Just a short flight from mainland Spain, Gran Canaria is an island so distinguished by its chameleon-like qualities that it appears enchanted to the uninitiated. In Las Palmas, the island’s capital, you’ll find broad stretches of beach and as much urban bustle as you can expect to unearth in any region of the island. Meanwhile, you’ll also find cooler temperatures and a bit more rain in the capitol city than most other parts of the island depending upon the season.
Conversely in southernmost Maspalomas, you’ll find arid desert like conditions and staggering beaches bordered by even more staggering sand dunes. In between the two extremes, the island offers up a series of microclimates that have to be experienced to comprehend. Very rarely will you encounter an island that offers so much diversity in so compact an expanse, giving new meaning to the oft-quoted but rarely delivered upon promise by so many destinations to genuinely offer something for everyone. I ask you, how many places can you name where you ride a camel before hiking across a splendid stretch of sand dunes for a dip in the ocean followed by lunch and cocktails on a clothing optional beach? I rest my case.
AxelBeach Maspalomas Apartments & Lounge Club
Av. de Tirajana, 32
35100 Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 76 78 63
Gran Canary’s outpost of the hetero-friendly Axel Hotel Group, AxelBeach Maspalomas is an apartment hotel located in Playa del Ingles, a quick walk to the beach and minutes away from the popular Yumbo complex and its mixed bag of restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops. Truly embodying the spirit of apartment living, each room at the AxelBeach Maspalomas boasts a combined living/dining room with kitchenette, bathroom, double bedroom, and a terrace. Plus as an added bonus for those looking to settle in for a bit, it’s worth noting that the kitchens are equipped with a microwave, fridge, kettle, toaster and coffee maker, and the apartment itself even has a sofa bed to accommodate guest. This is certainly the place to stay if you want to be in stumbling distance of the proverbial action. In fact this place is so close that the action might just stumble upon you.
Hotel Fonda de la Tea
c/ Ezequiel Sánchez, 22
35360 Tejeda, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 666 422 / +34 629 548 473
Hotel Fonda de la Tea adds charm to the already charming town of Tejeda. Rustic yet modern, the hotel is housed in a 19th century building but also offers all the conveniences of 21st century life: air-conditioning, WiFi, satellite TV, and so on. Charm aside, it is the views that make this place truly special. In fact it is actually because of the the views that hikers and nature lovers are enticed to venture up to Tejeda in the first place. Tip: If you do venture up to Tejeda be sure to check in for a meal at Let me take you – Déjate llevar (see below). It may well be the highlight of your whole trip
Hotel Santa Catalina
Calle León y Castillo, 227
35005 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 24 30 40
At 125 years old, the Hotel Santa Catalina is the grande dame of hotels in Gran Granaria. The property’s historic jump on competitors guarantees that the Hotel Santa Catalina offers classic elegance and the best views in the city in a five-star setting as it has done since it opened its doors back in 1890.
Puerto de Mogán
Edificio Torre de Control, Explanada del Castillete, 351 – 38
35140 Mogán, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 56 51 51
Puerto de Mogán is a picturesque marina dotted with local shops and restaurants and it’s the perfect place to spend a long afternoon exploring.
Tip: If you don’t plan on renting a car, there are buses from the city that travel to Puerto de Mogán so check with your hotel concierge for information on the nearest stops.
Av. Estados Unidos, 54
35100 Maspalomas, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 76 41 96
It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it would be hard to say that there isn’t something that at least aims to suit every taste in the vast Yumbo complex. A multi-level open air strip mall filled with clubs, shops, restaurants and bars of every conceivable stripe, Yumbo is as unique to Gran Canaria as Las Vegas is to America. It is truly one of the only places I have ever been where you could have a doner kebab, saunter past a German-owned café filled with Germans, nip into a gay strip club, pop by a drag show, hit up a leather bar and then meet friends at a lounge for a glass of champers to wind down the night. That’s Yumbo folks!
