Why you should definitely get a Cabana at CenterParcs

I write this, dear casual reader, in the hope that I can spread some additional satisfaction and quite possibly a small amount of joy in the world. 

Yes, I have rented a Cabana at CenterParcs. And yes, I’d be delighted to tell you how the process works along with the pros and cons. Because sadly, no one on the CenterParcs website bothered to detail the experience beyond the usual holiday-brochure-style single paragraph description. 

I didn’t have much luck hunting about on TripAdvisor, Mumsnet or anywhere else that the Google results threw at me. I mostly came across mentions with a few, “It wasn’t worth it,” or, “It was too expensive for what you got,” negative statements. A few folk were mindful enough to recommend it, but without bothering with any details.

So let’s get started. You’re thinking about CenterParcs and you’ve probably got children, right? If you don’t have children, that’s ok, but the largest plus for a Cabana is reserved for families. 

You book the Cabana through the unwieldy CenterParcs online booking system. Or I imagine you can do so via the physical booking points in resort, although be warned, the Cabanas book out quickly. Very quickly. 

Cabanas are located within the huge swimming pool complex. You’ll have seen the single brochure photo of the Cabana — that does it justice. I was going to take some of my own until I recognised there was no point. They look as expected. They’re basically wooden huts large enough to sit about 8 sun-lounger-style seats, centred around a huge widescreen television.

There’s a small wine cooler style refrigerator stocked with 6 bottles — 2x water, one tango, one regular Pepsi and 2x Diet Pepsi. Enough to get you started. 

And there’s a safe. It was easy enough to operate. Stick your PIN in twice and bang, it’s yours — a little like those safes you find in hotels. This is a rather useful plus. We stuck all the important stuff (phones, wallets, keys) in there. 

The safe is an important feature because your Cabana is essentially open. Anyone could theoretically walk in — because there’s no door. Instead there is a piece of orange material that forms a door. Any toddler can escape if not observed continually. The walls of the Cabana are see through — indeed, instead of walls, think ‘wooden fence’.  If any of the passing folk on the way back from the water park section cared to stare hard enough, they’d probably be able to see you changing. To be clear, the walls are comprised of spaced vertical pieces of wood just like a fence. There’s enough foliage surrounding the Cabana that, when combined with a degree of awareness from the person changing in or out of swimsuits, modesty is easily preserved.

Getting to the Cabana

This was perhaps the worst part of the experience. We had no idea what to do. Yes we’d booked it… and… well. We just presumed you have to turn up to the swimming pool complex… and… This is the massive, massive failing of CenterParcs. It’s perfectly fine if you’ve been there and found out how it all works. But it’s a bit bewildering if you don’t know how to ‘do’ it in the first place. And nowadays we all want to know. I take absolutely zero pleasure from ambiguity in this context. This is something CenterParcs would do well to consider for new customers. 

We took our bags and the children to the swimming pool area and looked for some signs saying, “Cabanas, this way,” or similar. Nothing. I ended up asking one of the cleaners passing for some assistance. He nodded and helpfully took us through a warren of changing rooms to the disabled entrance/exit to the pool complex. He then pointed us to the Swimming Pool reception. 


Right. That’s how it works. 

When we arrived at the reception — and remember, this is *IN* the pool area now, there are folk everywhere in swimming costumes having lots of fun. So you look like a right plum standing there in full outside regalia. The chap at reception took our villa number and looked up the Cabana we’d been assigned. He then led us for a few minutes up one way and another. As we walked, we passed lots of people on the way to (or back from) the water park section of the complex. All of them in swimming costumes. Yes, we felt and looked stupid.

The worst thing? Our shoes/trainers. This was an unintentional mistake.

The cleaner chap had negated to suggest we put those little blue covers over our shoes, meaning that we were getting hundreds of dirty looks from people. You are not supposed to wear outdoor footwear inside the complex you see. The reception chap didn’t bother telling us either. 

Don’t make this mistake. Quite a few folk actually pointed at us, muttering about ‘outdoor shoes’. That wasn’t a brilliant experience.

