The Pestana Colombos is located on the Island of Porto Santo, on the archipelago of Madeira. The hotel is effectively on a sandy beach which stretches for 9km. The hotel is named after Christopher Columbus who lived on Porto Santo for a short time.
We spent a week at the excellent Vidamar Hotel in Madeira and decided to extend our holiday with four days at the Columbos – Friday to Tuesday in May. The Columbos is an all-inclusive hotel – four nights booked direct on the Pestana website cost 885.40 EUR.
There are two routes from Funchal, Madeira to Porto Santo; an almost daily Porto Santo Line ferry which leaves at either 08:00 or 19:00, takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and costs 58 EUR return or a 10 minute flight with SevenAir Aero VIP for which we paid 83 EUR return. The ferry appears to be ridiculously overpriced.
It was just 10 minutes by taxi to the hotel, which has automated high gates, not just a barrier, that allow access before you reach the entrance. We arrived about 13.15.
The reception was empty – not surprising as no other flights had landed.
Check in was quick and we were allocated a standard room (the class we’d booked) despite the hotel being at low occupancy. The title ‘standard’ doesn’t do the room justice as it was exceedingly well appointed; heavy wood, card-operated, entrance door, marble floors, large designer bath, bathrobes, slippers, Bang & Olufsen TV, good free Wi-Fi, mini bar pre-stocked with complimentary drinks and a large terrace.
Only thing missing were tea/coffee making facilities – we found the same missing in the Pestana Casino Park in Madeira.
We quickly left to walk around to the Sister Hotel – Pestana Porto Santo – for lunch. There is only a snack bar open in the Columbos at lunchtime. That may change when occupancy is high.
We were disappointed to find a queue for the restaurant.
We later discovered that the hotel shuttle bus to the main town, returns passengers at around 13.40 and that causes a last minute rush for the restaurant.
The restaurant was a bit of a zoo, crowded, not enough space between tables, not enough space around the buffet, noisy, plenty of children – we found that tables outside on the terrace were much better. The food was okay, but nothing amazing. Bottled water and wine were served at our table. The wine was good quality. All the staff were really friendly, although rushed off their feet.
It is also possible to skip the restaurant lunch and just pick up hot and cold snacks from around the bar areas of each hotel.
After lunch, we had some time to look at the Porto Santo Hotel.
The pools were too cold to swim in. We had a look at the adults-only spa, which looked beautiful.
The water was a little cold, but the weather outside wasn’t that warm and I believe they rely on the Sun to heat rooftop radiators.
On our walk back to the Columbos, we stopped by guest services, where they can book dinner at one of three table service restaurants; Mediterranean, Madeirian and Japanese. Imagine our disappointment when we were told that as guests for four nights, we could only choose to eat one night in the table service restaurants. TUI package guests staying seven nights can choose three. Our disappointment was further compounded when we discovered that only one restaurant per night was open, none on Mondays and all were booked. Our preference was for Koi, the Japanese Restaurant on Sunday night, but the guest services lady offered to also try and get us a table in the Maderian on Saturday.
On Saturday we received a reservation for 21.30 which was too late for us. We re-visited guest services and explained that time was unsuitable and we’d like to try for Koi on Sunday – sadly we were never offered a reservation there. I visited the front desk to complain and after explaining the issue to a number of different employees, I finally met the Hotel Manager, Angela Quintal, who apologised and we agreed a small reduction to our final bill.
We checked out the Columbos indoor swimming pool. Sadly it was nowhere near as opulent as the Porto Santo version – but was much warmer. This also meant that it was full of families and excited children.
The beach is accessed via a number of attractive bridges.
Halfway across the bridge, I could see hotel sun loungers. Although these don’t have a view to the Sea, they are free and also sheltered from the wind.
The beach is beautiful.
Sadly the Sea was very cold and the beach very windy. The sunbeds are chargeable, which I thought was pretty cheeky.
There is a free shuttle to the town of Porto Santo. This turned out to be a coach. The driver took us to a parking lot, where we swapped the coach for an open-deck version. He then went back to the Porto Santo Hotel and picked up passengers from there. The town was quaint, but there wasn’t really much to see. We took the coach back to arrive at 13.40 and so faced queues again at the lunch buffet.
The Columbos opened its buffet restaurant for the evening. This was so much nicer than the Porto Santo, with plenty of space and better quality food. All the staff were really friendly.
The downsides were:
- Restaurant opens at 18.30 and closes the doors to new diners at 19.30. It then re-opens at 20.30. I can almost understand this two-sittings rule when the hotel is full, but the dining room was always half empty when we were there.
- Tables are very close together and we were heavily dissuaded from sitting at tables laid for four.
Bottled water and wine were served at our table. The wine was good quality.The staff were really friendly.
Following dinner, we headed to the Columbos Bar. The staff were friendly and service was quick. The spirits/liquor were unknown brands, not top-shelf and while these are fine for making cocktails, you would be disappointed with a straight whiskey. There was a great singer.
Breakfast in the Coumbos restaurant was pretty good, with an egg/omelette station. The downside was that tea and coffee weren’t served at the table and guests had to queue for an automatic Nescafe machine. Good Barista-style coffee was available from the Columbos day and evening bars – not sure about the Porto Santo bars.
The Columbos rooms are arranged in a quadrangle. The central atrium is a comfortable sun trap, chairs with plenty of cushions and not windy.
We asked to view the superior rooms. The Sea view rooms were the same as ours, faced the pool area and the Sea in the distance. This was the view.
So I wouldn’t bother paying extra for a Sea-view room.
The suites occupy the four corners of the hotel quadrangle. They have two bedrooms and a separate lounge. They would be ideal for families.
Again, not really worth the extra expense for a couple, but of course accept a free upgrade!
We visited the Porto Santo entertainment area. The animation staff were all very keen and the children loved all the dancing that was encouraged. But the whole place felt a bit more like a British holiday camp – the Columbos Bar was much better, but I guess it depends what you are looking for.
During my conversation with Angela, the Hotel Manager, I raised the following:
- I couldn’t see how the hotel could make money, only open half the year, with so much spent on room furnishings. Angela explained that the original builders had gone bankrupt and Pestana were renting the property from the bank, who had foreclosed.
- That the Columbos should be an adults-only hotel. Angela advised that a third hotel was under construction and that when complete, the Columbos could be made adults only.
- That the two hotel spas were the wrong way around – although there isn’t much that can be done about that.
Bug Report May 2018: Just like Madeira, I wasn’t bothered by any insects at all. No wasps, flies, cockroaches, mosquitoes – nothing 🙂
Would we return? We mostly enjoyed our stay, but probably not. There are plenty of high-end, all inclusive resorts that offer better value, more dine-around choices, top-shelf spirits and also a warm, calm Sea. For example, you would be better paying a little more for a week at the Barceló Dominican Republic.
Pestana Columbos Hotel
Estrada Regional 171,
Sitio do Campo de Baixo , 9400-242 ,