AMA Andalusia review | relaxing hotel, spain
Spa & golf resort with a healthy twist
The Quick Read: AMA Andalusia is a high-design resort and spa, on a golf course, with an impressive array of swimming pools, a golf course next door and some superb spa treatments as well as medical and anti-ageing treatments. It also has a rather good restaurant with interesting wines, for those who don’t think a retreat should necessarily involve deprivation. The village of Islantilla is unexceptional but has a lovely stretch of Costa del Luz beach, and there’s a national park on the doorstep. This is a great place to relax, particularly after a few hectic days in Seville or on the Costa del Sol, and late spring or early autumn is probably best: the main outdoor pools only open around Easter (although the other is heated and there is always the indoor one) and summer is seriously hot.
What you can do: You can come here to follow a holistic recovery programme – there are medical experts here, treatments (and packages) aimed at recovery and a hospital close by. Detox and beauty programmes are also available, or you can just hang out on the balcony with a glass of sherry, enjoying the sunshine and the bright blue of the pool and some ad hoc spa treatments.
There’s the Islantilla golf course if you’re keen, and plenty of ways to get wet – the lap pool is heated, with a massive Jacuzzi pool beside it; the more recreational pool sits outside French windows, behind which are the heated indoor pool and Jacuzzi, in a room rather disconcertingly painted black. There’s a sauna and a hammam, too, for a bit of moist air… and if none of that is enough, you can always brave the Atlantic, 15 minutes’ walk down the road.
In between dips, relax, take a short exercise class or go for a walk (or a cycle – there are bicycles available) in the Isla Cristina marshes, a national park that plays host to all kinds of birds and wildlife.
Who its best for: People recovering from serious medical conditions, golfers and there families and those looking just to relax. Exercise bunnies will find the studio a little small but fit for purpose and the classes good, if short – don’t believe the hour on the timetable, none of ours passed 45 minutes – and there’s always the great outdoors. The gym itself is a bit basic, as is the spa area, but the quality of the treatments makes up for it. Those with an English sense of modesty should beware, however: the therapists are pretty easygoing about nudity (there’s not too much of that lifting the towel as a screen and turning politely away stuff), which was fine by us but might bother some people.
Where you stay: There are family apartments (standard or luxury) across the grounds. We stayed in one of 42 very large and comfortable hotel rooms with a beautiful high-design bathroom with poured concrete walls, freestanding tub and separate shower cubicle. The large balcony had a view over the pool and the massive sofa (beneath a painting of a flying pig – were they trying to tell us something?) made it very hard to actually get up and out.
How was it for us: Very restful. Everything is extremely close by yet there’s no pressure to do anything at all. The short classes don’t take up much time and the restaurant’s outdoor area overlooking the pool, or indeed the pool bar, are lovely places to just hang out with a book, a drink or a snack and no pressure either to leave or to order more.
Would we go back: Yes. I have been to more luxurious spas but rarely to anywhere that felt so calm and un-pressured. There’s a complete lack of what I think of as ‘woowoo’ – the frilly spoken or decorative accoutrements to the spa experience. To give an example, the spa rooms are all entirely black. Sounds weird, but actually it’s just very calming.
People watch: Anna, my massage therapist, was quiet and self-effacing – no disruptive chitchat mid-session here – but with incredibly powerful yet gentle hands. She didn’t pound but her strong stroking movements eased my knotty back muscles beautifully. We had two treatments with her, including a scrub with local mud from Isla Cristina Salinas which did indeed, as she promised, make my skin “like the bottom of a baby”. As for the massage, it was one of the best – most balanced between effective and soothing – we’ve ever had.
Food watch: You can follow a nutrition or weight-loss programme here, or indulge. There are local fish from Isla Cristina just down the road and a varied menu doesn’t just do tapas – although there are very good ham croquetas and other such Andalusian staples. We had a particularly excellent vegetable curry, very fresh (they had no problem with adding the extra chilli we requested) and the local white wine made a nice match. In fact, unusually for a spa resort restaurant, the wines were a highlight: the sommelier was delighted to show off the local and national wines by the glass he changes weekly (there’s an Enomatic machine which allows a few bottles to be open at a time without going off) and of course, this is sherry country – not the lightest of alcoholic drinks, admittedly, but good dry sherry is wonderful, and goes with pretty much any food you care to match it with. The only disappointment on the nourishment front was the in-room mini-bar, which only has crisps and chocolates – surely a mistake, in a resort that offers health programmes.
What we took home: An uncricked back (thank you, Anna!) and a sense of peace that comes from that rare experience of just not doing much for a few days. For me, after a frazzled few months, just to be freed from the obligation to be anywhere at any time (even the restaurant has long, loose opening hours) was more valuable than the best yoga class would have been: after all, I would have had to turn up at a given place and time for that.
What’s lowly: There was no complimentary drinking water in the rooms, and dispensers on the bathroom wall instead of bottles of products means that if you want bubbles in the glorious freestanding bath you have to pump shower gel into your hand and carry it to the tub – not ideal. Also the spa really needs a relaxation area – there’s the space for it, but the reception area (with its beautiful curved staircase) has nowhere comfortable to sit, and if you ask for a glass of water after your massage you’re directed to the water fountain in the gym.
Insider tips: Take books! There is free Wifi but this is such a chilled-out place it’s a shame to be rattling away on a laptop, and the large sofa in my room was crying out to be curled up on with a good novel. Also, be careful ordering in the restaurant – the starters are gigantic, and even after lots of swimming and yoga-ing you can end up without enough room for your main course.
Price: From £88 for a double room, not including breakfast. Packages and treatment prices vary widely.
Value for money: Really reasonable, and the facilities are good enough that there’s no need to dash out and spend lots elsewhere if you want to stick to a budget.
Reviewed by Nina Caplan
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