Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands located off the coast of northwestern Africa and was the destination for our winter sun break.
My parents have visited the island for 2 weeks each January for the past 15 years and this year we decided to join them. Cheap flights from Birmingham to Las Palmas made for a cost effective break and as my parents had hired a car the island was super accessible when we wanted to explore.
As the Canary Islands are owned by Spain you can expect similar benefits – the locals speak good English and are always happy to help, Paella and Sangria deals are available at most restaurants and Euro is the currency. Oh and it’s warmer than the UK at any given point.
So here’s our advice on what you need to think about before going:
1. What do you want from the holiday? For a relatively small island Gran Canaria offers lots of different types of holidays:
- Beach: want to turn up, lay on a beautiful beach and enjoy stunning blue ocean – Amadores is for you
- Adventure: prefer to get out an explore, maybe take a hike up sand dunes or ride a camel – Maspalomas has plenty to offer
- City / culture: if city breaks are more your thing than getting your feet sandy then Las Palmas, the capital city, is for you. Far more built up than the south this place has stunning buildings and more to explore
- Night outs / days sleeping: While Gran Canaria doesn’t have the reputation of being a party destination there are definitely places to entertain. Puerto Rico has a lovely white sand beach for the day but at night the main shopping area comes alive with restaurants, bars and clubs
- Sophisticated: if partying the night away is not your thing then Puerto De Mogan might be for you. The town is filled with beautiful beaches, an idyllic harbour and white sand beach. With restaurants filling the streets and plenty of shops you can spend your days perusing and enjoy the calmer atmosphere
- Mix up: Or you can do what we did and stay in Taurito, a small area built into a bay that sits between Puerto Rico and Puerto De Mogan. We mixed our days up with trips to other areas but most of days were in Puerto De Mogan and our evenings in Puerto Rico (mainly for the food :))
|Puerto De Mogan|
|Sand dunes at Maspalmas|
From what we could tell there were a few main pursuits in Gran Canaria:
- Cycling: the roads clinging to mountains make for amazing rides
- Golf: Great all year round weather and beautiful courses make for perfect golfing conditions
- Mini-golf: More my style and there were so many courses to choose from – we ended up favoring a course at Amadores but every resort had at least one course
- Driving: The road system in Gran Canaria is fairly new and that’s a benefit. Roads are easy to navigate and generally not too windy. You can cover north to south in a couple of hours and having a car means you can get out and see what the island has to offer
- Sunbathe: Most apartments and hotels have pools and even if they don’t most areas have easily accessible beaches so when the heat gets too much pick a spot and catch some rays
- Shop: Not something for everyone but if you love to barter the tourist trap shops will happily entertain you or Puerto De Mogan has a Friday market that takes over the town with plenty to offer. Or for the traditionalists the small streets of Puerto De Mogan are home to traditional shops plying their trades.
3. When do you want to go?
As mentioned at the start this was a winter sun break. The week before we arrived had been the hottest January week my parents has experienced in 15 years. When we arrived we had one day of sunshine before clouds settled in and we had 4 days of intermittent rain and overcast weather. Strangely at 4pm each day the sun appeared but it wasn’t until the last day that we got a full day of sunshine – very hot sunshine.
The consensus was that we were unlucky – Gran Canaria hadn’t had more than 2 consecutive days of rain for more than 5 years – but even on hot days the evening weather can be chilly so take a cover up if you go for winter sun.
If you go from April on-wards you should be able to guarantee warm weather so pack sun cream!
What I would say is the weather in the south is rumoured to be nicer than the north – always. On arrival at Las Palmas the skies were grey and wind cold, by the time we got to Taurito it was blue skies and 23 degrees Celsius. We also met a few people who had escaped the city to enjoy some sun.
No-one likes to think about money on holiday so deciding upfront if you want to spend out on an all inclusive hotel or create your own break from an airbnb will help. Gran Canaria has accommodation options for everyone. A lot of hotels offer all-inclusive or half board all over the island but there are also plenty of self catering apartments. If you go with the latter you won’t be short of options when you eat out. A couple of recommendations from us:
- Try the lemon cheesecake at the Irish Cafe in Mogan harbour
- Try the Cabonara at Belice Cafe, Amadores Beach
- For a traditional option Canarian potatoes are delicious and it’s hard to find bad ones but the ones from Sabidan in Puerto Rico were our favs
Eating out is as expensive as in the UK, dinners will cost you around £15 for a main course and drink. Alcohol is reasonably priced and most restaurants have a mixed menu.
On a side note avoid El Pescador II in Puerto Rico as we had our first (and only) homophobic experience there.
5. Our suggestions:
You can find TripAdvisors recommendations here but based on our trip our list includes:
- Boat trip from Puerto Rico to Puerto De Mogan (€11 each for a return)
- Hike the sand dunes at Maspalomas – there’s no entry fee and it’s not a view you see everyday
- Take in a sunset or two
- Walk in the white sandy beaches and swim in the sea
- Stroll the streets of Puerto De Mogan