Review of the Sol Meliá Atlanterra Hotel in Zahara de los Atunes, Cadiz


Ester and I decided that it would be nice to maybe go down to Cadiz and stay in a hotel for the weekend whilst the little one was off with her grandparents in Puertollano.

We had been down to Cadiz a couple of times in the past and were looking forward to it so we searched the internet and found some nice hotels but finally settled on the Sol Melia Atlanterra at €220 half board per night.

The Sol Melia Atlanterra is appx 140 km’s from Marbella and is located in the area of "Los Atunes" (Spanish for The Tuna’s) which appears to be very popular with Spanish and German holiday makers judging by the amount of German channels on the hotel TV.

Click Here for a Google Map for – Zahara de los Atunes, Barbate, Spain

It was a pleasant drive down on the saturday morning and passing Tarifa you start seeing the wind farms scattered across the landscape and they are quite mesmirising. The road to cadiz itself once you pass Gibraltar  twists and turns along the mountainside and the landscape is beautiful. Very soon you start seeing the sand dunes of Tarifa.

Los Atunes is actually off the beaten track a little and you do need a good map because the road directions are not brilliant, even google maps got it a bit wrong and we had to stop and ask some local coppers for directions to the hotel  when we got to the town.

On arrival at the hotel reception, we were greeted by a moody male receptionist who just seemed uninterested that we were there. His female collegue who was dealing with other people checking in seemed very bubbly and pleasant, but our guy just seemed miserable like his dog had just died.

So we endured the check in trying not to upset Mr Moody any further and after check in, he did robotically utter "bienvenido", without  a hint of a smile of course.

Excellent Pool and Bar
On a positive note, on our way to the room we noticed the hotel complex is quite large and there is an excellent pool area with roman columns, some bubbly jacuzzi like areas, pool bar, and ample sun loungers. Lunch can be served either in the restaurant or at the pool bar. It seemd that you can even swim up to the bar and order your drinks, which was pretty nice.

The Stinkiest Room I have ever been in!
We arrived at our room/bungalow, and well, when we opened the door, there was a distinct stench of mould, as if the room had not been lived in for a long time as if the fridge was turned off, a pale of water left in the frdige and the fridge door was left open, you know, that musty smell you get from a room being damp? Well it just went straight up our noses. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

I immediatly had to open the window to let in some fresh air but could not get rid of the stench. We did think about asking to move room but rather than endure another dose of Mr Moody in reception we decided to slog it out. At any rate we did not expect to be in the room very much anyway as the weather was simply stunning and we were going to be by the pool or beach all day.

Dirtiest Mini Bar I have even seen!
The very next thing I did was open the mini bar fridge because I had to place my insulin in there in order to keep it cool. I have a little ice pack that I use when travelling and it keeps the insulin cool and seeing that it was pretty much melted I needed to put it in the part of the mini bar that is used for the ice cubes.

So I pulled off the ice cube tray only to find that the ice itself contained little insects and bugs that has gotten stuck in the ice when it started to freeze. Its not like the little bugs had landed on the ice after it had frozen, there were bugs underneath, inside and frozen into the top of the ice cube tray.

It looked like the ice flows you see on the History Channel where prehistoric animals have died and been frozen in ice waiting to be discovered million of years later by explorers. It was pretty disgusting to look at so I promptly removed it from the fridge altogether.

Where is the beach then?
So, those two "minor" things aside, we decided to make our way to the beach and tried following the confusing signs and hotel map which were just useless. Some would say, "well just head towards the direction of the beach", but of course there is a small maze of pathways within the complex to navigate and an eight foot fence between us and the outside of the hotel so we could not even see the beach from where we were, but after a few minutes we found our way, but only after some mild frustration, something that could have been avoided with better sign posting.

Towels are in the clubhouse stupid!
So when we got all the way down to the beach, we asked the beach guy in charge of the chairs where we get the towels from because looking around we did not see any beach towels and we were told by Mr Moody that towels were included.

Bear in mind now, my wife is actually Spanish and she asked him where we get the towels and he simply said "Clubhouse". Noone had mentioned clubhouse to us when we checked in, its not mentioned in the room and its not mentioned on the web site. It would not be too difficult to put up a sign somewhere before the long trek to the beach saying something like "do you have your towels?".

Well, neither of having been to the hotel before had no idea where this clubhouse is, so she asked him again with all politeness as to the location of the clubhouse and again, he just uttered the words "Clubhouse. In the Clubhouse". He must have just thought that we were stupid because they way it came across, it just felt like he was treating us like a couple of muppets.

Maybe he is a relation of Mr Moody from reception? Did Mr Beach Guy’s dog also die? We dont know and dont care quite frankly, we are standing on the beach in 35 centigrade heat and now have walk back to the hotel and search for the "clubhouse".

