The Hotel Ondamar in Caniço de Baixo
During my second visit to the island Madeira, I spent the second half of my time there in the Hotel Ondamar in the bath resort Caniço. Thus, during my vacation I moved from Calheta at the south west of the island to Caniço at the south east of the island. The big advantage of this was that it was possible to discover the whole island, as Madeira is too big to explore the complete island just from one location.
The hotel complex
The 4 stars hotel Ondamar is a part of a huge hotel complex in which several different kinds of hotels meet together. But the complex is not closed to the exterior as it is the case in hotel club complexes, but accessible for everybody. This has to be like that, as in the hotel complex, there are 4 public restaurants in which one can, as an hotel guest, dine at special conditions.
During the first day there, one is first impressed and confused at the same time by the size of the hotel complex; in fact a few days are needed to be able to get completely orientated; What can be expected in the hotel complex? Of course, there is the obligatory pool right in front of the hotel. But there is a further little pool right down at the sea. In order to get there, one has to go downstairs for approximately 50 metres from the hotel or take the lift. Thus, the hotel is situated on a cliff at a height of approximately 50 metres above the sea. Of course, the hotel also has an own access to the sea.
In the hotel complex, there are numerous bars and possibilities of entertainment. What is very important there is sports and fitness, but I will talk later about this; Right at the hotel area there is a diving centre with a diving school. It is hardly possible to learn how to dive and practice it in a more comfortable way.
Within the complex there is also a little supermarket in which the prices are so high (for example, one coke can for more than 1 euro) that it is better to buy there only in emergency cases. And it is also very appropriate for this purpose, as it is opened at 7 days per week.
This all sounds great and huge, but the Hotel Ondamar is, with approximately 100 rooms, a middle-sized hotel; the two other hotels in the complex are of a similar size. Thus, one is never in a crowd of people, as the hotel guests are nicely spread over the big sized complex. What is also to be mentioned in a positive way is that within the hotel area, there are a lot of parking places. I found it very comfortable that it was possible to park the car practically right at the backside of ones room.
The bathing resort Caniço, situation of the hotel
Where is the Hotel Ondamar generally located? Between the capital Funchal and the airport, the bathing resort Caniço arised. While in former times, Caniço was a little location in which the inhabitants mainly lived from the cultivation of vegetables, the location developed to be the touristical metropolis of Madeira. The location is mainly visited by german tourists; Additionally, there are numerous inhabitants of Funchal that want to leave the buzzle of the city and bought a little house in the quiet neighbouring place.
Caniço is divided in two; the real centre of the location is situated at a height of approximately 200 m above the sea. The hotels, appartments and restaurants are situated in the lower Caniço de Baixo. Both parts are closely communicated by a bus line; the march from Caniço de Baixo into the centre can be very sudorific at sunshine.
In Caniço de Baixo there are numerous hotels, restaurants, diving schools and also little tourist shops. Thus, in the evenings, one does not have to stay in the hotel complex at all, but can have a walk through the little streets and have a beer somewhere else. In the upper Caniço there is everything what is expected from a little town, banks, supermarkets, doctors and coiffeurs. I recommend to everybody to supply himself with enough beverages and snacks in a supermarket in Caniço right in the very first day, as the prices of the mini market of the hotel complex are 2-3 times higher.
Touristically, Caniço is of course conveniently located, not only due to the reason that at the south east, the average weather of the year is more sunny and nicer, but also because from here, one can get very fast to the south east strip of the island in which there is the island capital Funchal at the highest mountain of the island and in the hinking areas at the south east of the island. But those who want to discover the north west of the island has a long way to go and will not be able to do it within one day.
Not only the tourists but also the inhabitants of the city do their shoppings in the closely located capital Funchal. This is the reason why there are so many buses driving from Caniço to Funchal. The normal bus trip takes 45 minutes; if one takes an express bus, one arrives after 15 minutes at the capital. It is not possible to be faster by car, not to mention the exhausting search for a parking place!
