Gran Canaria is the most gay-friendly destination in the Canary Islands, an archipelago situated just 130 miles off the northwest coast of Africa that for decades has been a favorite destination for Europeans in search of sunshine. In addition to fine beaches, the islands have a fascinating history to explore, and plenty of relaxed revelry to enjoy, all with Spanish flair.
It's generally accepted that the Gauches from North Africa, descendants of Berbers, originally settled the islands. They lived mainly in caves and under rock spurs. Left pretty much alone until the 14th century, they were taken as slaves by Italians, Portuguese and Catalans, forcibly converted to Christianity, and then quickly died out. In the mid 15th century the Spanish arrived to rule the islands.
On the southwest coast of Gran Canaria, the communities of Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, and San Augustin, have an abundance of shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs, mostly built since the 1960s, alongside the famous Maspalomas Dunes. In contrast, the northern coast has a more traditional cultural ambience, and a change of scenery. Known as a "miniature continent" with different climates, the landscapes range from long beaches and white sand dunes to mountain terrain and lush green ravines with picturesque villages. A third of the island has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Maspalomas has one of the best nude beaches in the world, complete with a gay section near the western end. There’s cruising in the nearby dunes, and shacks where you can buy cold drinks (but not cheap). The gay section is named for shack "Number 7" - just look for rainbow flags and the guys you saw at the clubs. You'll see northerners on the sand earlier (craving every ray of sunshine), while Spanish locals tend to come out for a dip, or for a beer at the "chiringuito" later, as the sun gets lower in the sky. Tip: pack up before nightfall or risk being eaten alive by sand fleas. See GCGay for good beach information, in Spanish or (google translation) English.
In many ways Maspalomas/ Playa del Inglés is the most laid-back of the four gay Spanish resorts. Unlike beach towns "on the Peninsula," winter doesn't shut things down, and a cultural separation from mainland Spain makes for a slower pace of life. As Key West differs from Fort Lauderdale, or Blackpool from Brighton, it's just different -- perhaps more Benidorm than Sitges -- and certainly not Ibiza. Fashions are more casual, the boy-next-door has grown up but he won't get turned away at the disco rope, and the partying usuallly ends when the sun comes up. Weekdays are slow, building up to the weekends. Sundays involve a lazy brunch, or Sunday roast, and time-out at the pool, but not T-party dancing. The scene is broadly international. British/Irish English and German, along with Spanish, are the most often heard languages, with a few French, Dutch, Italian and Scandinavian accents thrown in. But, end of the day, there are comfort zone retreats that provide all things familiar --beers and food from home, and the familiar acid wit of drag queen emcees. Also, with satellite TV, no one needs to miss their team's next game, or a favorite program episode.
It's well worth visiting the capital of Gran Canaria. With about 400,000 inhabitants, Las Palmas is less touristy than the south shore communities, and it offers more historical sights and some lovely architecture. The city has some beaches too, and local bars and restaurants serve traditional tapas, local seafood, beers and wines. Most Spanish businesses traditionally shut down during siesta hours, usually 2-5pm, so you'll find better eating and shopping options during the early evening hours than in the mid-afternoon, when most places in Spain look like ghost towns.
Gran Canaria's Gay Pride event attracts over 100,000 participants to Maspalomas for a whole week of entertainment and partying in May. Every business displays the colors of the rainbow. The streets are full of people in stunning costumes and suntanned men in skimpy swimsuits. The day ends in a huge outdoor dance party on Avenida de Tirajana.
The annual popular Mr Gay Gran Canaria events draw huge crowds too, with festivities in and around the Yumbo Center. See the Gay Pride link above for details.
Carnaval, celebrated in both Maspalomas and Las Palmas in weeks before Lent, include Drag Queen Night, shows, shows, parade floats, street festivals with thousands in costume, and parties at all the clubs. In Maspalomas the action centers around Yumbo Center, and along Avenida de Tirajana. Up north, Carnaval Las Palmas, which includes Gala de la Reina (Queen's Show), takes place in Parque Santa Catalina and Plaza de la Feria, with Carnaval al Sol and the grand finale Entierro de la Sardina (the Sardine's Funeral) seaside festivities, at Playa de Canteras.
