The sandy beaches and mountainous terrain of Gran Canaria, one of the central islands of the larger Spanish archipelago, have long attracted travellers from all around the world. The island's potential as a major tourist destination has been fleshed out to its fullest and it has seen the rise of resort towns as varied as the rustic Playa de Mogán and the vibrant party centre of Playa de Inglés. And that's without mentioning the famed capital city of Las Palmas, a beloved cultural hub and major shopping centre.
As it stands today, the options for travelers making their way to Gran Canaria are endless and that's just one of the many great things about the island. It is, however, important to plan your vacation well and know exactly how you want to spend your days here. The work starts with making the right choice for your stay and that's where we step in. Here, we have listed some of the best neighbourhoods of Gran Canaria and what they might have in store for you, traveller!
The joint capital city of Las Palmas is the top of our list, simply based on the sheer number of entertainment options that it throws up. The city centre is a nice mix of colonial buildings and modern architecture; you will find yourselves facing a multistorey apartment building one side and a colonial mansion with their gigantic plazas on the other. The older districts of Las Palmas, Triana Vegueta for instance, have hosted travellers through antiquity, Christopher Columbus most famously, and the sites of their stay on the island have made for iconic landmarks today. The streets of these neighborhoods, with their yesteryear theatres and art galleries, definitely warrant a walking tour or two on your non-beach days.
The Playa de Las Canteras is the go-to sandy beach in town; you can swim in the clear water or enjoy a quiet afternoon under the sun sipping your drinks at a nearby cafe or bars. sitting right atop coral reefs, it is also a popular spot for snorkelling. Las Palmas has a lively nightlife, and you do not have to go looking for a great bar to spend the evening at, as the beachside is lined with those. Most bars, pubs, nightclubs, and live music venues stay up late into the night and are thronged by younger local crowds. Rest assured, there will never be a dull moment during your stay in the neighborhood.
The city is definitely the top choice based on accessibility and hotel options. The timing of your visit is important as the city is known for its various festivals and carnivals, the most famous of which, the Carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival are held in February and June respectively.
If you're looking to spend the majority of your time on the beaches and wish to stay close to the seaside without having to camp in one of the fancy resorts, the western neighborhood of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria or simply Puerto Rico is the place for you. The beautiful eponymous sheltered beach here is one of the finest on the island and is lined with hotels and homestay apartments and villas, all of which offer stunning views of the waterfront. Getting up in the morning to the view of the tropical setting does not get any better than this. And if you choose to stay in this area, you can get ready and hop onto the beach from your room in no time.
The beaches in the vicinity are complete experiences altogether. Playa de Puerto Rico is a great place to hang out with your family; the beach also has a slew of restaurants and seafood shacks that will keep you coming back for their shellfish and cocktails. And then there's the artificial white sandy strip of Playa de Amadores, which offers a range of water sporting activities, dolphin spotting excursions, and is one of the best places to go swimming in Gran Canaria. The broad-walks and promenades running along the coastline make for the most pristine settings for a romantic walk or a morning stroll; there simply aren't enough words to quite describe the view from this part of the island!
As mentioned earlier, getting a room in one of the beachside establishments (both hotels and apartments for rent are available) is the smart choice in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria. It is quite far from the capital city so getting a rental is probably your best option to make travel hassle free.
Developed as a tourist town, Maspalomas is a popular destination in the southwestern part of the island, with the Holiday World amusement park and the sand dunes of the nature reserve of Dunas De Maspalomas being a major draw for families. And if the distinctive seaside dunes were not enough to get you on board, the neighborhood's natural landscape has so much more to offer. The La Charca de Maspalomas is a natural lake close to the beach and is a wetland centre, popular amongst birdwatchers. And even without that, the quaint setting (which is a stone's throw from the neighborhood's major beach) is a nice change in scenery within the sandy district of Maspalomas.
The Playa de Maspalomas is the major beach and is a very family friendly venue. Shops and restaurants crowd the western end of the beach, which is also the venue of the 19th century lighthouse that has become a major landmark of Maspalomas. The setting, much like the beach, is minimalistic and a nice change from some of the glitzy shorelines in the other parts of the island. The area is still crowded throughout most of the day, but it is a great place to stay for an outdoorsy vacation. There's a number of kiosks throughout the stretch of the beach, busy plaza markets, and an open air cinema in the adjacent Meloneras.
Getting your own rental car or bike is a good option in Maspalomas; you can also make your way to other smaller towns in the vicinity with much more ease in a personal vehicle. Resorts are in plenty in the area, but Maspalomas is also popular for its rented villas near the seafront.
Playa del Inglés
The Playa del Inglés, which is about a 20 minute walk from the city centre is the major nightlife district of the island. Major shopping centres dominate the cityscape and are packed with several pubs and nightclubs that come alive in the night. Most of these establishments don't really begin up until after midnight, but lively nightlife is definitely worth the wait. Live music and performances are major draws at most pubs and bars, while the nightclubs are known for their wild parties. Most of these clubs close after sunrise and daytime activities for the travellers are largely beach-oriented. The eponymous beach is also popular for watersports and great home-grown restaurants and tapa bars, serving some of the best Canarian cuisine in all of Gran Canaria.
The city has also become known as a shopper's paradise, owing to the presence of a various small markets districts. While it's easy to find most things ranging from souvenirs to local crafts to clothing merchandise in almost all of these marker streets and varied avenues, there definitely are areas that specialise in certain crafts and taking a visit or two to understand their nitty gritties is something you should consider doing before making your purchases. While Kasbah is an eclectic open air shopping centre known for its many retail stores and frequent live performances, Yumbo Centrum is a mall crowded with a good mix of fancy and inexpensive local eateries. And that's just naming a couple, from a rather long list of options!
There's a wide range of accommodation options in Playa del Inglés, as the neighborhood is home to some of the best luxury resorts on the island as well as cheap hostels and rental studio apartments. Playa del Inglés is an LGBT+ centre and also hosts several pride events, mostly around March; time your visit accordingly if you wish to be part of the celebrations.
Puerto de Mogán
Situated on the steep side of the valley (not far off of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria), Puerto de Mogán is probably the most picturesque setting on the island. The town was originally a small fishing village and has maintained the rustic charm, even in the face of rapid development. The main harbour is linked to smaller marinas through canals, the beauty of which are reminiscent of Venetian charm. And the narrow streets, most of which are lined with beautiful whitewashed townhouses, are just the perfect place to acquaint yourself with the Canarian life as the locals know it. The floral balconies and vertical gardens of the neighborhood only add to the already picture perfect setting.
Nature is bountiful in this part of the island. And before we talk about the beaches, here's a shout-out to the walking trails of Puerto de Mogán: the trails begin close to downtown part of the town and go up all the way to the valley. It is a refreshing experience and a welcome change from all the sunbathing and swimming at the beaches. Not that the beaches aren't great; the Playa de Mogán is as vibrant as some of the more famous names on the island and offer a nice range of restaurants and cafes that will keep you posted in the vicinity on the sunny days. The Mogán viewing point is a must-visit and makes for the perfect cap off your vacation in this winsome village town.
Puerto de Mogán might not have as many luxurious resorts to choose from, but finding a nice homestay or a smaller hotel accommodation should not be particularly difficult. Similarly, getting a rental is your best bet as taxis might not be as easy to find as I'm some other parts of the island.
And to end the list, we would like to go back to the basics. Charming Canarian streetscapes, long pristine sandy beaches, some great home-grown eateries and a chance to catch a beautiful sunset is probably all the things that you would be looking forward to experiencing on your trip to the Gran Canaria. And the northern town of Agaete has all of that ready and waiting for you, while also offering a relatively quieter vibe to go along with it. A little farther out from the busy eastern and southern coasts of the island, the town has yet to be completely exposed to tourism and that is one of the major reasons that Agaete remains a relatively unexplored gem.
The narrow alleys are dwelling in village charm and the nearby plantations only add to appeal. A day outdoors in Agaete and the vicinity offers you so many options ranging from a walking tour of the city centre or make your way to a coffee plantation or spend a day on the sparsely crowded beaches of the town. The lush surroundings of the town are also quite different from some of the more commercial cities on the island. Botanical gardens are great places to hang out in the city bounds, but you can always go on and explore the more exciting outdoors in the vicinity of the Tamadaba mountain. The same just adds to the quaint laid-back appeal and makes Agaete a perfect for a romantic getaway vacation.
You can get a rented apartment for the best private experience here; also, hotels and resorts might not be as many in number. You can easily access the town by road.
That's all that we have for you. Take your pick and start planning your dream Canarian vacation. Until next time, traveller!