South of the island of Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands, birds flock to the town of Maspalomas. This charming resort town, a 20-minute drive from Puerto Rico, is also known as the oldest tourist town on the Gran Canaria south coast. Aside from its rich wildlife and vibrant social scene, Maspalomas is famous for one prominent feature: sand dunes. Because we usually associate sand dunes with the Middle East, it is quite surprising to find them in a Spanish island.
Visitors may also find themselves strolling through an array of first-class restaurants and designer boutiques in this sophisticated resort town. Since 1961, Maspalomas is being developed as a tourist destination similar to California’s Palm Springs and Florida’s Palm Beach. As of 2013, Maspalomas has a population of around 36,065. If you ever decide to spend your next vacation in this pleasant little corner of the world, here are some things you might want to try.
1. Visit Faro De Maspalomas and dine al fresco by the sea
Serving as a boundary between Maspalomas and Meloneras, Faro de Maspalomas (Maspalomas Lighthouse) is the place to check out if you want a taste of the local scene. The lighthouse was built in the 19th-century and has been active since then. The lighthouse is not open to the public but visitors can take pictures outside with scenic views including the sand dunes. There are shops, bars, cafes, and restaurants in the area which allow guests to dine with a view. Many shops and restaurants in the area are expensive and high-end, so this is a good place to check out if you’re looking for a little taste of luxury in the town.
El Faro de Maspalomas (Maspalomas Lighthouse)
Address: Plaza del Faro, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Entrance fee: None
Opening hours: All day
Getting there: Take Bus 66, 91 or 90 to Faro de Maspalomas
2. Watch movies under the moonlight
Maspalomas at night is just as enchanting as Maspalomas by day. Another thing just as enchanting? Movies! Moonlight Cinema Gran Canaria is known to be Europe’s only permanent open-air cinema. Guests are treated to comfortable sofas and cocktails. They also offer food such as pizza and nachos. If it gets chilly, guests can avail of blankets. Under the stars, guests can get comfortable and watch a variety of box office titles.
Address: C.C. Boulevard Oasis, Av. Cristóbal Colón, 4, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Entrance fee: Tickets cost 15 EUR (17 USD) for adults and 10 EUR (11 USD) for children
Getting there: Take Bus 66, 91 or 90 to Faro de Maspalomas. Walk a few steps from the Faro de Maspalomas bus terminus in Meloneras
Contact: +34 677270310, or email: [email protected]
Website: Moonlight Cinema Gran Canaria
The Maspalomas sand dunes are truly a sight to behold, so why not enhance the experience with a few camels? The sand dunes, which stretch for about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) and cover an area of about 400 hectares (988 acres), are part of a government-protected nature reserve since 1897. Visitors can traverse this landscape through a 40-minute group camel ride. There are stops along the way so visitors can take pictures of the surrounding Sahara-esque landscape. Other tours like the Camello Safari also let visitors stop at Bedouin tents to cool off.
Camel Riding in Maspalomas Dunes
Duration: 30 minutes
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4. Soak up the sun and explore the beaches
The vibrant Maspalomas social scene can be found in its many beaches. However, there are also beaches which offer visitors a little corner of solace in the lively town. They are also fairly close to each other so it won’t take much to explore them all. The lively white sand Playa de Maspalomas has a wide array of bungalows for visitors to use. There are also kiosks all over the place which sell food and refreshments. The famous and otherworldly sand dunes can also be reached through a large arched entrance on Avenida de Tirajana. A word of warning though: not all areas of the beach are family friendly. Some areas of the beach are designated for nudists and the gay community, so it’s best to know the perfect spots to suit your fancy.
The Playa del Inglés also has similar features. Also similar is the Playa de Meloneras, except that it has less wind. It is also less prone to getting overcrowded, so those looking for a little bit of seclusion can chill out here. And finally, the quietest of them all is the Playa de San Agustin, whose dark sands do not get many visitors. Visitors can use this area for snorkeling, surfing, and scuba diving. It is also close to a lot of seafood restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Playa de Maspalomas, Playa del Inglés, Playa de Meloneras
Address: Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Entrance fee: None
Opening hours: All day
Getting there: Take Bus 66 or 90 and get off at Playa del Inglés
Playa de San Agustin
Address: San Agustin, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Entrance fee: None
Opening hours: All day
Getting there: Take Bus 01, 05, 29, or 30 and get off at Playa de San Agustin
5. Check out the flora and fauna at the scenic Palmitos Park
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Aside from camels and rare migratory birds, Maspalomas has a wide variety of plants and animals for you to discover. Visitors can go to its parks and natural reserves to check out the plants and animals that call Maspalomas home. Palmitos Park, a sub-tropical oasis located in a valley, is abundant with plant and animal life - above and under water. The park has more than 200 species of birds and a vast array of freshwater and saltwater species which can be found in the aquarium.
