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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
January 2009 Email this to a friend

Gran Canaria
Year-round sunshine, subtropical temperatures, & a laid-back atmosphere

By Michael J. Darton

Vegas Legends, Gran Canaria
Vegas Legends presents Black & Red Casino Show

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Gran Canaria article click DailyXtraTravel

Gran Canaria is the gayest and proudest of the Canary Islands, situated just 130 miles off the northwest coast of Africa. There's a fascinating history to explore, and plenty of relaxed revelry with a Spanish flair.

It's a tourist's paradise on the southwest coast of the island, including Playa del Ingles, Maspalomas, and San Augustin. Here you'll find an abundance of shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and nightclubs -- as well as expansive stretches of beach and semi-desert areas. The infamous dunes here provide opportunities for nudity and lots of all-male recreational fun! This is nicely complemented by the island's north, which boasts a different cultural ambience and change of scenery with mountains and lush greenery.

Bars & clubs (Yumbo Center, Playa del Ingles)

Yumbo Commercial Center is the four-floor epicenter of Playa del Ingles. Here you'll find much of what's happening on-island in the gay world, with over 50 restaurants, gay bars and clubs to spend an afternoon or party the night away.

The famous Pub Nestor (ground level) is known for its spacious terrace which affords great views of all the comings and goings of Yumbo Center. Owner Holger Haerich has made sure your seat will keep you entertained by street performers, sexy Spanish passers-by, or their eager staff just having fun! Almost a community centre, the bar opens from 3 pm and offers food. Open the Box game shows at midnight Wednesdays and Thursdays. Gay catamaran trips Fridays. Heaven Gran Canaria (upper level) is the biggest dance club around, with state-of-the-art lighting and sound. Kink is a popular fetish night the first Thursday of each month. Heaven's White Parties continue all weekend, until the Sunday pool party finale. Other themed events. For Heaven and Hell parties, the place is decked out for adult fun and debauchery with darkrooms and play areas, go-go dancers, and video screenings. Qe2 Show Bar (Yumbo Center) is an entertainment lounge and bar with live singers and cabaret shows.

The upstairs Centre Stage has cabaret in the "grand manner" every night from 10pm at Yumbo's longest running gay bar. Cafe La Belle, a legendary show bar since the early days of the resort, is in limbo for now as new owners sort themselves out.

Sparkles is a new show-bar addition to the upstairs floor here. Nightly shows begin with light variety acts and culminate with popular drag performances headlined by Tammy Pax. A large seating area provides uniformly good views of the stage, and the attentive staff here are lively and cute.

The Gallery brings a touch of class to Yumbo. Their modern decor features large and comfortable sofas, and they have wi-fi access and computers for use. Open all day and night they offer beer, wine, tea, coffee or cocktails, plus snacks and roasts. Sundays are busy as people arrive for the shows with Asa and Missee.

Desire has cute, young and friendly barmen who on Wednesdays wear their sailor suits. Steve, an ex-Brit who runs the place, enjoys a chat. Big-screen TV shows all the big events, particularly in sports and other British television favorites with a large crowd for "Factor," early Saturdays. Desire also has a weekly boat-trip starting with a champagne reception before departure.

Fiction, with an appealing South American quality, is a ground-floor music and video bar with sexy waiters in even sexier clothing, including thongs. Seats both outside and inside fill up quickly, and they're particularly busy late at night, with hours until 4am.

Construction Bar (first floor) is full of local and international guys. The outside bar area has a large terrace. Inside, the cruising area has large darkrooms and private areas too, where just about anything goes.

Mykonos and Tubos host the late shift in the Yumbo Center at upper levels. Filling up after 1am they have friendly and cute bar staff who serve various local and international spirits and beers, inside or on their balcony.

Buddies is a busy bar day and night and popular, too for their pub food. They serve a variety of drinks, local beers, spirits and cocktails, as well as chilled wine and bubbly. Large bungee trampolines nearby offer free entertainment. And they're known for their great home-style food for big appetites. Their shelf of local mags and flyers includes the Guide.

Among the bars of Yumbo Center, many reflect the very international flavor of the resort. These include: Adonis, a terrace-level cafe and pub with wi-fi access and German ambience; Junior Cafe & Pub, also with terrace, plays gay hits in English, Dutch and German; Barra Onda serves excellent Italian food and coffee; Meicker is the only Danish owned bar in Yumbo; Cafe Peppermint open daily from 11am for coffee and cake, sorbet or milkshakes, or for cocktails, beer, and sandwiches served on their year-round heated terrace; Eden Cafe, serves flavors of France with your drinks; Diamonds representing the English county of Yorkshire with a sunny south-west facing patio; Rendezvous is by Brit expats Adam and David; Macho Macho brings a bit of Holland to Yumbo; Macho Macho promises good-looking German and international staff and a party atmosphere; and ZaZa, with terrace, serves Spanish Caipirinha (wine and Champagne) specials. The Block, The Box,, Prison Bar,, and The Cellar are exclusively men's bars, and Jackies has an international mix of women. Ricky's Cabaret does drag and shows, and Lux Bar & Cafe is a very international terrace bar and cafe with English, Dutch, German and Spanish wait staff who speak their own languages plus French and Italian.

