Don't Pull a Myra - Canary Islands
Roughly 4 months ago, I made a quick pitstop in Gran Canaria, Spain. This was leg #2 of my ten day European journey, where I completely detached: Didn't research. Didn't plan. Didn't care. If you've read previous blog posts, you can easily deduce that I am slowly transitioning from my former frenetic life to a much more sedate existence, where intermittent mental atrophy is warranted. My atypical complacency and nonchalance, however, proved detrimental since arriving here sans agenda during the height of tourist season was an inevitable cluster f___. Excuse the language.
While I made do with my last minute, anything goes attitude, the lack of pre-planning led to missed opportunities that would have ultimately enriched my stay. Most seasoned travelers make an occasional gaffe that will either make or break a trip. In my case, there were several planning faux pas that I would rather not repeat.
I rarely say this, but this time it's rather apropos. Don't Pull a Myra. With that said, this blog can help you avoid similar travel pitfalls since I've outlined a few don'ts and several dos throughout this Canary Islands recap.
DPAM (Don't Pull a Myra): Don't choose your island destination at random.
Canary Islands is a Spanish archipelago just several miles off the coast of Morocco. There are 7 possible island destinations: Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. I haphazardly chose my location after googling airport codes for Canary Islands and randomly plugging one of them into Expedia. Who does that? Such a rookie move, even though Gran Canaria (2nd largest populated island) was a perfectly suitable selection.
While choosing only one location eventually worked out, island hopping would have diversified my itinerary since each one has distinct characteristics (such as topography and climate) that cater to every type of traveler ranging from scuba divers to flora/fauna enthusiasts.
Here is a truncated list of hotspots for each island. While I didn't have the foresight to visit any myself, I'll add a few of these to my itinerary during my next island stay.
Tenerife: Teide (third tallest volcano on earth), Siam Park (Europe's biggest water park)
Lanzarote: Timanfaya National Park (rugged lava formations), Cueva de los Verdes (lava cave)
Gran Canaria: Nublo Rural Park (26,000 hectare and biosphere reserve), the Painted Cave (archaeological park)
Fuerteventura: Betancuria (first city), La Concha at El Cotillo (natural lava reef, half moon beach)
La Palma: Roque de los Muchachos Observatories (star gazing), Los Tilos Forest (laurel forest)
La Gomera: Garajonay National Park (ancient laurel forest with prehistoric vegetation), Los Organos Natural Monument (volcanic sea cliff with vertical lava pipes)
El Hierro: La Restinga Marine Reserve (premier diving site with underwater cliffs), El Charco Azul (natural seawater pool)
For a full list island activities, visit http://www.hellocanaryislands.com/ and click discover.
PAM (Pull a Myra): Spend a weekend inside a giant clam.
That's not a statement you hear everyday, but it's absolutely true. H10 Playa Meloneras Palace is shaped less like a palace and more like a ginormous clam shell. My friend and I sported confused expressions once we emerged from the taxi cab. Our expressions changed from perplexed to surprised when we stepped inside this 5-star resort and received our complimentary glass of champagne. This place was stunning. Imagine several tiers of cushioned lounge chairs, a grand piano, chic lobby bar, and so much more encased within this massive mollusk-shaped dome.
Located at the Southern tip of Grand Canaria, H10 is situated directly across from the beach and minutes away from Maspalomas.
Hotel Booking Tip: Make sure to include breakfast when booking your accommodations. H10 features a sumptuous feast (7+ food stations). I've never had breakfast with foie, caviar, and champagne until now. OMG, right?
DPAM: Avoid beelining to the pool immediately after check-in.
We checked in on a busy Friday and completely skipped the tour desk since we were lured by the massive pool just outside registration. We couldn't resist watching a group of raucous German tourists spike, serve, giggle, and volley for several hours. Doing so, however, led to irreversible consequences.
Since we didn't schedule activities right away, all tours were completely booked for the entire weekend. Apparently, everyone wanted to experience a full day excursion to several Gran Canaria sites such as Telde, Arucas, Las Palmas, Teror, Roque Nublo, El Teide, Ayacata, San Bartolome, and Fataga. Most tourists visit the Canary Islands for its incredible topography, which we never got to see. Missing this crucial tour was a huge travesty and the worst DPAM ever. Roaming the volcanic landscape by bus would have been spectacular. If I could kick my own butt, I would do so repeatedly. Shameful.
To assuage our disappointment, we ordered a pitcher of Sangria and H10's tropical version of the Old Fashioned. While the drinks were tasty, it couldn't possibly make up for this terrible planning snafu.
PAM: Make a day trip to Maspalomas for beach-side shopping, eating, and lounging.
Instead of sulking at the hotel, we took the free shuttle to Playa de Maspalomas (a short,10-minute ride). This is definitely the spot for lounging on the beach, boutique shopping, and eating the most incredible food Gran Canaria has to offer.
As you walk along the beach, you may stumble upon this highly agile street performer. How was he able to do this gravity-defying yoga stance for hours?
While you'll find many restaurants in the area, there was one in particular that served an incredible Spanish feast. Restaurante El Toro Pizzeria can easily be overlooked since it's one of many non-ostentatious establishments along a souvenir shop-lined walkway. Don't be fooled by the name since their menu features so much more than pizza.
Featured below: Bacalao (salted codfish) and Gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic). We voraciously attacked that fish, leaving only a few bones on our plates. Savages.
After this succulent meal, we continued along that same pathway to the crepe stand selling helado (ice cream). A temporary cooldown during a very hot day was necessary.
DPAM: Force male travel companions to pack at least one pair of pants.
H10 has several on-site restaurants. Each one mandates that men wear pants during dinner. It's highly likely that other hotels share this policy. So when doubt, pack those dungarees! Wish we had known.
Silver lining: Since we had to resort to alternative dinner options, we stumbled upon 2 beach-side dining establishments just outside the hotel. Check out this carb + protein feast: squid ink paella and pork sampler. Mmmm.
PAM: No itinerary? No problem. The Glass Bottom Boat Tour is a perfect last-minute booking option.
In lieu of the aforementioned full-day land tour, we settled for a 3-stop boat excursion along the Southern part of Gran Canaria. Tickets can be purchased directly on the boat at the embarkation site: Arguineguín. Note: Glass bottom = submarine style enclosure or a skylight-esque window.
While there are 3 possible disembarkation choices (Anfi del Mar, Puerto Rico, and Puerto de Mogán), the latter was hands down the only one worth exploring on foot.
Puerto de Mogan has often been referred to as "Little Venice" with canals meandering through this resort town. As you pass numerous restaurants along the marina, you'll discover many colonial style buildings, which adds to its charm.
Don't be surprised to see many bikini and speedo-clad tourists/locals sprawled across an enclosed beach just around the corner. These guys know how to relax!
Speaking of relaxation, I have started to truly embrace my newfound freedom. While I'm still reeling over some of my planning missteps, I can't say that this trip was a complete disaster. Yes, I would have loved to hike the rugged terrain and explore some of the deep canyons, but that wasn't entirely possible with only 2 1/2 days allocated for this trip segment. Instead, we saw several white-sand beaches, lounged by the hotel's infinity pool, and enjoyed several memorable meals. Spending quality time with a childhood friend was even more gratifying regardless of what we ultimately did.
Who wouldn't want to leave their jobs and sit happily on this pristine beach? Here's to my life of leisure: flip flops, dresses, and joyful (occasionally pensive) expression is the new norm. I dig this new me.
Original Trip Date: July 10 - 13, 2015