Several low-cost airlines fly from European cities to Gran Canaria Airport, including Ryanair from 28 cities, EasyJet from London, Vueling from Barcelona, Seville and Malaga, Transavia from Dutch cities, and GermanWings from Berlin or Cologne. BerlinAir has European and North American flights here, as do many of the major carriers.
Canary Fly is a new low-cost airline for getting between islands: Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura. Binter Canarias also flies these routes, plus destinations such as Lisbon, Cape Verde, Madeira and cities in Morocco.
The airport is about a 30-minute drive to Maspalomas, Playa del Ingles, and San Augustin. Many hotels and guesthouses will send a taxi to pick you up. Also see bus information, at the link below.
Buses, known as guaguas, are a great way to get around Gran Canaria. Global service is not always frequent, but they operate many routes around the island, including from the airport, to both Las Palmas and Maspalomas.
Guaguas Municipales covers Las Palmas with more frequent bus service; also with tourist open-top city tours. Buy a 10-trip book of tickets for a fare discount.
Car rentals are easy and inexpensive, reserved ahead, and picked up at the airport - and local companies in town sometimes have good last minute deals too. Jeeps and 4×4s cost more, but they're fun up on the mountain roads.
With so many gay resorts, bars and restaurants packed in close together around Yumbo Center in Maspalomas, walking may often be the best option --but taxis aren't that expensive either.
Currency and Money
Since it’s part of Spain, Gran Canaria’s legal tender is the euro. Around 50 ATMs can be found at 14 banks and 20 shopping centers around Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas. Banks close at 2pm and on weekends, but the cash machine is usually behind a locked first door which will open with a card swipe. Check with your local bank to possibly save on withdrawal charges; your bank may have reciprocal agreements with local banks such as Barclays, BBVA or Santander. Informing your bank of travel plans will also make your credit card charges go more smoothly; likewise a credit card with a chip and 4-digit pin number is often preferred in Spain.
The infamous dunes provide opportunities for nudity and lots of all-male recreational fun. Best avoided during the heat of the day, but if you go, take water, and perhaps tangerines and/or dates for a quick energy boost. A hat is helpful too, especially for the guys with shaved heads -- in straw or paper, Panama-style, they're cheap and disposable, and much cooler than a tight cap.
There are plenty of indoor cruising places too. Besides two saunas, several sex clubs and with naked nights in dark rooms with slings etc, and porn shop video lounges, there are dark rooms in the discos and in lots of other bars too, especially the men's clubs. "A basic service, like running water" is how local blogspot GCGay puts it. Check out Squirt.org for more cruising tips.
Media and Resources
GCGay.com is another local guide, best in Spanish, but with a google-translate button for tolerable English.
UM - UXXS Magazine is the "Queer Canary Lifestyle Mag," with news, interviews, and events listings in Spanish, English and German.
Maspalomas is the official tourism website, with useful general visitor information, also in Spanish, English and German.
JustGranCanaria website also has information for the whole island, from nightlife and shopping to camel safaris and submarine excursions. They also list restaurants, including the best places to find authentic Canarian cuisine, and 22 area museums, most of which are up north around Las Palmas.
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 in gay Playa del Inglés. Their website lists 45 gay bars and nightclubs, plus more shops and restaurants, in a variety of international flavors and languages. Spend a lazy afternoon here, or party the night away. Their roster changes from season to season, but there's always another club nearby and a new one will open in place of one that closes. See our maps & listings tab for locations, plus website links for most of the businesses listed below.
Adonis (lower level, 111/11-13), large terrace cafe and pub, cocktails, sangria, snack foods, WiFi access, multi-lingual staff, mostly German ambience.
Block (lower level, 111/6-7), 8pm-3am men's cruise bar, dark room, clothing check at bar, bear-friendly, Fetish Weekend events, German, English and Spanish spoken.
Buddies (lower level, lower plaza level, 131/12-13) busy bar day and night popular British pub, home-style comfort foods, cocktails, local beers, spirits; live cabaret or drag shows, quiz nights.
Bunker (lower level, 161/20), men's cruise bar, dark rooms, slings, orgy bed, glory holes, showers, wet area, big screen porn videos.
Casa Juan (lower level, 131/23-25), terrace cafe and bar, early before-the-clubs crowd.
