Travel can be about widening your horizens and pushing yourself, alternatively it can be about taking things easy and chilling out. If you're seeking the latter, then the Macdonald Dona Lola resort in southern Spain should definitely tempt you.
If the name Macdonald sounds familiar then that’s hardly surprising. The Macdonald brand, with Scottish origins, has hotels across Scotland and the UK. Its Aviemore resort is hugely popular with families, and its Spanish and Portuguese properties are making waves too.
The Dona Lola resort is one of four Spanish properties, and the only overseas Macdonald resort we’ve personally experienced. I totally rate it, and this is why.
The process was swift and friendly. We received a map of the resort, as it’s vast, and a quick explanation regarding facilities, parking and directions to our apartment. Check-in starts from 5pm, and check out is 10am, which I did consider pretty late/early in the day, but it coincidentally worked with the timing of our flight and activities.
We were located in Martha 142, and it was fantastic. Stupendously spacious with room for a family to actually live. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen leading open plan onto a dining area and lounge, flowing through to a balcony with outdoor seating. The size of the apartment and the quality of the furnishings and furniture made it feel like a family home, rather than a holiday apartment. The decor was traditional and comfortable, rather than trendy or modern. The furnished kitchen was well equipped with quality implements with which to create family meals. In terms of technology, the large TV screened a range of UK channels, but there was no free wifi in the apartment so I had to actually talk to my family…
The pools were wonderful, and I don’t believe the photographs on the website do them justice. The baby pool gradually slopes away, allowing wee ones to paddle and puddle about. The lifeguard on duty was notably attentive, and although we travelled in July we always secured sun loungers right next to the baby pool. We met some lovely people; maybe we were lucky but it was the kind of place where you naturally got chatting to folk. Free wifi was available poolside if you’re feeling anti-social.
The main pools swept under a series of bridges, so we swam laps of the place if the tots fancied a promotion to the ‘big boy pool’. There’s also an indoor pool, although in Spain swimmers are meant to wear bathing caps to use indoor facilities – how attractive. Caps are on sale at the hotel if required, but we stayed outdoors to make the most of the fine weather, and to avoid the headgear. Finally, there’s an adult pool – this made me feel so relaxed as anyone hanging out at the main pool was cool with kids, otherwise they had the option to disappear to an adult-only zone. We loved the pools at Dona Lola and spent hours in them till we were puckered and exhausted.
Dona Lola was surprisingly green. As we walked from our apartment to the swimming pool we passed through lush gardens, marched over cute bridges taking in decorative ponds, spotting fish and squealing at a fake hippo basking in the water. My kids were delighted by the ponds, and the greenery brought an air of tranquillity to the hot Spanish setting.
Facilites include a kids’ club. It’s not a nursery where you can drop off your children for hours on end, more like a quality entertainment station for kids aged five and over. For example, one day the kids made masks that they moulded to their faces and then decorated – they were pretty impressive creations, and fit them perfectly. Meanwhile the parents secured a few hours to themselves.
Dona Lola also offers a gym, sauna, Turkish bath, tennis courts and free parking on site. There’s a lot of golf (and golf breaks) available in the area so a potentially chilled place to tee off as well.
Food & Drink
Whilst Dona Lola is predominantly self-catering there are some solid dining options for all ages. Literally backing onto the hotel are informal, relaxed, family friendly restaurants. We tried La Estancia, an Argentinian steak house that (completely predictably) caught my husband’s eye. Service was slightly languorous but the food was good. Next door is a fantastic Italian, with a great menu, oven cooked pizzas made before your eyes, and swift, exceptionally friendly service. These two restaurants are so close to our apartment that it was fantastically easy to dine out.
On site at Dona Lola is Plaza Beach restaurant, which is run independently. During the day it’s great for ice creams, and its happy hour (offering 2 for 1 on several drinks from 5pm) was a daily highlight. Only niggle was the coffee, which was burnt and served with scalded milk so I’d avoid that, but overall it was great to have a casual spot, metres from the pool, and we dipped into it on a regular basis.
One evening we dined there. The kids’ menu was simple and full of predictable favourites, with our tots opting for pizza, and chicken and chips that they devoured. My husband opted for calzone, and my mushroom pasta with truffle oil was spot on.
Situated only 40 minutes from Malaga airport Dona Lola is very easy to reach. Who doesn’t love a short transfer? As mentioned, the hotel backs onto several restaurants as well as shops so it’s really handy.
Dona Lola is metres from the beach, which is quite small and sandy (rather than pebbly), but a bonus is the boardwalk that allows you to promenade along the seaside, stopping at bars and cafés as you wish, and strolling in the sunshine. A chilled out late afternoon walk was a free and easy pursuit.
Overall, I loved Dona Lola resort as I felt so comfortable and rested there. Everything I needed was within reach, and all I had to do was concentrate on covering the kids in suncream. Macdonald hotels are rarely the new trendy kid on the block, they’re established hotels, they know what holidaymakers want, and they deliver. For me, this resort was about spending quality time with the people I love. There may be more attractions in the vicinity but I don’t know what they are, as I didn’t want to leave.
Highlights and Lowlights
Highs – The wonderful pools, the vibe, the quality of our apartment, restaurants on our doorstep, and the ease of life there.
Lows – Not much really, free wifi would have helped, and more generous check in and out times.
There are regular flights to Malaga from Scotland but, in order to attend a family event in the area, we chose to fly from Newcastle with Ryanair. [On a side note: The flights were a bargain, but when our return journey was cancelled, once we were already out in Spain, the bargains disappeared and it was nothing but hassle as we couldn’t get hold of anyone at Ryanair. Stranded!] From Malaga it was a 40 minute transfer with a hire car. We spent several days in Dona Lola, before exploring Granada and Seville – more info to come shortly.