I should be clear that luckily it wasn’t a very muddy day. However I didn’t want to be spoiling the area either. 

Inside the Cabana

Once we got to the Cabana, things improved. It was great to see the towels ready — I think there were 8 towels. Very handy indeed. It was really, really good to have a spacious area to set about changing the boys (they’re aged 3.5 and 2). Previously it was a seriously frustrating experience messing around with lockers and ultra-small changing rooms. My wife and I really appreciated the opportunity to be able to calmly change the boys (and ourselves) and to get the various things (arm bands, etc.) sorted and ready for deployment.

We put on the television — a huge widescreen — and that kept the boys entertained.

If you’ve got older children I reckon the Cabana would also be seriously, seriously useful as a hangout place for those wanting to rest while everyone else is busy enjoying the facilities.  

The next time

The next morning when we were due to visit the pool complex, we knew what to do. We confidently strode through the melee of the main changing rooms, put on our blue shoe covers and exited through the disabled door. Now we knew what to do, the whole process was much smoother and much more relaxing.

The cost

We paid £60 for about half a day for the Cabana on Saturday and then the same again on Sunday. That got about 4 hours usage of the facility. When you book, you choose the the available time slots, e.g. 10-1pm. We just scheduled our trips to the swimming pool complex around the availability of Cabana. I recognise that £60 is rather expensive. I’m sure I’ve seen them costing around £30 per session, but it was quite late when we came to book. My view was we were on holiday and that I wanted to avoid the absolute riot in the main changing room area so fundamentally that’s how I justified the expense. I won’t do another CenterParcs experience without making sure we’ve got a Cabana booked. 

If you’ve any questions, go ahead and ask. I’ll get the notification by email and try and respond as soon as I can.

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28 Responses to Why you should definitely get a Cabana at CenterParcs

  1. Matt Lacey February 26, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Yes, “Andrew” sent me a notification on my phone when you posted this 😉
    Nice post too.

    • Ewan February 26, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

      I was thinking about you when I hit publish, Matt!

  2. Sarah September 29, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Fab fab fab, just booked a Cabana. Thank you for your step by step guide. Can’t wait xx

    • Ewan September 29, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

      Sarah, you’re most welcome — I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Sandra November 12, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    I wouldn’t don’t have known they exists if it wasn’t for a remark on TripAdvisor then I googled cabanas and your excellent comments. Thanks swan

  4. sarah January 27, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    Just booked a Center Parcs break for my family next month. There’s 10 adults, 2 toddlers and a baby going to . The largest cabana is for 8 people. Would anyone notice if there’s a few more of us do you think? Naughty I know but it kind of defeats the purpose if we hire 2 of them… Or would we find seats together in the main swimming pool complex? It’ll be our first trip to Whinfell Forest so all advise welcome please!

    • Ewan January 27, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

      I haven’t been to that particular Center Parcs, however I’d imagine it’s very similar. I doubt there will be any objection from the CP team at all. There’s a risk there won’t be enough space for all 10 of you to squeeze in, because from memory there was only space for about 8 of the large lounger chairs. I reckon you could probably get a few more chairs stuck in there. I also don’t think anyone would have a problem if you borrowed some of the plastic seats from around the complex and tried to fit them in. It’ll be quite packed I think, with 12 of you (plus baby).

      Some people use the cabanas as a full time place to sit — continually — across the morning or afternoon. If you were all intending doing that, I think your plan could come unstuck. If you’re all going to be a little flexible, then it should be fine!

  5. Marian April 21, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    Thanks for the very informative article on cabanas. We’re going to Woburn forest in October half term. Are the cabanas within sight of the pool? My plan is to let the kids have fun in the pool but chill out in the cabana whilst keeping an eye. If you don’t know about Woburn specifically, how was it at the other Centerparcs you visited?
    Do you know if its possible to change a time slot once booked?


    • Sophie June 4, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

      Hi, I go to Sherwood Forest every summer although never booked a cabana, from memory the cabanas are by the deep end of the pool, although that may not be the case for Woburn!

