PortAventura theme park deals, queue tips and best rides

How to save money on tickets, beat the queues and choose the best rides for teens to toddlers at this rollercoaster park near Barcelona

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PortAventura World is a very popular Spanish theme park on the Costa Dorada. It’s a bit like Disney (with themed hotels on site) and a bit like Alton Towers (with some tall, fast and crazy rollercoasters), and caters for toddlers all the way to teens. Right next door is the large Caribe water park and since 2017 FerrariLand, which includes a new Stealth-like high drop rollercoaster ride  and an indoor Ferrari experience.

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MFM’s score 4 out of 5

TripAdvisor score 4 out of 5

What age is PortAventura World best for?

It’s a theme park that caters for a wide age range. We’d say it’s best for children who are 8 years and older, but there are rides for younger/smaller children too. What it does do well is suit 8-12 year olds AND teens.

Several of the exciting family rides (such as the Mine train and Grand Canyon Rapids) have a 1.1m height requirement (around 5 years old) so you may have some disappointed young ones. If your child is 1.2m, they’ll be able to go on nearly all of the family rides, but will need to be 1.4m to brave the eye-popping rollercoasters.

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Grand Canyon Rapids

How much does it cost?

£££ Theme parks are never cheap but PortAventura is slightly cheaper compared with the big parks in the UK, such as Legoland or Alton Towers. 2016 daily gate prices are €45 (approx £39) for over 11s and €45 (approx £33) for 4-10s. Under 4s go free.

How to get the cheapest deal

As always, it’s best to shop around rather than just turn up and pay gate price on the day. That said, the deals on the PortAventura website are the same price as the gate.

What you need to do is decide how you want to get the most for your money:

  • Save 50% on a day’s ticket by going in the evening. The night entrance ticket gives you entry to the park when it’s at its quietest – from 7pm to a stamina-pushing midnight. However, several of the rides start closing from 10.30pm.
  • Until 30 September 2016, a 2-day ticket is just €5 (£4) more – as long as you go back the very next day
  • If you want to visit the Caribe Water Park too, you can save €5 on Junior tickets (age 4-10), by buying a 3-day 2-park ticket

Discounts for families with 3+ children under 11

Families with 3 or more children are considered ‘large families’ in Spain, and it enables you to certain discounts. According to the PortAventura website 2016, large families can get a 1-day ticket for everyone for €155 – that’s a saving of €52 for a family of 2 adults 3 children.

Looking at forums where families have used this deal, you need to buy tickets at the gate and will need to take passports with you to prove the children are yours and all aged under 11. It’s probably worth bookmarking on your phone the official website or printing it out the info and taking it along.

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Chupa Chups

Good deal if you’re going just for one day – buy three promotional packs of €1.90 Chupa Chubs Gomis lollies and get €20 off an adult ticket.

Salou offers

If you’re staying in nearby Salou, look out for local promotional offers. In previous years, there have been deals when you buy meals at McDonald’s and certain drinks in local supermarkets.

Should you buy Portaventura tickets in advance?

It’s always worth searching online in advance to see if you can get deals on the above deals. Sites such as 365tickets.co.uk and attractionstix.co.uk are often mentioned on forum sites.

Notice that they’ll offer prices in £ – whereas the park prices are in €, so you’ll need to do some conversions before you can work out the biggest saving. Best to do this before you travel to Spain as many of the tickets will need to be printed out, or even sent out in the post.

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How to beat the queues at Portaventura

If you go in the peak summer months, there will be queues – at the busiest times these can easily be over 2 hours long.

Here are 5 ways to reduce your waiting times without buying an Express Pass…

1 Go on a Friday or a Monday – these are the quietest times
No surprises that Saturday is the busiest day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are also busy. Surprisingly, Sunday can sometimes be one of the quietest..

2 Arrive when it opens at 10am
Yes, you’ll feel like a keeno but we found it took a couple of hours to get really busy. Be aware, lots of rides don’t actually open until 10.30 or 11 (some even later) but it will give you a chance to get a feel for the park and walk the long way to some of the most popular rides.

