Gran Canaria: Playing the pools

Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria
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Gran Canaria is famed for its food and climate, but, as Stephanie Smith finds, it’s home to some of the world’s finest health spas.

When the going gets tough, this tough prefers to take herself off for a spa break. This does not mean a little holiday or short break that includes some spa visits. Oh no, no, no – this means a break with the word “spa” firmly at the fore, because the spa pool is where I want to spend most of my time, stepping out only for facials, massages and the sauna.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is increasingly offering itself as a destination for spa lovers, and rightly so, as it has an eclectic mix of spas with world-class facilities and reasonable prices. Most are in the large hotels on the island, but you can visit many as day guests, perhaps staying also for a meal – it’s a canny and pleasant way to sample some of the finest hotels on this popular holiday destination.

Gran Canaria has long been a favourite with UK holiday-makers. The locals describe the island as being shaped like a plate, with its mountainous, post-volcanic peaks in the middle leading through inland hills and valleys (where most locals live) and down to the sandy beaches and lively resorts at its rim. The climate is a major selling point, with daytime highs averaging 26 degrees C in summer and 20 degrees C in winter – so pretty much perfect all year round, which is why it is popular with those in search of warmth, attractive hotels and apartments, great food and drink at reasonable prices, and a healthy choice of leisurely pursuits such as golf and taking the waters at one of the many spa hotels.

I admit I was expecting to find Gran Canaria crammed with retired British couples and coach parties demanding daily placation in the form of all-day English breakfasts and pints of ale, but what I actually found was far more genteel and authentic. As well as the British, it’s popular with Germans and Scandinavians and, when I went in March, there was a good mix of families as well as couples of all ages.

On the western side of the southern coast is Puerto de Mogan, a quiet and atmospheric little port town that’s a contrast to the better known, low-rise balconied resorts. Mogan is where you would go for a serene break, and it’s said to have the best climate on the island and indeed, some say, in the world. It’s a cheery, colourful little place, named “Little Venice” because of the network of small canals that run through the streets to the harbour. The buildings are mainly two-storey and painted white with woodwork picked out in shades of sea blue, rich red, bright yellow and emerald green.

It’s a horticulturalist’s delight too, with every street featuring courtyard gardens and window boxes, and some even roofed in canopies of flowering exotic plants.

The harbour itself is a treat, and you can take boats out for trips along the coast. There’s even a submarine that emerges suddenly from the waves before making its way into port (fortunately there are people about who seem to know exactly where and when it will emerge). There are many apartments and small hotels to stay in close to the harbour, and the large and opulent Hotel Cordial Morgan Playa, renowned for its exotic courtyard gardens, pools and spa.

Golf is a major attraction on Gran Canaria and there are nine 18-hole golf courses on the island, two of them at the Sheraton Salobre Golf Resort and Spa, which is a few miles inland from the dunes of Maspalomas. The architecture is clever and striking, in stone and slate buildings that seem to slide out from the hillside. This sensitive yet bold and artistic approach to building is impressive and says much about Gran Canaria and its contemporary environmental concerns, with real thought and eco-care imbued in its modern architecture.

On the top of the hillside resort are some Balinese beds from which to watch the sun set or rise. At the bottom is the Aloe Spa with tranquil infinity pools from which you can gaze over the hillside, almost as if you are part of it. Golf widows can spend many happy hours here.

The spas are what my daughter and I came to sample and it’s fair to say that Gran Canaria offers an excellent range of experiences. We found a few favourites, in particular the Thalasso at the Gloria Palace Hotel and Spa, on the Mogan coast, where a two-hour session in its spectacular Get in Shape pool, with 34 different hydro-massage stations that you follow in a circuit, costs 23 euros. It’s popular with German and Scandinavian people who come for health reasons to try the benefits of mineral waters, and there is equipment for the disabled.

Again the architecture of this hotel and spa is quite stunning and a real revelation, the hotel seeming to emerge like an organic extension from the cliff-side. Inside, the design is Art Deco still with vast wide arched windows through which all you can see is blue sea, as if you are actually afloat on the ocean.

The Seaside Palm Beach at Maspolomas is an established and more traditional Gran Canaria hotel, popular with families, plus very close to impressive sand dunes and a long white beach. There’s a spa here too offering exotic Eastern-inspired treatments and a little sauna garden (where people strip off entirely).

The most spectacular spa we visited was the Corallium Spa at the Lopesan Costa Melaneros Resort. It’s popular with locals as well as visiting spa lovers, who come for the spectacular spa circuit (52 euros for the day for a non-guest), which is a mini trip around the world, from a Himalayan salt grotto and an ice igloo to a Turkish hammam and cavernous lava flotation pool, with twinkling lights and soft music, just heavenly for floating away from it all. Which is how we left Gran Canaria, still floating.

• Gran Canaria Wellness offers a wide range of spa, wellness and health holidays at the island’s top hotels. A two-night stay at the Sheraton Salobre Golf Resort & Spa in a double deluxe room including breakfast, a full body massage, Japanese Shiatusu therapy and a romantic dinner for two costs £295 per person based on two people sharing. Offer valid until December 31.

For more information and to book,