Review: TUI Holidays - Riu Buenavista - Playa Paraiso - Tenerife - November 2020
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
The last time I visited Tenerife I was just 20 years old, some 22 years ago now. I'd regularly call at the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife as cruise ship crew for the Airtours Sun Cruises Winter Cruising Itinerary. Why so long you might ask? Well, as an avid traveller it's simply down to too many places, not enough time.
Nothing has disrupted world travel as much as Covid-19. As a comparison, the last major downturn in air travel was after the horror of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York. Despite the tragic nature of this event and its impact on the industry, it has been described as 'a doddle' by one airline Chief Executive in comparison to the impact of Covid-19.
Despite the difficulties I was insistent that travel in 2020 for me would continue and I'd look at every which-way-how to get away. The first disappointment in 2020 was the cancellation of our Royal Caribbean cruise from New York, an amazing itinerary and chance to visit some pals in the USA. After 3 months of lockdown and zero travel opportunities we were desperate to escape! With everything so uncertain finally a travel corridor to France emerged...you didn't have to tell me twice. As soon as permitted the ferry was booked and we were on the road, destination Champagne! read the full adventure here
Our Covid Travels Continue
Home from France and still buzzing from our cultural fizz sipping tour we both agreed, 'we need something else to look forward to' perhaps some winter sun, surely Covid-19 would be defeated by then...
So our TUI Journey Begins
In times of Covid-19 if we were going to spend money it needed to be risk free...who knows what might happen...and so the search began, what would we do...where would the next adventure take us?
Searching for travel is obsessional for me, especially when twinned with low deposits, flexibility and balances not due until near departure, thanks TUI. A few hours of searching later and we'd booked it! a dark cold November 2020 would see me jet off to the white sand beaches of Negril, Jamaica, I couldn't wait!
The summer passed and things weren't improving much and begrudgingly the decision was taken to delay travel until January 2021 in the hope that with improvement in Covid levels there was the option to change it back. In fairness TUI were incredibly flexible offering free amends which meant avoiding the £100 change fee.
As our original weekend of departure approached, I was what's commonly known in the UK as 'sick as a chip' aka fed up. Still desperate to travel I was curious to see what holidays were still going and returned to the TUI app. To my surprise just 2 days before departure Jamaica holidays were still for sale...that's funny I thought...with no travel corridor? I'm so tempted but so not convinced, I called TUI.
TUI have a few contact centres, some in the UK and some overseas, I reached India. As awful as it may sound, they may as well have computerised bots answering phones here. Despite my explanation about the 'no Jamaica travel corridor' and that this holiday was departing in 2 days could they confirm if this holiday was going?
Unfortunately the only information being offered was a one liner 'any flights to Jamaica after the 31st October are operating as scheduled'
Now I know things aren't easy for holiday operators at the moment and I've often travelled with TUI for good value package breaks that are trusted by the many, but I do have an issue with selling holidays to a destination you know won't be going in 2 days time. Luckily my experience, common sense and gut feeling often help me cut through waffle, others aren't so lucky.
What's more annoying is all the destinations TUI are currently flying to and hope to fly soon are listed on their website viewable here. While this is informative and useful Jamaica was listed on neither and yet still being sold along with other destinations also departing in the next 48 hours.
I'm sympathetic to the loss of income travel businesses have suffered, I love the travel industry but sadly I can only fathom that TUI must be booking holidays they know won't be operating, it's not like we were imminently awaiting a travel corridor update... which begs the question what will actually change 2 days before departure?
Sadly many would-be holiday makers in this situation will likely pay out their hard earned cash in good faith, given that a TUI representative has told them 'the flights will be departing as scheduled' only to find cancellation, postponement or change is needed a day or two after. My gripes with this are, firstly disappointment, secondly TUI know what's going 2 days in advance and thirdly having paid out in full any refund could take a while (I've heard mixed experiences).
On the upside TUI are an member of organisation ABTA a travel agent member organisation that offers protection to the consumer in the event of disruption e.g. your holiday operator or airline goes bust before or during your holiday. In addition TUI have their own policies which you should really read before you book, many people don't.
Just as we were about to give up on a November getaway we recalled the Canary Islands had opened up as a quarantine free destination and agreed we'd change our getaway to Tenerife. What would come next is beggars belief...lockdown2! This was now just comical, the day before our departure date the whole of England was to go into lockdown, super. The cogs began turning once again and there was a solution...fly out before lockdown (not illegal) a plan was hatched.