Cellar (lower level, 161/7-9), 11pm-4am, exclusively men, fetish cruise bar, underwear, naked or jockstrap only, large playroom, terrace.
Centre Stage (upper level, 231/2), cabaret shows in the "grand manner" nightly from 10pm. Yumbo's longest running gay bar.
Coco Loco (upper level, 261/15), small video music and party bar, young mix.
Construction Bar (lower level, 161/10-14), men's fetish and cruise bar, local and international guys, large terrace, darkroom with sling, porn videos.
Cruise Bar (upper level, 261/9-13 ), 11pm-6am bear and leather fetish cruise bar since 1994, cabins, maze, slings, porn video room, glory holes, dark rooms; special party nights,
Diamonds (lower level, 131/21-22), "Yorkshire-speaking" cocktails and party bar, sunny south-west facing patio, UK television shows on big screen.
Eiffel (lower level, 121/5-6), new French bar, full bar cocktails, wines, coffees, teas and smoothies, relaxing music, jazz and French singers, former Fuze location.
Fiction (lower level, 111/1-2), music and video bar 'til 4am, sexy waiters in brief thongs, terrace tables, busy late at night, naked dancers on bar nights.
Glory Hole (upper level, 251/11), Levi-leather, uniform, bears men-only cruise bar, dark room, glory holes,
Gossip Bar (upper level, 261/6-8), large terrace, young mixed crowd, lesbian staff, live shows, was Amigos Bar.
Harem Bar (terrace level, 161/20), above Bunker, stylish young lounge crowd; House to Latin music, dancing, terrace chill-out bar, open 10pm 'til dawn.
Junior Cafe & Pub, (lower level) terrace bar, German draft beer, younger mixed crowd, gay music hits in English, Dutch and German
Kingz (upper level, 261/2-5), dance and cruise club, dark room, cabins, male strippers/pole dancers and entertainment.
La Bulle (lower level, 131/26), cocktail lounge bar with terrace at people-watching level.
Macho Macho (upper level, 261/19), brings a bit of Holland, good-looking German and international staff, pop music party atmosphere
Mantrix (level 4, 421/9-18), dance and cruise club, dark rooms, cabins, large terrace, entertainment.
Meicker, (lower level, 131/14) the only Danish-owned bar in Yumbo, daily from 8pm, mixed young to old international crowd, terrace, over 40 different kinds of shots.
Mykonos (level 4, 421/4-8) late shift at upper levels. After-1am dance crowd, men-only dark room, friendly/cute bar staff, local and international spirits and beers, balcony.
Mystique Bar (lower level, 111/3-4), large terrace, cocktail bar, local diva Miss Abby drag hostess, mixed crowd.
O'seven Bar (lower level, 141/3-5), lounge, terrace, music bar, cocktails, dance floor, German Schlager to dance and Spanish music, videos, dark room.
Peppermint (lower level, 121/3), open daily from 11am, coffee, cake, sorbets, milkshakesl cocktails, beer, and sandwiches, year-round heated terrace.
Prison Bar (upper level, 261/16), small Levi-leather-rubber fetish bar, German-speaking staff and crowd.
Parrots (ground level, 121/1-2), Sitges spin-off bar, spacious terrace, good people watching, 7pm-3am, mixed crowd, cute staff; 50 different cocktails include Caipirinhas and Mojitos. Former Pub Nestor.
Rendezvous (lower level, 111/5) small and cozy Brit expat bar next to Fiction Bar, English beer on tap, large screen TV music videos, UK TV shows, WiFi access.
Ricky's Cabaret (lower level, 161/1-3), lively, award-winning drag cabaret shows, terrace, drag queen cocktails, British and international mixed crowd.
Sparkles (upper level, 212/3-4), nightly variety shows, dancing, comedy and drag performances, plus karaoke. Large seating area, uniformly good views of the stage, mixed men/women, gay/straight crowd.
Spartacus (lower level, 151/3-4), 32 years-going-strong, late night gay crowd cocktail bar, people-watching terrace, partying 'til dawn.
Tubos (level 4, 421/2-3), next to Mykonos, late night after-hours mixed crowd.
Utopia (level 3, 325/2), House music dance club, the old Heaven, men/women, mixed crowd.
Wunder Bar (lower level, 151/1-2), next to Spartacus, popular bar, young German and international crowd, dance music and vocals, special party nights.
