop offs – ours took 1 1/2 hours to complete the 30 minute journey and the receptionist said they could take as much as two hours.   From our experience (TUI sent the bus 25 minutes earlier than specified and left us stranded at the hotel after midnight) then I would personally arrange your own transfers – the tour operator is not to be trusted.
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Unusually, we had the opportunity to meet with the management of the hotel, Antonio the general manager, Jose the front desk manager and Pedro the quality manager, to discuss a couple of issues we had raised during our stay.  It is unusual to be invited to such a meeting when raising a minor grievance (well to be honest one of them was just the query over the french fries on the pool bar) but their commitment to providing their guests with the best experience was obvious, and it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk the matter through with them.  Unfortunately as is often the case, many of these policies come down from above and the local staff just find themselves taking the flak for something which is out of their hands.  I am always conscious of this when raising an issue with staff- remember, they are there just to do their job, just like you and I, and not there to be abused, and often don’t have the authority to change company policy.  I cringed at some of the attitudes and comments made by some guests – almost embarrassed to be in the same hotel as them!

While some of the matters could not be resolved immediately, they did promise to feed our comments back to the group management and that was sufficient for me.  At the end of the day, I want to help improve the general ongoing quality of the places we visit, and it was interesting to meet up with a fellow quality manager who like myself demonstrated a passion for excellence in service.

So, first the essential disclaimer – We stayed in the resort in September 2018, totally paid for by ourselves with no inducements offered by the hotel for this review.

Did the hotel live up to its three star rating?  Absolutely, and the food quality was probably in excess of that – the staff friendliness bumps up our rating by 1/2 a star too.

I would have been absolutely happy with tea making facilities in the room, which is fairly standard these days in even budget hotels – something to think about.

Finally, that all essential question – would we return?  Well, from a point of view of the hotel, it would have to be a resounding yes.  I could easily see me bringing back more of our grandchildren, the beaches are in easy reach, there’s probably JUST enough to do locally without having to venture out too far, and the hotel facilities are quite adequate.

Would we come back to the same area?  Well, in line with our normal approach, we don’t normally advocate returning to the same place twice, but for our now regular end of year breaks, then if we were to hire a car and give us a little more freedom to tour the island, I could see this being a nice interim break destination in the same vein as Costa Teguise in Lanzarote.

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Would we use a tour operator again to book our holiday?  IN YOUR DREAMS!   I don’t know how I got conned into using TUI for this trip but I am fairly certain we could have booked the flights, taxi transfer or hire car, and booked with the hotel direct for the same price if not cheaper, and not have to endure the lousy service provided by TUI (sorry, the resort staff were very helpful but at the end of the day they didn’t deliver as promised – they know what I mean – complaint pending and TUI review to follow shortly).

So yes, we may well be back.    Stay tuned for our video review of the resort on Youtube.

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(Thanks to Pedro at the hotel for a couple of the interior shots that I had neglected to take during our stay).

Rob and Sue’s World Traveller visited the Fiesta Cala Nova, Ibiza in September 2018.

One thought on “Review: Fiesta Cala Nova, Ibiza

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