Gloria Palace is set in the hills, overlooking the dated resort of San Agustin, a fifteen-minute walk to the beach. San Agustin and the neighbouring resort of Playa del Ingles present two different faces of the south. San Agustin is where tourism began on the island but has long since been overtaken by partying Playa del Ingles. San Agustin is far quieter and more low-rise, apart from the hulking heights of Gloria Palace San Agustin itself, which dominates the hills.
The walk to the beach runs through undistinguished urban sprawl but, once in San Agustin, my heart lifts. The captivating coastal promenade wends west from San Agustin to Playa del Ingles, and then onto the Maspalomas Dunes and the burgeoning new resort of Meloneras. The hotel also offers a free shuttle service to the beaches on Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas.
Spa-lovers need never leave the hotel while golfers are spoilt for choice. The hotel is 5 km from Maspalomas Golf Course, 8 km from Meloneras Golf Course, and 10 km from Salobre Golf Course. There are also buses from San Agustin shopping centre to Maspalomas Lighthouse (Faro), Puerto de Mogan, Las Palmas, Palmito Park, as well as to the airport.
A rolling renovation programme means that many rooms have been refurbished recently. Bedrooms are spacious, contemporary and well-designed, with balconies, lounge areas and sea views in most cases. As is often the case on the island, beds are twins rather than doubles, but you can request that they’re made up as doubles. The sofa bed can be used to turn the bedroom into a family room. WiFi, safe hire and mini-bar service come with an extra charge. Bathrooms are spacious and equipped with bath/shower, twin hand basins and loo.
Gloria Palace caters to most guests’ needs, including its own shopping gallery, hairdresser, TV lounge, games room, 24-hour Internet corner, as well as free private parking. There is also a spa and beauty centre.
Eating and drinking
Gorbea, the gourmet rooftop restaurant, is a world away from the rabble in the buffet restaurant. Make it your mission to eat here as often as possible, both for the food and the ambience. The prices are not extortionate but this chic Basque a la carte restaurant is popular so book as soon as you arrive. Set on the ninth floor, by the funky rooftop chill-out area, Gorbea enjoys panoramic views towards the beach in San Agustín and the Maspalomas Dunes. Before dinner, enjoy cocktails at the sexy rooftop chill-out bar next-door. (For non-residents, the restaurant can also be reached via a panoramic lift from street level).
Instead, the buffet in the main restaurant is a rather hit-and-miss affair, not in the same league as at the sister hotels, but costs are lower here. Vegetarians are particularly poorly-served. Breakfast is of a reasonable standard but, unlike at the sister hotels, eggs are not cooked to order. The evening buffets operate two sittings. International fare predominates but there are also themed evenings, and a huge choice. While drinks, of course, cost extra, except if you’re on an all-inclusive basis, friendly staff often hand out free Cava to guests. Half or full-board options only include dining at the buffet restaurant.
The cluster of bars includes the lobby-bar, the pool bar, a snack-bar, and a rooftop chill-out bar. That’s in addition to the Salon Bar, the setting for the evening’s entertainment.
The spa at Gloria Palace San Agustin, supposedly the largest thalassotherapy centre in Europe, is huge, and embraces heated indoor and outdoor seawater pools. Although far more of a health spa than a cool spa, the thalasso centre is delightfully relaxing, unpretentious and exceptional value.
Tucked under a mushroom-shaped dome, the series of pools and powerful massage jets form a spa circuit which works different parts of your body in turn. It is also beneficial in the case of rheumatism and arthritis, as well for tackling muscle tension and general well-being. It’s a spa for everyone rather than just for preening spa babes. On my last visit, I happened to be there with a Spanish football side who went out of their way to charm the tourists, matrons included. On a cloudy day, shun the beach and wallow in here for a few hours to achieve a blissed-out state. A sauna, massages, and other excellent spa treatments are also on offer.
In this family-friendly hotel, young families are also well-catered for. Expect a children’s playground, dedicated pool and kids’ club (for 4 year-olds to 12-year-olds). As well as a child-minding service, there’s a separate entertainment programme for teenagers, including discos.
Most adults also appreciate the range of complimentary activities, from yoga, gym and dance classes to table tennis, pool, boules, archery and target-shooting. Squash, paddle and tennis are also on offer (separate charge), with the tennis courts floodlit at night.
Golfers appreciate the hotel’s closeness to Maspalomas Golf Course (5 km away), Meloneras Golf Course (8 km) away, and to Salobre Golf Course (10 km). Guests can benefit from discounted green fees.
Apart from the spa pools, Gloria Palace offers three other heated swimming pools, with the top
terrace reserved for nudists. Sun-beds are rarely an issue by any of the pools. On the rooftop is a funky `chill-out’ zone designed for adults. This cabana-style area includes a sundeck, pool and cool bar, which connects with Gorbea, the gourmet restaurant. By day, the chill-out zone is a quiet retreat but comes alive at sunset, and during the cocktail hour, when the panoramic views add to the atmosphere.
The evening’s entertainment, including mainstream music, dancing and shows, is staged in the downstairs Salon Bar. While much of it can be cheesy, performances are never less than enthusiastic, a tribute to the big-hearted nature of this family-owned hotel group. The Gloria Palace is far from being a soulless resort hotel and nearly always delivers.
Friendly but laidback, with reception and the spa often the weakest link, especially at busy times. Some receptionists have poor language skills. Service is superb in Gorbea, the a la carte restaurant, a far cry from in the `smash and grab’ buffet restaurant.
Who stays there
San Agustin has always been popular with Scandinavians, but the British are now fans of the hotel, especially empty-nesters and aficionados of thalassotherapy spas. The hotel also appeals to older couples and families looking for superb value and a wide range of facilities, with golf and the beach nearby. Party people can head into Playa del Ingles in the evening. Instead, the sophisticated set can opt for Meloneras.
Winter rates (October-April) are higher, but a buffet breakfast is always included. There are often better deals here than at the Gloria Palace sister hotels. The refurbished family rooms are very good value while the thalassotherapy spa is exceptional value. As in most of Gran Canaria, there is a negligible price differential between B&B and half-board rates so the latter makes sense. Given that half-board rates are so reasonable, opt for that but aim to dine in the a la carte restaurant as often as budgets allow, and to eat out occasionally too.
- Fitness Centre
- High-Speed Internet
- Room Service
- Swimming Pool
- Families with teenagers
- Families with younger children
- Mature travellers
- Live entertainment
- No fuss
Pros & Cons
- The Basque a la carte restaurant is one of the finest on the island
- The `chill-out’ bar and cool pool make the rooftop a funky retreat
- The thalassotherapy spa is the biggest and best of its kind on Gran Canaria
- The a la carte restaurant is superb but the buffets leave much to be desired
- The hotel feels rather isolated and cut off from the main beach and nightlife action
- San Agustin beach is a trek but there is a shuttle to Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas beaches