Beach and pool area
Even if Madeira is a hiking island, a nice pool in the hotel is a must, even if it is only for getting refreshed and a little relaxed after a hiking tour. The pool is located in the Hotel Ondamar right in front of the main building, right in front of the breakfast hall. The water basin is not very big indeed; but instead there is plenty of space for the deck chairs. The lower part of the pool is isolated for the little kids.
I found it very pleasant that at the level of the pool there was a second sun terrace in which it was quiet and one could not hear anything except the sea. Even if in the pool there were children having fun, at the sun terrace at the backside it was possible to lie there for hours without being really disturbed - thus a paradise for bookworms and layabouts. And if one feels a little hungry or thirsty, there are only a few metres to walk to get to the pool bar.
But the much more attractive pool is not located at the hotel level, but down at the sea. From the hotel level, one has to go downstairs for approximately 50 metres down to the sea in order to get to the sea bathing area. Of course, one can also take the lift to go down the altitude difference; At the sea level, there is a cliffy bathing area with several sun terraces, a little pool, a restaurant and, of course, an access to the sea. Down there, one guaranteed only hears the sea surge. It is a great feeling to lie right at the cliff and to have the sea right at the front.
The sea bathing area is public, thus at the week ends, also the local people of Funchal or Caniço come here to bath. At a strong sea condition, the pool area at the sea is closed; one can indeed go down there in any case, but it is prohibited to bath. Of course, at the week ends one has to hurry up in order to get a good place.
By the way, in the hotel Ondamar, some very nice pool towels are included in the price. These towels can be also taken to the sea pool downstairs.
The Onda Revital Club
I already mentioned in the beginning that sport and fitness is very important in the Hotel Ondamar. The Onda Revival Club belongs to the hotel complex; it is a big fitness- and wellness club under German management. The sportsclub is public, so that one meets a lot of local people in the evenings. As an hotel guest, one has a free access to a big fitness center, a nice indoor swimming pool with sauna and steam bath and a big multipurpose hall. Sportsmen appreciate this, as in the fitness room there are not only 2-3 multifunctional devices as in many other hotels, but it is a full-fledged fitness centre with modern special devices for each body part.
But the most beautiful places are the indoor swimming pool and the sauna area, especially if one caughts a rainy day in Madeira. Here, one can really relax. As an hotel guest, one gets the towels and the sauna towels for free. This is luxury!
In the Onda Revital Sport Club there are also plenty of activities like it is common for a fitness centre, in which one can take part for free as an hotel guest, for example spinning in a separated room where there are approximately 40 spinning bikes. Of course, these programes are scheduled for the evenings when the local people have time. As an hotel guest, one gets into a conflict with the meal times so that unfortunately, one cannot make use of this attractive programs. Finally, the dinner is also a highlight of each holiday!
But in the Onda Revital Club there is much more than fitness and recovering. Those who want to have it really pleasant can get some sinfully expensive special baths prepared. Those who have a back pain can get massaged by professional masseurs. And those who are really sick, for them there is a physiotherapy, osteopathy and much more. As you can see, in the Hotel Ondamar it is not only possible to have holidays but also a treatment of health or beauty.
But now I want to mention an important thing why some people go to the Onda Revital Club that has nothing to do with sports and wellness: there is a PC with an internet connection that is free for the hotel guests. What a service to be able to read quickly the emails!
The rooms of the hotel
Now we come to the most important point of a holiday hotel which is the hotel room; Each room has a straight view to the sea, even if one is 50 metres above the sea level. On the terrace, we found a little table and two chairs; from there, there was a beautiful view down to the sea. But know I will talk about the room itself.
At first sight, everything seems very posh; that is also contributed by the glossy parquet floor and the beautiful furniture. We found a little plate with fruits as a welcome present; Thus, one immediately feels to be welcomed. Also in the bath room there was a little plate prepared, but not with fruits but shampoo, kleenex, soap, etc. But this was nonrecurring, because once the little shampoo bottle was emptied, it was not refilled during the rest of our stay.
Our room was very big; we nearly did not find the tiny TV. The device was indeed one of the smallest that I ever saw in an hotel but therefore it had all german programs, so that one was informed about the things happening at home.