      • Marian October 18, 2016 at 11:51 am #

        Thank you, Sophie

    • Amy March 17, 2016 at 7:25 am #

      Hi Marian, this is reply is a long time after your post, but I hope it might be useful for others who are thinking of booking a cabana at Woburn!
      The cabanas at Woburn are on a raised area, up a number of steps, but close to the changing rooms and also to Starbucks. We wandered past the cabanas yesterday (we had a nose!) and due to their location I don’t think you could keep an eye on children in the pool from the cabanas. You would be able to see the shallow end of the pool, but certainly not the whole pool. Hope this is useful!

    • Amy March 17, 2016 at 7:25 am #

      Hi Marian, this is reply is a long time after your post, but I hope it might be useful for others who are thinking of booking a cabana at Woburn!
      The cabanas at Woburn are on a raised area, up a number of steps, but close to the changing rooms and also to Starbucks. We wandered past the cabanas yesterday (we had a nose!) and due to their location I don’t think you could keep an eye on children in the pool from the cabanas. You would be able to see the shallow end of the pool, but certainly not the whole pool. Hope this is useful!

      • Marian October 18, 2016 at 11:50 am #

        Thank you! We’re there now and all the advice is super useful

  6. Marian April 21, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    Another question – can we have our dinner in the cabana? Would they deliver? LOL! Alternatively are restaurants close enough that we can pick a takeaway? Are there tables in the cabana to lay out the food?

  7. Shainie June 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    Hi, im going in 2 weeks to Elverdon, i have been trying to find out about sun lougers, so…are there in the dome? And do you to hire them? Im sure they wont be cheap lol.
    Thank you

    • Ewan June 29, 2015 at 8:41 am #

      I haven’t been to that Centerparcs so I can’t comment specifically — however in my experience there are lots of plastic chairs around for you to sit on. I don’t remember seeing any sun loungers — but this could have been because it wasn’t sunny outside!

  8. Sam August 28, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Great blog – going to book one for our trip to c parcs in October think it’ll be less stressful as my son’s disabled and he’s not keen on water for too long, so having a base to pitch up is great.

    • Ewan August 28, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

      You should find it nice and convenient in that case Sam — have a great time!

  9. Andrew September 5, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

    A fantastically useful post.

    I can’t believe how shocking the lack of experience information is from Centre Parcs – and the entire website experience.

    We already booked a cabana to try out – so it’s great you’ve highlighted things such as the blue-shoe covers.

    I can’t seem to find the answer to this anywhere; if you’re not hiring a cabana (so just using the pool as usual) – apparently you have to hire towels (if you don’t bring your own, that is) – any idea how much they are to hire per session/day?


  10. Kerry October 5, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    Is there a shower nearby to the cabanas or do you have to shower in the main changing room after? Thank you

    • Ewan October 12, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

      Good point Kerry, there are no showers *in* the Cabanas or nearby at Longleat. You would have to use the main changing room showers. That is entirely doable though. I get the impression most people using Cabanas — me included — don’t bother showering and save that for the chalet later on!

  11. Sally October 28, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    Great review thank you. Is hiring a cabana suitable for ‘housing’ grandparents who don’t want to swim etc or get into swimwear but still want to be near?

    • Ewan March 17, 2016 at 8:19 am #

      Yeah that’s a perfect use case for them

  12. Olivia April 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi, did your drinks get topped up or was that it for the whole session?

    • Ewan September 10, 2017 at 8:47 am #

      I think it was just per ‘booking’

  13. Luke Barton April 15, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

    Do you know if just 2 people can use it even though for 6 people?

    • Ewan September 10, 2017 at 8:44 am #

      Yeah we were two adults (and two children)… I think if you pay the money, you can use them 🙂 Doesn’t matter how many people.

  14. Fay August 28, 2017 at 9:12 am #

    Great post, I know this is a year further on, but it’s saved me time trying to search out what a Cabana is, and I realise now that information about centreparcs facilities will be limited from their site. I’m going Woburn with my adult family in January 2018, any tips would be appreciated.

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