“Sweeping beaches, lively resorts and villages ripe for exploring make Gran Canaria a failsafe choice for year-round getaways.”
As far as holiday destinations go, Gran Canaria is part of the world’s vintage collection. The third-largest Canary Island first appeared on the tourism radar as far back as the 19th century, and it’s gone from strength to strength ever since.
The island’s enduring appeal begins with its beaches – and it’s not a case of one size fitting all. On one hand, you’ve got the larger-than-life coastal resorts of Playa Del Ingles and Maspalomas, where sunbathing is serious business and nightlife is of the neon variety. On the other hand, you’ve got the sleepier towns of Playa de Amadores and Puerto Rico, where the beaches come with more space and the evening entertainment is a little lower-key.
Another reason Gran Canaria’s popularity has stood the test of time is its good-looking interior, where cliffs and gorges wax and wane. If you want to catch a glimpse of traditional island life, there are plenty of hamlets here, too. Just half-an-hour’s drive from Playa Del Ingles, you’ll discover Fataga, where car-free cobbled streets are lined with whitewashed houses.
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Great Gran Canaria holidays
Gran Canaria holiday resorts
Resorts in Gran Canaria include
Playa Del Ingles,
Puerto Mogan and
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Beaches don’t come much bigger or better than those in Gran Canaria. Pure and simple. Mother Nature definitely set her sights on the south coast when it came to doling them out. And many come just a flip-flop away from restaurants, shops and refreshment stops. For sheer size and oomph, Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas take the trophies. At Playa del Inglés, the sands seem to run forever. Zooming off into the distance like a golden conveyor belt, they take an endless row of amusements, bars and eateries right along with them. Follow the sands south and they merge into Maspalomas beach – easily up there with the island’s best. This stellar stretch extends for six long kilometres and slowly morphs into Maspalomas’ magnificent sand dunes. Like big, plumped-up pillows of sand, they’re the ultimate spot for some serious sunning and snoozing. Another beach favourite is Puerto Mogan. Sheltered by cliffs, it’s a real bobby dazzler, with a half-moon of sands lapped by crystal-clear waters. Puerto Rico and Playa Taurito are the same, with wide expanses of cashmere-soft sands shelving into sparkling seas. And the story goes on. In San Agustin, grab your towel and doze on the dark sand beach, dipping into the refreshing waves and beachside cafés when you need time out. And in Bahia Feliz, you’ll find a lovely main beach and pebbly coves brushed by the kind of cooling breezes windsurfers dream about. For show-stopping beauty though, it’s hard to beat Amadores. Carpeted in silky white sands, its man-made beach has got the Caribbean written all over it.
- Chinese. American. Italian. Mexican. British. The food in Gran Canaria reads like a ‘who’s who’ of world cuisines. In Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas, most places cater for the British tourist palate. We’re talking fish‘n’chips, Sunday roasts and pub grub. Not to mention fantastic fry-ups. So if you don’t fancy venturing into unfamiliar flavour territory, you really don’t have to. What’s more, the British restaurant scene comes backed with oodles of international eateries. American-style diners. Noodle bars. Pizzerias and pasta houses. They’re all here in force. That said, it’d be a shame not to try some authentic local fare during your stay. You’ll find a good sprinkling of Canarian restaurants in most towns, particularly Puerto Mogan, Amadores and Puerto Rico. And fish fans will love Puerto Rico and Puerto Mogan. Top of Canarian menus has to be ‘morena frita’ – fried fresh fish with ‘papas arrugadas’ – irresistible wrinkly-skinned potatoes baked with salt. ‘Mojo’ sauces are a fixture, too. A mix of oil, coriander and garlic, ‘mojo verde’ is drizzled over lots of dishes and is totally moreish. Then there’s ‘mojo rojo’. Made with paprika instead of coriander, it’s definitely one for spice fiends. Another favourite is ‘sancocho’ - a mouth-watering salt fish stew often served with generous helpings of ‘gofio’, appetising maize or wheat dumplings. Don’t forget the desserts either. Okay, the choice may not leave you open-mouthed, but there are lots of goodies to get you licking your lips. Cue ‘bienmesabe’ – a blend of honey, almond cream and rum. Pour it over ice-cream or fresh mango and papaya. As for drinks, give the local wines a go. Okay, they won’t win any awards, but they’re pleasantly gluggable. Just ask for those from the ‘Bandamas’ region. They’re considered the best. Want something stronger? Take your cue from the locals and order some Arehucas rum. Made from the sugar cane grown near Arucas, it’s a hot favourite everywhere. Or get yourself a glass of ‘mejunje’. This luscious lemon-honey-and-rum liqueur is a genuine taste of Gran Canaria and pretty potent with it.