Talk about stressful, changes to work schedules, holiday change approvals and 2 hours on hold to the TUI Indian call centre just to be cut off, great! Finally at hour 3 we reached TUI and relief TUI UK (Swansea). Within just 10 minutes the agent understood our needs and swiftly sorted our booking. If I was to give advice to TUI based on that experience and other dealings with their overseas call centre it would be 'it's doing your business more damage than good' and it would certainly make me think twice about booking again.
However, hurrah we were booked and bound for Tenerife in just 3 days time!
Our TUI Flight - Flying during Covid-19
Flying from Newcastle International Airport, I wasn't sure what to expect in times of Covid-19 but the airport experience was rather pleasant, very quiet with plenty of seats. Masks adorned we were swiftly checked in via the new self check-in terminals operated by TUI. Moving through security, self-scanning was the order of the day, reaching departures most shops, duty free and eateries remained open again with masks mandatory unless eating or drinking.
Our TUI Flight Experience
Our time for boarding arrived and the words 'canned sardines' come to mind, considering I've been nowhere near anyone for some time that 737 jet was jam packed, not a hope in hell of social distancing, Onboard the usual hot/cold snacks and drinks were available but only
payable by card and mandatory mask wearing was enforced. Some badly behaved adult passengers decided that consuming their own booze and being rather rowdy was appropriate. The cabin crew tried their best and clearly frustrated by the situation even the Captain stepped in with a warning. On arrival and disembarking the plane into the warm evening air I noted the attendance of the Guardia Civil (Spanish Police), I could only assume with a giggle who they were greeting....honestly what a way to behave.
Canary Islands Duty Free
Yes technically the Canary Islands belong to Spain, and also use the Euro as currency but good news, these islands also enjoy a special duty free status. If you are holidaying on a self catering basis wish to
buy some duty free alcohol to enjoy at your destination TUI airlines do offer some good 'big brand' deals, but your best bet is actually local island supermarkets. The Canary Islands special tax status means alcohol can be far cheaper than other European destinations, even in-resort drinks were reasonable with half litres of beer for as little as 0.95 cents.
Arrival at Tenerife South Airport
Arrival was very straightforward, again masks were mandatory but otherwise a very relaxed arrival. Obviously you know that you must apply 48 hours in advance of travel by air or sea to Spain for a Spanish Travel Health authorisation QR code if arriving from an 'at risk' country (UK is in this category). In addition to your authorisation you must also now have a Covid-19 PCR test within 72
hours of arrival (subject to change please check for updates). With that in mind here is a top tip... print your documents before travel, we got straight through immigration with paper copies while our fellow travellers rooted round for mobile files and emails. You heard it here, you can thank me later...
Car Hire Tenerife South Airport
Wanting to remain socially distanced with the added bonus of being able to explore the island we hired a car, it’s extremely cheap here. We hired from Thrifty via TUI extras and found it was actually better value than the comparison search engines, worth checking out. In addition to the already competitive price we were also offered a discounted upgrade to a 4x4, very useful for a trip up Mount Teide.
10 days hire cost around £150 (excl. enhanced damage waiver) I've always bought my own car hire waiver policy before travel, much better value, try reducemyexcess.com but do shop around. Service at Thrifty was passable I can’t say the service was great, but the car was sorted quite quickly even if we did spend 20 minutes trying to locate it. The roads are good here, and a short stress free 20 minutes later we reached the hotel, better than a 2 hour bus transfer.
Hotel Riu Buenavista, Playa Paraiso, Costa Adeje
On arrival those driving will need to gain access to the hotel car park via entry barrier, the security guard informed us the hotels own car park (underground parking with some above ground spaces for electric vehicles and limited mobility guests) was 7 Euros per day which must be paid in advance on check-in. Once paid you'll be given your room access card with car park access, alternatively or you can park on the street outside the barrier for free at your own risk.
Let's be honest here, check-in wasn’t fantastic. The welcome resembling more of a post office service than a 4-star resort, it just really lacked any personality or genuine smile. Given the current pandemic there is no paper information on display but unfortunately there was no verbal information either.
At a 4-star resort I’m looking for a smiley welcome, perhaps a little conversation ‘how was your journey?’ and some information on where we might dine that evening.
