Snorkelling, Sunshine and Salvador – Summer Holiday fun with teenagers in Roses, Costa Brava
People often say that when your kids become teenagers, they won’t want to go on holiday with you anymore. Apparently most of them would much rather stay at home and spend time with their friends instead of being forced to go away with their parents. How can we persuade our teens that family holidays are still fun? I think that the secret is to talk to them about what they’re looking for and then choose your destination wisely. Be sure to go somewhere where there is guaranteed sun, plenty of things for them to do, the opportunity for a little freedom and perhaps the occasional opportunity to access WiFi (well we’re not monsters!).
I’m just back from spending a week in Roses, Costa Brava with three of the harshest critics out there. So what they think?
Firstly, where in Costa Brava is Roses?
Located on the rugged coastline of Northeastern Spain, Roses is a thriving town nestled in the largest bay in Catalonia, the Bay of Roses between the peninsula of Cap de Creus and Monty Massif.
The bay is the perfect holiday destination as it has 45 kilometres of beaches so there’s plenty of room for everyone in high season and the Mediterranean ocean is warm, shallow and clear which makes it perfect for families. In fact the Bay of Roses is one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
As well as being beautiful, Roses is also important to the fishing industry as it has the largest fishing fleet of the Costa Brava. However it’s the fine sand on the wide, clean, family-friendly beaches that attracts so many people to visit Roses. All the beaches along the coastline have secured the important European Blue Flag which is only awarded to beaches who have proven that they have excellent water quality and great facilities for visitors.
The town of Roses itself is unique in its location as it’s surrounded by La Ciudadela, an imposing military fortress which dates as far back as the 11th century. Inside the fortress, archaeological sites of Greek, Roman and Visigothic settlements have been found which makes it an important site.
On a practical level, what’s the best way to get to Roses?
Most people who visit Roses fly into Costa Brava to one of the following three airports :
- Girona airport is less than an hours’ drive away.
- Barcelona’s El Prat airport is less than two hours’ drive.
- Perpignan’s Rivesaltes airport is just over an hour’s drive away.
Public transport in the area can be limited, although in high season there are definitely increased local bus services. There are direct buses from Girona airport to the main bus station in Roses. This journey takes 90 minutes and can booked via the Sagelés website.
I would recommend that the best way to get around and explore the area is to hire a car if you can, we always use Hertz Car Hire wherever possible as we find them so reliable and with things like car hire, you just don’t want to take any chances.
Is Costa Brava family-friendly?
Costa Brava is one of the most family-friendly regions in Spain and it has the certification to prove it.
In fact, nine towns in Costa Brava have been awarded the prestigious Family Tourist Destination seal of approval from the Catalan Tourist Agency. This means that these towns have proven that they have excellent accommodation, restaurants and services geared specifically towards families.
The official family destinations in Costa Brava are:
- Lloret de Mar
- Torroella de Montgrí – L’Estartit
- Castell-Platja d’Aro
- Calonge-Sant Antoni
- Sant Feliu de Guíxols
- Sant Pere Pescador
- La Vall d’en Bas – Les Preses
So lets talk a little more about Roses (or Rosas in Spanish)…
When is the best time of year to travel to Roses?
One of the selling points (among many) of visiting the Costa Brava is the fact that whenever you travel, you’re pretty much guaranteed good weather. The secret is now out and Roses is a very popular place to visit and in the school holidays you can expect it to share the town with other visiting families.
However if you can travel out of school term-time then April, May, June and September are equally perfect months to visit as you will find the combination of warm temperatures and the peace and quiet (and lower prices) of low season. We just spent a week in Roses in July which is high-season and although yes it was busy, it never felt uncomfortably so.
Where to stay in Roses?
Depending on what you like, you’ll find family-friendly accommodation to suit your needs. As we have three teenagers, we love camping however we love having home comforts on site. We stayed in Camping Salatà in Roses which is owned by the Terraza group and is located a few minutes walk from the beach. I’ve written all about the campsite here.
There are of course many other campsites in Costa Brava that are well worth considering. I picked my favourite campsites and wrote all about them here. If you can’t find one you like the look of there, check out the Girona Camping Association as they have 73 associated campsites that they work with.
What is there to do in Roses for families with teenagers?
