Salou Attractions Guide

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Salou is a popular family resort on the Costa Dorada, or 'Golden Coast', of Catalonia in northeast Spain. It's about 10 km from the historical town of Tarragona and 112 kms down the coast from Barcelona.

Tourists are attracted by its numerous coves and beaches and its Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. Aside from the excellent scenery and sunny weather, Salou is also home to the famous PortAventura theme park.

Salou has plenty to offer in terms of attractions, especially for families. Cycling and boat tours will suit adventurous types while history buffs can appreciate the town's monuments and churches. Kids will love Costa Caribe Aquatic Park, Aquopolis, Bosc Aventura and of course PortAventura. There's also go-karting, golf, and a myriad of watersports at Llevant beach.

Cycling

If you want to see Salou and the surrounding area via bike then there are a couple of ways to do so.

Downhill Bikes offer half and full day bike excursions through the mountains. Experience Salou's breath-taking scenery as you glide down quiet roads, past vineyards, olive groves and rustic mountain villages while your guide tells you more about the region. In the full day tour you also get to taste some of the food and wine the region has to offer. Young children can enjoy the ride from a child's seat, while kids age five to eight can use the trailer bike attachment.

If you want to go off by yourself and explore, rent a bike from Bike Salou located on Jaume I seafront promenade. Choose from a range of bikes including road, mountain and bicycles for two. They also offer bike tours around the city if you want to familiarise yourself with the area.

Boat trips

If you're after a fun way to see the golden coast and the nearby towns, try one of these boat tours

Beyond Salou offer a choice of cruises along the Costa Dorada. Catch some Spanish rays aboard a luxury catamaran as you enjoy the amazing coastal views. Plunge into the warm Mediterranean for a swim or snorkel, and take advantage of the free alcohol and soft drinks. You can choose from a three hour trip with lunch, a six hour tour with a BBQ or a three hour cruise at sunset with entertainment.

Or if you'd rather explore nearby fishing villages, go with Touchdown Tours. Their popular full-day 'Relax Excursion' includes snorkelling and sunbathing in the many hidden coves, before dropping anchor at the picturesque village of Ametlla de Mar where you can visit the fish auction. On this cruise you'll enjoy a free bar and seafood lunch cooked by the captain and his crew.

Touchdown Tours also provide a trip in a glass bottomed boat to neighbouring village Cambrils, as well as a mini cruise to the historical city of Tarragona with its many Roman artefacts.

If you want to sail off on your own, Estació Náutica offers boat rentals for a day or more. The service charter motor boat is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the sea. They even provide maps and information on the most interesting places to visit.

Natural attractions

Salou is known for its dramatic coastal scenery, so be sure to check out its stunning coves, cliffs and beaches.

The Cap Salou is a large rocky headland jutting into the sea in the south east of Salou. You can easily get there by bus, especially in the summer. It is a very interesting place, both from a biological and geological point of view with its distinctive vegetation and rocks from the Mesozoic and Tertiary periods. Between the cliffs there are some lovely little sandy coves such as Cala Penya TalladaCala Font and Cala Crancs. Although human activity has driven out most of the fauna, when it's quiet you might still be able to spot seabirds like the black-headed gull and the common swallow. Don't forget your binoculars!

Historical sites

Salou's rich history can be seen through these monuments and buildings.

A must visit is the Torre Vella, a watch and defence tower built in 1530 by the order of the Archbishop of Tarragona with the aim to protect Salou from the constant pirate looting. Currently the Torre Vella is an art centre devoted primarily to a painting exhibition.

Also worth seeing is the Church of Santa Maria del Mar. Built in 1766 it is the oldest chapel in the city, initially a chapel with a single nave and a simple bell tower, used by sailors.

There's also Monument to Jaume I situated on the waterfront of the same name. It was erected in 1965 in memory of King James I, who sailed from the port of Salou in 1229 to conquer Majorca. The stone and gold leaf monument evokes a sailboat with the figure of the king on horseback.

Salou annually recreates this conquest at the Medieval Festival of King Jaume I held at the end of August and into September. Over several days there is a medieval market, acrobatics, theatre, fireworks, children's activities and a procession from Torre Vella to Llevant beach.

