Family things to do
by Fiona Flores Watson
If you’re looking for activities to do with your children in Andalucia this summer, and you want a break from the beach, or you’re staying inland and you’re looking for some more ideas for outings, you’ll be amazed at the variety of places you can have a great day out. From waterparks with steep, windy, slippery slides and rides galore, to zoos and animals in the wild, and of course theme parks – Wild West, mining, or rollercoasters for the thrill-seekers among you - here is our guide to fun family entertainment to keep everyone happy this summer. Wherever you’re staying in Andalucia, there’s bound to be somewhere near you where the kids will have a blast.
WET AND WILD
There are 13 waterparks around Andalucia, with the highest concentration along the coast, understandably: one each in the provinces of Sevilla, Cordoba, Huelva, Almeria and Granada; two in Cadiz; and seven in Malaga.
Some parks now offer excellent (although not cheap) facilities to adults: hire your own pergola with table, chairs, sunloungers, newspaper, cold box and sometimes refrescos (cold soft drinks) included, too.
Children will love all the rides at these parques aquaticos (and young-at-heart adults too) – super-fast downhill rides; curvy tube rides, and “black holes” – dark slides where you can’t see anything until you pop out the other end.
These water parks also have areas – usually special shallow pools with climbing frames and little slides – for smaller children.
They may also have wave pools, and pools intended for adult use, with gentle waterfalls over rocks, for you to wallow in and relax.
SCIENCE, MINING, OR WILD WILD WEST?
Whether you want to educate your little ones, or just let older ones fulfil their need for an adrenalin rush, you can choose from a number of themed parks. In Granada, you and your children can learn about science together at Parque de las Ciencias; in Huelva, they can find out about mining since Roman times, at Rio Tinto Mining Park; while cowboy fans will love Mini Hollywood in Almeria. Tivoli Park on the Costa del Sol there are over 300 rides, and big-name concerts to keep parents entertained too.
Andalucia has a number of zoos and wildlife parks. If you’re in the west of the region, La Reserva in Huelva is a wildlife park with a safari train, and bird and sea lion demonstrations; two of the best on the Costa del Sol are Selwo Adventure, in Benaldamena, and Bioparc in Fuengirola. Not for everyone’s taste, Crocodile Park in Torremolinos has 300 of the toothy reptiles. Handbag with matching shoes, anyone? Staying with fierce beasts with big gnashers, there’s a wolf park in Antequera; while at the other end of the scale, smaller children will enjoy the Butterfly Park in Benaldamena. Bird-watchers shouldn’t miss Doñana National Park in Huelva.
One marine centre has performing dolphin and sea lions – Selwo Marina Delfinarium in Benaldamena. At other sealife centres, you can see aquariums with fish, sharks, turtles and other marine creatures, from octopus and stingray, to crabs, starfish and seahorses, and sometimes even touch them too. Many have education, conservation and breeding programmes, so kids can learn about how to protect and save species, and to ensure their environment is preserved for the future.
To see marine animals in the wild, you can take boat trips from Tarifa into the Straits of Gibraltar, and also in the Bahia de Cadiz, where you have a good chance of spotting dolphins and whales. No child will sniff at that.
WIDE OPEN SPACES
If you prefer to head inland and go hiking, so you and your family can get closer to see Andalucian native fauna in its natural habitat, there are plenty of unspoilt natural parks with woods, waterfalls and picnic areas waiting for you. Near Malaga, you’ve got La Axarquia, with its pretty white towns; the Montes de Malaga and Sierra de las Nieves, as well as the Fuente de Piedra lake, famous for its flamingos. Further inland, the magnificent Sierra Nevada and Cazorla National Park (Granada and Jaen) have dramatic mountain scenery and wildlife galore. You will need to take a guided tour in Huelva’s coastal Doñana National Park, as no cars are allowed.
Despeñaperros Park in Jaen province has great cascadas (waterfalls), as does the Sierra de Tejeda, which straddles Malaga and Granada provinces. Near Sevilla, the Sierra Norte has the Cascadas de Huesna.