New for 2017
Start your engines. In 2017, PortAventura will open Ferrari Land, a 15-acre ode to the esteemed Italian carmaker. It will feature Vertical Accelerator, Europe's fastest and tallest roller coaster. A new Ferrari-themed hotel is on the way as well.
Spain's largest theme park (and one of Europe's biggest), PortAventura is a beguiling place with lush landscaping, charming architecture, and immersive themeing.
While it's not on the level of a Disney or Universal park (which is intriguing, since Universal operated the park and resort at one time), it is a step above a typical park. That's not to say it doesn't offer great attractions. In fact, some of its coasters and rides are among the world's most thrilling.
To make a Western-influenced comparison, PortAventura reminds me of the Busch Gardens parks, which also present a winning combination of great rides, wonderful atmosphere, superior park food, and inspired shows. That's not surprising, since Busch Entertainment was among the property's original owners and designers. (PortAventura is now owned and operated by an indpendent Spanish company.)
The premise of the park is to take visitors on an around-the-world adventure over the course of a day. Instead of Epcot's world's fair/edutainment approach, the Spain park presents more whimsical and idealized interpretations of locales, including Polynesia, Mexico, China, the Far West, and its all-encompassing ode to southern Europe, which it dubs Mediterrania.
Italy will also be represented when the park opens Ferrari Land in 2017. To a US expat, it is fascinating to see how the Spanish park presents its take on America's cowboy-infused Old West.
Among the park's more wild rides are Furius Baco, a truly harrowing, ultra-high speed (one of the fastest in the world), and utterly unique launched coaster, Shambhala, an exceptionally tall, fast, and smooth hypercoaster, the highly acclaimed Dragon Khan multi-inversion steel coaster, Stampedia, a dual-track racing wooden coaster that really pours on the speed, and Hurakan Condor, a drop tower ride that rises to insane nosebleed levels.
For younger children, the SésamoAventura (based on Sesame Street) land offers plenty of cute rides and play areas.
Visitors who shy away from extreme thrills and are out of the Barrio Sesamo demographic will find plenty to do at the park. The Sea Odyessy 4-D motion simulator theater offers a pair of different movie rides and is well done. Live shows, which include rollicking presentations themed to Polynesia, Mexico, and the Old West, are a hoot. And there are more toned-down attractions, including a trio of water rides: Tutuki Splash (splashdown ride), Silver River Flume (log flume), and Grand Canyon Rapids (river rapids).
The park isn't big on characters. Woody Woodpecker, a holdover form the Universal era, is the star. Curiously, Betty Boop, who harks back to the early black-and-white days of cartoons, also has a home at PortAventura. The Barrio Sesamo/Sesame Street gang rounds out the cast.
The resort's hotels, oceanside location, and full-featured water park make it an appealing, multi-day, vacation destination. In fact, many visitors to PortAventura travel from throughout Europe, including France, the UK, and, increasingly, Russia. As with other major European attractions, the diversity of its audience makes for a curious mix of cultures and dialects (and requires the park to keep the dialogue in its shows to a minimum).
What's to Eat?
As in all of Spain, dining is taken very seriously at PortAventura. In addition to the usual fast food and quick bite stands, the park features a surprising number of sit-down restaurants that offer fare such as tapas, Italian, seafood, Chinese, and Mexican. Make reservations as early as possible, because demand for the popular restaurants is high.
Requires separate admission from the theme park. Port Aventura Aquatic Park is a large-scale park with plenty of watery diversions. Not unlike the resort's nearby Hotel Caribe, the park features a Caribbean theme. (Hmm. Do any attractions in the Caribbean adopt a Mediterranean coast theme?) Among the park's highlights are the large Bermuda Triangle wave pool, the splash-filled El Rio Loco, and the huge Laguna de Woody interactive play center.
Interestingly, the park includes an indoor zone with slides and activities for younger kids ensconced in a cooler, sun-free (and rain-free) area.
Location and Phone
Salou, Tarragona, Spain, about one hour south of Barcelona. The address is 43480 Vila-seca
+34 900 20 22 20
Tickets and Admission Policy
Admission to the park includes all attractions and shows. There is a discounted rate for junior passes (ages 4 to 10) and seniors (60+) as well as the disabled. 3 and under are free. The park offers discounts on passes for guests arriving after 7 p.m. 2-day passes as well as season passes are available. Parking is additional.
A separate ticket is required for admission to Costa Caribe Aquatic Park. Combo passes for the water park and the theme park are available.
Hotels and Resort
The full-fledged destination resort offers four onsite four-star, themed hotels, with a total of about 2000 rooms. The PortAventura Hotel is open year-round and offers convention and business meeting space. Room packages include tickets to the parks, breakfast, and transportation to the parks. Amenities include access to the oceanside Beach Club, three golf courses, convention and meeting facilities, and restaurants.
Compare rates for the following on-property hotels at TripAdvisor.
- PortAventura Hotel
- PortAventura Hotel El Paso
- PortAventura Hotel Gold River
Off-property hotels are also available. Compare rates for hotels near PortAventura at TripAdvisor.
By plane- Reus Airport (Tarragona) is about 15 minutes away. El Prat Airport Barcelona is about one hour away.
By car- AP-7 to Exit 35, Salou/Tarragona. Follow the signs to the resort.
New at the Park:
New for 2014: Kooza- The Cirque du Soleil debuted in the 2014 season.
New for 2013: Costa Caribe expansion- The water park got one of Europe's tallest water slides as part of a larger expansion.
Halloween and Christmas Events
The park celebrates both holidays with themed events. For Halloween, there are monsters on the midways, haunted trails, special shows, and a parade. For Christmas, PortAventura gets dressed up with twinkling lights, offers special shows, and features visits from Santa Claus.