You have finally decided you deserve that surf holiday in Gran Canaria you have been thinking about for months. Now what? If you are interested in surfing good waves, visiting the island and escaping from the cold winter of your city, I have the right tips for you.
I have just come back from Gran Canaria: I was there for two weeks at the end of December, looking for a specific kind of holiday — just surfing and meeting new people — and that was exactly what I got!
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
When talking about surf, the choice of where to stay is quite easy: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has the best surf spots of the island, suitable for both beginners and advanced surfers. Moreover, it’s the biggest city of Canary Islands and you can find everything you need, from surf schools and rentals to the best tapas restaurants.
It has a long seaside promenade overlooking several kilometers of the city beach: Playa de Las Canteras. In the north part you can enjoy the sun and do snorkeling in calm and transparent water, while in the south part, called La Cicer, you can surf really good waves.
FEEL Surf Camp Las Palmas
Since mine was a solo holiday and I wanted to meet awesome people, possibly surfers, I was looking for a surf camp and I found the FEEL Surf Camp, which convinced me for the good reviews on Facebook and Tripadvisor.
You can choose among various kind of accommodation:
- Private or shared bedroom in the Surf House
- Shared bedroom in the Surf Hostel
- Private apartment
There are also different surf pack you can choose. I picked the 450 euros pack with:
- Shared bedroom for 7 nights
- 5 surf lessons of 2 hours each
- Unlimited use of surf material
- 5 activities included
As I don’t mind to sleep with other people, I chose the shared bedroom in the Surf House. It turned out to be a nice shared apartment with the main living room, a kitchen, a bathroom with a big shower and just two bedrooms: the private one and mine with three beds. So you end up to share the apartment with a maximum of four other people, which is fine and comfortable. In my case, we were four people the first days and just three later.
In the apartment, you can find everything you need: from surfboards, wetsuits and skateboards free to use, to snorkeling stuff, guitars and sun protection.
The Surf House is located directly on the promenade, so that you sleep with the lullaby of the waves and every morning you can wake up, open the window and look at the sea. The best snorkeling spot is just in front of your door, while the surf spot is ten minutes walking.
When I arrived at the airport I got a taxi (33 euros) and I arrived at the Surf House in about half an hour. You can also book a transfer with the Surf Camp for 30 euros. Actually, I recommend you to come by bus: you will have to get the first bus from the airport to Las Palmas and then exchange with another one, but it’s quite easy and far more cheap: less than 5 euros!
After checking in, I just had the time to leave my baggage in my room, that I was added to a WhatsApp group where the other surfers shared their location. On Saturday night, in fact, there is an organized activity: concert tour at the Surf beach promenade.
I immediately joined them at Bodegon Pachichi, one of the best tapas bars in Las Palmas, where you can taste the typical Canarian tapas like papas arrugadas, chorizo on fire (literally!), jamon serrano and much more. We ate a lot of tapas, about eight bottles of beer and paid just 6 euros each!
The night continued at Mumbai Sunset, where we had good music and good cocktails.
My new mates were nice and funny people, between 30 and 40 years old. Almost all Germans! As I would have learned later, since the German winter is pretty though and the flight to Gran Canaria quite cheap, they love to escape from the cold and come there. I met about 20 Germans in two weeks! But, hey, they are really nice, polite and funny people. And they drink a lot!
However, in the next days, I also met people from Switzerland (still speaking German!), Italy, Glasgow and Argentina.
Trip to Maspalomas
On Sunday the weather in Las Palmas was cloudy, so we decided to rent a car for a day (35 euros divided by 4 people) at Autos Tirma and go to the mountains in the middle of the island. Bad choice: it was so cloudy that we could hardly see the street, as the more you go deep into the mountains, the more the altitude increase and you’ll find yourself literally in the clouds.
After some hours of driving, hoping to find the sun, we decided to head to the south of the island where we were sure it was sunny. In fact, the mountains in the center of Gran Canaria keeps the clouds in the north part. That means that usually you can find clouds, rain and green in the north and sun in the south, where it’s more desertic and less green.
We finally arrived in Maspalomas: the city itself is horrible, full of resorts and ugly hotels, but the interesting part is the huge beach with dunes. And the sun, of course.
We walked through the dunes and it felt like to be in the desert, as the sand dunes can reach an impressive height. You can also roll down the dunes or do sandboarding, if you like!
What I don’t like about this place, apart from being too much touristic, is that it’s almost always windy. You can’t really relax sunbathing among the dunes, as the wind is strong and noisy. However, a visit there is worth anyway.
After crossing the dunes from east to west, you will also find the bird sanctuary La Charca, a little pond full of different kind of birds, where you can practice bird watching.
Before coming back, we stopped at a bar near the Maspalomas lighthouse and we had the chance to see an awesome sunset on the sea, drinking a Mojito.
If you just want to go to Maspalomas, I would recommend you to go by bus (about 1,5 hours), rather than renting a car just for that.
