Playa del Inglés - Sun, sand, sport and shopping: There's absolutely everything here!
Gran Canaria probably gained its reputation as a beach paradise largely on account of two adjacent beaches in the south of the island: Playa de Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés. Located on the southern tip, not only are they sun-drenched, they also give the impression of stretching forever towards the horizon. The two beaches are home to a true natural wonder, the sand dunes of Maspalomas, and El Oasis, the sand dunes of Playa del Inglés. One moment you are walking around the carefully tended hotel facilities and along the palm-lined promenade, and the next you suddenly find yourself stepping straight into the middle of a unique desert landscape, where you are surrounded by nothing but warm winds and the kind of silence that is only to be found in the desert.
The beaches are very easy to find: you just follow the appropriate signs from Maspalomas. Unfortunately there is a serious shortage of parking spaces at both beaches and you really do have to look quite hard for somewhere within walking distance to leave your vehicle. The best thing to do is to drive along the side streets where there are apartment buildings and buy a parking ticket. The alternative is to use the dense network of buses which serves the south of Gran Canaria. That way your journey to your favourite beach and back to your accommodation will be hassle-free.
The south of Gran Canaria was discovered as a major tourist destination in the 1960s. At that time Playa del Inglés was a trailblazer, and it is still extremely popular today, despite, or perhaps even because of, its now rather outdated architecture. Whilst in summer the combination of soft sand, sports facilities and club life tends to attract mainly young couples and single travellers between twenty and forty, at the end of the season, from September right through until spring, the "golden agers" - fit travellers over sixty - are keen to enjoy the same sun, sand, bars and clubs. And last but not least, Playa del Inglés is one of the favourite year-round destinations for the gay and lesbian couples and singles who have made such a lasting impression on the beach life and nightlife here. Directly next to the beach is the former shopping mall, Jumbo. There you will find - all week long and right through until the early hours of the morning - everything under the sun, from travesty shows to dance clubs, where anyone is welcome to come and party.
But Playa del Inglés is by no means just a party beach. In fact it has two sections, and outside peak season in July and August, each of them offers an equal measure of relaxation. In the natural and unspoiled parts near the sand dunes, neither shops nor crowds will disturb your enjoyment of the beach, yet you can still get an ice cream from one of the small kiosks whenever you like. But it has to be said that the part of the beach around the old shopping mall has been exceptionally well developed for tourism and vibrates with life. Here, in the funny little bric-a-brac shops in the dark warren of alleys just off the promenade, you can rummage for hidden treasures and then, in one of the restaurants - the MUNICH III, for instance - enjoy the Atlantic view while savouring every last bit of a Tortilla Española and a fresh fruit smoothie.
Sporty types will like this section too. Jet-skiing, parasailing, banana boating, kite surfing and even surfboarding - Playa del Inglés, with its superb wind and waves, leaves nothing to be desired. However, you do have to keep your eyes open a bit: there is a separate motor sports area, but otherwise there is no separate bathing area. It's up to the various types of surfers to look out for swimmers and for children playing in the water. Once you've had a good workout, you'll need to spend quite a while relaxing. Whether you rent a sun lounger with an umbrella, or simply bring your own stuff with you to the beach, you shouldn't have any trouble finding a quiet spot on Playa del Inglés, especially at the left hand side, beyond the promenade. This is also a great place to watch the sunset on the beach: the whole bay is bathed in golden light, and you with it. The perfect holiday memory for capturing on film!