In March 2018 me and Heartline made our first ever visit to PortAventura. This is a trip that many UK enthusiasts make very early on in their love of the hobby but we had held off for quite some time, partly due to lack of interest and partly due to reading a lot of negative things online. But while looking for something to do in the early months of 2018, PortAventura was the best option, so here we are.
Today began like most European trips do, with an extremely early EasyJet flight out of Gatwick, this time to Barcelona.
When we arrived we picked up our hire car and set off for Tibidabo, which was meant to be the first park of this trip.
It was pouring it down with rain as we drove up mountain roads to get to the car park at the top.
When we got there however the attendant informed us “park’s closed but I’ll let you into the car park, make sure you pay for parking at the ticket office”. Without really thinking it through we took the parking ticket from him and drove into the deserted multi story car park.
Well this isn’t the start to the trip that we wanted but never mind, let’s go pay for this parking ticket. We stepped out into the heavy rain to discover that both the ticket offices and the park entrance gate were closed and bolted shut.
Thankfully as we attempted to leave the car park the friendly man who didn’t really understand what we were trying to tell him just waved us through and sent us on our way.
We decided to try again tomorrow but for now head to PortAventura.
The hour and a half drive to the park went by without any major incident but the unexpected Spanish tolls were a pain.
We were staying onsite at Hotel Caribe, which despite initial concerns ended up being a really nice hotel. The room was clean, the bed was comfy, the bathroom was great and the noise outside was non-existent.
I really liked how simple everything was in regards to staying onsite.
When checking in you are given your room key, which is also your park entry ticket valid for every day of your stay and at the end you just throw it in a box with no need to check out. This means you only go through the faff of waiting to collect things once.
Another great thing about staying on site is that you are only 5 minutes from the park entrance.
What is immediately obvious is that PortAventura is a beautiful park, heavily themed and wonderfully landscaped.
We were able to form this judgement quickly because we spent the first hour walking around the massive park completely lost in search of various different attractions.
In the end we decided to have a quick snack and then just ride the next coaster we come across.
Stampida – And first blood goes to the park’s racing CCI woodie Stampida.
Despite people saying online that’s it rough or just plain bad, I found this coaster to be fantastic fun with good air time moments, vicious laterals and all the fun that comes with a racing coaster.
Stampida is full of so much character and ended up being one of the most enjoyable coasters at the park.
Tomahawk – Stampida’s baby brother was quite fun too, if only for the interactions between the 2 woodies.
Unlike some European parks, mostly ones located in Brühl, PortAventura isn’t afraid to not take itself seriously here and there. The discovery of a singing vulture next to Tomahawk instantly increased the park’s standing in my eyes.
El Diablo – Another coaster people throw shade at, even John Wardley apparently but I rather enjoyed it.
While certainly not a great roller coaster, this Arrow Mine Train is good fun and quite charming in a way.
Dragon Khan – The first of the 2 major disappointing coasters at the park.
I’d been idolising this old school B&M monster for years and I won’t deny it’s importance. I also won’t not admit that it looks beautiful. As for how it rides though…
I’ll be bold here, the layout in my eyes isn’t very good. The first drop is pretty forceless and then it’s just inversion after inversion. I wish it was broken up by some air time moments or maybe a twisty section.
Then there’s another problem.
I would have quite happily rated this coaster as great, for what it is, if it wasn’t for how badly it rides.
If you sit on the 2 outside seats of any row then Dragon Khan becomes an awful rattly mess that’s guaranteed to give me an awful headache.
Tami-Tami – Dragon Khan gave me such a bad headache that I needed to take ibuprofen, drink some Coke and ride the park’s Vekoma Junior to get rid of it.
Shambhala – The second of the 2 major disappointing coasters at the park.
Having enough experience of B&M Hypers before riding, I knew Shambhala was never going to be as good as the masses make it out to be but even still I walked away very disappointed.
Air time is easily my favourite sensation when riding roller coasters, so a coaster designed to deliver only that should be a dream come true, sadly the air time on Shambhala varies from extremely weak to non-existant.
The first drop is completely void of forces, the air time hills do little to nothing, there’s no real sensation of speed and then even that is ruined further by a trim brake…
We rode Shambhala at least twice a day, every day of this trip, in all seats, in all sorts of weather and it delivered the exact same ride.
Believe me I really wanted to love it but for me there’s nothing to love about Shambhala.
It does look beautiful though.
We went for another lap on Stampida, El Diablo and Shambala, then ended our day with Furius Baco.
Furius Baco – This Intamin winged hydraulic launch coaster is interesting…
It’s not very good but it’s not rough like people online have said. Hilarious is probably how’d I’d describe the coaster if I had to.
The whole ride is best summed up like this…
Something about a monkey and wine, an awesome launch, the wing seats start bouncing in a truly funny manner, everything’s happening too fast and you’re bouncing so much that you can’t understand what’s going on, you roll through an inline twist, you bounce over some water and then it’s over.
One of a kind if nothing else.
After a very pleasant first day in the park I thought to myself while chilling in the hotel, have I just gotten really lucky or are the negative opinions of the park that I’ve seen slightly overblown?
Other than the 2 B&Ms being disappointing I was really enjoying my stay at PortAventura and was excited to experience more tomorrow.
Thanks for reading, click here for day 2 where we visit the resort’s new Ferrari Land park and try again at Tibidabo.