12 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
The original and at the moment, still th...
"The original and at the moment, still the best, in terms of luxury in The Gambia. (The new boy on the 5 star block, the Sheraton, currently experiencing teething issues by all accounts.)
The Coconut Residence hotel is small but packs a powerful punch when it comes to looking after it's guests.
There are just a few rooms (or suites as the hotel calls them) - all of them spacious and comfortable. Found either in the well tended, mature gardens, or in the colonial style building, which houses just over half the given rooms available, and overlooks a pool.
Rooms are cleaned several times a day, including towel changes as required.
Food is served around the main pool - although this in itself tends to put off guests from using the pool .... space around this pool is given over to tables rather than sun beds.
Breakfast is extensive with a 5 star menu including the best of british as well as more local offerings. Lunch, should you feel you need for more food, is executed to perfection with a menu that offers an excellent selection of salads, local dishes and a great club sandwich!
Evening meals are really what this hotel is known for - 3 courses of exquisitely executed food, all under the watchful eye of the formidable maitre d'hotel ... Andrea. Nothing escapes her eye - she is watchful of every dish that comes out of the kitchens and is keen is surpass guests' expecatations.
The downsides to this hotel can be put down to lack of beachside location (the hotel provides courtesy travel to and from the local beach, itself a fairly basic open beach that fronts onto the somewhat wild Atlantic ocean - tides ARE strong).
Also note the limited swimming opportunity at this hotel. The pools are more of an afterthought here - small and tucked away - however they do the job of providing sunbathers somewhere to cool off in. Cool being the operative word - the pools are unheated ... although in an almost constant thirty something temperature (celsius) , this is probably very wise indeed.
One thing to note is the upcoming beach version of this hotel. Just a mile or so away, located beachside and due to open summer 2008. This promises to tick the boxes that the current Coconut Residence is unable to (ie beach location and space for swimming pools, not to mention a dedicated Spa facility).
The Coconut Beach Resort will be a byword for luxury and perhaps finally, a viable alternative to the scenic, luxury winter sun holidays that normally be found more readily in the Carribean. Only with The Gambia - flying time is around half plus resides in the same time zone as the UK.
- Travel date: Mon 3rd of March 2008
An absolutely wonderful holiday. The foo...
"An absolutely wonderful holiday. The food and accommodation were excellent and the tours were great too.
The only thing I was not keen on was being mobbed (not in a nasty or confrontational way) by locals wanting to be your guide and children asking for money/pens/sweets if you ventured outside the resort. You still felt safe and they went away if you said a firm "No thank you."
Gambia Experience know what they are doing and everything went like clockwork."
- Travel date: Thu 31st of May 2007
A great boutique hotel
"I am just amazed by some of the previous revues perhaps I should start by putting things in context. Gambia is a small 40 miles by 200 mile country along the Gambia river. It is desperately poor with the average wage Â£4 per week. Most of the Gambia river environs around Banjul appear to be mangrove swamp. The beaches are not stunning (in a Barbados or Indian ocean way).
We were there at the beginning of May. We chose it because we had personal recommendations from friends about the hotel, it was bound to be hot, it was short haul (about 5Â½ hours) and only an hour time difference. (They donât have summer time) The hotel was not very full during our visit and that may change things because I would agree it is on a fairly small plot.
The hotel does not have direct beach access which is not a problem as the beaches are not great and beach access opens an hotel up to local traders! The hotel will deliver and collect you from a local (1000 meters) beach club for free with a private car and driver. The hotel security is very tight, which might be significant for some.
This is a great boutique hotel and lives up to most of the things you would expect from such a classification. OK, they donât automatically bring you an ice bucket and water when you choose a pool bed which is bad but one good thing is they donât keep offering to clean your sun glasses, which you often get in upmarket hotels (One and only Mauritius) and with which I get fed up.
Our room was large; the style is perhaps âShabby Chicâ. The air conditioning works well. I would agree with all previous reviewers that the towels are just not up to the standard you would expect: plenty of them but grey and washed out. Watch out for the shower controls which have no thermostatic control and can easily scold.
This hotel has about 30 rooms 60 guests at max and 120 staff! As a consequence the service is excellent. This is the hotel that the president uses for visiting heads of state. (The hotel ask you not to tip but leave a donation to be divided between all the staff at the end Â£30 to Â£50 seems the going rate. A 50 Dalasis tip worth about Â£1 is greeted with delight in the hotel but rather snatched at the airport.)