We'd heard similar stories from some other guests including two honeymooners who'd been given a room overlooking a roof and wall. Having asked reception for a better room they were told grumpily that they were 13th on the list. I'm pretty sure the hotel wasn't full and I know it's not always possible but a half full hotel, really? Lasting memories are what matter about holidays, what might their impression of RIU be?
Despite our underwhelming welcome, the hotel itself is beautiful. Having only just been renovated in 2020 everything is sparkly and new. The modern open plan lobby and bar area as you arrive is a great place for a quiet drink or coffee at any time of day.
Making our way to our room it was clear this hotel is huge, great hallways open to the elements with beautiful tiled features and palm trees reaching up to the sky, it’s very impressive. We’d booked a one-bedroom family room for extra space and the accommodation did not disappoint. Large spacious rooms, a separate WC and bathroom with Jack and Jill sinks and huge shower. Each room had a sofa and flat screen TV with a decent size fridge in one room. Note: it is not recommended to drink the local water (salty taste) therefore bottled water is available at any bar free of charge.
Room servicing was very impressive and our room was kept spotlessly clean throughout our stay. Our one bedroom family suite included a huge double balcony with a glass balustrade where we'd spend many evenings enjoying drinks, watching the show from afar and social distancing...a welcome addition for family rooms given the huge balcony would have been some sun loungers or a bigger table. Many of the rooms here offer sea views but if you can, book one, as they are not guaranteed. The only issue we experienced with our room was an aircon glitch, the aircon was only just okay, it cooled the room enough to sleep but I’m not sure it would have been adequate in the summer months. The last week of our hols we noticed our clothes started to feel ever so slightly damp and a slight smell was noticeable I suspect there may have been a issue with the air-con but nothing too major and we simply reported it on departure.
One thing is for sure, at the Riu 'Buenavista' you'll love the beautiful views and this resort really does have an amazing pool scene. In total there are 5 immaculately clean pools here with the
infinity being my favourite, we’d often stand at the edge of the pool and watch the fun and competitive pool games in the activity pool below. The pool and fitness staff are an absolute credit to the hotel, every day you could choose to keep active with RiuFit activities hosted by a team of enthusiastic and entertaining staff, or like me you could also choose to do very little.
Not far from the activity pool is a really cool little kiddies pool featuring a giant bucket that fills up and tips its content onto the delighted little humans below. They love it.
Two further pools are to be the found near the seas edge, a tranquil place to sunbathe and gaze out at flat calm seas and beautiful volcanic rocks. Unexpected were the builders laying a coastal walkway, this will be lovely when completed but sadly neither the hotel or TUI mentioned these works and associated noise. I expect it will be finished very soon if not already, worth checking before you go.
It's very reassuring in times of a pandemic that this hotel is constantly cleaned. Pool and bar staff staff efficiently clear used cups and spray vacated sunbeds beds with anti-viral preventing cross-contamination, never once did I see an unclean toilet.
Riu Buenavista All Inclusive Drinks
You basically have five bars here 2 outdoor pool bars and 3 indoor bars including one that’s next to the entertainment area.
Drinks are fairly good here, at this time alcohol is available at bars until midnight. Unfortunately you wont find branded drinks here but the beer is decent (Amstel). Spirits tend to be the local variety and the gin is good but sadly there's no bourbon only scotch whiskey. Bars serve a set list of cocktails but if you know your own concoctions bar staff will generally try and make it for you. It helps to make an effort and try your hand at speaking a little Spanish if you can, it always goes down well with staff.
Now for my only major gripe at this hotel, the wine, it's awful. For someone who likes wine this was disappointing. You'll find all buffets and pool bars have a self-serve tap for beer, shandy and white, rose and red wine, he red is just passable whilst the white and rose of which would normally be my go-to drink were in my view undrinkable. I’m no wine snob but there is a level in which something becomes unacceptable and that’s watered down cheap wine.
I cannot understand why big hotel brand Riu serve such rubbish if not only for cheapness and having stayed at Riu resorts in other locations the wine offering is far better. Luckily, I later found
that bars also served Cava (bottled sparkling wine) which was indeed drinkable. Oh but I did miss nice wine and once again the car hire proved very handy for the 5 minute drive to local supermarket Lidl where decent wine was available for an incredible 2-4 Euros a bottle and less,
From all the bars available at the hotel my favourite was the lobby bar, excellent staff and the well-made drinks. The cosy atmosphere and background music made for a relaxing place to be.
