If you’ve ever been a bit doubtful about purpose-built resorts, Playa Taurito on Gran Canaria could be the place that changes your mind in 2018.
This beautifully situated collection of luxury hotels makes the most of the island’s pluses – sunshine, sands, dramatic volcanic landscapes – and does away with the possible negative of the sometimes high winds.
And because it’s been planned from the start, Playa Taurito’s facilities, like its water park, match the area’s natural suitability for water sports of all types.
For a change of scenery on your Playa Taurito holiday just pop up the coast to fashionable Playa Mogan or put on your dancing shoes for a night out to the south in Puerto Rico. And Gran Canaria is small and easy to get around, so if you want to explore its exciting capital, Las Palmas, or get lost somewhere in its astonishingly diverse natural landscapes, then you’re never more than a short drive from something new to discover.
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On an island that is at the same latitude as the Sahara desert but is cooled by Atlantic winds, spending time in the sun is always going to be a strong contender. That’s certainly true when you holiday at Playa Taurito, which has a beach that’s well suited to this small, almost secret resort. Once you’ve caught some rays, you’ll want to enjoy those inviting waters, perhaps for a gentle swim, or maybe for something more daring involving boats, diving gear, or surf boards and encounters with turtles, dolphins or whales.
You can be almost anywhere on Gran Canaria from Playa Taurito in not much more than an hour’s drive, so the likes of Palmitos Park, a top-notch animal park, the sand dunes of Maspalomas, or Las Palmas’ beautiful cathedral are really on your doorstep. Even nearer at hand are the marina and stylish seafront of Playa Mogan and the lively, British-friendly social scene in Puerto Rico, while inland are beautiful mountains and other natural wonders on what is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
With many years as a popular tourist destination under its belt, Gran Canaria knows how to please a wide variety of palates. The dominant influence is Spanish, of course, but you’ll find all sorts of European restaurants and tastes from around the world, as well as plenty of food that youngsters can enjoy.
There’s also a distinctive island cuisine, too. Spicy sausages, goat’s milk cheeses, and mountain honey are among the best local produce, and with meat tough to produce on a small, hot island great-quality vegetables and seafood play a big role in local dishes. “Wrinkled potatoes” is the islands’ most distinctive dish, served with spicy red or herby green sauce, and often offered up as part of a tapas selection, which you’ll hear called enyesques on Gran Canaria. A rich fish soup is also a speciality in coastal towns.
There are lots of good Canarian wines these days, both red and white, and they include a syrupy red called Malvasia that’s a bit like Madeira and is at least as popular with British drinkers as its better known rival.
Playa Taurito holidays are perfect family holidays, especially for those with younger kids. The beach is small, sheltered and very safe for those who want to stay in the shallows. And the resort itself has been built with children in mind, most obviously in the shape of Playa Taurito Lido water park. It’s not one of the giants of the water park world, but it’s a great attraction to have on your doorstep, and is complemented by child-friendly activities in almost all the resort’s hotels.
If you feel you’ve exhausted Playa Taurito then just arrange a taxi or jump in a car and head for Palmitos Park. As long as you don’t have ethical objections you can enjoy butterflies, birds, and dolphin displays. There are more theme parks at Maspalomas, where you can enjoy a camel ride along the dunes as well as Holiday World park or Aqualand, a water park that also has a branch at Playa del Ingles.
There is almost no end to the ways you can test your nerve or stretch your muscles on Gran Canaria.
The most well established can be found just off the island, in the rich Atlantic waters that are the Canaries’ lifeblood. You can dive in the waters, surf or windsurf on them, pilot your own Jetski or sit back while a trained crew hoist the sails on a yacht. Every resort has at least one water sports specialist, and with a bit of planning you could be doing something new in the water every day of your Playa Taurito holiday.
Sports and adventure holidays are booming on Gran Canaria. The mountains are wonderful for hiking – with some beautiful local villages to explore – horse riding or cycling. Elsewhere you’ll find everything from rock climbing to paragliding on offer, with off-roading and camel safaris particularly well-suited to the island’s dry landscapes.
The famous black sands of the Canary Islands are just outside the front door on your Playa Taurito holiday – some people reckon the dark sands are softer than lighter beaches, something you’ll have to find out for yourself. The beach isn’t enormous in length, but has enough depth to allow everyone to spread out. Set in a sweeping bay, it’s very sheltered, though that doesn’t stop it from being a good spot to try out your water sports skills.
For its size, Gran Canaria really does have a ridiculous number of good beaches, and if you can’t find something to suit you down to the ground then you simply haven’t looked in the right places! To take just the two closest examples, Playa Mogan is enclosed within a man-made barrier for super-safe swimming, while Puerto Rico’s beach is big and expansive. If you want to see a beach that seems almost endless then go to Maspalomas, where the dunes are an important natural habitat and the camel rides seem entirely appropriate. Playa del Ingles shows that the British have great taste in seaside sands, and is big enough to allow zoning that keeps the lively from the simply lazy.
Your hotel bar will be the focus of your nightlife if you limit your Playa Taurito holiday to your immediate surroundings. Spread your wings just a little though and you’ll have plenty to choose from.
To the north is Playa Mogan, where bars, restaurants, and low-key clubs cluster not just around the marina, but also around the waterways that have earned the smart little town its “little Venice” nickname. To the south, Puerto Rico, has a livelier scene based largely around its central square, with a fair number of British-friendly or –themed venues. For some real dancing opportunities your best bets are Playa del Ingles, for young, international clubbing, or Las Palmas for some very cool, Latin-infused nightlife.
The rhythm of gently lapping waves is the perfect background noise to any romantic dinner, and in the quiet surroundings of this little resort that can be the soundtrack to your Playa Taurito holiday.
Waterside dining with spectacular sunset views is a feature along this coast. Playa Mogan is perhaps being a little ambitious when it takes on the name “little Venice” in honour of the most romantic city in the world, but it still has a lovely water-side atmosphere, whether you stick to the marina or follow the canal inland.
For a change from the coast, there are lots of gentle walks in the central mountains, and beautiful views from the likes of Pico de las Nieves, Mirador Pico de Bandama, or Mirador de Puerto de Mogan above the nearby resort.
And if you’re feeling sophisticated, head to Las Palmas and stroll among the narrow lanes – now lined with trendy shops and bars – of the Vegueta neighbourhood, one of the grandest and most atmospheric sights anywhere on the Canary Islands.
For an island with a reputation as a sun-seeker’s paradise, there’s perhaps a surprising number of cultural attractions to explore on Gran Canaria.
Any islander will tell you what a vital role their homeland played in world history when Christopher Columbus laid anchor here on his voyages of discovery. The great explorer’s Atlantic travels are celebrated in the Casa de Colon in Las Palmas, where you’ll also find a number of other good museums, a beautiful cathedral and architecture that is said to have been the model for almost all the colonial cities of Latin America. And it’s a living culture, too, with a good rosta of music and arts festivals, and a lively traditional carnival.
You’ll find very ancient pre-Columbian history on show at the Museo y Parque Arqueologico Cueva Pintada in Galdar, the most important archaeological site on the island. And you can get bang up to date at the AstroGC museum in touristy Maspalomas, a family-friendly museum of space that celebrates the Canaries clear skies and role in astronomy.
Put aside some time, too, to search out traditional Canary Island culture. In the mountains and off the beaten track you’ll find unchanged villages like Firgas, historic towns, like Arucas (a rum production centre), and a pretty Sunday market in Teror.