Having booked a last minute trip to Malta to escape the soggy British summer I shouldn't really complain that Malta in July is very hot! Hotel Santana proved a wonderful Mediterranean retreat and a great place from which to explore this wonderful island.
In reviewing this hotel it is important to state that we chose a last-minute. budget break - paying £300 each for flights and 7-days B&B accommodation. My comments reflect the price paid and how this hotel met our budget break expectations.
Perhaps the first thing to say is that the Santana should not really be classed as being in 'St Paul's bay'. It's actually in Buggiba. The quiet St Paul's bay is only a 30-minute walk (and a very pleasant evening stroll away), but Buggiba is much more commercially orientated and very popular with 'Brits abroad'. Local restaurants compete to offer the best (and biggest!) full English breakfast and if your holiday depends on finding typical English fayre then this can be easily located. Thankfully, the area boasts a varied range of restaurants and we greatly enjoyed a different choice each evening. The British pound is currently bouyant against the Euro making meals excellent value. Turning left out of the reception takes you to Qawra which is a little quieter and less commercialised.
So what can you expect at the Santana? The reception is large with excellent air conditioning which provides a cool welcome. Fortunately the reception staff greeted us warmly and we were alocated a room quickly and without fuss.
The room standards vary widely. Having booked budget we were allocated a standard room - but this was still more than adequate and certainly worth the price we paid. Perhaps the rooms could be described as a little dated, but the air con and ceiling fan worked well and kept us cool, the fridge proved invaluable for keeping drinks cool and the bathroom was clean and fairly modern. The over-bath shower worked well with plentiful and instant hot water. Having read the reviews we were warned that there are no kettles in the room - easily solved by taking our own travel kettle. Rooms were cleaned daily - the towels were only changed when we left them in the bath (as per the instructions in the bathroom).
Our room had a small balcony - but these cheaper rooms seem to be rear facing - and the view is nothing to write home about. Still, we enjoyed returning to the room for afternoon shade and a quiet read on the balcony.
According to the notices posted in the lifts there are higher spec rooms available and upgrades can be purchased. I can only assess the room we were allocated and feel it was more than adequate in relation to price paid.
If your idea of a holiday is sitting by the hotel pool then this might not be ideal. The rooftop pool is small and seating areas are very limited. There are very few sunshades and the temperature at this time of the year is extremely hot, the sun very strong. There is an indoor pool - small but clean. It's good for a cool down when returning from the heat of the day but there are only 6 sunbeds and the ambience is a little stuffy. It's not a place where you would while away the hours. The hotel offers health spa facilities with special offers for a range of treatments. We didn't try these but the range on offer appeared fairly extensive.
Being on a B&B tarif our only experience of the restaurant was the breakfast. The restaurant is in the basement. Contrary to some reviews we didn't find it in any way dark and managed to find a table close to a window. The range of food offered is excellent: 6 choices of cereals (and porridge), many different breads with various jams, continental style cold meats and cheeses, yoghurts and fruit, cakes and pastries. The hot options were also plentiful, eggs served 4 ways, bacon, sausage, fried bread, tomatoes and beans. Hot drinks are of the vending machine variety - bearable. The juice is poor - as I particuarly enjoy a 'real' fresh orange juice this was easily solved by buying some quality fruit juice from one of the many nearby supermarkets. We found the restaurant staff friendly; dirty crockery was removed immediately, food was continually restocked. Again, you will surely find a better breakfast but for this price it was more than adequate.
One of the hotel's best points is its proximity to the bus terminal. Step out of the reception, turn right and it's just 50 metres away. The Island's bus service is operated by Arriva and there are frequent connections to all the main areas of the island. We purchased a 7-day ticket when we arrived for just 12 Euros. At less than 2 Euros per day we used the buses every day and really enjoyed exploring. The buses are all air conditioned - so often a bus ride was a cool escape. Be warned, the roads are poor and the bus shock absorbers need a service, so journeys can be a little 'roller coaster' at times. Ride at peak times and they are also very crowded - so be prepared to stand.
Our holiday highlights - the walled city of Mdina is fascinating and there is a wonderful restaurant on the city wall with the most fantastic view. A day trip to Gozo is cheap (less than 5 Euro for a return ferry ticket) and well worth undertaking. Your Maltese bus pass is not valid in Gozo but a day ticket is just a couple of Euros. St George's church in the Gozo capital is a beauty.
We thoroughly enjoyed our week in Malta - though we would love to return again perhaps in the Spring or Autumn when the weather is cooler and walking more enjoyable.
What can I say about the Santana? Have I stayed in better hotels - certainly. Was it comfortable and good value - indeed. Would I return and stay there again - most definitely.
Rooms at the front have better views - rear facing rooms have poor views but are fairly quiet,
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC