We returned yesterday from 12 nights at the Camping Playa Joyel and this was the best family holiday we have had yet. Partly because things are easier now that the girls, 6 and 3, are no longer babies, but also because the campsite and the town of Noja had so much we wanted in our holiday. I think we were also very lucky with the weather (last week July and first week of August 2014) as we had no rain bar one or two very short (5 mins?) showers at the start of our stay and the temperature was a nice low to mid twenties (feels warmer in the sun!) and not much cooler at night.
Overall, the campsite was very good. We rented a two-bedroom Titania directly with the campsite and everything was in order and met expectations - nice, clean and modern. I was pleased to have brought a little sharp knife and a peeler as these are things I have found lacking in the past and this was the case again. The kitchen didn't have a kettle, small saucepan (just two large steel casseroles) or grater but this wasn't a problem for us. You might wish to bring a tablecloth (I remembered this year!) and a bath mat (forgot again...). The coffee machine was filter style and we bought filters along with the coffee when we did our big supermarket shop at the start of the holiday. The double bed had a double pillow rather than two single ones and I didn't have a cover for this. The Titanias all had a roofed decking area outside whereas the Eurocamp ones only had a parasol. I found the roofed deck really good as not only did you get more shade but it did protect from the occasional rain shower!
The campsite roads are laid out grid style and it's all very flat and smooth. Great for bikes and scooters so bring if you can! Our three-year old was delighted to learn to ride her pedal bike here. Most people don't wear helmets round the campsite and many don't have lights after dark either. Cars can be parked right next to the mobile home or on the camping pitch so there is a bit of circulating traffic but it's generally slow-moving. The other bikes/scooters/skateboards/bike cars and pedestrians are probably the biggest risk!
Our accommodation was near the beach gate, one row back from the beachfront mobile homes (which aren't really that beachfront as there is a fence surrounding the campsite and dunes inbetween the campsite and the beach). It was great being able to get to the beach so quickly and we all loved the beach here. The water was surprisingly warm. I was worried as it's not the Med but it's generally very shallow. We all loved swimming in the sea and jumping in the waves! There are some dangerous spots which are marked on a map and the lifeguards were very vigilant at keeping people away from these on yellow flag days and out of the water altogether on red flag days (we only had one). The sand is lovely, the water clear and there were fish and crabs to find by the rocks (buy cheap nets from the campsite shop or the Noja Bazar shop next to Lupa supermarket on Avenida de Santander). You can climb on the rocks, walk on the estuary and over the river to neighbouring Isla when the tide is out. And that's just the beach in front of the campsite! We saw the other beaches by bike but our bit looked the best. Playa de Trengandin, the one on the east side of Noja, looked like it had lots of rocks in the water. You can also have a nice walk on the headland inbetween the two beaches, Ris and Trengandin.
The pools are good. They open at 9 and early morning (before 11) is the time for a proper swim if you want one. They close at 8 but are still quite busy up until this point. The sign said there was a break between 2 and 4 but they didn't seem to close when we were there. Lunchtime for the Spanish is about this time so I guess it might be quieter then. They weren't heated but this was fine. There's a rectangular pool about 20m long and maybe 1.2-1.8m deep, a smaller irregular shaped pool from 0.6m-1.2m deep which had a bubble seat and some water features, and a round paddling pool. Our girls were disappointed that there were no slides but this seemed to be the case at all campsites I'd looked at in Northern Spain. You really do have to wear a swimming hat (again, this seems to be the norm in the area) but the blokes don't have to do Speedos. You can buy cheap polyester hats from the campsite shop for EUR 1.50 each (fit all ages). They're not as bad as the stretchy rubber really-hard-to-get-on hats I remember from childhood, a bit itchy round the brim but you don't notice once you're in. Just don't take the camera to the pool.
Reception were helpful and escorted us to our mobile home on arrival. Everyone I spoke to was able to help us in English. We had a good restaurant recommendation and they helped with queries such as finding the supermarket - they have maps of the town which is great. My only criticism of the administration is that all info is on notice boards at reception and there's nothing provided in the mobile home. I would have found it helpful to have had in the mobile home (or to have been given on arrival) some basic info such as shop and pool opening times, times of mini club and other activites, times of entertainment etc. as it took a while to remember all this.
Another thing I really liked about the campsite was that it was dog-free. I am not a fan of dogs and it was a welcome break to barely see a dog all holiday. There were also no mosquitos.
Continuing on the animal theme, there is a small animal 'sanctuary' (not sure what to call it) adjoining the reserve. This opened for two hours a week, Monday 6-7pm and Wednesday 6-7pm. We went twice. I won't say anything more so not to spoil the surprise of the uniqueness of the experience!! (It's good, if a bit random.)
There's a great open space area next to the animal sanctuary gate with a playground, table tennis tables, football pitches, outdoor gym (bit old) and just free space (which we used for frisbee).
The evening entertainment was different from the daily 'early evening mini-disco for the kids followed by adult entertainment later' we'd experienced in campsites in France and Italy as well as in Spanish hotels. The entertainment is very much geared for the Spanish and after all it was a mainly Spanish campsite when we were there (significant British and Dutch minority, some French, virtually no Germans). The campsite is lacking a nice evening area (the restaurant is above the reception and shop and the evening entertainment is just in this area, right by the front gate - chaos!!). But this didn't stop the fun. When we were there, Monday night was 'Music for all'. Thursday night was Karaoke, followed by a similar 'music for all' fiesta. This started at 21:45 and finished at midnight. Through siestas and rising later and later in the morning, we did get ourselves on to the Spanish timetable and managed to make this a family affair. And a family affair it is. Go prepared to find the inner Spaniard in you. If you don't speak Spanish, I would recommend learning the Spanish for up, down, left, right, forward and back, and just copy everyone else. I thought we'd be well on top of things as we are down with 'Veo Veo' from a previous holiday, but in fact I should have revised the 'Macarena', Whigfield's 'Saturday Night' (remember that?) and 'Gangnam Style'.
Whilst we didn't camp, the facilities looked good and it was very busy when were were there. It's all quite close together and the pitches aren't separated by hedges in the main, so it might not be very private. There are lots of trees all over the site and I really appreciated the shade.
Only other thing to say about the site is that there were no recycling facilities apart from a bottle bank just outside the front gate and the avid recycler in me found this a bit hard to deal with. But I think most people would welcome the break from having to separate rubbish :)
We really liked the town of Noja. It's a Spanish holiday town; most of the buildings seem to be holiday apartments for the Spanish, and so it has a good holiday vibe. We didn't use the car once apart for two big supermarket shops; we biked everywhere instead, day and night. Off the campsite, the newly-proficient three-year old cyclist went on a bike seat and the six-year old cycled in between us. There are no cycle lanes but the roads were wide and smooth enough that we felt happy on the roads as a family, even at night. We cycled just round the town and to Isla but as the campsite is a little on the edge of town and parking looks tricky, it was a great way of getting around. Our bikes took us to evening drinks at La Cabana on the Paseo Maritimo, lunch and beer on the town square (just google mapped this and it would be a 30 minute walk from the campsite to the town square; took us 10 minutes by bike), a bike ride round to Isla and a nice fish lunch at the restaurant at Soano (little village just outside Noja). We also rode around the lakes to the south east of the town but these were a bit naff. The girls also loved the Noja Tren, a road train that gives a guided tour (in Spanish) of the town, even though we speak very little Spanish and had ridden all the roads by this point!
We travelled with LD Lines on the Poole-Santander ferry on the way out and Gijon-Poole on the way back - this was great.
In summary, I would highly recommend this campsite and I am thinking that we may return in future when the girls are a bit older to do more of the watersports activites that they were too young for this time - snorkelling, bodyboarding (can buy bodyboards at the campsite shop and in town) and maybe even surfing - there is a surf school at Playa de Ris.
As a closing note, these are the things we didn't take that I wish we had:
- bbq (unless you are eurocamping in which case I think you get one)
- egg cups
- kites (would have been great on beach)
- matches and candle for outside in evening
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- " TRIPADVISOR CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE 2014" WINNER AND RECEIVED THE AWARD "TOURISM QUALITY COMPROMISE 2014" Playa Joyel is a first class campsite located on the edge of the beach with direct access to it. We are in the town of Noja on Ris beach. The Campsite is situated in the Nature Reserve of Trasmiera Ecopark. The Campsite proposes a wide range of services to offer all their clients a very enjoyable stay:new WIFI in 2015 which can be used all over the campsite (not free of charge) from the padel and tennis courts, swimming pools, sports fields, an outdoor exercise course, play areas, open-air barbecues, service stations for motor homes, a washing machine and dryer area, a kids club, and for the little ones' enjoyment...an on-site animal park. Our resort welcomes both families who wish to camp on the campsite or stay in a caravan as well as those families who prefer renting a bungalow or mobile home in a natural surrounding. We have more than 100 rental accommodations located on the campsite so as to cover all the different needs of each family, from 1 bedroom lodgings to 3 bedroom ones. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Camping Playa Joyel Hotel Cantabria