- Espetada, Playa del Inglés – This cosy, cellar-style restaurant specialises in mouth-watering steaks and grilled fresh salmon, all at great prices.
- Rimini, Playa del Inglés – Feast on classic Italian pastas, pizzas and ginormous bowls of tiramisu at this well-regarded eaterie. Even better, there are two of them in town.
- El Faro, Puerto de Mogan – Take the kids to this cheerful place in Mogan’s harbour lighthouse and tuck into Spanish favourites as the waves slap against the rocks below.
- The Royal Oak, Puerto Rico – If you’re hankering after great British grub, hotfoot it to this dark-wood English pub. The Sunday lunches will make you think you’re back home.
- Tagoror, Barranco de Guayadeque – The best known of the Barranco’s cave restaurants, this is all subterranean cubbyholes, traditional tapas and potent wines.
- For quiet evenings, check out Puerto Mogan, Amadores and San Agustin. They’re all places where twilight suppers, moonlit strolls and midnight nightcaps take precedence. But if you’re here for some after-dark fun and games, then you’re better off someplace else. Like Playa del Inglés. It’s party central. Kick things off along the boisterous beachfront - partygoers rev up for the night here over fruity cocktails. Then head for the Kasbah centre. This writhing mass of packed-out pubs, karaoke dens and turbo-charged clubs will see you through till sun-up on a wave of thumping beats and laser shows. Or take off for the Yumbo centre, another hotbed of heaving clubs, this time waving the rainbow flag. Puerto Rico’s quite hip and happening, too. Stuffed with bars and pubs, the happy hours here start early. And if you want to keep your options open, try Maspalomas. Snuggle up in a cosy restaurant. Stroll to the lighthouse and choose from the eateries in the Faro district. Or maybe head to a smoochy jazz bar or flashy casino. And if you do fancy upping the ante, take your pick from the trendy nightspots in Maspalomas Plaza. And don’t forget Las Palmas. If you’re in the capital by day, stick around for some nightlife that’s every inch Gran Canarian. Nibble on tapas before enjoying a classical concert or opera. Pull up a chair at a swish restaurant on the Plaza Santa Catalina. Or join the trendy crowds around the Plaza de Espana, sipping cocktails before hitting a hip-swaying salsa club.
- Linekers, Playa del Inglés - With its pumping party atmosphere, massive sports screens and top tunes, this iconic bar in Playa del Inglés’ Kasbah is a must for up-for-it Brits.
- Barbacoa, Puerto Rico - Tribute acts. Stand-ups. Magicians. This famous restaurant-bar packs in the punters with live entertainment extravaganzas.
- Chic & Cream, Playa del Inglés – Serious party-fans flock here for ear-splitting house and techno. Regular guest DJs keep the tempo going till 7am.
- Pacha Sur, Maspalomas-Playa del Inglés – R&B, funk and Spanish beats blast from this bona-fide Pacha on Maspalomas’ waterfront. Burn a hole in the floor before downing cocktails on the open-air terrace.
Playa del Inglés, Puerto Rico and Maspalomas brim with shopping centres stacked with fashion stores, duty-free emporiums and outlets peddling everything from perfume to camcorders. The biggest is Playa del Inglés’ Yumbo Centre, but if you’re a designer diva, Maspalomas Plaza is probably more your bag. It’s dripping with designer-label stores. In Meloneras, Puerto Mogan and San Agustin, the shopping’s more on the sophisticated side. Picture classy boutiques selling independent labels. And arty-crafty nooks filled with Canarian ceramics. If you’re after something earthier, make a beeline for the markets. Most resorts have a weekly market where you can hop between food, clothes and trinket stalls to your heart’s content. And if you’re market-mad, don’t miss Sunday mornings in Teror. Every alternate week, this legendary village market takes you on a whistle-stop ride around Gran Canaria’s traditional foods and handicrafts. Pick up some ‘chorizo de Teror’, the deliciously spicy local sausage. Bag some sugary sweets made by local nuns. And arm yourself with typically Canarian treasures like hand-woven lace, wicker baskets or maybe even a dandy felt hat. Next on the list? It’s got to be Las Palmas. Unsurprisingly, the capital wins hands down in the style and variety stakes. Dive into the big-name chains, department stores and hypermarkets lining its plazas and streets. Flash your cash in a funky boutique. Or tootle around the gift shops looking for the island’s miniature guitars, fat cigars and hand-turned pottery. And take a peek inside the Mercado de Vegueta, the city’s oldest market. Brimming with bustling fruit and veg stalls, it’s a lesson in the locals’ love of food.