The Dolphinarium, where dolphin shows are held, consists of three swimming pools and can seat 1,500 people. The best part? Not only can you watch them perform tricks, you can also swim with them! The Palmitos Aqualand is also nearby for those who want more water park fun. Aside from dolphins, various birds-of-prey can also perform tricks for visitors. Other places of interest in the park are the Cactus Garden and the Orchid House, the biggest collection of orchids in the Canary Islands. There is also the Butterfly House which is the largest one in Europe.
Address: Barranco de Los Palmitos, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Contact: +34 928797070
Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: Adults - 51 EUR (58 USD) Children - 35 EUR (39 USD)
Getting there: Take Bus 45 or 70 and get off at Palmitos Park
Website: Palmitos Park
6. Run free with the horses
In Maspalomas, not only can you live out your Sahara dreams - you can also live out your caballero dreams too. Maspalomas has a variety of riding clubs like the El Salobre Horse Riding and The Pretty Horses Club that offer guided tours for visitors. For the El Salobre tour, visitors have around 2 hours to take in the lush valley views on horseback. Visitors with no horseback riding experience gave positive feedback, saying the tour guides were great at making it less difficult and scary. Visitors can arrange a pick-up and drop off point with the riding club.
El Salobre Horse Riding
Address: Calle Islas Malvinas, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Contact: +34 616418363
Website: El Salobre Riding Club
7. Enjoy the night and ride the Ferris Wheel at Holiday World
And finally, some good old carnival fun to end the night. Aside from its landmark Ferris Wheel, Holiday World also has many rides and attractions such as a bowling alley and other amusement park attractions. Visitors can also enjoy the laser show. There is no entrance fee, with the park making use of rechargeable cards and points. The park is around 5 minutes away from Playa del Inglés, so visitors can take a walk to the beach once they have used up their energy. Everyone, especially those traveling with kids, might want to check this one out.
Address: Avda. Touroperador Tui, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Opening hours: 5 pm to 11 pm
Entrance fee: None
Getting there: Many bus lines stop at Holiday World. You can also take Bus 66 or 90 and get off at Playa del Inglés
Contact: +34 928730498 Ext. 3, +34 928766725 (fax), email: [email protected]
Website: Holiday World Maspalomas
Dolphins are such lovely creatures that it is worth going on a cruise to catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitat. The Gran Canaria area offers a wide variety of tours that offer guests a chance to spot dolphins, whales, and other sea animals such as turtles and flying fish. The starting point for the tours is at Puerto Rico harbor, which is around 20 minutes away from Maspalomas, but some tours can arrange a pick-up at a Gran Canaria hotel.
Some tours like the one offered by the Spirit of the Seas cruise also offer unlimited soft drinks. The ride lasts for around 2 to 3 hours and some boats have a glass bottom for underwater viewing pleasure. Didn’t see any dolphins? Fret not! Visitors can upgrade to a 3-hour trip which includes a swim by the bay.
Gran Canaria Whale, Dolphin Spotting Cruise with Swim Option
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
9. Recharge in a unique way
Water therapy is one of the many ways to rejuvenate the body. The 5-star hotel Lopesan Villa del Conde offers thalassotherapy, a new kind of water therapy which makes use of temperature-controlled salt water and sunlight. Guests can float in a gravity pool and use showers infused with essential oils. Aside from stress, thalassotherapy is said to be effective in treating arthritis, eczema, back and muscle pains, psoriasis, and of course, stress. It is also used to treat asthma, hypertension, bronchitis, arteriosclerosis, muscle atrophy, and scabies.
Once you’re done with the therapy, you can check out the nearby Meloneras beach and nature preserve, as well as the resort at the Villa del Conde. Your entire body deserves a break from the stress, so why not try thalassotherapy for a change?
Lopesan Villa del Conde Thalassotherapy Center
Address: Calle Mar Mediterráneo, 7, 35100 San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Meloneras, Spain
Contact: +34 928563232
Getting there: Take Bus 66, 91 or 90 to Faro de Maspalomas. It is also a 30-minute taxi ride from the airport
Website: Lopesan Villa del Conde
Immerse yourself in Spain's natural wonders
This corner of the world may not be immense, but it does have vibrancy and liveliness. Maspalomas has wonders in every corner, you just have to know where to look.
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