3 Don’t trust the queue times on the display boards
They seemed to be very haphazard while we were there. A 20 minute queue was actually a 50 minute wait, when 1 hour was displayed it took over 1.5 hours. A lot of the queues are fairly visible – so where you can, look for how long the queue is and how quickly or slowly it’s moving.

4 Don’t stop at the first ride you see
If you arrive before midday, don’t be tempted to join a queue at the start of the park. Instead, head straight to one of the most popular rides towards the back of the park. The queues further away from the entrance are likely to be a bit shorter.

5 Take the shortcut to Shambhala
If you’ve got teenagers whose no 1 ride is Shambhala you can cut 5 mins off your walking time from the entrance by walking through SesamoAventura Land.

Of course, you can also pay to beat the queues. Many visitors swear by the fast pass (here called an Express pass). There are a few options – the cheapest is €29 per person giving you 1 fast pass on 9 of the most popular rides – three of which have a 1.4m height restriction. The Express passes are popular and we saw fairly big queues even in the fast pass lanes. You can buy Express passes on the day within the park – so you can get an idea of how long the queues are before you buy.

Which rides should be on your must-do list?

We’ve done the hard work and tried and tested a whole load of rides for toddlers to teens and beyond. Most have height restrictions, which we’ve listed below. You can check all the park height restrictions on this downloadable PDF

Best rides for teens and brave 10yrs+ who are taller than 1.4m

1. SHAMBHALA – China
Thrill factor 5

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It’s the tallest rollercoaster with the longest drop in Europe (76m) but the big difference to Stealth at Thorpe Park or Oblivion at Alton Towers is that it doesn’t have over the shoulder restraints. There’s simply a lap bar. That’s it. It’s fast, breathtaking and my teenagers couldn’t wait to do it again.

What you need to know: The lap bar comes down tightly and has a thigh-size restriction – you’ll see reviews elsewhere saying some people couldn’t fit in. My rugby-playing teen found it squashed his thighs.

2. DRAGON KHAN – China
Thrill factor 4.5

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Disorientating, tight loops, one after the other, this is an intense ride. When Dragon Khan first appeared in 1995, it was the most extreme in Europe and held the record for ‘inversions’ (where you get turned upside down and then back upright again) until Thorpe Park introduced Colossus. Pure thrill (and an over-the-shoulder restraint).

What you need to know: All that looping and speed means you might find your head bangs against the restraints.

3. CONDOR HURAKAN – Mexico
Thrill factor 5

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A 100m drop ride that offers different ride experiences – sitting, sitting at a tilt or ‘standing’. When we went, you couldn’t choose which one you got – it just depended on which side was ready first. The ascent is very slow and it’s very high. The fall is very fast and according to my teen, the best bit was that you didn’t feel like you were securely held in…

What you need to know: Despite the fact that it’s an Express pass ride with serious thrills, we found the queues were shorter than many of the other rides.

4 FURIOUS BACO – Mediterrania
Thrill factor 4.5

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You sit on ‘winged’ seats, which means there’s nothing above or below you – you’re next to the track. It’s got an extremely fast start (0-84mph in 3.5 seconds), and loops and twists and turns, swooping down over water. But it’s brutal on your head and neck – jolting you around from start to finish. You pay for that thrill.

What you need to know: The queue is deceptively long – like the ride, it twists and turns tightly, and is very slow. We also had issues with queue-jumpers – friends climbing under barriers to join their mates. Tough when we’d all been queuing for more than an hour.

5 HORROR IN TEXAS – Far West
Thrill factor 5

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A live action zombie walk-through experience, not for the nervous, but seriously thrilling if you like this kind of thing. It does have an additional cost of €5 per person – we thought it was worth it.

What you need to know:  For ultimate thrills be at the front of the group (you walk through together in small groups).

Best rides for 5-10s

For children over 1.3m

1. YUCATAN – Mexico

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A fast spinning ride that works on centrifugal force – throwing you against the person on the outer side. Make sure your smallest child is on the inside or they’ll get a bit squashed.

