In search of a wellness boost, Tracey Nightingale travels to Gran Canaria and discovers delicious food, heavenly spas and beautiful landscapes
To book a wellness break in Gran Canaria, visit Gran Canaria Spa, Wellness & Health
There's more to Gran Canaria than year-round sunshine. This balmy isle in the Canary Islands, off Africa's north-west coast, is also becoming a wellness hotspot, thanks to an abundance of spas offering treatments from massages to thalassotherapy (based on the benefits of seawater), and some of the world's purest aloe vera. And it's just a four-hour flight from the UK, which makes it the ideal destination for a long weekend of pampering and autumn sun.
Within an hour of touchdown, my sister and I have checked into the Seaside Palm Beach in Maspalomas on the south coast and are sipping chilled cava on a sunny terrace while admiring the view. Beyond the sweeping staircase and al fresco restaurant below is a large, shimmering lagoon-style pool surrounded by towering palms where guests are lounging on sunbeds under neat white parasols catching the last of the day’s rays.
Set within a verdant palm grove, this five-star Design Hotel with three swimming pools, a superb spa and bold, uplifting interiors is clearly the perfect place to recharge the batteries. Beyond the curved concrete exterior, the hotel, which first opened in 1975 and was redesigned in 2002, is a celebration of 70s style with funky multicoloured striped sofas in the lobby, kitsch bright purple and red interiors in the bar and jazzy zigzag patterned carpets and vintage furniture in the 328 bedrooms. Our room also has a balcony with a gorgeous view of Maspalomas's famous giant sand dunes and wide, breathtaking beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s tempting to take a stroll along the shoreline, but we shelve the idea for another day and head downstairs instead to La Bodega tapas restaurant where we order sundowners and dine on tasty Canarian wrinkly potatoes, dates with bacon and honey and stuffed peppers with king prawns.
The following morning, breakfast – a bountiful buffet of freshly squeezed juices, fruit, eggs cooked to order, cured meats, cereals and pancakes – is served on the main restaurant’s sprawling terrace. We fill up on omelette and local fruit, then follow a winding stone path through beautiful landscaped gardens past a giant chessboard and tennis courts to the spa area, an oasis of calm with a sea-salt wellness pool including underwater jets, swan neck fountains and massage seats. If that’s not relaxing enough, there are also saunas and a salt cave – and if you're feeling energetic, an outdoor gym. Yoga, meditation and tai chi classes are also available. I arrive at the spa for my Diamond Roses ritual, a nourishing treatment involving energising exfoliation followed by a heavenly massage, then float to my sunbed for a snooze under an umbrella.
We could easily spend the entire weekend lying horizontal on a sunlounger under the palms, cooling off with an occasional dip in the pool, but we’re eager to explore, so we take a 25-minute drive up the coast to the Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel to check out its thalassotherapy centre.
Located between lively Puerto Rico and quieter Amadores beach, this large hotel built into a mountainside and modelled on a cruise ship features two pools and an outdoor glass elevator to transport you to the seafront. We stop for a lazy lunch in the hotel’s restaurant at a table with a magnificent ocean view before heading to the fitness pool. After being handed white robes, plastic Croc-like shoes and shower caps (not my most stylish look), we hit the changing rooms. Swimsuits on and ready to go, we lower ourselves in. The circuit consists of 29 hydromassage stations from thundering waterfalls and water jets to crosscurrent swimming and cold plunge pools. Following an exhilarating circuit, we dry off on a microbubble sunbed overlooking the sea, then return to Seaside Palm Beach feeling refreshed, invigorated and ready for the barbecue buffet.
The next day, we’re looking forward to our trip to Puerto de Mogán. The 18-mile journey takes us along the island’s main road, which twists through a series of tunnels cut into the dramatic, arid landscape. Flanked by sun-scorched mountains, this picturesque fishing village is home to a sandy, crescent-shaped cove and a buzzy little harbour full of bars and restaurants where boats ferry tourists to nearby beaches. We’ve missed the Friday morning market, but there are plenty of boutiques to explore as we wander the pretty, narrow streets past traditional whitewashed houses adorned with colourful, cascading bougainvillea.
If you decide to stay in Puerto de Mogán, Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa, five minutes' walk from the village, has typical Canarian architecture and is set in tranquil botanical gardens. Stepping inside, the lobby has an atrium with waterfalls and wooden bridges over streams. Outside, guest rooms overlook the two swimming pools or pretty courtyards bursting with tropical plants and cacti. There’s also a cute church and a fascinating archaeological site, as well as the gorgeous Inagua spa with serene garden and mountain views.
We spend a blissful couple of hours here, hopping from thermo pool to steam room, Jacuzzi and daybed before indulging in the best head, neck and shoulder massage I’ve ever had. Feeling thoroughly de-stressed, we take a leisurely late lunch at the poolside restaurant, where we feast on papaya, prawn and avocado salad, patatas bravas, fried squid, and seafood ravioli.
On our way back to Maspalomas, our driver tells us about Gran Canaria’s lush interior full of pine forests, mountains and valleys, and I wish I could stay longer to explore more of the island. Our final evening is spent dining under the stars at the luxurious Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia. We tuck into delicious fresh fish and vow to visit the sand dunes before we fly home. The following morning, we keep to our word. As I scramble to the top of a dune and look out across this epic desertscape to the Atlantic’s roaring surf, I make a promise to myself to return.
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