I’ve been drawn to the Canary Islands for some time – first of all because they get all year-round sunshine but also because these volcanic Spanish islands off the coast of northwestern Africa have been a bit of a mystery to me. So, when I got the opportunity to visit Gran Canaria I didn’t hesitate. I’ve always wondered about things to do in Gran Canaria and here I was about to find out.
I love Spanish so am always drawn to places where they speak the language so that was another bonus point of Gran Canaria, along with beautiful beaches and friendly people. Gran Canaria is about a four-hour flight from London so if you are considering some winter sun it’s a great place that is still within easy reach to make a long weekend out of it. Places like the Caribbean tend to be further away and more expensive to get to so Gran Canaria is not too far from our doorstep here in the UK to get to.
My blogger friend Mona and I set off on an eye-watering early flight from London to Las Palmas (the capital of the island of Gran Canaria) and arrived in Las Palmas by noon with the whole day ahead of us. We checked into Seaside Palm Beach, a gorgeous hotel just a stone’s throw away from the beach. Seaside Palm Beach is half-board resort so from the moment you arrive, you know that if you choose to, everything is pretty much taken care of regarding 2 of your 3 meals a day (drinks not included however but you must try the local Gran Canaria red wine).
The hotel is perfectly situated near to Maspalomas beach and sand dunes but if you prefer to be poolside there is also that option with three different pools – a huge one in the middle, one for adults only and one made for children in mind. When I travel I like having choices like these. I’m so busy day-to-day I like to have options to explore. For example, sometimes I like to chill out by the pool and read a book on days I’m not exploring the culture and food scene of the destinations I travel to.
As soon as we arrived to the hotel we had one thing on our mind which was FOOD. We met Lisa, a lovely lady from the hotel’s marketing team who met us to tell us a bit about the hotel and to have lunch. Lunch was a la carte by the pool with fried calamari (my ALL-TIME favourite), pimientos de padron, a local dish of boiled potatoes with a delicious dipping sauce called mojo picón which is a spicy sauce composed of garlic, olive oil, red or green pepper, cumin, salt and vinegar. Add a fresh salad and glasses of rose all around and it was pretty much the perfect lunch. Chilled rose in the sunshine to note, cannot be beat.
After lunch and a tour around the hotel we set off for the beach and to wander around the area. Maspalomas beach is lovely and there are lots of nice outdoor dining options around the area as well. The hotel is also close to a shopping centre so if you need to pick up any toiletries, snacks, etc. it’s there if you need it.
For the all-inclusive option at the Seaside Palm Beach you get both breakfast and dinner included. Dinner themes vary per night from Spanish to Mexican to Italian and so on. And this is no small buffet either – everything you could ever want from fresh seafood to steak to vegetarian options to a fresh salad bar is there for you. The food at Seaside Palm Beach is delicious and every dish on the buffet has been carefully made to please any palette or taste. Drinks are an additional cost, but I cannot recommend enough the local red wine – it’s delicious!
The next day we set out on a local tour given by the fabulous Maria who knew everything there was to know about things to do in Gran Canaria, where to go and what to eat. My favourite place we visited was Santa Brígida. St. Bridget is the patron saint of cows (yes, really) and the old town is wonderful for a stroll on the cobbled streets. The colourful houses and streets along with sweeping views of the valleys below were stunning. It’s a great place to visit and showcases the more traditional side of Gran Canaria with churches, locals enjoying their daily coffee at small cafes and bougainvillea everywhere (an Instagram dream, really).
We also stopped to see the Bandama Caldera, well worth a look at for the sweeping views and dizzying heights. I sat on the edge much to the dismay of Mona! If you are into hiking there are also plenty of trails to explore within the caldera.
Lunch was at a beautiful covered market (Mercado del Puerto) in Las Palmas (try the fresh seafood – the calamari is amazing!) which I recommend if you get a chance to visit because it’s full of locals. And you know where there are locals, there must be good food. Las Palmas itself is worth a wander around as well with gorgeous architecture and nice cafes. A visit with some Christopher Columbus history at the Casa de Colón is also worth stopping at too. There are so many nice photo spots in Las Palmas from the plazas to the churches to the parks.
At lunch we were introduced to more local foodie specialties, finished with the sweet beinmesabe, an almond dessert and sweet made on the island of Gran Canara. Gran Canaria has amazing local specialties and a cuisine influenced by Africa, Europe and America and it’s worth a trip for foodies in particular.
The next day Mona and I decided to set off on our own, take local buses and explore the island – there are plenty of things to do in Gran Canaria in terms of sightseeing. We were told that Anfi del Mar beach on the Atlantic Ocean was a nice place to visit and after a bit of confusion (local buses in any foreign country can be hard to navigate!) we hopped on a bus and made our way to Anfi, which has a very chic vibe, kind of like the South of France. That’s the best way I can describe it – the actual beach is quite small but around the side of the main beach there is a rocky part which is really stunning. You can hire a beach chair and pass the hours away – it’s really beautiful. Mona and I finished the day at Anfi with a pizza slice on the boardwalk and then hopped in a taxi to head back to the hotel.
On our last day in Gran Canaria we had a nice leisurely breakfast and then made our way to Maspalomas dunes. It’s great that these are so close to the hotel, maybe a 7-minute walk? The dunes stretch on for ages and you could easily think you were in the Middle Eastern desert and not in Gran Canaria!
We were also lucky enough to experience the spa at the Seaside Palm Beach hotel which is beautiful. I had an amazing massage with a hot poultice of local herbs and I could literally feel myself melting onto the massage table. The spa uses Natura Bisse (one of my favourite Spanish beauty brands) in all of their facial treatments as well. The massage was definitely a highlight of my trip so would highly recommend booking one in!
We were sad to say goodbye to Gran Canaria but it’s nice knowing it’s there, not so far from our doorstep for the next time we need a bit of winter sun, good food and beach vibes. If you are looking for things to do in Gran Canaria I hope this post gave some insight of what you can find there.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @beautyrocksblog where I’ve posted LOADS of amazing photos from the trip as well as a highlights reel on my bio entitled Gran Canaria where you can see all the Instagram Story videos from our travels!