Get the right resort for you
Whether you want the beach, the city, the spas, the mountains or a bit of everything, Gran Canaria has the hotel that fits the (surprisingly small) bill.
Even If you’re coming for the beach, bear in mind that many hotels have moved on since the soulless package resort model. That was so last century. Contemporary resorts tend to be lower rise and clad in earthy Canarian stone, or terraced and sensitively landscaped into the rocks.
These upmarket hotels are more likely to offer a spa and a gastro-restaurant than a job lot of superannuated jugglers, Celine Dion sound-alikes and flamenco dancers as the evening entertainment. Many hotels, such as La Residencia and Palm Beach, have always been discreetly luxurious, it’s just that the British market has been slow to pick up on the fact.
Beyond bucket-and-spade beach breaks
Well, you can still dig for Britain, especially if you’re under five. But if you haven’t been back to Gran Canaria since then, you’ll be surprised by the sleek new resorts. Yes, Playa del Ingles is as bold and brash as ever, but the sands are still golden and the partying good-natured.
The same is true of Puerto Rico. Neither will win any beauty contests but both have their fans. Good beaches, family restaurants, boisterous bars are part of their appeal. Even in the partying resorts, there are some funky new-wave hotels, such as Marina Suites and Bohemia Suites.
But upmarket, more discreet beach resorts are on the rise in the south, notably Meloneras, a sophisticated sister-resort to partying Playa del Ingles and demure Maspalomas. Then there’s Amadores, a less attention-seeking resort than fun-loving Puerto Rico. Both Meloneras and Amadores offer panoramic views and cliffside hotels that command invigorating sea promenades.
These new destinations encompass the full range of hotels, but large, well-designed resort-style hotels predominate, especially in the mid-range and luxury brackets.
But if you’re after charm by the beach, then the quaint resort of Puerto de Mogan is as seductive as ever, with moorings for the yachtocracy but room for the rest of us too. My favourites hotels here are the well-loved Cordial Mogan Playa and Hotel Puerto de Mogan.
Spa and sea
Gran Canaria boasts some of the best-rated spa and thalasso hotels in Europe, especially in the southern resorts. Canarian spas were once throwbacks to the era of earnest medical spas, but the scary white coats have now been banished. Why settle for a beach when you can also have a beguiling spa retreat? A cloudy day is perfect for wallowing under the soothing jets of a `thalasso’ seawater spa. My favourite spas are set among palm groves, overlook the sand dunes, or are hidden away in Zen-like gardens. Think casual chic rather than snooty spa.
I always find myself going back to the Zen-like spa at Palm Beach but also have a soft spot for the glitzy spa in Villa del Conde and the daringly dramatic Lopesan Costa Meloneras spa. Although not glamorous, Gloria Palace San Agustin has the best sea-water spa on the island. The most chic boutique spa is Roca Negra, a spa resort in Agaete, on the wild north coast.
Capital city on the beach
Don’t exclude hotels in seductive Las Palmas, the capital, if you want a beach holiday with an urban buzz. The lively Playa de las Canteras beach is on the city doorstep so you can combine the seaside with the cultural sights and chilling out in funky bars. Santa Catalina is the top grande-dame hotel, better-suited to a cultural break. Or stay in a peaceful finca (rural retreat) outside town, where the Hacienda del Buen Suceso encompasses a banana plantation.
Rustic charm in the`real’ Gran Canaria
Virtually all the boutique hotels are in the rugged interior, along with the equally charming rural retreats. These range from understated fincas (country house hotels) to a stately Parador. So if you want an escape from a partying resort or big beach hotel, head inland. What’s more, most of the rural retreats chosen are under 45 minutes to the beach, but often far less.
Things to consider before booking
An island for all seasons
Winter is high season (October-April) so most hotels are pricier then, even if the summer low season (May-September) coincides with hotter weather. Amusingly, while Northern Europeans are cheerfully swimming and sunbathing in the balmy winter weather, the Canarians themselves may still be swathed in warm jackets.
Gran Canaria is an all-year-round destination, with constant good weather, especially in the southern resorts. Winter is the most popular season for the British, Irish and Northern Europeans, generally escaping the chills back home.
During the summer, Gran Canaria reverts to its Spanish roots. Since this is still low season, and the weather is hotter than in winter, this can still be a good time to look for a bargain. May and June are the quietest months so also good for bargains.
Know your weather zone
The weather may well influence your choice of region and resort. The southern resorts are generally in the mid-20s even in winter, and so rightly popular with sun-seekers.
Given that Gran Canaria is an island that thinks it’s a continent, it can be drizzling in Las Palmas but sizzling on the sand-dunes in the south. Still, expect perpetual summer in the south, which is around 10 degrees hotter than in the north.
The mountainous interior is more extreme in temperature, with very hot days in summer (30C) and distinctly chilly nights in winter, especially at higher altitude.
While cooler and wetter in Las Palmas and the lusher north of the island, the mild climate still means that temperatures rarely drop below 15c in winter. Expect balmy beach temperatures even in a Las Palmas winter: the city’s Las Canteras beach is party central in any season.
Remember that distances are so short in Gran Canaria that you can easily stay in a cooler zone and then `jump seasons’ simply by driving 40 minutes further south.