Bohemia Suites & Spa review
Fun, fashionable & friendly hotel spa in Gran Canaria
The Quick Read: Sometimes you just want something that’s simply fun, a little frivolous even, without being tacky. Whether you’re after some giggle time with your bestie or a light-hearted sybaritic solo escape, Bohemia could be your perfect sidekick. This 70s high rise in fizzy party town Playa del Ingles in Gran Canaria scores high on style but isn’t remotely snooty. The food is fab (unless you’re a veggie) and the spa packs a serious punch (the Thai therapists take no prisoners). You could happily spend your whole break in the hotel (it would be a fab base for sophisticated hen parties) but we’d advise breaking out occasionally to wander over the stunning dunes or to explore the wider pleasures of this gorgeous and friendly Canary Island.
Who it’s best for: Bohemia attracts a mix – generally 30-50 somethings, predominantly couples or groups of friends with the occasional solo sybarite. Although the hotel is big on design, guests don’t tend to be wildly trendy – it’s deeply laidback but not sloppy. Note, this is an adult-only hotel so leave your princes and princesses behind. It would make a great venue for a stylish hen weekend.
What you can do: The Siam Spa is, curiously, Thai in theme. The owners have a ‘thing’ for Thailand so most of the therapists have been enticed over from Thailand and many of the treatments have an Asian feel. There’s the usual series of massages, Thai massage, Balinese and Hot Stones, plus a range of scrubs and wraps from the Asian tradition. The natural-with-bells on range Ytsara is used for some face and body treatments, while French brand Anne Semonin is the product of choice for most of the facials. Mani-pedis courtesy of OPI.
The daylight sauna is a nice touch and there’s a hammam, steam rooms and various showers plus an icy plunge pool. The gym is bright and airy, with decent cardio equipment and Technogym resistance machines.
Yoga classes are taken by Chantal (you’ll need to book), who teaches calm hatha yoga for all abilities in a cool, collected way. A keen wind was blowing when we visited and the outdoor deck we used for our practice was a bit chilly.
You could easily lose yourself in the hotel for a weekend but it’s worth heading out. The nearby dunes are stunning (just watch you don’t trip over nude sunbathers – it’s a naturist haven). The nearby capital Las Palmas is well worth a trip (the hotel can organise a driver, tour-guide, even a cookery lesson) as is the whole island. With six (count them!) microclimates, there’s somewhere for every mood. Once again, the concierge can fix you up with a trip to suit.
The hotel has recently introduced a new Detox Spa Package that includes a 90 minute personal yoga session, a 90 minute Healing Hot Stone Massage, a Body Feng Shui treatment (we’re not familiar with this but apparently it’s a form of energy healing that aims to detoxify and balance body and mind) and a personalised Detox Meal. We didn’t test this but it sounds like a decent package.
Where you stay: Bohemia was one of the original 1970s high-rises in the purpose-built resort of Playa del Ingles. The family who now own it decided that, rather than building something new, they’d totally renovate the old monolith (only the shell of the building and one wooden staircase remain). The result is fun, funky yet sophisticated – it’s stylish and cool but doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Bohemia’s footprint is small but it never feels crowded; there’s always a peaceful corner to hide away (both inside and out). There are two pools (one with current) and a Jacuzzi (both outside) and an outdoor bar/restaurant. But the main foodie action happens on the top floor 360° restaurant and bar, with stunning views over the dunes, the sea and the twinkling life of party town Playa below.
We liked the Junior Suites best – large but still cosy (305 and 307 have great views). Ours had a funky smash of colours – 70s purple along with damson, pink and fuchsia. It sounds hideous but worked a treat.
The wardrobe was a large wooden cube (sounds odd but, again, trust us, it works) with mini bar (imaginatively stocked with the likes of Hendricks and jelly beans) and a Nespresso. We missed having a bath (the larger Suite Plus have them) but the shower was strong and the loo is separate (good move though the flush could have been less erratic). Balconies are huge with double day-beds and also a sitting area with armchairs that light up at night and Philip Starck gnome tables.
How was it for us: I was deeply sceptical about Bohemia. I don’t like purpose-built resorts and I don’t like high-rise hotels. But it won me over from the moment I walked into the lobby and was greeted like a long-lost friend. The staff are mainly young and the vast majority seem genuinely happy to see you (the chef was a notable exception – he seemed incapable of smiling, but maybe that’s part of the culinary mystique thing).
I fell in total love with my suite – spacious but not so big you feel lost – with just the best balcony ever. Truly, I could have lived there quite happy for a whole weekend, nibbling macaroons (colour-coordinated with the room décor), playing with the integral Mac or re-arranging the Philippe Stark gnomes on the balcony.
But the spa called. I still don’t really get why a Spanish hotel chose to look to Asia (rather than the more obvious Morocco – its nearest land-mass) for its inspiration but hey…my Balinese massage with solid home-grown Pedro was fine; not particularly memorable, but fine. However Pat, a tiny therapist from Thailand, took me at my word and went deep, really really deep for my, yup, deep tissue massage. Yoga was gentle and nicely taught but they really do need a dedicated shala or indoor space for when that Saharan wind blows in.
Breakfast was my idea of food heaven – sipping fresh coffee and constructing my own muesli (and giving in to the occasional pastry) while gazing out over the dunes, but the rest of my meals were less wondrous – the chef is clearly talented but he doesn’t quite ‘get’ vegetarians and, although my meals looked like little works of art, they left me sadly lacking in protein (note to chef – veggies eat pulses, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds and grains, not forgetting tofu!). Having said that, the meat and fish options looked fabulous and one guest said his steak was the best he’d ever had (and apparently he’s had a fair few).
The cocktails were stunning and sipping a mojito, swathed in soft throws, on the rooftop bar, was a high spot (in all ways).
The Maspalomas dunes are a step away from the hotel and mustn’t be missed – my inner child muscled her way out and ran, whooping loudly, down the nearly vertical dunes.
The hotel arranged a tour guide and a trip around the island was well worth it to experience the varying microclimates. At one point I could have sworn I was in Wales – with mist, rain and flocks of depressed sheep. I also took the short hop into Las Palmas (again, arranged by the hotel) to experience life in this most laidback of capitals.
What we took home: A reminder that sometimes it’s good to loosen up a bit, to kick back and have fun. That if you’re going to have a drink, make it a damn fine mojito!
Would we go back: Absolutely. So many spa hotels can be a bit frumpy and fusty, but this one is both sophisticated and fun.
People watch: The staff are all super-friendly – they greet you by name wherever you go. But special brownie points go to Assistant Front Office Manager, Antonio – caring, enthusiastic and huge fun.
Food watch: Food is tantamount to religion at Bohemia. Breakfast is served in the top floor 360° restaurant (with gorgeous views over the sand dunes and sea) and offers a great buffet (cornucopias of fresh fruit, freshly cooked pastries and breads, yoghurts and so on – all super-fresh, not wilting round the edges like so many places) plus eggs cooked to order and excellent coffee (go Spanish with a cortado).
Lunch (and informal dinner) happens on ground level at the Dunes Restaurant & Terrace.
In the evening the 360° goes a la carte with chef Xavier Franquet (ex-Bulli and El Castell) serving modern ‘Mediterranean with French and Asian influences’ – so plenty of stupidly fresh fish and tender cuts of meat with clever zingy twists. Guinea fowl breast with Tandoori spices and Chinese pasta maybe, or Fish stew with clams and saffron. Only downside? That Spanish blindspot when it comes to vegetarian food still remains – surprising when you’re dealing with a top chef. We gazed wistfully at other people’s plates while nibbling on yet another beautifully presented (yet lacking in gustatory inspiration) plate of vegetables.
Never mind, the cocktails made up for it. Apart from a seriously good wine list, the young mixologists get a kick out of creating damn fine cocktails (best taken outside to the lounge area).
What’s lowly: The veggie options. Come on, Bohemia, you really do need to raise the stakes for us plant eaters!
Insider tip: Opt for the Thai massage therapists rather than the locals. They have a more assured (and stronger, if you want it) touch.
Price with a companion: Rooms start at 116€ (£86) per person per night (based on two sharing a Sun Double Room, minimum three nights’ stay). Price includes breakfast, wifi and access to the wellness facilities.
Price going solo: Rooms start at 144€ (£107) per person per night (staying in a Sun Double Room, minimum three nights’ stay). Price includes breakfast, wifi and access to the wellness facilities.
The Detox Package costs 358€ (£279) – it’s available until 31st August 2015.
Value for money: Yes, it’s good value for this style of hotel. But as only breakfast is included, watch out – meals and spa treatments can add up. Try eating out locally for a change of pace and price.
Reviewed by Jane Alexander
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