Family entertainment

Salou has a wide range of kids' activities, making it a very family friendly resort. Here are some of the best.

On top of your list should be PortAventura theme park. It boasts a water park, four hotels, a convention centre, not to mention a massive 115 hectare theme park based on Busch Gardens in Florida. Go on a journey through six themed areas as you enjoy a range of rollercoasters, rides and live shows.

On your adventure you'll visit the Mediterranean, the Wild West, Mexico, China and Polynesia. Ride out a tropical storm on a catamaran in Polynesia, search for treasure in a Mayan temple in Mexico and ride the fearsome Dragon Khan rollercoaster in China. Younger kids will love the Sesame Street zone and there are plenty of restaurants and shops in each area to make it a real day out.

You really need to plan your way around to fit everything in, so note the times of the shows you want to see and get there in good time as they fill up fast. During the summer months of June to August, single day passes cost 44 for adults and 38 for juniors. You might as well tackle it with a two day pass as it doesn't cost that much more at 54 and 44 respectively.

Why not stay at one of the park's hotels? There's the Mediterranean-themed Hotel PortAventura, the Mexican-themed Hotel El Paso PortAventura, the Wild West-themed Gold River PortAventura or the tropical-themed Hotel Caribe PortAventura.

Port Aventura is also home to Costa Caribe Aquatic Park. Rides include corkscrew water slides, a raging crazy river, water tunnels and wave pools. There are also smaller rides for younger children and other indoor play areas.

If you want to venture a bit further afield there's Aquopolis Water Park in nearby La Pineda. It offers a range of thrills and spills including waterslides, ring rapids and themed swimming pools as well as trampolines and activity lakes. What's more there are daily dolphin and sea lion shows, with the chance to book an interactive play session with the sea lions.

Great fun for all the family can be found at Karting Salou. The price for kids aged 4 to 8 start at just 10, those aged 9 to 13 start at 12 and for adults it starts at 18. If go-karting doesn't provide enough of an adrenaline rush, jump into the bungee rocket, a contraption that shoots you 90 metres into the air. It costs 27 for two people to go on the ride and a further 8 for a DVD of the experience.

If you want a fun, active day out, head to Bosc Aventura Salou, similar to 'Go Ape' in the UK.  Choose between the easy, medium and difficult course, strap on your safety harness and head off on your adventure through the trees on zip lines and Tibetan bridges. If you don't like heights, they offer paintballing and climbing too.

For evening entertainment, head to Font Illuminosa located at the start of Jaume I seafront promenade for the Dancing Fountain Show . Created in 1973 by engineer Carles Buigas, it has become an emblematic part of life in Salou. When the sun goes down the fountains transform into an impressive display of coloured light, water and music. More recently, the Cybernetic Fountains have been installed at the opposite end of the promenade.

Shopping

Salou has plenty of souvenir shops, but the main shopping streets are along the seafront. There is also a regular market in the old town on Mondays, which is worth a browse. The nearest shopping centre is Port Halley located across the road from PortAventura, which includes a Mercadona supermarket, cinema, bowling alley and restaurants.

Golf

Salou is home to the Lumine Golf Club, formerly known as PortAventura golf. It boasts three courses: north, south and central. The north and central course were designed by Greg Norman and the green project designed the south. Facilities consist of two clubhouses, a beach club, restaurants, pro shop, rental services and a golf school.

Water sports

Whether you want to explore the Costa Dorada, discover the depths of the Mediterranean or just have some fun on the water, there'll be something for you.

Estació Náutica Salou based at Llevant beach offers a wide range of water-based activities. Above water you can enjoy banana boating, water skiing, kayaking, kite surfing, jet skiing, SUP, parasailing and wake boarding. Windsurfing is also very popular they offer beginner and weekend courses as well as courses to perfect your skills. The water sports centre also provides lessons in catamarans and sailing so you can explore the golden coast.

Below water you can enjoy snorkelling and if you're daring enough, scuba diving. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced diver, discovering the variety of underwater life is open to everyone. Their diving school allows you to take the plunge after an initiation course, while experienced divers can take specialised courses to improve their skills.