Where do I start? There is just so much for families with older kids to do. Let me tell you about the most fun things we did together during our recent week in Roses.
Exploring the ocean – Snorkelling
This was a real highlight of our week in Roses. The area is famed for its clear and warm water so snorkelling was something we were very excited to try. We took a trip with Don Poncho which departed only a 10 minute walk away from our campsite from Santa Margarita Harbour. After a quick stop at Roses port to pick up more passengers, we were taken out to sea to explore the coves along the coastline in the Natural Park of Cap de Creus.
The captain dropped anchor at a paradisiacal beach cove where we had the opportunity to go down below deck and see the marine life underneath us through the submarine glass bottom lower deck. It was a little cramped below deck so only a handful of people could look at a time however everyone was keen to get on and get into the water to see the shoals of fish even closer up.
We were given snorkelling equipment (and lifejackets for the little ones) and we climbed down ladders, or jumped if we were feeling brave, into the warm turquoise waters below. It was breathtaking to explore the wild landscapes below us and it was very clear to see why these waters famously attract thousands of scuba divers every year.
Cycling around Roses – Bike Hire
Cycling is a big thing in Roses which you can tell as there are designated cycle lanes everywhere. It’s such a lovely and safe way to explore the area. We hired bikes from our campsite Camping Salatà for a few days and used them to cycle around the campsite as well as along the promenade during the day.
I was a little nervous at first as I hadn’t been on a bike for a very long time but I quickly felt comfortable with it and I have to say it was a very enjoyable way to spend quality time with the kids.
Visit a Water Park – Braving the attractions at Aqua Brava
I’ve don’t recall meeting a teenager who doesn’t just love a water park and luckily around the corner from Camping Salatà is the popular and larger than life Aqua Brava water park. It’s a teenage haven and fun for the parents too. They have 19 incredible attractions some of which will test the bravery of even the hardiest teenager and grown-up.
It’s not cheap to get in but you can, and I would recommend that you do, spend the whole day there. Tickets cost €32 per person (over 1.20 metres tall) and a very good value €49 for a two day ticket. You can hire sun loungers for €4 each but you can easily lie your towels on the grass instead if you want to save money. Trust me you won’t be spending much time lying down.
Buy tickets in advance online to avoid queueing for tickets when you arrive and be sure to try to get there early to get the best value for your money. Also by getting there at a good time, you’ll be more likely to be able to secure a shaded space under trees to protect yourself and your kids from the hot Catalan sun. It shouldn’t be hard to find a good spot as there is 28 acres of green landscaped area.
My teens really loved the Black Hole, Camel and Kamikaze rides. We went mid-week which meant that although it was high season we didn’t have to queue for too long to get onto any of the rides. My three got really competitive with each other on the Octospeed attraction where your descent is timed. They had to go on this at least five times just to try and beat their previous times.
Unfortunately, whilst you are allowed to bring water into Aqua Brava, you can’t bring food in. There are two bars and three restaurants, the food is fairly good quality and, whilst it’s not overly expensive, you have to make sure you budget for this on top of the entry fee and have money on you. We had lunch in the main self-service restaurant “El Patio” where we found a good selection of fruit, salads and hot food. I found the lasagne a little bland but the seafood dishes that my kids had were all really tasty.
Overall I was impressed with how large Aqua Brava water park was. It felt clean and safe and we ended up spending the whole day there. I was able to let my three teens wander off on their own and they loved that sense of freedom.
Experience Culture – A visit to the Dalí museum in Figueres
I was aware of some of his work and was interested to take my teens along to find out more about this incredible artist in the museum which he himself created.
Every Thursday evening, you can book a tour at the campsite reception at a cost of €32 per person which sounds like a lot of money but when you consider that you are collected at the campsite, driven to the museum in Figueres, have a private guided tour around the museum (where an entrance ticket would cost €15 per person) and then dropped back to the campsite, it’s actually good value.
I was really glad that we had Merce, our tour guide, with us as I would not have been able to explain any of Dalí’s artworks to the kids as there’s very little information displayed beside each piece of artwork. This is apparently intentional because Dalí himself saw the museum as one piece of surrealist art in its own right and he didn’t want information displayed or guided tours available as he wanted the visitor to find their own interpretation of what they were looking at.