Bars & Clubs (rest of Playa del Ingles)

After a day on the beach or in the dunes, Cafe Wien is a popular retreat in the nearby Cita Shopping Center. This stylish teashop serves a selection of hot and cold drinks and tempting sweets and gateaux -- busy from 5pm.

Also in Cita Center are Rumpelkammer with drag shows, comedy and songs in German, Come Back cafe and cocktail bar, and Man's Lounge, with porn videos, dark room, play areas and private cubicles.

Detox Retox (Avenida de Tirajana 9) is modern and chic, with comfy sofas and a welcoming ambiance. They serve a huge selection of exotic drinks and international beverages. Tip: try their "Lick My Butt-a-scotch" cocktail, a sinfully sweet temptation.

Chapters (Avenida de Tirajana 4) is another nearby gay bar and cafe with a friendly crowd of regulars.

PuntoNet (Avenida de Tirajana 3) is a gay-run, modern internet shop with a host of high-speed internet services, including wi-fi and webcams. There's a cool vibe here and you can have a drink and chat with staff who can help with advice on almost anything from techie stuff to the best parties in town.

In Meloneras, about five minutes taxi from Playa del Ingles, the Vegas Legends Black and Red Casino Show takes place at the Gran Casino Costa Meloneras (Mar Mediteraneo 1), with dinner theater and cabaret shows that pay homage to classic Las Vegas styles, open year-round. Performers here aren't shy as they serenade and sashay out among the audience. Dinner is served before the show and there are drinks during the performances.

Restaurants

Valentines (second floor, Yumbo Center) is a highly recommended, internationally and locally renowned restaurant that's open daily from 7pm. They serve inspired meals of local fresh fish and meat as well as pastas and sauces from their own, very creative chefs. Tip: Try their superb Monkfish Salbimbocca.

Restaurante Miramaryumbo, on this same level, is open from 10am serving breakfast early and then international fare until 11pm.

For those willing to venture out a bit, there's Restaurante Tagoror (Montaya Las Tierras 21, Ingenio; +34-928-17-2013). Set in the mountains in this Guanchen Village, they offer authentic Canarian food and entertainment. You can book a table through your hotel or tour operator, or call them direct.

Saunas & cruising

Heroes Sauna (level four, Yumbo Center) is high-tech and highly sexed. This state-of-the-art sauna offers showers (private and public), a huge whirlpool, and nooks and crannies for playing around. The bar area serves drinks and snacks, ideal for a either post-beach or late-night visits. A therapeutic masseur here can refresh and stimulate tired muscles or low spirits.

Sauna Nilo (Centro Nilo) on the outskirts of Playa del Ingles, is in the Nilo Center. This site of humbler beginnings in the gay scene over 20 years ago no longer has its bars, but the biggest sauna in Gran Canaria remains in full swing. With steam room, sauna, private cabins and dark rooms, they're open daily from 8pm to 2am with gorgeous and talented masseurs from Belgium and Brazil.

Chaps Gay Cruising Club (underground basement, Cita Center) has lots of events each week. No need to worry about what to wear on their Monday naked nights, and Sundays feature foam cruising. Their five-euro entry price includes a free welcome drink.

Man's Plaza (Yumbo Center, underground) is a sex shop with gay cabins, a video room and glory holes.

Accommodation

Basement Studios Complex (opposite Yumbo Center; +34-928-765-143) is a recently opened hotel complex directly opposite the Yumbo Center, a short walk from the beach. It offers the ultimate experience in cruising and comfort. With neat and well-equipped rooms and studios, as well as interesting cruising areas full of delights with dark rooms and a sling room. Non-residents can come too, as guests or with day passes that can be purchased.

Home from Home (Homefromhomegc.com) offers holiday-letting services in Playa del Ingles, with a range of apartments and rooms starting from 220 Euros a week. Options include rooms in lavish shared accommodations with pool and wi-fi, or self-contained apartments. Even those with the most basic facilities have a pool access and a balcony.

Teror Apartments (Alfereces Provicinales 22; +34-928-761-552), located just behind the Yumbo Center, have one-bedroom apartments with kitchenette and great location. Also within this complex are pool, restaurant, beauty saloon and DVD shop, and you're not only close to the heart of the action, but also just a 10-15 minute walk to the beach and dunes. Computer and internet connections.

