“Why can’t we go on more holidays like this?” asks my 13-year-old as he tucks into his second bowl of ice-cream. We’ve spent the day kayaking in the sea and learning how to shoot a bow and arrow in the woods. We’ve aimed water cannons at each other and whizzed down the slides in the water park – it’s no surprise he likes it so much at Tui Magic Life Calabria.
I haven’t seen my only-too-often-grumpy teen laugh this much in months. Fun is very much on the menu at Tui’s latest resort in Calabria, Southern Italy, but it’s not the kind of enforced fun that has made me wary of all-inclusive family resorts in the past. Here, the fun is in deciding what you want to do when.
If you’ve got active kids that want to spend all afternoon in the water – swimming, windsurfing, kayaking – after a morning of tennis and archery lessons, then go for it. But you could just as easily spend your days reading in a hammock in the woods, visiting the spa, eating your body weight in Italian food and dipping in and out of one of the five swimming pools. Or better still, do all of it.
This is our first experience of a family holiday at an all-inclusive and it’s getting a big thumbs up from my teenage son. As we walk through the woods to go and watch the sunset on the beach, we both listen to the cicadas in the eucalyptus trees. Harry takes my hand (a rare occurrence these days) and whispers, “Thanks for bringing me here.”
It’s one of many special moments we had at Tui Magic Life Calabria. Read on to find out what we loved about this family-friendly all-inclusive.
The swimming pools
My son was excited when he heard about the five pools at the resort. They’re all different. The biggest pool gets busy early – there’s more of a party atmosphere here, with music and flamingo inflatables. We liked the smaller family pool which was quieter and more like the pools you get in intimate boutique hotels. There’s also a small children’s pool and a stylish adults-only pool for people booked into the private lodge.
But our favourite had to be the splash park with its colourful slides and jets of water. When you’ve slid down all the water slides you can walk through arches of water and fire the water cannons. My Harry could have spent hours here – and there are plenty of sun loungers so that the grown-ups can relax while the children play.
There’s a real Mediterranean feel to Tui Magic Life Calabria. Palm trees and pink bougainvillea, two-storey, apricot-coloured buildings with terracotta roofs.
The family rooms are on two levels – a large double bedroom leading onto a balcony on the ground floor, and stairs going up to a good-sized mezzanine level with two single beds. The downstairs bathroom has a walk-in shower and there’s lots of wardrobe space upstairs and down as well as a television on both levels. Muted tones of cream and beige dominate and bright blue bedspreads add a touch of colour.
A 10-minute stroll past pine trees and tempting hammocks slung between the trees brings you to the hotel’s private sandy beach. We spent a couple of mornings kayaking here. There’s a watersports centre, sunloungers and a beach bar where you can get drinks, slices of pizza and – much to Harry’s delight – a create-your-own gelato area where you can scoop up various flavours of ice-cream to have in your cornet.
It’s worth noting that the sea gets deep quite close to the shore so it’s more suited to older children or stronger swimmers.
The walk to the beach is a magical experience in its own right – the woods look as if they belong in a fairytale. The path leads through a forest of eucalyptus trees and a Chill Out Zone with hammocks, the perfect place for an afternoon nap.
The beach is a great place to be in the evening too, when you can get a cocktail and watch the sunset.
You could come here for the food alone. It’s delicious and there’s plenty of it. My son was in heaven when he discovered the table of sweet treats at the breakfast buffet. There are at least five different kinds of doughnuts, home-made cakes and pastries as well as a pancake bar, plates of cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit, smoothies and eggs any way you like.
There are large buffet spreads at Magico, the main restaurant, for lunch and dinner and you can eat here as many times as you want. We were very impressed with the wide selection: a huge range of salads, grilled meat and fish, a pasta bar with lots of different sauces and pizzas made right in front of you. You could easily eat something different every day.
We especially loved our meals in Tui Magic Life Calabria’s other restaurants – Trattoria and The Flavour, where speciality food is served in a more intimate setting. Trattoria is the place to go for Italian food on a terrace overlooking the mountains. We had the most heavenly Italian feast here – plate after plate of gorgeous grub from burrata cheese with parma ham to polenta with porcini mushrooms, saltimbocca and wild boar stew.
The food is just as good at The Flavour and the setting, right on the beach, is even more special. Food here is a selection of treats from countries where there are Tui Magic Life properties (Italy, Greece, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt). A plate of six small starters from each country is followed by your choice of main course and then six mini desserts. It’s a lovely place to watch the sun set and kids can play on the sand between courses.
Guests can eat at both restaurants as part of the all-inclusive deal. You can pay extra (€10 per adult, €5 per child) to eat here more often, something I’d definitely recommend.
And of course, this being a 24-hour all-inclusive resort, you can help yourself to food and drink at any time of the day or night. What kid wouldn’t love being able to order a lemonade or create their own gelato whenever they fancy? Cocktails for the grown ups feel like a real treat too.
Another big advantage of an all-inclusive is the wide range of activities that you can do for free. Here, you can go kayaking and windsurfing, have tennis and archery lessons, take a mountain bike tour or learn to waltz in a dancing class.
The options for children are even more varied. The four kids’ clubs at Tui Magic Life Calabria range from the Mini Club for 3-to-6-year-olds to Teens Time for 13-to-16-year-olds. Children can dip in and out of these depend on which activities take their fancy.
There’s plenty going on in the evening too, from Mini Discos for the little ones to big live shows with West End songs.
Tui Magic Life Calabria gets full marks for its location in beautiful Calabria, at the southern tip of Italy. It’s not as well known as places like the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre but it’s every bit as gorgeous, with picture-perfect Italian towns and a dramatic coastline.
The hotel is on the Costa degli Dei, the Coast of Gods, in the south west of Calabria. The pretty town of Pizzo is only a 15-minute drive from the resort. The charming town has a castle and historic centre with cobbled streets, cafés and a 15th-century castle. Even better, it’s the home of tartufo, a delicious chocolate truffle ice-cream.
Further around the coast you can visit the lovely town of Tropea, perched on a cliff overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the picturesque fishing village of Scilla.
The hotel organises a boat trip along the coast which stops off for snorkelling in the sea. If you’re lucky you’ll even spot dolphins.
Take a look at Pizzo in Calabria: Italy’s Secret Gelato Town to find out more about the delightful town of Pizzo.
The eco-friendly touches
It’s the norm now for hotels to stop using plastic straws and to discourage guests from having their towels and bedsheets washed every day but we felt that Tui Magic Life Calabria went that bit further to encourage guests to be eco-friendly. There are recycling stations all over the resort making it easy for you to recycle your rubbish, and water fountains so that you can top up water without needing to use endless plastic bottles.
Room for improvement
Tui Magic Life Calabria has only been open since May, and although we were really impressed with our overall experience, there were a couple of things that could have made our stay even better.
Most guests arrive on a Saturday and it does feel a bit hectic when you check in. We were encouraged to leave our luggage at reception in order for it to be delivered to our rooms – but wished we hadn’t when it took over an hour to arrive.
Tui Magic Life has a very good app which you can download onto your phone. You can use it to find out what activities are taking place every day and to book restaurants. That said, I would have found it really helpful to have a booklet in the room with more information about the hotel and its facilities. Not everybody wants to use their phone all the time when they’re on holiday.
A seven-night stay at Tui Magic Life Calabria costs from £621 per person for two adults and two children, when booked online. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick and all-inclusive accommodation.
Disclosure: We visited on a press trip and our stay at TUI Magic Life Calabria was courtesy of TUI in exchange for coverage on my blog and social media. All opinions are, of course, entirely my own.