The Pool was Gorgeous though
Anyway, we finally walked back to the hotel and found the clubhouse tucked away in a side building, again, no proper or intelligent signage, got a couple of towels and decided that it was a bit too hot for the beach and rather than walk all the way back to the beach, we settled on the pool, it looked alot nicer than the sandy sweaty beach anyway.

We found some nice sun loungers in a great position, shade for me, sun for her and we relaxed pretty much for the rest of the afternoon……but…..of course….the sun loungers were in front of one of the showers….which would not usually be an issue, I actually looked forward to watching the pretty girls take a quick shower in front of me………except that the bloody shower did not work, so all afternoon we watched time after time people popping to the open shower only for it not to work, uttering words under their breath about the shower. So during the whole day, none of the pool guys picked up on this and did not put an out of order sign. (it was still not working the next day either and no sign of an out of order sign)

Apart from that we had a nice lunch in the pool bar and the food was served quick and it was done so with friendliness and a smile.

After spending a brilliant day at the pool we went back to the room only to be welcomed by the gagging stench of mustiness I mentioned earlier on.


I get better quality TV on my phone!
Once in the room, we switched on the Bang and Olufsen (nice tv, bit of a surprise to see a B&O telly) TV in the room in order to catch some of the confederation Cup in South Africa because Spain was playing against South Africa this saturday evening.

On the Spanish terrestrial channels the quality was just awful. Fuzzy picture, snowy, bad sound, as if we needed to maybe stick a coat hanger in the aerial socket. We flipped through the channels and funnily enough the German channels were perfect quality so we ended up watching the end of the match in German. Have you ever watched football in German? Its not as exciting as the Spanish commentators I can tell you! Its pretty unexciting.

Anyway, we showered, watched some more of the football and went off to dinner.

Good Buffet
Dinner was very nice and it was of course buffet style and there was a wide selection of cold platters, fish and meats and a nice deseerts section. We only had to wait until halfway through our meal for the drinks but small sacrifice that.

Apart from that we both had a good feed.

Flamenco performance 1 – Waiting service 0
After dinner we went through to the foyer and there was a little flamenco show just starting up in the centre of the main foyer just off the bar. The flamenco show it self was very nice and we were all entranced by the dancers and musician. It was very exciting and entertaining. You could clearly see all the guests were enjoying the show.

We were of course slightly parched so thought that we should order a drink. There were not that many tables, maybe 10 tables? 20 max, but there were 2 people in the bar, two waitresses and another guy in a suit who must have been the manager.

So we finally managed to get one of the waitresses attention who came and took our order. I am not sure if you have seen the matrix but there is a special effect in the matrix where everything goes slow motion, this is what it was like watching these two waitresses work, they just seemed to move almost in slow motion.

So, we got our drinks which actually did not take long, I ordered a Piña Colda which was quite good, however my wife was very excited to get her Mojito only to be bitterly dissapointed that it was not at all what she was expecting, it was quite bitter, as if not a single drop of sugar was put into it and the mint looked days old.

So, I suggested that we ask them for some sugar or maybe she can change the drink for something else.

There were lots of people standing around though and it seemed, from my business point of view, like a good opportunity for the bar to do some good takings but could we get the attention of either waitress?

No way. We both did pretty much try everything from waving our hands, flailing our arms arounds. Any one watching would have surely thought we were trying to land a plane than get the attention of the waitresses or the bar manager.

Rather they were too busy watching the flamenco show and horsing around with their manager but I did manage to get the managers attention by getting off from my seat and walking over to him.

So we did finally after  period os several minutes get one of them to bring some sugar for my wife’s mojito. (a few minutes may not seem long but have you ever watched a 3 minute egg boil? Its like an eternity)

So after the Flamcenco show had ended and we had our drinks we had a quick walk around outside the front of the hotel and went back to the stinky room to watch some more German TV and get some shut eye.

I think we both slept quite well in the end, my nose must have gotten used to the stinky smell of the room because when I woke up in the morning it was barely noticable.

We went off to breakfast which again was buffet style and it was very good. No complaints about that at all.

So this is how I would score this hotel.

Check in experience – 1 out of 10
Friendliness of staff over all – 6 out of 10
Facilities – 8 out of 10
Cleanliness of the room – 1 out of 10
Food – 7 out of 10
Pool Facilities – 9 out of 10 (1 taken off for the broken shower)

I rate the pool area highly as it was excellent. Not sure if the poolside area had been refubished recently but everything seemed very clean and new, unlike the rooms. The rooms were not that nice and I found the minibar to be filthy.

Most of the staff we encountered appeared to be friendly however My Moody Receptionist and Mr Moody Beach Guy were an exception.

The food was good and plentiful but it would not win any Michelin stars, its your typical holiday hotel buffet food fare. Nothing to write home about.

Overall Score: 3 out of 10

Would I go back? Probably not. The €230 euros per night rack rate in my opinion is a bit too high and I would probably be more open to paying €100 per night half board. This hotel may have been paradise found in its hey day, but the rooms need some serious refurb for me and my other half to go back again.

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