The Dalí Museum is officially called the “Dalí Theatre and Museum” because Dalí himself commissioned the renovation of the Figueres old theatre after it was nearly destroyed by a fire in the Spanish Civil War. In fact, Dalí is buried in a crypt below the museum, under the stage of the theatre. Merce told us all about the great artist’s background and his journey towards surrealism art. It was fascinating and a real eye-opener into what inspired the incredible art that Salvador Dalí produced. The kids didn’t have a clue about him before we started and were a little sceptical but they found the tour surprisingly interesting and thought he was utterly bonkers.
Exploring the beaches at Roses
Most evenings we would make the very short journey (four minute walk) from the campsite to the beach where we we would stroll along the promenade, play games on the beach and watch the stunning sunsets over the Gulf of Roses. The beach is the only one in the region that faces west so people flock from near and far just to enjoy the magnificent sunsets.
As the warm air brushed over us and the light dimmed, we would sit on the sand eating ice-cream and just chat about everything and nothing really. It’s sounds so trivial yet it’s something we never seem to get time to do together as a family. I will treasure those evenings on Roses beach in my memory for a very long time.
One thing none of us liked however was the sheer number of street traders who laid their wares of knock-off goods on blankets all along the promenade in the evening. It made walking along the promenade sometimes awkward and they would often harangue us as we passed which was not particularly pleasant.
Catering for the family in Roses – What’s the food really like?
You can’t visit Costa Brava and not talk about the incredible food in Catalonia. As you can imagine, as Roses is a large fishing port, there’s an amazing choice of fresh fish available.
We visited the family-owned, Roc-Fort restaurant in Roses where we enjoyed an affordable and authentic Catalan meal.
Located on Ronda Miquel Oliva i Prat, next-door to Roses tourist office, there is something for everyone in this popular local establishment. There are set menus ‘menu del dia’ to choose from with a great selection of home-cooked dishes using local ingredients. After ordering our food we were offered some typical Catalan bread which is covered with crushed tomato and drizzled with good extra-virgin Spanish olive oil, it’s a simple yet delicious dish that we vow to make ourselves at home more often.
Are we enjoyed our main courses of mussels, snails and steak, we took in the breathtaking views of the Citadel of Roses right across the road. After dinner, we were treated with a complimentary digestif, adults only of course.
All in all, this was a fantastic local restaurant with authentic affordable Catalan food making it a must visit for anyone visit Roses. I’d recommend booking this restaurant in advance as it gets very busy in the evenings with locals and tourists alike who have read the great reviews online.
There are other incredible family restaurants in Costa Brava that you must try if you visit the region. I’ve written about our favourite restaurants here in this blog post.
What else is there to do for teens in Costa Brava? – Things we’ve done before and would recommend you try
It’s not our first time with the kids in Costa Brava and hopefully not our last visit either. I would really recommend that you consider trying the following fun family activities near Roses that we’ve done before and would give the thumbs up to :
- Nordic walking in Lloret de Mar
- Tree top adventure fun in Platja d’Aro
- Via Ferrata in Sant Feliu De Guixlos
- Take a fascinating guided tour around Roses fishing port
- Roses Express tourist train in Roses
- Catalan cookery lessons in Girona
We’ve written all about these family-friendly activities and many many more in this blog post.
Our Costa Brava bucket list for next time
We were only in Roses in for one week and there are still things that we wanted to do but couldn’t get around to doing so we’re already planning our next Catalan adventure where the following activities will hopefully be on the schedule :
- Sea kayaking – You can paddle around the stunning Cap de Creus headland which I can imagine is a glorious way to get up close and explore the hidden coves that are dotted around the coastline.
- Day trip to the white village of Cadaqués – I’ve been to this stunning village before and am dying to take James and the kids to see it for themselves.
- Explore the hiking paths and discover the megalithic dolmens in Aiguamolls del Empordà (Marismas del Ampurdán) and the Cabo de Creus park.
- Take a guided tour of the Citadel in Roses. The Citadel also hosts the famous Festival Sons del Mon every summer. This festival is a celebration of music and the local Empordà wine which is known for its quality with the ‘Denominación de Origen’ seal of approval.
To plan you own Catalan adventure in Roses head to their tourism information website for lots of information about family-friendly accommodation, activities and restaurants.
Disclaimer : Our activities in Roses were gifted to us by Costa Brava tourism in exchange for our honest review.