We stayed at Coraya Beach during the Xmas-New Year period 2012/13. No doubt, there is a pleasant feeling, nearly a privilege, to enjoy a cup of coffee or a beer on a private balcony facing the sea, surrounded by blooming colorful bougainvillea while hearing the news that half of North America is enduring snow storms and that a number of European countries are affected by floods. Laying in the 365 d/y sun, diving, snorkeling and watching corals are the main reasons for flying to desert Marsa Alam. But do not expect much more. In fact, the hotel resort is an artificial creation in a lunar landscape: there is nothing outside but a barren, grayish, dusty desert, with sandy whirlwinds (see picture), without any archeological, cultural or geological treasures. This is in sharp contrast to the Sinaï which is colorful and plenty of interesting places to visit.
The 12-year old Coraya Beach and four more recent hotels surround a small sandy bay. In its middle, there is a sea-bound submarine cliff with some coral reefs along both sides. Various fishes and other marine living organisms can be watched when snorkeling. The corals appear, in my view, in a relatively poor stage but significant efforts are made to protect them efficiently. The five hotels complex is limited by high walls and a number of "security" guards patrol it day and night. One should feel safe: guards inside, nothing outside.
The airport is about 6 km away and airplane noise is barely heard in the hotel surroundings. The airport building is recent, clean and functions well.
The quality of food, rightly underscored by numerous previous reviews, remains excellent. It is safe, plentiful with a large choice of dishes, juices, fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat arranged in self-service buffets. There is something for every taste. According to management, all food is trucked from Cairo, a 10 hours-drive. It is basically Egyptian, but some components are imported form Germany (flour), Brazil (we were told that Brazilian frozen poultry is cheaper than indigenous!) or the Philippines (bananas). Many visitors take, as we did, half board which includes breakfast, served between 7:00 and 10:30 am, and dinner starting at 7:00 pm. Half board was by far enough for us. Beverages, except teas and coffee, are not included in the half board price. Meals can be taken inside the Al Mahal restaurant or on its adjacent pleasant terrace partly shaded by palm trees. On the terrace, some pigeons (in fact they are palm or laughing doves, Streptopelia senegalensis by their scientific name) take the opportunity of guests' absence inside the restaurant for walking undisturbed on napkins and feeding with remains on tableware. Management enforces seriously a strict dress code for dinner: we noticed offenders being sent back to their rooms for changing dress. However the dress code for breakfast is relaxed.
We had a "superior" room with sea view which was comfortable, very clean, relatively large in respect to European standards (normal in US standards) with a well functioning bathroom (shower only). The electric outlets (220V) in the rooms are the relatively unusual L-2 type (two round prongs and earth connector in the middle). However, when disconnecting the coffee-maker, I found a Schuko Type F (European) electric outlet allowing to recharge lap-top and batteries. There are no US two or three pins nor UK outlets. Wifi is available free of charge in the lobby but proves rather slow (max. 64 Kbps). A faster connexion is available but it is charged at the rate of 6 euros per hour. At home, I pay that amount for a week…
The beach along the bay is fine, well equipped, the sand is cleaned daily and beach towels are available free of charge. Various play and sport facilities are well maintained. In addition, five or six animators speaking various languages (I heard German, English, Russian and Italian) are around to assist guests and their children. They also undertake animations ranging from stretching to Arabic lessons.
The hotel regular staff is exclusively male. They are numerous, helpful, smiling and attentive. Apparently, they work daily between 12 and 15 hours for three weeks in a row and then have a week of rest in their families, usually elsewhere in Egypt. I was informed that there is no trade union or staff association. Except at reception, they know a relatively limited set of essential words (not sentences) and basic expressions in German and English for most of them, and in Russian or Italian for some others: carrying out even a simple discussion (work, weather or family) with a waiter or a room service man proves unsuccessful unless Arabic is used. In spite of the hotel brand name "Iberotel", do not expect fluency in Spanish. Basic written information (for instance swimming pool rules) is available in English, German, French, Russian and Arabic. However, when it comes to excursions offers, you better master German: at the time of our stay, all - yes: all - excursion posters were in German. Only Helvetic Tours provided limited translations in French and Italian. Prices are posted in Euro, Egyptian pounds (indicated "LE" ) or sometimes in US$. Credit cards are charged in US$.
