Kim Jones heads to Park Plava Laguna on Croatia's scenic Istria peninsula, to discover why the brand new hotel is already a magnet for families
Sitting on the western coast of Istria, Croatia, overlooking the Adriatic Sea near the coastal town of Porec, this brand-spanking-new four-star resort has family-friendly written all over it. On our two-night summer stay with our 15-year-old son, we didn't spot anyone holidaying without children.
It’s not hard to see why families flock here. With plenty of pools, free onsite kids’ clubs for four-12 year olds, a teens’ programme and entertainment on tap, there’s lots to fill your time with fun. Plenty of space to party, play and relax in the knowledge that your little ones won’t ever be bored.
The newly built resort, which launched in July 2018, comprises a family hotel with 154 rooms surrounded by gardens that are filled with a collection of suites and apartments with terraces plus a selection of 21 luxurious villas sectioned off in their own private space with a shared private pool.
We stayed in the bright and airy hotel – in a spick and span and spacious family room with a balcony overlooking a pool and the sea beyond – offering spectacular views of the sunset. Carpets are thick underfoot, decor is modern, simple but stylish and everything feels pristine and neat – and we love the modern attention-to-detail features including iPad charging sockets in the safe.
With four pools for everyone to enjoy – there’s plenty of splashing fun to be done. In the centre of the resort, you’ll find the aqua ‘hub’ with two activity pools featuring a slide, water-play attractions and a pirate ship, plus a small paddling pool for babies as well as a pool bar serving refreshments and food. At the front of the hotel there’s a freshwater ‘relax’ pool for families that might want to do a little more serious swimming, with an outdoor massage area alongside it.
There’s a games room and children’s playground alongside the pool hub, plus a jam-packed programme of organised activities onsite to take part in (except on Saturdays, which are generally check-in days).
Schedules change daily; adults and teens might want to start off the day in an ‘ommmm…’ kind of way with a spot of morning yoga or Pilates, followed by a dip in the pool for an aqua gym workout or Latino Aqua dancing – guaranteed to get everyone smiling in the sunshine.
The Kids’ Clubs (one for 4-8 year-olds, another for 9-12 year-olds) kick off at 10am. For the tots, each day is ‘themed’ – think superheroes, pirates, minions and more – and exciting creative sessions, facepainting, treasure hunts and circus school sessions are just some of the things to enjoy all day until 6pm. Tweens’ themed days include Eco Fun, Splash Day and Game Day.
Teens can get involved in sports days, waterpolo, table tennis, darts, water slide races, take a ‘selfie challenge’ or pit their gaming skills in the Playstation Contest.
The activity team staff – including Aleksandra and Andela - are great at getting everyone involved – and their enthusiasm is infectious.
Come evening time, there’s entertainment for the family round the pool including kids’ dancing and live music in the bar, or you can take your seat for a cinema under the stars.
The huge buffet restaurant (indoors and outdoors) gets really busy at peak times, serving a wide selection of locally-inspired food (most of the food at the resort comes from Istria) and there’s plenty for fussy eaters including pizzas and pastas. Juice, water, red and white house wine and beer are free on tap to drink with your meal and there’s even Champagne for breakfast on the house. Well, you are on holiday!
There’s also an a la carte restaurant and bar in the centre of the resort by the pool if you want quieter surroundings to enjoy your meal.
There are plenty of paved and pebbled beaches within a short walking distance of the resort if you fancy a dip in the clear seas.
Porec is just 2km away – easily reached by an hourly bus service or a tourist train every 30 minutes. But I’d recommend the lovely 25-minute walk along the coast to get there.
The old Roman town juts out into the sea on a small peninsula and you can while away hours here exploring the shiny cobbled streets lined with shops, restaurants and bars, the marina (with a few superyachts paying a visit) and Euphrasian Basilica which is an UNESCO world heritage site.
If you want to go further afield, you can catch a catamaran from Porec to Venice and spend the day there. Venezia Lines, for example, leave port daily at 8am and returns from Venice at 17.15pm. The journey takes two hours each way and costs about 76 Euros per adult. Two children under 14 go free with every two paying adults.
How to get there: Flights from the UK to Pula Airport (60km from the hotel) take around 2 hours 15 minutes.
Best for: Families with young children
Hotel Park – 99 eur per night
Garden Suites Park – from 121 eur per night
Apartments Park – from 72,50 eur per night
Villas Park –136,50 eur per night
Find out more: plavalaguna.com