Pasion Tropical (Calle Las Adelfas 6, San Agustin; +34-928-770-131) is a beautiful complex on the beach of San Augustin, about a five-minute taxi ride from Playa del Ingles. This gorgeous tropical oasis of natural gardens has a great pool area with a Jacuzzi and bar, and their roof deck overlooks the sea, so you can sunbathe with waterfront views. Wi-fi access and generous continental breakfast.

Dreamhome (Avenida Tirijana no 11, Edificio Taidia; 34 928 779 078) offers complete property services and well-informed assistance with local investments. They boast extensive experience in all aspects of property purchases --and with prices starting at 90,000 euros, your dream home could be closer than you think.


From the Airport Several low-cost airlines fly from European cities to Gran Canaria at very reasonable rates. The airport is about a 30-minute drive to Playa del Ingles, San Augustin, and Maspalomas, and most hotels and guesthouses will pre-arrange a taxi to pick you up. Alternatively, car rentals at the airport are easy and inexpensive, and efficient bus services also operate from here.


Check Out the Capital

It's well worth taking a visit to Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria. With about 400,000 inhabitants, Las Palmas is less touristy and offers some rich history and architecture. The city has some beaches, and local bars and restaurants serve traditional Spanish tapas, small serving of meat, fish, and vegetables - often accompanied with beer.

The Gran Terraza Lolita Pluma (Centrical Parque Santa Catalina) is a Las Palmas landmark, literally a grand terrace cafe named in homage to a local colorful character who fed street cats and sold chewing gum to tourists in the park that faces here.

Sauna Portugal (Calle Portugal 37) has Finland and steam saunas, free cabins and darkroom, plus bar and massage services in Las Palmas. Trebol (Tomas Miller 55) is another local sauna on this side of the island. For an entertaining gay tour, try Let Me Take U, , (Letmetakeu.com) for an excursion with highlights you might miss if on your own. They offer group or individual Las Palmas tours with a bit of the city's history and a visit to some local gay bars and clubs too.


Gay Pride is in May

Gran Canaria's Gay Pride event attracts over 100,000 participants for a whole week of entertainment and partying. Every business in Playa del Ingles takes part in painting the whole resort in full rainbow colors. On Pride Saturday, the street parade is full of people in stunning costumes and suntanned men in skimpy swimsuits. Ending up near the Yumbo Center, the parade then turns into a huge outdoor dance party with stage acts of international caliber.

The annual popular Mr Gay Gran Canaria events draw huge crowds too, with simultaneous performances by street entertainers and colorful festivities in and around the Yumbo Center that add to the general merrymaking. The 2008 winner was a Manchester tourist who was talked into competing by friends on his second day of vacation. Dates for this year's Pride celebrations: May 4 to 10. For details, and photos from previous festivities, see Gaypridemaspalomas.com.


A Great Nude Beach

Masaplamos has one of the best nude beaches in the world, featuring gold colored sand. And there's a gay section, and nearby cruising in the dunes. But on this three-mile long beach, it's best to know where you're going.

Start at the Playa de Maspalomas end to the west, and head east. The gay beach is known as section Number 7. One suggestion is to take a taxi to the Plaza del Faro shopping centre that's at the western terminal of the beach, then head east, looking for a spike in the ratio of men to women - and rainbow flags. Another suggestion is to follow the red-topped posts which lead to the gay area. Blue-topped posts lead to a gay cruising area. There are kiosks where you can buy cold drinks along the way. Tip: get out before nightfall if you don't want to feel you're being eaten alive by sand fleas.


Event planner

January-February
Las Palmas Carnival
Santa Catalina Park
An annual three-week festival (Feb 3-18 this year). Check out the Drag Queen Day (Gala Gran Dama) on Jan 30, with a theme of "Pirates."

February
Masplamos Carnival
Yumbo Commercial Center, Playa del Ingles This annual carnival features a drag queen competition on Feb 15, a parade the next day, and more.

July-August
Las Palmas Festival of Theatre & Dance
Some of the world's best companies perform at this packed program at several outdoor venues, including Santa Catalina Park and Puntilla Square.

November
Santa Catalina Park, Las Palmas
Music from around the world, just 10 minutes from the beach.


A brief history

It's generally accepted that the Gauches from North Africa, descendants of the Berbers, originally settled Gran Canaria. They lived mainly in caves and under rock spurs. They were left pretty much alone until the 14th century, when Italians, Portuguese and Catalans captured them for slaves and forcibly converted them to Christianity. They quickly died out. In the mid 15th century, Spanish rule came to the archipelago that includes Gran Canaria, as well as nearby islands. In 1927, the archipelago was divided into the separate provinces of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

It has been a favorite sun destination of Europeans, including gay Europeans, for more than three decades.

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