What you need to know: This is a stomach-churner. Don’t attempt straight after eating.

2. SERPIENTE EMPLUMADA – Mexico

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A swirling ride which gets faster and faster and bounces you up and down, as you swing round in circular groups of seats.

3. KONTIKI – Polynesia

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A swinging boat built above the lake. Sit at the ends of the boat for the most intense ride, or in the middle for a less stomach-lurching experience.

Best rides for those over 1.2m

1. TUTUKI SPLASH – Polynesia

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See the word splash, it’s important. You will get seriously wet on this ride. There are a couple of drops, including one big one, plus onlookers can squirt more water at the riders from the bridge above.

What you need to know: This is a very popular ride, so if you don’t have an Express Pass, best to ride on this first thing in the morning or at the end of the day

2. MAGIC FISH – Sesamoaventura

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You stand in a fish and spin it round from the platform using your steering wheel. Time it right and you’ll be able to soak any onlookers. Satisfyingly fun.

3. STAMPIDO – Far West

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A racing rollercoaster – you’re either in the red or blue train and ‘race’ against each other. The biggest thing, though, is that this is a wooden rollercoaster, with sharp drops and rickety fast turns.

What you need to know: Boy is this a rough ride – hold onto your heads, it’s a real bone-jolter

Best rides for those over 1.1m

1. SILVER RIVER FLUME – Far West

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Like Pirate Falls at Legoland, this is a log flume ride with a big, very wet drop at the end. Sit at the front for the biggest splash.

2. GRAND CANYON RAPIDS – Far West

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Another very wet ride, this one’s a bit like the Viking Ride at Legoland but longer and much, much wetter. You’ll be squirted and soaked at various points along the way – the best bit is that not everyone gets drenched each time. It all depends where you’re sitting….

3. EL DIABLO – TREN DE LA MINA – Mexico

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A fun mine train that’s not as fast or scary as Disney World’s Thunder Mountain but still manages to hit a top speed of 40 mph.

4. TOMAHAWK – Far West

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It may have a fairly small height requirement but this ride requires nerves – a wooden rollercoaster with some sharp drops.

Best rides for under 5s

1. ESTACIO DEL NORD – Mediterraneo

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A fun (and useful) ride on a steam train that departs from the site entrance and stops off at Sesamoaventura (the area for younger children) before heading to Far West land. A great way to ease tired legs.

2. CANOES – Polynesia

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A gentle water ride through palm trees and tropical plants with jungle sounds echoing round.

3. BALLOONS – China

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Ride up and round in a balloon and gondola, set in a playground area with slides and swings.

4. IMPERIAL COBRA – China

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Swirling snake ride that’s fast enough to give little thrills and encourage hands-free bravado.

5. TAMI TAMI – Sesamoaventura

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If your preschooler is feeling brave and is over 1m tall, then this may be their first introduction to a rollercoaster.  Smooth but exhilarating for first-timers.

Give it a miss?

Ice Age 4D – massive queues and poor reviews. Spend your time elsewhere

Other essential stuff you should know

Eating and drinking
You’re not allowed to take food or drink into the park. Bags can be searched at the entrance but it’s a bit random and the search we had wasn’t thorough. You will need lots of water in the park. If you’re asked to leave bottles of water outside, thow away the water and take in the empty bottles – you can fill them up from the water fountains inside.

Food is generally what you expect from theme parks – mass catering, fast food and generally pricey for what you get.

Queuing in the sun
Not all the queueing areas have cover from the sun, particularly in Sesamoaventura so go prepared with hats, lots of suncream and plenty of water.

Portaventura bus
There’s a bus service (BusPlana) which travels down the coastal towns such as Salou and Tarragona, and takes you directly to Portaventura from just €2. It runs in the evening too so will work if you’re staying late.

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Shows
There are a number of free shows. One of the most popular is the Bang Bang West Show (above) in the Far West region. There’s also a small firework display at the end of each day – but you’ll need to stay up to 11.30pm to see it.

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