Just back from a week at the Sol Don Marco for Xmas. Booked flights/hotel/transfers through Travel Republic - all very smooth and efficient.
The Don Marco is one of 3 interconnected hotels (with the Don Pedro and the Don Pablo) on one of the best sized and situated complexes in Torremolinos. Very pleasant garden areas in between the 3 buildings, and 30 seconds from the sea front. A few rooms in the Don Marco have a full on sea view, most just get glimpses.
Reception at present in the winter is in the Don Pedro rather than the Don Marco - so if your taxi drops you off at the Marco entrance like ours did you have a very short level walk through the gardens to the Pedro entrance. But once you are booked in you can come and go through the Marco entrance (the closest to the sea front) with your key card.
Reception staff were polite, friendly and efficient and spoke excellent English. We had 2 rooms on the 3rd floor of the Marco (if you get room 3026 and the room key card doesn't work very well, it isn't just you! That would be my one criticism of the hotel - I suffered no end of issues with my door - I think I got through 8 cards, one visit from the maintenance man, 4 new batteries, and a whole lot of "will it work this time?" angst! In the end it was a bit of a joke, but if I had been by myself it could have been a lot more worrying - 1 night it did take FORTY attempts to open my door! All the reception staff who I spoke to over this were helpful, but unless it was just me being a jinx, I think the whole door mechanism probably does need replacing!)
Rooms - both were twin (even though I was on my own), a decent size and well appointed. Plenty of furniture, nice spacious bathroom with exceedingly efficient shower, bath, hairdryer, TV (with BBC1), air-con/heating, balcony/chairs etc. Maids were friendly and efficient, but there didn't seem to be a set time they came - it ranged from just after 9am to 3pm. One room (3026) was on the shadier side overlooking the Marco/Pedro pool area; the other (3027) got sun in the early afternoon and was over the front entrance, looking over to the Don Pablo pool areas.
Pools - didn't use any outdoor one, but did use the very pleasant and quite large indoor one - seemed odd having to go outside to get to an inside pool (it's on the Pablo side of the complex). Toilets and a changing room available. I think you could also get a towel from reception for a deposit.
Food - we had half board - buffet breakfast and dinner. The Casares restaurant is on the ground floor where the Marco meets the Pedro (there is a 2nd restaurant in the Pablo). Great spread for breakfast - cold meat, cheese, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, cakes, bread (I was really impressed with the variety and quality of the bread/rolls etc offered), hot eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, potato etc. A chef is there cooking eggs, so if you time it right you get a piping hot one! Coffee (not that great), tea, 4 kinds of juice to drink.
Dinner was again varied, tasty and impressive. Possibly slightly limiting for vegetarians or those who need to be absolutely sure of what meat they are eating - most of the time dishes were labelled with the main content - eg pork, but on 2 nights there were no labels. 2 or 3 types of fish each night, varied meats that usually included 2 types of pork, also beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, rabbit, and ham. Chef show cooking fresh supplies of 2 types of meat/fish constantly. Chips and 2 other types of potato, 3 hot veg plus a wide array of cold meats and salad. 2 soups every night. I must mention particularly the Italian Corner (Rincon) - it is slightly hidden away up the Marco end, but is well worth sussing out. It had a big dish of a different rice/risotto/paella each night, plus a lasagne, 2 plain pastas and 2 sauces, 2 types of pizza and 2 or 3 types of veg. I probably had something from there every night - I enjoyed mixing and matching! For desserts there were cakes, blancmanges, yoghurts, ice cream, tinned and fresh fruit etc. Drinks were ordered from the waiter (or you could get something from the bar near by). Water was 1.95E, wine around 8E for a half bottle and 12 for a full bottle.
We also had a 6 or 7 course waiter served Xmas Day gala meal - this was at a set time in a ballroom over in the Don Pablo (I think the hotel could have made it slightly clearer about the timings for this - lots of people arrived late, presumably having not realised it started at a set time). I found this meal a bit too rich and lot too much - but I am not a big eater. The quality however was very good. All drinks were free at this meal.
Bars - Bar Andalucia in the Pedro was a decent size and had entertainment from 8pm every night. There are other bars, some of which weren't open in the winter.
Guests - lots of British, (seemed to be maybe 50%), mostly 60+, some looked to be long stay for a few weeks. A few families - not many young couples. I guess this was due to it being winter/Xmas, but if you are young and want the company of other young adults for socialising I wouldn't really recommend it to you. Spanish, French, German, Dutch and Italian folk as well.
Free Wifi in the bar areas downstairs, but not in your rooms (you could pay). Connection and speed good in the morning and in the evening, but not as good in the middle of the day/afternoon.
Plenty of activities in the day if you wished - shooting, yoga, bowls, dance lessons etc.
Location - on sea front up the end of Torre nearest to Malaga - 10/15 mins from the airport. Flat pedestrianised walk the whole way to Benalmadena - very pleasant to do, lots to see - especially in La Carihuela area. I made it 8.5 miles from the hotel to Benal Marina, on along Benal prom to Bil Bil castle and back.
Town centre is about 15 mins (uphill walk) away - you either go along the prom then up the somewhat steep steps (or find the lift by the Gran Cervantes), or if you go out the back of the hotel there is a gentler but constant uphill walk - I preferred this.
Things to do - train is close by, easy, cheap, quick and ON TIME!! Train to Malaga and Fuengirola were both 3.80E return, and took about 15-20 mins. Malaga is great - quite a compact city with plenty to see and do. We walked from the station (end of the line) up the Gibalfaro Castle - a testing walk but well worth the views from the castle.
Fuengirola is the end of the line in the other direction - long flat prom to walk along. I stayed there a previous Xmas, and think I certainly prefer Torremolinos of the 2. Fuengirola looked a bit tired out of season I thought. Saying that, I wouldn't contemplate either of them in the summer - too hot, crowded and noisy for sure.
There is a cable car at the Arroyo de Miel area of Benalmadena (2 mins walk from the train station of the same name) - really enjoyed going up the mountain (you can get a 2E discount voucher from the tourist office).
Nice gardens/parks - Battery Park in Torre - about 40 mins steady uphill walk from hotel (or along front to Carihuela then 10 mins steep uphill) - very well laid out park with a lake, a tower, cannons, play equipment and great views. Also Paloma Park in Benal Costa - about 5 mins uphill walk from Bil Bil Castle - a little more natural, with a lake, plenty of shady paths, plus chickens and rabbits wandering free!
In summary - I was impressed by Torremolinos as a winter destination, and certainly very impressed by the Sol Don Marco - I would recommend it.
High floor (Marco has 4 floors) get better views; some have full sea view. Odd number rooms got more...
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