Reviews for this place seem to vary wildly, and so having visited here for a week on two successive winter getaways, I'll attempt to give as balanced a discussion as possible. We traveled as two couples with Thomson's Sensatori, staying in standard rooms. We paid £7-800pp for each of pre-Xmas '12 and post-new year '13 (full board plus) with Thomson, which we felt was pretty reasonable.
First off, this is a lovely, beautiful hotel. From the outside, it really is a treat to look at - and generally speaking the same goes for the inside. It's also, for the most part, very very clean, and the staff genuinely seem to enjoy working there. Having previously been on cheaper 3* package holidays, I can definitely say that spending the extra really does make a difference. It's the first hotel we've ever decided to return to.
The hotel is (reasonably) committed to sustainability, and from what I saw on the "behind the scenes" tour they're pretty hot on recycling and other materials management, including their own desalinization plant. I do wonder what happens to the waste water though, as there is a lingering whiff of sewage in the air in one area near the sea. Oh, and there's now a beach just outside the hotel - they've just finished building it (although the bar looks like it's still under construction).
The rooms are nicely decorated, with plenty of storage space. Beds are two singles pushed together, although with a thick topper across the two you can't really tell. The lights can be switched individually, or in two different 'mood' settings - it took a while to work them all out! The main gripe with the rooms is the floor, which is un-carpeted throughout. This is a bit of an issue when being a little...energetic...on the bed, or when taking a bath or shower (there was still standing water in the corridor the following morning). The hotel is now 5 years old or so, and is probably in need of it's first proper maintenance run, which doesn't seem to have happened yet, so do expect a few broken bits and bobs around the place.
Food in the buffet restaurant is really pretty good, considering its mass catering. "Pangea" is stretching it a bit, as the food is not so much international as western European with the occasional plate of rice thrown in. The fish (almost all local) is generally superb, while the meat (mainly from Latin America) lags behind it a fair bit. For some reason they absolutely drench the "show-cooking" meat with salt, unless you plead with them not to! Desserts last winter were delicious, but sadly nowhere near as good this time around. It is true that most of the food is warm rather than hot by the time it gets to your plate, although it doesn't look like a health concern. However, I would imagine that strict vegetarians or anyone with food allergies would find eating here distinctly tricky, if not impossible. The Italian restaurant needs to be booked before around 9am the day before, and is just about worth it - it's good food, although don't expect *actual* Italian - more a Spanish take on Italian cuisine...! The Oasis grill is fine for a lunch or two, but is more style than substance. We haven't tried any of the other restaurants, as they were either burgers and chips or came at (considerable) extra cost. Cleanliness is generally very good, although on the backstage tour we did spot a block of cheese being stored in the raw meat room, and a number of cracked tiles. The 'full board plus' is in my opinion a great addition - you get a glass or two of wine or beer with your meal, although if you want multiple top-ups then a little over-politeness seems to go a long way!
The huge pool is fantastic, but only just bearable in the winter, so it's only really suitable for serious swimming. The adult's pool is more pleasant, but an annoyingly small and squiggly shape for anything more than bobbing around and cuddling (which seems to be it's main MO).
Pricing for the extras is rather variable, and doesn't seem to follow great logic. The 'Bali beds' (white leather double beds by the pools) are ludicrously expensive (30 or 60 euros a day for the bed alone, off/peak respectively), and they were at around 10% occupancy during our stay. Thus, around a quarter of the (best) space around the pools (each Bali bed comes with two sunbeds) is left empty most of the time, which is a shame. Considering the vast array of comfortable seating around the hotel, there really is no need to pay for any extra. A tennis court is 15 euros an hour to book, while an hour of personal training is free(!). Most reasonable alcoholic drinks are 8-12 euros each, and quantity and quality vary considerably between bartenders. The range of drinks is excellent, and they even managed a decent Spritz Aperol. Ask for Hendricks & Tonic and it'll likely come in a goldfish bowl, with getting on for half a bottle of gin!
Evening entertainment is variable. Being fans of live rock music we're not exactly their target audience, so everything I say should be taken with a pinch of salt. The resident showcast do a different routine every night, choreography and all, and end up being a little bit jack-of-all trades as a result. They're better at singing their favourite songs individually (as guests in the bar later each evening) than as a collective in the theatre. The resident pianist and guitarist make a pretty good combo though, and provided by far the best entertainment of the week! The weekend-only nightclub is rubbish, as the hotel is nowhere near big enough to supply enough willing punters to it: it usually contained half a dozen people downing 2-for-1 cocktails before heading off elsewhere.
The spa is rather nice, although the prices seemed to have increased a fair bit from last year, and are closer to upmarket central london than treatments in the rest of the UK. 30 euros for a trip to the indoor pool, sauna and a few different showers is just over the top, and as a result the place always looked deserted. The gym is perfectly decent, only lacking a bit of open floor space.
The 'red level' area really doesn't look worth it: for almost double the price you get a different shaped pool, marginally nicer sunbeds, a quieter breakfast, gold leaf rather than gold paint on the ceiling above the bed, and some fancy toiletries. The hotel itself is just about worthy of a 5* rating, although don't expect quite the same experience as, say, a decent London hotel. The Bali bed price racket, red level faff and still quite canteen-like buffet do detract a little from the *luxury* experience. They're also pretty hopeless at dealing with a full hotel - over the first few days of our trip the place was at capacity, which meant breakfast was utter chaos, and it took two days to fix a leg on the bed which was broken on our arrival.
The hotel is in the middle of nowhere (on the edge of a small village), so don't expect more than a cafe or two nearby. A taxi to Siam park (or anywhere else in the Las Americas area) is 30 euros each way in the daytime. There are lovely walks along the coast in both directions, and you can hire a bike cheaply for a day/half, and tour around the endless banana plantations.
All in all its a lovely hotel, although a few things do seem to have gone downhill a touch since last year (this year we had no welcome drink at reception, no bottled water in the room, poor toiletries, rubbish pastries, a slightly broken room, and a substantially more expensive spa).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The natural beauty of Tenerife combines with an intense passion for service in the most superior luxury hotel on the island. With the Atlantic Ocean at its feet and the majestic Teide as a backdrop, the stunning scenery and eternal spring climate allows the Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora to provide guests with endless magical moments. The hotel has taken care of everything down to the very finest detail in each of its rooms, creating a personalised setting to ensure your total satisfaction. Imagine the experience of viewing the sun setting over the ocean from one of the magnificent rooms in this fantastic resort, the best 5 star hotel in Tenerife. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Melia Palacio De Isora Hotel Alcala
- Gran Melia Guia De Isora
- Palacio De Isora Gran Melia
- Gran Melia Palacio De Isora Resort & Spa Guia De Isora, Tenerife