The most important part of the room, the bed, was perfect! As a tall person, it is very important to me that when I lie in bed, my feet are still on the matress and don't hang over it for 10 cm. And the big matress was even better: a big double bed with a big matress, there we could cuddle...
The bathroom was beautiful and clean. As a real highlight, we found two bathrobes. Of course, they were very useful, as we also sometimes went to the sauna and the steam bath in the Onda Revital.
And the air conditioner of the room? - a must in Madeira! Well, indeed, some air came out of the grooves, but unfortunately, it was not that real fresh air to cool down the room.
The hotel staff
The hotel is under German management and most of the visitors are German speaking. Thus, it was of course very pleasant that the major part of the staff spoke German so that there were no communication problems.
The reception staff fulfilled each of one's wishes. I really appreciate this in an hotel, if the personnel of the reception is really willed to help so that one does not get a bad conscience by having to interrupt the personnel from their real work; No matter if the question was regarding a bus schedule or the weather at the other side of the island, one got useful and friendly answers.
I found the room staff to be very pleasant. By noon time, our room was always done. It is really nice to come back from breakfast or from a little morning walk and to find the room done. And then there was also a little highlight, indeed not every day but often: in the afternoon a chambermaid came in and put a little chocolate on our pillows. Small but nice, as these little extras were so delicious that I looked for them in several supermarkets without succeeding.
When in the last day it was permitted to us to stay in the hotel room until 2.00 p.m., I was truly convinced about the staff. This is the way I want it to be in a holiday when i stay in a 4 stars hotel.
Food and drinks
What is the most beautiful hotel if the food is not good? Thank god, this is not the case in the Hotel Ondamar. Normally, people book half pension, that means that one has breakfast and dinner at the buffet included. But in the hotel complex, there are several restaurants that one also wants to try. Is it then better to abstain from the half pension and dine outside straight away?
No, as the hotel accomodates those guests who want to eat outside: if one abstains from the buffet dinner, one gets a voucher of 16,46 € per person that can be redeemed in any restaurant. But one is committed to the choosen restaurant; thus, one is not completely free. But the food in the restaurants is not overpriced at all, so that with the voucher, one gets a full meal, and if it is not the most expensive choice, there is also a dessert included. The beverages are anyhow at extra costs, also by dining at the buffet.
Thus one has always the choice between dining normally at the buffet or to go to a restaurant of the hotel complex. No matter where, one never needs cash, as one pays with the room number.
Breakfast and dinner at the buffet
If one books half pension in the Hotel Ondamar, two meals per day are included. The breakast as also the dinner is to be taken at the buffet. This is good and comfortable, as one does not have to care about anything, one simply goes there if hungry and/or gets up in the morning and eats there. Of course, the breakfast does specially well to oneself if one gets a place outdoors.
In the Hotel Ondamar I experienced for the first time that one has to bring the coffee pot to the table by oneself. Of course it is more comfortable to get the cofee pot brought to the table, but instead one does have not to wait but sit at one table and
get the coffe by oneself. There were so many times I sat in the breakfast room of other hotels and had to wait for ten minutes to get the coffee.
The breakfast buffet is of a good 4-stars standard; from müsli up to warm sausages. Once I simply asked one of the staff members if I could have an omelette done; I promptly got it to the table; what a service!
The dinner buffet is between 6. 30 p.m. and 9.00 p.m.. The buffet is very abundant and one can really get stuffed. The quality is respective to a 4-star hotel, the preparation of the food is very nice and it is really tasty. The drinks are brought to the table but they are charged separately.
Restaurant O Galo
Everybody should at least dine once at the restaurant O Galo, not only because of its excellent food served in a nice atmosphere but also because one dines in a wonderful little restaurant.The rotund house is originally arranged: the chairs look like wine barrils, the floor is a huge mosaic, a giant basket is hanging from the ceiling. While listening to quiet classic music and a wonderful view to the shore, one dines in an unforgettable atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the hotel forces one to arrive latest at 07.30 p.m. Of course, at this time we were the only and first guests. The local people arrived very much later. Nobody could tell me the reason why the tourists were forced to dine so early.