On Monday I finally started my surf lessons! I didn’t actually need it, but I wanted to practice a little bit after months of pause. And it’s also a good way to meet new people.
The Surf Camp relies on the Brisa surf school, which is directly in front of La Cicer, the surf spot, and 10 minutes walking from the apartment. You can have a hardboard or softboard, as you prefer.
The instructors are nice and professional, but honestly if you are a beginner I think they don’t follow you enough. They just stay on the shore whistling at you and making signs with the arms from far. Just the fourth day, finally, an instructor came with us with his board in the green waves and that was actually useful.
However, being an intermediate surfer, my experience has been fine and I got good tips from them that led me to catch some of the best waves in my life so far!
Vegueta, the old town
After the surf, I went with a new friend to the old city center of Las Palmas, the Vegueta neighborhood. You can reach it by walking for one hour, by bus or by taxi (about 5 euros).
I have to admit that I don’t really like the architecture of Las Palmas: I’m not an expert, but the buildings are ugly and grey. The only nice part is the original old city, with houses in colonial style.
In Vegueta you can walk in nice small pedestrian streets and squares. You will find the Christopher Columbus’s house (Casa de Colón), the cathedral, museums… and more.
Trip to Agaete
On Tuesday, after one-hour bus ride (4 euros), we arrived in Agaete, a small village of fishers on the north-west of the island.
There is a nice harbor called Puerto de Las Nieves, where you can see huge mountains plunging down to the sea and the famous Dedo de Deos: a natural monument on the coastline emerging from the sea which once had the shape of a finger, but it has been destroyed by a hurricane years ago. If you look at it, there is a strange optical effect: you can’t understand if it’s a cave in the mountain or if it’s actually a rock in front of it.
At a walking distance from the harbor, there is Las Salinas, an old saltworks where now you can swim as it was a pool with still water from the ocean.
If you stay until evening, you can also enjoy an awesome sunset over the sea.
Natural pools and Finca La Laja
Wednesday is the day of the organized trip: after surfing, we have been picked up by van, heading to some “secret” natural pools, a few minutes of driving from Las Palmas.
Gran Canaria has many natural pools and salinas, but most of them are well known by tourists, hence crowded. They brought us to some natural pools, unknown by the public, so we were able to enjoy a (cold) swim far away from other people.
After a quick stop to Agaete (yes, again!), we reached Finca La Laja, a farm more than 200 years old. We had a guided tour (6 euros) where they show us how they grow coffee (they are the only one in the whole Europe!), fruits and wine. We ended the tour with a tasting of four different wines, some typical products and their coffee.
Thursday is tree planting day!
Once upon a time, Gran Canaria was a green island full of forests, that has been then destroyed by colonies and later by economic development, leading to erosion and desertification.
In order to help to reforest Gran Canaria, for every guest of the Surf Camp, they make sure that a new tree is planted, to give back something to the island.
Jordi, the owner of the Surf Camp, picked us by van and we went to the Surfers’ Forest, where they use to plant the trees. We were provided with gloves, shovels and a little plant. And we started digging!
After at least half an hour of work, everyone was able to plant his tree, adding also a little tag with a personal message. A lot of sweat under the sun, but it was a rewarding experience
Someone once said:
Every man should plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. These all live on after us, insuring a measure of immortality.
How many do you miss? 🙂
Thursday is also the tapas night: in the old city center of Vegueta there’s a street (Calle Mendizábal) where every Thursday night all the tapas bars offer special deals.
We took a taxi to Vegueta (5 euros) and we started the tapas tour, tasting tapas of all kinds: from the basque pinchos to Italian tapas, with deals like one tapa plus one beer for 2,50 euros.
My recommendation is to start from the beginning of the street and try a different tapa in every bar!
Eat healthy and good fish
On Friday, after the surf, we just wanted to eat healthy (after too many days of tapas!) and we went to The Block: it’s a very nice open-air bar on the promenade in front of the surf beach. You can have a huge salad for just 5 euros, while chilling at the sun drinking their tasty lemonade. It’s also a nice place if you are looking for a place to work outside, as the Wifi is available and the place quiet.
During the afternoon I finally had some time just to relax doing nothing for the first time in the week, chilling at the sun. What a busy week!
In the evening I proposed to go to eat at my favorite place: Amigo Camilo. It’s the last restaurant at the end of the beach on the north side of the city (20 minutes walk from the apartment), but it really worths it. There’s no menu: you just look at the table with all the fishes and seafood and you order what inspires you. Don’t miss the shrimps: the best I have ever tried! Try to go at 8 pm when it opens, because otherwise you may not find the fishes that you want. The best part: high quality for a really cheap price!
Concerts and parties
On Saturday it’s concert time: from 7 pm there are a lot of live concerts outside of the bars near the surf beach. The party still continues at the Plaza de la Musica, behind the auditorium, where there are other live concerts inside some clubs there.
This is just my first week! Very intense, full of surf, nice places, food and alcohol!
I loved my staying at FEEL Surf Camp and I met a lot of nice people that, after just one week, it was like knowing them for a month.
You can think that sharing an apartment with just 2-3 mates does not really help you to connect with many people, but actually it’s not just the people from the Surf House. During the organized activities or the surf classes, you will also meet people from the Surf Hostel or the Surf Apartment. And in the same group there are people from the Surf Camp and from the Yoga Camp! So you will end up meeting a looot of different people, from all over the world (ok, mostly Germans!)
La Ventana Azul
Since the FEEL Surf Camp was already full for the following week, I had to book a different place.
I found a nice Surf Hostel, just two doors far from the other place: La Ventana Azul.
You can book the full pack with surf lessons through the Oceanside surf school or you can contact directly the hostel. I chose this second options, as I was no more interested in surf classes.
For the cheap price of 150 euros, I got a bunk bed in a shared room with other five people for a week.
When you enter the hostel, the first thing that you think is: “Ok, this is a Surf Hostel for real!”. There are five different shared bedrooms with 4-6 beds each, two shared bathrooms, a big shared kitchen where everyone has his own space in the fridge and on the shelves.
And, best of all, a big terrace where to chill at the sun, having breakfast looking at the ocean, or dinner under the stars. This is the place where the magic happens, where you will play alcoholic games, where you will meet new friends every day.
Don’t think about it as a classic hostel you may be used to: it’s a place that gives you good vibrations from the first very moment. Almost all the people working in the hostel are volunteers from Workaway: they are nice, funny and passionate. They clean the hostel every day, in fact the bathrooms are always clean and so are the kitchen and the floors too.
Here there are no official activities, but every other day they cook dinner for everyone for just 5 euros each. And at the moment most of the volunteers are Italians, so they cook very well!
I moved there the 24th of December and, of course, I joined the Christmas dinner party: for just 10 euros I got as many food and wine I wanted. And I met new people from the first day: from Germany (of course!), Sweden, Canada, Holland, UK, Italy…
That was the menu: chicken with potato, salad, vegetables, rustic pies, focaccia… There was so much food that they offered us the leftovers for free the next day.
I spent Christmas day surfing and chilling at the beach! I rented a surfboard for the whole week: in the hostel there is a rack where you can leave the surf and a place where to put the wetsuit to dry. They don’t mind if you enter the hostel with sandy feet and if you have a shower directly with the wetsuit on. They will clean all your mess in a few minutes!
Trip to Pico de Las Nieves and Roque Nublo
Since the first trip to the mountains was unsuccessful, I decided to try again with some new friends. Sun was shining in Las Palmas, with no clouds, so good chances to find nice weather in the mountains too.
We rented a car at Dolar Cars (40 euros per day): I don’t recommend it at all. They don’t have the parking near the office, so we had to wait more than half an hour for the car.
After one hour driving, we arrived at the highest point of the island: Pico de Las Nieves. From here you can see everything from above, all the mountains, the dunes of Maspalomas and even Tenerife. Just look for Mirador pico de los pozos on Google Maps to get there.
Next stop: Roque Nublo. We parked at the Aparcamiento de la Degollada de La Goleta and we started an easy two hours hike to the top of Roque Nublo. It’s an easy path, well marked. When you arrive at Roque Nublo it seems to be on Mars: there are just two big rocks standing out on the blue sky, in the middle of a plain.
If you have the equipment, you can also climb on that rocks. Otherwise, just relax, enjoy the view and have a sandwich!
After such a beautiful mountains view, we wanted to reach the sea so we headed north. On the way, we stopped at Barranco De Azuaje: we left the car and started a new hike on a path in the forest, near a river and small waterfalls. After a few minutes, we arrived at the Balneario de Azuaje, an old abandoned SPA built in 1868 and closed in 1955. You can enter it and visit the ruins, full of graffitis, trying to imagine how it should have been years ago, thanking God that you are not there during the night. Do you fear ghosts?
We didn’t have the time to do the full trail because we wanted to arrive at the sea before the sunset. We would have need 2 or 3 hours to complete it and see the waterfalls.
The final stop of the day: Los Charcones, awesome natural pools where you can swim. It’s just about 20 minutes by car from Las Palmas and I recommend you a sunset swim there.
The rest of the week I surfed (a lot!), relaxed on the beach and had some more tasty dinners on the rooftop made by the Italians: hamburger night, pasta with clams dinner, cocktail night…
Now I can almost hear you asking which Surf Camp I liked more, right? Well, it’s not easy to say. The first week I met fewer people, but we made deeper connections, just for the fact of being a small group (ten people).
The second week I liked more the environment, very hostel like. It was easy to meet a lot of different people (in the hostel there were like 25-30 people!), but it was harder to stay with the same people the whole week and create deep bonds with them.
So, where to stay? It’s up to you! I stayed in both the places and I would do it again!