Let me take you – Déjate llevar
Calle Dr. Domingo Hernández Guerra, 25
35360 Tejeda, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 629 19 86 85
Not only a treasure but an absolute surprise, Let Me Take You is one of those rare gems that catches the unsuspecting completely unawares. In the tiny town of Tejeda, high above Gran Canaria, the last thing you would expect is a menu that serves genuinely delicious Thai soups prepared by…wait for it…a Greek chef, but that is what you will find at Let Me Take You. In addition to a menu of traditional Spanish favorites, you will find an international menu with Greek, French and Asian influences that will delight your palate. That the restaurant is helmed by the most adorable couple, Fernando Henriquez Muñoz and Nikolaos Petas, who clearly take great pride in their restaurant and the art of hospitality, only inspires one to want to visit again and again.
Hotel Puerto de Mogán Club de Mar
Urbanización Puerto de Mogán, s/n
35138 Playa de Mogán, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 56 50 66
Hotel Puerto de Mogán Club de Mar has one of the best ocean views in Puerto Mogán which served in tandem with the chef’s expansive menu of fresh seafood options makes it the port to pull into it for a long lazy lunch or a very special dinner.
Café Hotel Madrid
Plaza de Cairasco 4
35002 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
T: +34 928 360 664
Pop into this authentic venue where the walls are still filled with emblems of the Franco era and eat like the locals do. Chock full of the character that come swith age and perfectly situated on a square where the local life thrives, Café Hotel Madrid is the one of the best vantage points from which to view life in Las Palmas – past and present.
Carnaval Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
35007 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 44 68 24
The highlight of Carnaval Las Palmas in Gran Canaria is the annual Drag Queen Gala which I can only describe as the Superbowl of drag. Tickets to this drag extravaganza are so coveted they sell out almost immediately. Attending this show would alone be reason enough for making a detour to this slice of paradise.
See the 2015 Drag Queen Gala in its entirety here:
Pico de las Nieves
This peak is the highest in all of Gran Canaria and the views are quite staggering from every angle. Diehard cyclists find tmaking the trek up the hill by bike a welcome challenge despite the fact that it is fraught with multiple tests of endurance. However, for mere looky loos (like myself), a quick drive to the top to take in the sights is sufficient in addition to being an infinitely more efficient option timewise.
Maspalomas Beach / Sand Dunes
Playa Del Inglés & Maspalomas , Spain
The massive sand dunes surrounding the happening, clothing optional Maspalomas Beach are a marvel to behold (and even more of a marvel to climb). The most dramatic effect is the sight of the beach appearing like an oasis over the edge of the dunes. Tis the stuff one imagines inspires scenes in movies.
Vegueta Old Town
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain
Take an afternoon to explore the rich history of Gran Canaria in the one place on the island richest in it – Old Town Vegueta. From the oldest house on the island, which dates back to the 15th century, to the Plaza Santa Ana, which is bordered by the cathedral and surrounded by an array of museums, Vegueta is steeped in the roots of Gran Canaria. When evening descends, return to Vegueta to sample tapas and experience the community of Las Palmas as the city comes out and comes alive over food and drink as one suspects that it has done for centuries.
Finca La Laja
Villa de Agaete
35489 Los Berrazales
Las Palmas, Spain
T: +34 928 89 81 54
Finca de la Laja is another of Gran Canaria’s treasures. Hidden among the cliffs of the Valley Tamadaba Agaete, this family-owned farm not only produces oranges and a signature range of coffees, but also a limited production wine. Stop in for a visit on a tour around the island and sample the farm’s wares and experience not only a taste of the best of Gran Canaria, but also a healthy helping of the island’s famous hospitality. Before you leave, take a little of Gran Canaria home with you if for no other reason than the bragging rights that come along with it. After all, how many people can say, “Oh this coffee? It’s from a little farm I discovered in Gran Canaria. It’s impossible to get anywhere else.” That’s the ultimate in winning.