But the food was a great pleasure, this already started with the freshly baked local Bolo de Caco (sweet potato bread). The service was excellent, the wine was good. And we only paid 2 € in addition to the value of our vouchers, bread and dessert included.
The Restaurant Atlantico is situaded in a romantic and slightly adventurous way. It is right down at the sea. To get there, one can either use the stairs or the lift to the restaurant. If one snatches an outdoor place right at the balustrade, one can watch the sunset during dinner with a beautiful view to the sea.
The Restaurant Atlantico is a fish restaurant that has excellent
fish and mussels. My monkfish Cataplana tasted so well the first time I was there, that I ordered it in the next day. Also the meat, salmon and pasta was excellent; I don't want to call the Atlantico a posh restaurant, but the food was really something special.
A special meal has also a special price, doesn't it? It is unbelievable, but despite we had a starter, we "had to" order a dessert in order to make full use of our voucher of 16,46 €. I can only say: my compliments to the cookers and my compliments to the hotel, as they offer the possibility to dine in such a gourmet restaurant instead of offering a common half pension.
And the service? As long as the trained waiters had the time, one was served in a perfect way; but when several people demanded their wishes at the same time, one had to pour the wine and water by oneself from time to time. While in the restaurant O Galo one listens to slight classic music, we enjoyed in the Atlantico a pleasant and light pop music; it fitted very well to the sound of the sea rushing.
Probably, people do not dine in the Pizzeria Galosol, but maybe lunch when one gets slighty hungry. Here, nothing but pasta and pizza is served. During our first visit, the pizza oven did not work so that we had pasta; this was terrible: the pasta carbonara with so many bones in the bacon that one felt like a dog; additionally, the service was unfriendly and we first got a wrong dish; so, was the pizzeria a complete flop?
We went there for a second time and ordered pizza, and all was right with the world again. At out first attempt we noticed afterwards that the local people immediately left the restaurant when they got said that there is only pasta available. Thus: in the Pizzeria Galosol there is good pizza but miserable pasta.
House of pancakes
There is another restaurant in the complex: a tiny little house of pan cakes. Does everybody know a house of pan cakes? For many guests, such a restaurant is something completely new: one gets a huge pan cake on which there are many kinds of ingredients like simple apple purree up to meat, thus basically a pizza but with pan cake dough.
The pancakes are incredible: for approximately 4 € one gets a huge pancake that is not only delicious but also is 100% satiable. Normally, when I eat in a house of pancakes or a Creperie when I am in France, I still have a sweet pancake as a dessert. But in this house of pancakes I could not handle a second one. What a pleasure to have here a noon snack, thus this is an absolute recommendation and a must for each guest of the hotel!
The hotel guests
As already mentioned, the hotel is firmly in german hands; most of the hotel guests are german speakers; I cannot state an average age as all ages are represented like young couples that make every day a hiking tour, little groups of middle-aged divers and older people doing rather a cure vacation than a sightseeing holiday in the island.
Of course, the fact that german was mainly spoken had a lot of advantages; but personaly, I prefer mixed cultured guests; but I am a fan of foreign languages and I am very interested in foreign cultures.
I had an unpleasant experience with an austrian hiking group that behaved at the pool like the disreputeted germans in Mallorca. I had to call the bath attendant when an empty bottle land in the pool at only 10 cm beside my head. This was displeasing, not only for me but also for the other hotel guests. Bus despite that day, everything was quiet and civilised in the hotel complex; as one normally expects it to be.
The Hotel Ondamar is not a common standard hotel like the ones of a typical holiday. It offers plenty of possibilities to spend the holidays like relaxing at the pool up to a diving holiday. Sportsmen get one's money's worth. The Onda Revital Club does not only offer many possibilities to have sports, wellness and therapies, but at the same time it is a guarantee that a bad weather day does not become a wasted day of the holidays.
There is plenty of diversion for the guests by the possibility of having dinner not only at the buffet but also to visit the other restaurants of the complex. I can absolutely recommend everybody a holiday in the Hotel Ondamar and ourselves, we will surely spend our second holiday there one day.
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Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz