W hile the idea of a package holiday in the Canary Islands might fill some holidaymakers with dread, there really is no reason to believe the hype. Yes, it is largely the domain of pleasure-seeking Europeans, but this doesn’t have to be your abiding impression, as Time Out found out, much to our joy. The made-for-tourism resort of Puerto Rico is the perfect destination for a spot of battery recharging in the sun.
Although Puerto Rico does have its own beaches, they are dwarfed by the one at Amadores. Just a brisk (or leisurely, depending on the mood) downhill walk from the upper part of Puerto Rico, this crescent-shaped stretch of sand is very popular with families, water babies and sun-seekers alike. Along with the refreshing, azure waters, there are a number of restaurants and bars lining the shore, all of which have a certain beach shack charm. As with elsewhere in the area, you will find several venues showing live sport for those who can’t miss a single kick off of their beloved football team.
If you really want some authentic Spanish fare, try the Balcón Canario in Puerto Rico. This fabulously friendly family-run eatery might be stuck in a shabby shopping centre, but look past the appearance and gorge on the food, lovingly prepared by a culinary team who clearly have a huge passion for what they do. You will find a number of Spanish classics on the menu but we say plump for the paella, which is quite simply one of the tastiest dishes we have ever tried. In fact, it was so good that it even tasted great when reheated in the microwave the next day.
Puerto de Mogán
Should you fancy a change of scenery, or change of pace, then jump on a bus to idyllic Puerto de Mogán. Dubbed “Little Venice” due to the canals that link the harbour to the marina, this little fishing village is as beautiful as it is refined. Its Friday market is well worth a visit, offering a range of stalls run by local artisans who sell craft jewellery and other hand-made goods. There’s also a beach that even attracts Spanish tourists, along with a good selection of restaurants along the small promenade.
Where to stay
The Altamar Hotel might be a popular destination for boisterous Brits, but if you play your cards right and book one of the sizeable studios near the top of the resort, you can find the peace and quiet you are seeking. With exceptional views over the Atlantic – and thanks to a climate conducive to soaking up the sun – you’ll soon feel all your worries drift away. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more friendly and welcoming set of staff than at this hotel that, like many in Puerto Rico, cascades down the mountainside towards the sea. Handily, there is a lift to the more lofty parts if you over-ate at the restaurant below, which has an array of themed nights with entertainment and knocks out a mean barbecue.
Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel
This four-star offering is well worth a look, even if it is just for the fantastic setting. Perched dramatically on the cliff top, the Gloria Palace offers sensational vistas of the Atlantic, especially from its infinity pool. The building itself is a brilliant fusion of modern glass and steel work along with local stone, giving you a real sense of modernity and traditionalism. The Gloria also boasts one of Europe’s largest centres for thalassotherapy, a skin rejuvenating treatment that uses seawater.
If you really want to be in the heart of Puerto Rico, but don’t want to miss out on the sea views, then this group of apartments could be the answer. Its location makes El Greco an ideal base for exploring the town itself but also gives guests direct access to the beach at its base. There are three dining options here: the grill restaurant, the poolside snack bar and the Italian eatery El Molino del Greco.
Although technically in Europe, Gran Canaria is perched just off the West African coast. The quickest way of reaching it from Dubai is by taking an Emirates flight to Casablanca and then hopping on a Royal Air Maroc service to Las Palmas. From Abu Dhabi, fly with Etihad to Madrid before a connection on Iberia to Las Palmas. If travelling from Doha, take a Qatar Airways flight to Madrid followed by the same connecting service to Las Palmas with Iberia. The bus from Las Palmas to Puerto Rico takes around half an hour.
As with most destinations, the cheapest way to venture around Puerto Rico and the rest of the island is via public transport. Gran Canaria has a very solid and regular bus service that connects many towns and tourist spots with each other. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can always hire a scooter from one of the many rental places in Puerto Rico, as long as you are brave enough to tackle some winding coastal roads on what is essentially a hairdryer on wheels. If you try it, you won't be alone on the cliff edge, as it's a popular way to get about. Taxis are a little pricey compared to Middle Eastern standards, but are readily available and the drivers very helpful.
Unless you go all-inclusive, the cost of package holidays can soon escalate depending on what sort of board is included. If you can spare the time, quickly rustle yourself up a daily picnic to take to the beach or on sightseeing trips. Puerto Rico has a number of Hiperdino supermarkets that are reasonably priced and well stocked. This tactic will leave you with more to splash out on an evening meal each night.
If you are looking for something far more authentically Gran Canarian than the stream of bars and nightclubs dotted around Puerto Rico, then take a trip to Agaete. On August 4 each year, this historic town on the north-west coast plays host to Fiesta de La Rama. The precursor to a more sedate festival the next day, this colourful celebration sees thousands of dancers making their way through two waving palm branches. It is widely believed that the fiesta has its origins in the rain dance performed by the first settlers on the island. Another August highlight of the Gran Canarian calendar is the Vará del Pescao. Held in the town of Agüimes, this is a festival of fish, rejoicing in the old method of calling out to neighbours using conch shells, announcing the catch’s arrival.