Matthew Hirtes, author of Going Local in Gran Canaria – How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home, has lived in the island’s capital Las Palmas for the last eight years. Here he shares the hidden ‘playas’ away from the resorts. Indeed some are so isolated, they’re clothing optional.
By Matthew Hirtes
Before I moved to Gran Canaria, I was rarely to be found in a swimming costume. My idea of recreation was a kickabout in the park, a walk in the forest, a pint in a beer garden. Then our youngest son Alex contracted leukemia at the age of just eight months back in February 2004. Following a half-year residency in Great Ormond Street Hospital, my Canarian wife suggested we relocate to her home island of Gran Canaria. Here, due to their numerical superiority, her family could offer more support than my more nuclear one in the UK. And so we did.
Initially, I was a house husband looking after Alex who was deemed too at risk to attend nursery. Except we were rarely at home. Alex’s specialist explained that the beach was perfectly safe for Alex to visit. And so began a love affair with Gran Canaria’s warts-and-all north coast. Despite having the free use of my mother-in-law’s apartment on one of the world’s great urban beaches, Las Canteras, I embraced the opportunity to explore the island. There are 82 beaches on the island, now, thanks mainly to Alex, I’ve travelled to around half of them.
The black magic of El Puertillo, a mere 10 minutes drive from Las Palmas, but very much a beach for Arucas locals, is the highlight of a visit to Bañaderos. There are excellent restaurants specializing in the freshest fish and seafood. And if the 360 metre-long shoreline of fine dark sand gets a little too busy for you, head behind the promenade; to the ‘charcos’ (pools) which offer a truly natural spa experience without the need to dip into your wallet.
Further west, you’ll reach Galdár, the former aboriginal capital of the island. If you visit only one if its seven beaches, make that Sardina del Norte. In a picture-postcard setting (but again very much a beach populated by natives), you’re similarly blessed with a choice of eateries. It’s here that Alex goes all feline on us by gorging on sardines liberally doused in lemon juice.
But if you really want to get away from it all, head to the (wild) west of the island. Here you’ll eventually find the isolated beach of Güi Güi, also known as Go-Guy, a place so out of the way it’s accessible only by boat from La Aldea de San Nicolás or Mogán, but then only if it’s not too windy when you approach the notoriously tricky Punta del Descojonado, or by foot. If you travel from Tasartico’s Cañada de Aguasabinas, the trek will take you from 90 minutes to two and a half hours; whereas from La Aldea’s El Tarahalillo it’s a more time-consuming journey, between four and six hours. Unsurprisingly, few Canarians, let alone tourists, have visited it.
Güi Güi is actually two beaches rather than one. Güi Güi Grande is rocky and rubbish-strewn. Its neighbour, Güi Güi Chico, looks like something out of a Lilt advert. Paradise found.
Matthew Hirtes, originally from the UK, swapped life in native London for Gran Canaria in the mid-’90s. He’s the author of Going Local in Gran Canaria – How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home, as much a handbook for the wannabe expat as travel guide for the more discerning tourist. Read about his continuing adventures on the island at: http://matthewhirtes.com/
Photo Credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ktommy/