One of the best things about the hotel is the restaurant. The British chef is absolutely top notch. His deputies are equally competent. When you book half board you get to eat anything from the al a carte menu as well as the dishes of the day. In addition they will cook anything for you. I asked for eggs Benedict for breakfast which required the chef to make up fresh Hollandaise and it was all delivered perfectly executed in about 20 minutes. Donât get me wrong this is not Michelin 1 star but it is say OXO tower brasserie. The Maitre Dâ was excellent and ran a really tight ship. She is only present in the winter months.
The hotel can organise meet and greet from the airport for about Â£16 against the Gambia experience charge of Â£60. Hotel cars have registrations Coco1, Coco2 etc. and are recognised by the police as sometimes carrying the president so they just get waived through checkpoints.
Monarch had the smallest seats (narrow) I have ever flown. An unrelated passenger across the aisle seriously asked the crew if it was designed for the Japanese! Astreus were OK.
A river trip on one of the hotel boats with Chef and crew is a very pleasant way to spend a day for four or six people (Â£50 each).."
- Travel date: Wed 30th of May 2007
get real, go with sensible expectations and it's lovely
"Having read recent grumbly reviews, I recalled I never got round to reviewing it myself, having spent a week Dec 06.
Of course this is NOT international 5 star luxury standard and it has its shortcomings, but this is a poor country and you come here for guaranteed winter sun with no jetlag, where else can you get that?
I doubt you can do better in Gambia ( except theres a new Sheraton which may please those looking for slick European large scale).
This hotel is charming, quirky and delightfully relaxing. Theres really nothing to do here but chill out. Its quiet, laid back and very friendly.
The rooms are large and attractive, though rather dark. The terraces are either inward facing and dark like ours, or on the main walkways so not at all private. And you either love having roaming monkeys or you don't!
The food is terrific, though I wouldnt stay 2 weeks as the chef's repetitive presentation with the same swirly sauces and always identical starter dips gets samey after 7 nights. That said, we loved pretty much every dish we had. The fish is particularly good. Andrea the German Maitre D' is lovely, welcoming and friendly in a slightly formal, old fashioned colonial sort of way which was part of the charm of the place. She runs a tight ship, and service is terrific whenever she is there, and notably slipped a bit on her night off! The half board is good value if you dont want to go out exploring for meals. There isnt much worth going out for anyway, so dont go if you want culture and nightlife, this is purely for unwinding.
You have to be driven to a beach, which we did only once to see the sea but after that preferred lazy days by the pool. The larger pool is wasted by being effectively taken over by the restaurant tables all around, so no-one ever seemed to use it. Thesmaller pool was our daily base and was never busy. Don't go if the sea being on hand is important to you.
We never had any hassle at all. Gambia Experience managed the whole trip very well and protect you from any aggro. One staff member tried to sell us his family hardship story on oiur last night, clearly risking being sacked for doing so as he did it very discreetly and I'm sure if we'd told anyone else he would have been in real trrouble as staff are very well drilled to be ceaselessly polite and never intrusive.
I agree its not really 5 star, the bathroom is mediocre and there are cracked tiles and very grey starchy towels, but be realistic about where you are and its not really a problem. Maybe calling it 4 star would be more sensible then implying a luxury level it doesnt quite live up to.
So if you want pure relaxation with no need to lift a finger or move for a week in midwinter with no jetlag ang guaranteed sun, do go.
If you expect the very best standard in everything then stick to bigger chain names and dont come to a small poor part of Africa , which will leave it to those of us who have discovered the advantages. There were alot of repeat older couples here as another review noted , which shows that if this works for you, it could become a habit!"
- Travel date: Sat 19th of May 2007
A candid review...
"First, if you have already booked this hotel then don't be discouraged by our post - you will have a good time. This hotel is really good value for money.
This said, having read the recent negative reviews (some of which we thought were unfair on the hotel as they commented on Gambia rather than the hotel) and previous excellent reviews we wanted to post a fairly candid review.
- You should be aware that most of the guests are over 45. 60% of all guests are repeat customers and this means a high level of familiarity and interaction between guests and staff. Not a problem but if you are looking for privacy and anonymity then it might not be for you.
- As to privacy, most of the rooms are ground floor and have terraces by walk ways so if you are planning a romantic glass of wine in your dressing gown then forget it!
- The room sizes, quality of fittings etc., vary significantly and most of the repeat guests book specific rooms each year hence you may not get one of the best ones if you are a new visitor. Specifically, the deluxe garden rooms by the pool and restaurant are very noisy and have even less privacy. If you are staying in one of these rooms you will need ear plugs. We imagine that rooms in the main building and villas would be far quieter.
- Just a word of warning about the "private" villas. Although it is possible to book out the whole of any of the four villas and the pool villa you should be aware that they actually contain two or more individual suites and therefore if you have not booked all of the rooms then you will not be alone. It occurred to us that this might be a bit confusing when booking. Also four of the villas (not the pool villa) are actually outside of the main compound of the hotel across a dirty road and within their own gated and locked areas. The pools associated with the villas are tiny.
- The service whilst attentive and personal, varied throughout our stay. Room cleaning standards were mediocre and food service could be extremely fast or extremely slow! When Andrea was working though the service was always excellent.
- The fixtures and fittings in the room were shabby and were not up to the standard portrayed in brochures/ website etc. Whilst management encouraged reporting of faults it seemed that attention to detail was lacking and the whole place probably needs a revamp. However, in view of the fact that the owners are building a new hotel and apparently are planning to sell the Coconut Residence this seems highly unlikely.
- At no stage did the stay in the hotel feel like an African experience more an old fashioned attempt at how things used to be in luxury hotels (very personal almost slightly intrusive service). Those guests who go every year clearly love the hotel but those new visitors might find it a little stuffy and not exactly modern in outlook. You should be aware that there is no entertainment at all in the evenings apart from the constant irritating pan pipe music (which incidentally is also played at breakfast, lunch, all afterrnoon...).
- There are two swimming pools available to all guests. The first is the one shown in all brochures and is essentially a feature pool for the restaurant and just has 5 loungers by it. It is really really small and if you like to swim you may be disappointed. The other pool is also very small.
- The hotel is situated in tropical gardens and this basically means a plethora of palm trees and virtually no open spaces. This could feel a bit claustrophobic and it makes visiting the beach on a daily basis a must. It also makes the hotel rooms quite dark and makes for a bit too much shade for sun worshippers.
- The beach that the hotel drives you too is nice - it is not, however, "private". It is a quiet area with a few loungers that are well attended by George. There is also a very good snack bar and large attractive clean pool neither of which are owned by the hotel and therefore attract a charge. We were under the impression that the beach was private to the hotel but it isn't and on a couple of days there were a few screaming kids.
- Dining by the pool every evening under candlelight was lovely and relaxing (except for the pan pipes). A lot of the reviews rave about the food and we are sure for Gambian standards that it is excellent. However, on a couple of occasions we were served food that we would probably have sent back if in the UK. We also think that if staying for two weeks the menu might become rather repetitive. In our view the hotel needs to explore a lighter menu option such as salads, pasta etc. for the evenings as well as formal dining. You will eat well if you like fish and overall half board is excellent value for money.
All of the above said, you should remember that the Coconut Residence is probably the best hotel within the resort at the moment. However, in our reasonably wide experience many four or five star international hotels would provide better facilities and more consistent service. If you are looking for a hotel that does not have lots of children, noise and people dive bombing into the pool then you would probably prefer this hotel above others in the area.
- In summary:
- food good;
- service quality variable;
- facilities lacking and fittings tired;
- peace and relaxation excellent;
- value for money good;
- swimming pools disappointing;
- beach facility excellent; and
- ambience formal but friendly.
If you like formality, dressing for dinner, being constantly addressed as Mr and Mrs X and still want to believe in colonial living, then go for it. If you are expecting international five star standards in the 21st century wait for the Sheraton.
Please don't forget - we had a really good time (although if returning to the Gambia we probably wouldn't go back to this hotel)!"