An interesting and free tour around some hotel facilities is available at 10 am on Sundays. I recommend it. Under the guidance of Nina, a young German lady responsible for customers relations (probably one the very few female employees at the hotel), you will visit the cuisines with gigantic dishwashers, the bakery, the various storage rooms, the impressive laundry facilities with mega-washing machines (up to 150 kg of linen per cycle), the workshop and the carpenter, and even have a distant glance at the staff mosque and pay a visit to a few sheep fed with vegetable wastes from the kitchens. This provides also a good opportunity to ask questions about the daily life in such a large facility. Nina does not have answers to all questions, but she tells "I don't know" when she does not know the answer (or maybe does not wish to answer) rather than inventing anything. Congratulations!
Walking outside the hotels compound (the "golden cage"), I found some discreet wildlife in the desert or along more distant seashore. Rather than posting additional pictures of beach, palm tree or bougainvillea already provided by many talented reviewers, I join the pictures of a sea heron met around 500m from the hotel, of an African praying mantis (likely Sphodromantis viridis) which was in the sand of the nearby no man's land area as well as of a brittle star (likely Ophiocomina nigra) which can be found by the hundreds on the seafloor at low tide, North of the Hotel. Further away, about 45 min. walking along the seashore to the North in the barren desert (unfortunately littered with wastes such as bottles, plastic bags, tires, cans, old shoes and so one), there is a ship grounded on a reef, close to a bay with deep blue-green waters (see picture). The scenery is worth the walk. Take water with you.
Now, allow me to rant a little bit about one issue: after one week in Coraya Beach Hotel, I started to wonder about their posted highlight: environment. Indeed, various hotel walls are proudly posted with "certificates" and "diplomas", inter alia from the German TUI travel agency, praising the hotel excellence in environment consciousness (in some statements, TUI uses the words "Umwelt Champion" meaning "environmental champion"). Indeed, there are everywhere posters inviting guests to save water (for instance: reuse towels, take short showers), preserve coral reefs (do not step on them), conserve nature, save the oceans (how?) and sort your wastes (there are separate bins for glass, plastics, paper, etc.). In other words, customer are invited to contribute and their contribution is obviously profitable for both the hotel and the environment. Nothing to say against that.
But has the hotel as such an environmental focus? The fact is that the whole complex relies exclusive upon a large diesel power plant which can be heard from reception: tap water in rooms is desalinated sea water, which has a high energy cost. Shower water is further heated with electricity generated by the same diesel power plant. In winter, one swimming pool is heated to 30°C (also with electricity, I guess) and waste water is treated and used to maintain, in the middle of the Arabic Desert, attractive - but extremely thirsty - golf court-level lawns. Against such a background, consider that Marsa Alam enjoys 365 days/year of sunshine and that the hotels complex is in the middle of a vast, uninteresting and constantly windy desert. How come that the "environmental champion" does not have a single solar collector for heating water of producing electricity? Would the place not likely be a good spot for wind turbines? With a partly comparable climate, the Canary Islands produce a significant share of its electricity by wind power and solar collectors are everywhere to be seen. And what about using waste water for growing locally some vegetables instead of transporting them by diesel trucks from Cairo?
In summary, the "environmental champion" Coraya Beach Hotel praised by TUI appears to depend massively on fossil fuel for its power supply and for trucking its numerous supplies from Cairo (by the way: why not from Luxor which is much closer?). Oil is a fossil energy, reserves are worldwide declining and burning it furthermore affects the world climate, including the oceans and the delicate coral reefs that guests are so nicely and kindly invited to save. Not to speak of the sensitive climate of Egypt. The next time I will use an airplane (also burning fossil oil, but so far there are no practical alternative for air transport) for reaching a sunny resort as splendid as Coraya Beach Hotel, I will certainly enquire beforehand more carefully about its real environmental focus and achievements leaving aside simplistic judgments by a travel agencies.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.