A similar larger lounge bar exists on the next floor up, it features a balcony overlooking the entertainments area and comfy sofas and snugs if you need a little 'space' from others.
The three other bars are located as follows, the main entertainment area, the main pool and at bar/snack area and the bar at the far pool. The entertainments area is often busy in the evening with people congregating for shows, I'm not a huge fan of hotel shows/entertainment but actually found it quite enjoyable. Strangely, I found the kiddies entertainment to be most amusing and the daily RiuLand shows were a big hit with Riu's younger holiday makers.
Dining at the Riu Buenavista is very Covid-Safe, at each and every meal every person entering a
restaurant can only do so after their temperature is taken by digital thermometer and when hands are sanitised. This is supervised and enforced and did make me feel better about shared serving tongs at the buffet. In addition, masks must be worn unless seated.
We were told by TUI that none of the speciality restaurants would be open due to Covid, but this proved to be incorrect. We managed to eat in both the Mandalay (Asian) and The Atlantic (Speciality Grill) as well as both buffets and the poolside snack bar.
To book these restaurants you need to first download the RIU Guest App, once downloaded you can view restaurant opening schedules. When a speciality restaurant is available to book a button will appear to click and reserve, this is usually the morning of the day before (9am).
Technically this is a very efficient way of managing guest bookings however, a problem, none of this information was provided on check-in and we found out by accident by talking to other guests who had also discovered the booking system by pure chance. Unfortunately, due to this we missed out on the Italian restaurant. The second problem was our app wasn't working for bookings, if this happens to you, you can phone reception by dialling 9 (there are no labels on the phones) and they can book these for you. Sittings are 7pm and 9pm.
The food is actually really nice here, you queue to get in and find a table, a waiter will ask what you want to drink then it’s up to you to figure out what to do…we felt that the waiter should have explained that it is self-service, that there are starters and mains and you help yourself. Despite the nice food it felt like a bit of a scramble as the buffet area is a smallish space and everyone comes in at once, some like vultures. The issue with this is that dishes run out and sometimes you wait a little while for replenishment but the chefs are excellent and very friendly. One thing I've noticed at this resort are that clearing staff are a little too enthusiastic. At one point we’d got delayed at the buffet and on return found our table had been cleared and re-set…the staff were apologetic once they realised we hadn't just walked in without a booking. The restaurant setting is lovely and very authentic in décor but for me it just didn’t feel like a special experience like a teppanyaki grill or table service restaurant would have.
The Atlantic Grill (Steakhouse/Grill)
This place is speciality restaurant some evenings a venue for lunch and dinner buffets at other times, it has beautiful views of the sea and the sunset. For me the food here as a steakhouse/grill was a disappointment, having dined in Riu steakhouses in Mexican resorts I was at least expecting a decent steak even if it was a buffet. Instead, a general selection of chicken, burgers, thin sandwich steaks, corn on the cob and the usual desserts were on offer. This isn’t an experience I’d shout about or hurry back to but others may think differently.
Yaiza (main) and Atlantic Grill (by the sea) are your main buffets and there was always plenty of choice (see breakdown below). Sometimes you’d see a speciality station such as roast gammon or other meats and these were generally very good. Buffets are normally open until 10:30am for breakfast and 10pm for dinner.
We ate at the buffet most evenings and only on one occasion did we struggle to find something we wanted, perhaps there had been a change of chef, but this was a disappointment on our last evening. Waiters here are a little keen to get your dirty plates, to the point a few times where I hadn’t finished eating and they were asking if they could take other plates away which I found unnecessary, otherwise buffets are good.
Coffee is always brought to your table in a thermal jug, it’s decent coffee but often we’d have to ask a server for it. You can ask for it with milk (con leche) which is brought in a jug hot, nice touch.
The breakfast selection is good with a wide range of continental selections including pancakes, hot and cold pastries, yoghurt, fruit, toast, bread, oats, cereal and more. The hot food included bacon, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, beans and tomatoes. It’s a pity there wasn’t an egg station offering poached eggs or omelettes as in other Riu’s I’ve visited.
There were always several different varieties of pizza and pasta, a huge salad selection, sandwiches and the usual hot food like chips, burgers, chicken and selection of desserts. Every day there would be different soups which mostly I found to be rather bland. I loved the tuna salad, huge chunks of tuna I would enjoy with salad or to liven up a plain tomato pasta dish.