- Travel date: Sun 11th of February 2007
"If you are expecting a 5* you will be disappointed. The rooms are okay but nothing to write home about. The management are quick to help if there is a problem but whilst we were there too many people continually were wanting to change rooms. The pools are very small and the hotel is very small. Obviously, some people like it as they return year after year, but having been to some very nice 5* hotels around the world this I would place as edging towards a 4* only because of the good food. The Management are in the process of building a new hotel which does look like it is going to be very nice when it's finished. I would consider trying out their new hotel, but would not be looking to return to Coconut Residence. Coconut Residence is a 10 minute walk from the village, there are basically a few bars, a couple of supermarkets and thats it. You can get mithered with the locals wanting to be your "friend" but you have got to firmly tell them no you are not interested, then they do tend to leave you alone, again some people seem to like the idea of having a "friend" walking, sitting drinking etc., with them. We would leave the Hotel during the day, but I wouldn't chance it at night. Anyway, the weather was great."
- Travel date: Sun 28th of January 2007
"We had a week at the coconut residence, having never been to the gambia before, i was totally unprepared for the hassle factor ! As soon as you get into Banjul Airport it starts, and never really stops. Even in the hotel, the staff seem to have a rotor to come and chat to you, If you sit outside your room, you will not get a minute to yourself, they tell you how hard their lives are, and how many disabled children they have, all very sad, but gets a bit strange when they all have same tale of woe.
We both work extremly hard at home, and when we go away, we just like to relax ! It just didnt happen.
The hotel was nice, the food was amazing, and the monkeys that lived in the grounds were great entertainment.
I have to say that maybe the gambia experience should have a look at this place, and rethink the 5 star rating, the owners of the hotel are building a new resort by the beach, and have pretty obviously stopped spending money upkeeping this coconut residence, our room had broken and missing tiles on the floor, and bathroom walls, broken aluminium window frames and split anti mozzie nets covering them, and the bed was broken. I think that if you ask for a room in the hotel itself as opposed to a room in the grounds, you will get a newer room, and maybe these are better.
This was the most expensive holiday i have ever booked, and probably the worst for 10 years ! I dont think we will return to The Gambia."
- Travel date: Mon 8th of January 2007
"We have just had a wonderful week at the Coconut Residence. The food was absolutely wonderful and the staff were so eager to please. Andrea especially was so kind and would do anything to please you. Our room was enormous with lovely balcony overlooking the pool. room 5. It was so relaxing and we loved it. You would not be disappointed to holiday in this hotel. If we want to be picky we would only say that the towels were a bit thin and starchy but plenty of them even to take to the beach. Also the rooms only have showers, no baths. We would certainly return here."
- Travel date: Mon 18th of December 2006
Luxury in The Gambia
"This is a truly wonderful hotel with 6* food and service. The hotel staff cannot do enough for you & the meals each night are excellent. The wine list is extensive and well priced considering the quality of the hotel.
The Gambia itself is a good winter getaway resort.We were warned about potential hassel from the locals but did not find this was a problem. Yes they do like to attract your attention but as long as you firmly tell them you are not interested they will leave you alone."
- Travel date: Sat 21st of October 2006
"Myself and my partner have recently come back from Gambia where we stayed at the Coconut Residence.The good points for us are as follows
1)The hotel.Very comfortable,clean, very good food and attentive staff
2)The nearby beach.Never seen one so empty yet beautifully situated.
3)The weather.This time of year is very comfortable.
The bad points.
We both felt anxious about leaving the hotel to start with but then decided to get out and about.We could not go more than 10 minutes without being hassled,and its all well and good saying "No thank-you", but you just feel under pressure as they do not just go away.
I think that this so called friendlyness is often mistaken for intrusion.
Its a shame as we both feel we do not wish to return to Gambia."
- Travel date: Tue 2nd of May 2006
Relax in paradise
"We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Coconut Residence in Gambia over our Christmas holidays. The rooms were beautiful as was the setting. It's romantic, relaxing and close to restaurants and a 5 minute walk across the street to a lovely beach. The food at the hotel was excellent."
- Travel date: Wed 4th of January 2006
"A lot of the hotels in the gambia claim to have 5 star status but only this one truly does. I have visited almost all of the hotels arounf fajara/kololi and the Coconut Residence offers something a little different. Individually decorated suites, several pools hidden away by mature, scented gardens...it's an oasis of tranquility.
Food great with a top wine list to match - try the boat trip the owners organise - they throw in a picnic too.
There's a fantastic reading room - decorated with luxurious fabrics.....with a twist of north africa.
A little more pricey than some of its competitors but well worth it. Prob a UK 4 star rating but the others in the area only warrant a 3 star."
- Travel date: Sat 16th of April 2005