here are thirteen islands in the Canary Island archipelago, seven of which are populated, the other six too tiny and without resources necessary to support a population. The islands were claimed by Spain in the 15th Century and are still administratively part of Spain– and part of the European Community– although they have had trade and local government autonomy since 1983.
Set off the west coast of Africa, just 67 miles from the Western Sahara, is Gran Canaria, the southernmost of the Canary Islands. Gran Canaria is called “the Small Continent” due to its varied climatic zones and geography: a tropical climate to the south, a fresher climate to the north and an alpine climate in its center. Being so close to Africa’s Sahara Desert, this island enjoys sunshine every week of the year and at its southern tip a rain storm is rare enough to throw the residents into a state of alarm and confusion.
Lest you think that the island is nothing but beaches and resorts, nature lovers among you might like to know that nearly half of the Canary Islands territory (42.7%) is under protection from the Red Canaria de Espacios Naturales Protegidos (Canary Islands Network for Naturally Protected Areas). Of the 146 protected sites under control of network in the Canary Islands archipelago, a total of 33 are located in Gran Canaria, the second most protected island in the group. The UNESCO Gran Canaria Biosphere Reserve covers approximately a third of the island on the the south-western side, including a marine portion. You can find more information on this at http://grancanariafincas.com
Getting around on the island is not particularly difficult in most cases. Rental cars are inexpensive, but you should be aware that if you plan to explore inland you might rather hire a taxi or an official tour company. The minor roads and those towards the center of the island are quite narrow and curvy with barely enough space for two cars to pass each other and some have areas where one car has to pull over for the other to pass. There are also very sharp bends in many places, often with a steep incline, and the center of the island is mountainous and lacks guard rails.
Getting from one resort to another is rarely a problem, though, as those roads are the best on the island. The east side of the island has a highway that takes you to Maspalomas, Playa del Ingles, Las Palmas (the capital city) and the airport. Mopeds are also a popular means of transportation and can be hired almost anywhere, but as usual you must keep a sharp eye out if you are on a moped.
The taxi service on the island is very efficient, reliable and safe. (During the day it’s advisable to wear a shirt or T-shirt if you’re trying to hail/catch one as some drivers won’t pick you up if you’re “bare-backed” for reasons of hygiene.) Every taxi has its license number displayed on the back and it’s a good idea to take a note of this if you travel around with valuables all the time. Should you ever lose anything in a taxi and have this number, the chances of retrieving it, cash included, are very high! Tipping is discretionary but usually around 10% of the fare.
Another popular way of getting around is by using the ferry services, particularly if you are going to “the Little Venice of the Canaries”, Puerto de Mogan. Visiting the marina there is a must for any visitor to Gran Canaria. This is a very picturesque place that requires that you bring a camera and perhaps a second memory card in case you fill up the first one. Wander around the harbour and look at all the boats, ranging from the brightly painted local fishing rigs to ocean-going yachts. Beside the harbour is a small beach, ideal for picnics, but if that is not really your idea of fun, then just relax in one of the waterfront bars and watch the world go by.
On the southwest coast of Gran Canaria you’ll find the resort town of Puerto Rico. Built into the mountains and along the coast with some nice golden beaches, the resort has something to offer everyone, whether you’re searching for peace and tranquility, somewhere young and lively or a great place to go with the kids. It is built on and around 2 large hills, areas of which are so steep in parts that the council has created “walkways of stairs” to make life a bit easier on the legs. (These are all marked off with orange coloured railings– any stairways not so marked are privately owned.) It’s certainly possible to walk anywhere within the town, but if you’re exploring you might want to look for the local bus service or catch a taxi. The buses are air conditioned and travel from one shopping center to another (there are three main centers in town) every 45 minutes or so and are very inexpensive.
For those with small children, you will find this island kid-friendly to the extreme. Puerto Rico, especially, has an excellent array of entertainments. Situated right in the center of this town you will find a park, with many attractions including a swimming pool, bowling alley, and children’s playground, so the grownups can sit at the bar and enjoy a drink or have a meal in the restaurant while the kids have a ball. There is also a Water Park which is an excellent day out for waterbabies of any age. In the main shopping center there are many amusement arcades with rides for small children, video games, and much more. Just below the shopping center called Europa you will find a small amusement park with mini golf, bouncy castle, and as usual a bar for the moms and dads.
About a 10-minute walk from Puerto Rico you will find a resort complex that is so big it practically makes its own town, and it has its own island and its own beach. Called Anfi del Mar, it is situated in lush tropical gardens, and offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. In all its parts it offers its guests an amazing assortment of things to do without ever leaving the grounds. It even has a marina on-site, and a shopping mall of its own (you’ll find an internet cafe there, as well as a restaurant, supermarket, clothes and accessories shops and lots more.) There are 5 separate resorts and a spa currently within this complex, and the one spotlighted here was the first one built: the RCI-affiliated Gold Crown Resort Anfi Beach Club.
Work started on the complex in 1989 when the landscape was only a barren hillside with a small rough beach. After excavating over 50 million tons of rock from the hillside the resort, complete with marina, island and beach began to take shape. Construction of the resort itself started in May 1992, occupancy began in late 1993 and the final phase was completed in November 1995.
A predominantly fixed week resort, the 282-unit Anfi Beach Club comprises the largest section of the Anfi Del Mar complex. Units include studios, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom villas. All kitchen facilities have fridge, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, kettle, dishwasher and washer/dryer. All have telephone and satellite tv. The terraces and balconies are very spacious, with doors that slide all the way back to bring the outdoors in.
To quote Anfi: “For those who are here to relax, the Anfi beach is only a stone’s throw away. The large heated swimming pool is a relaxing adventure itself, complete with bridges and sidewalks to explore, a waterfall, jacuzzi, sunloungers and children’s pool with slide.
“For the more active owner, a wide range of available sports and activities includes tennis, pitch & putt, beach volleyball, aerobics, a gymnasium and full range of watersports including windsurfing, water-skiing, jetbiking and diving & snorkeling. All 282 air-conditioned apartments at Anfi Beach Club are luxuriously equipped.”
This is a very popular resort, particularly with the British and Germans during the winter months, though it is beginning to catch on with North Americans as well. It gets consistently good reviews for both accommodations and service, and once you have experienced its sunny pleasures you may well want to return again and again.
Which is not a bad idea…
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.anfi.com/en/anfi_beach_club.htm — Anfi Beach Club
- http://www.grancanaria.com/ — The official tourism guide to Gran Canaria
- http://www.spain-grancanaria.com/ — Another nice site for Gran Canaria
- http://www.puertoricograncanaria.com/ — Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria
- http://www.puerto-de-mogan.com/ –Puerto de Mogan
- http://www.gran-canaria-info.com/ — An excellent site with lots of photos
- http://www.anfiuk.co.uk/ –Anfi UK members group
“On the Road” is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of “On the Road” is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. Select quality. However, these resorts are not usually theonly timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out— enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
Readers are encouraged to contribute their own stories and photos. Email [email protected] and put “On the Road” in the Subject line so we’ll know what it’s about.