Again, repeating the above there’s lots of choice and I only found it a bit repetitive after 5 or 6 days. There was always a wide selection of food from fish to meat, pizza/pasta, salad, hot dishes and vegetarian options, you would be unlucky or very fussy to not find anything, I’m not sure I’d like to be a vegan here though…the labelling of the dishes were very hit and miss and I certainly wouldn’t know what allergens were in a dish apart from vegetarian or meat (carne), definitely an area for improvement.
Restaurants (Snack Bar)
This is located next to the main bar for the pools and is actually a great concept. It took me over a week to realise you could get some late breakfast items here until 12 noon then snacks all day until 6pm. Typical offerings would be fries, burgers, sandwiches and different nuggets and nibbles all served in a hot cabinet keeping everything hygienic.
The daytime entertainment programme was great, plenty of sports activities, a yoga/class area and yoga as the sun set. The entertainment team seemed like a great bunch of people and the best thing? All of the entertainment was in one main pool area so that you could join in or avoid at your leisure.
Evening entertainment isn’t really my thing at big resorts, and this had been disrupted somewhat with Covid, but the hotel did well to secure performers in groups of 2/3 or individual singers to provide some evening entertainment.
Like all these big places they rarely get it all right and the same can be said about the RIU Buenavista. Having looked online at common moans the biggest seems to be the location but I actually found the location ideal. Having been to the resorts of Las Americas and Los Cristianos I can see the convenience of being there for access to the abundance of bars and restaurants but I much prefer a quieter base to which to explore. Playa Paraiso is a developing area where 4/5-star hotels are now locating. Not far from the RIU is the Hard Rock Tenerife, it was closed at the time of our visit but their Montauk Steakhouse receives pretty good reviews and allows outside guests to dine.
It’s true that there isn’t a lot to do immediately outside the hotel but with so many organised trips on offer you have no excuse to get out and about and see this beautiful island. I’d highly recommend hiring a car if you are confident driving on the ‘other side’. Around a 5-minute walk from the hotel is the Rosa shopping complex, a small modern centre currently with two top floor restaurants, a stone baked pizza place and a seafood/finer food and wine option. They both offer the opportunity to sit outside in the warm air and enjoy good food and service just a short walk from the hotel.
Aside from the shopping area I’m always itching to get to the places that the ‘locals’ go, they usually by far the best places for regional food. Around 2km or less is a residential area with 3 restaurants including a vegan option, enroute to this destination you’ll also pass Playa
Paraiso resort style restaurants but we didn’t have time to try these. We did our research and decided to visit Tapas restaurant Restaurante Confiesate Antonia who offer delicious freshly made tapas and good wine including the most delicious king prawns in garlic, definitely one I’d recommend and extremely reasonably priced.
I did have a really nice holiday at the Riu Buenavista, the staff at the hotel are mostly excellent bar a couple of grumpies and the hotel is absolutely spotless. Never did I see a dirty toilet, one without toilet paper or a full bin. The staff were constantly cleaning sunbeds people were no longer using to prevent cross contamination. Housekeeping did a marvellous job and the outdoor areas were beautifully kept.
The rooms are good, very spacious, comfy beds and big balconies, My only gripe was only one English TV channel but Netflix works here if you have access.
In terms of reception, a few improvements could be made here, it’s not like we arrived at 2am and the welcome and check in could have been a much better experience. I do acknowledge that the female receptionist checking us out seemed much more engaging than more senior guys checking us in. Reflecting on the experiences of the honeymooners, I do wonder what their lasting impressions of Riu will be and whether hotels could try harder to please.
The wine oh the wine…it needs to change…some larger beer glasses please and some fresh juices for cocktails, otherwise they’ll always be just okay.
The renovation of the hotel has been an absolute success, it’s really a lovely place to be and you’ll really enjoy your holiday, very relaxing and great for kids.
Caroline Preston is a travel writer and reviewer for The Jarvis Jotter www.thejarvisjotter.co.uk all her words and opinions are her own and are an independent, fair and honest appraisal of her experience. This review is meant as a general guide as to what you can expect when staying at this hotel but please do bear in mind the current circumstances and that staff and indeed services can change. Caroline flew with TUI Airways with TUI Holidays in November 2020.
If you would like Caroline to visit and review your hotel or resort please contact us
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