ZaZa (lower level, 111/8-9), terrace cafe/bar, Spanish Caipirinha (wine and Champagne) specials among their 80 cocktails, German/International ambience
Café Duo (Av Alféreces Provisionales 22), opposite Hotel Neptuno, English, French, and German breakfasts all day from 8:30am, salads, snacks, pastries, cakes, coffees, Sunday brunch, WiFi.
Cafe Wien (Cita Center, Av De Francia, 2), popular retreat half-way between Yumbo and the dunes, stylish teashop, pastry and cakes, hot and cold drinks.
Valentines (Yumbo Center, upper level, 232/26), highly rated French restaurant, open daily from 7pm. Local fresh fish and meats, pastas and sauces from their own chefs.
Rainbow Cafe Bistro (Av Tirajana 9), two blocks south of Yumbo, German and English breakfasts, pizza and pasta, fish entrees, Bratwurst, Currywurst and snacks.
Restaurante Miramar Yumbo, (Yumbo Center, upper level, 241/5), open from 10am, serving breakfast early, then international fare until 11pm.
Restaurante Rías Bajas (Av De Tirajana at Estados Unidos), just outside the Yumbo, one of the better local dining options, Galician-style surf and turf specialities; seafood, roast lamb, onion soup and made in-house desserts.
Yumbo Center (Av de los Estados Unidos 54), besides all the bars, clubs and shops at this gay center, there are restaurants of many world cuisines, including those of Belgium, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, India, Spain and Thailand - plus supermarkets and a couple of mini-marts which also stock international foods.
The Cita Center (Av de Francia 2), a bit run down these days, but closer to the beach, with restaurants, cafes and mini-mart food options among the shops.
For those willing to venture outside town, there's Restaurante Tagoror (Montaya Las Tierras 21, Guayadeque; 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
Chaps Gay Cruising Club (Cita Center, Av de Francia, 2) basement dark naked and underwear sex party club.
Heroes Sauna (Yumbo Center, level four), high-tech, state-of-the-art sauna, private and public showers, huge whirlpool, nooks and crannies for sex play, bar area drinks and snacks, therapeutic massages, ideal for post-beach or late-night visits.
Man's Plaza (Yumbo Center, underground), sex shop, gay cabins, video room, glory holes.
Reds (Av de Tirajana 17), 9pm-4am men's cruise and naked sex club on two levels, wet areas/shower, cabins, sling, glory holes, fetish nights.
Sauna Nilo (Av de Moya 10/137), outskirts of Playa del Ingles in Nilo Center. A veteran from humbler gay beginnings over 20 years ago, still the biggest sauna on the island. Steam room, sauna, private cabins and video dark room, cabins, handsome and talented masseurs; open daily 8pm to 2am.
See also the Block, Bunker, Cellar, Construction, Cruise, Glory Hole, and Prison men's bars listed above, all with dark room action. The Kingz and Mantrix dance clubs also have dark rooms.
Basement Studios (Av de Estados Unidos, 37; 34-928-763-835), gay men's resort complex opposite Yumbo Center, short walk from the beach. Comfortable, well-equipped bungalows and studios, cruise area dark room, slings, glory holes. Free pass to free entry into Bunker. Guest day passes.
BeachBoys Boutique Resort (Campo International/Maspalomas; 34-649-019-985), luxury men-only gay resort, 20 minutes from C.C. Yumbo, near dunes, 12 unique bungalows, each with city theme: Berlin, London, New York, Paris, etc. Private terraces overlook clothing-optional pool, bar, suptropical gardens; heated jacuzzi, massage, plasma SatTV, kitchens, WiFi.
Birdcage Resort (Calle de Egipto 10; 49-893-815-1778), men-only gay resort close to Yumbo Center, rich breakfasts, pool, whirlpool, sundeck, tropical garden, relaxing music, Wellness Spa, and trained therapists.
Bungalows Tenesoya (Av de Tenerife 18; 34-928-765-071),12 one and two bedroom/living room kitchenettes for gay men; pool in garden area, stereo and TV.
Club Torso (Av Touroperador Kuoni 46; 34-928-948-519), new men-only gay resort, clothing-optional pool, Jacuzzi, buffet breakfast, bar/kitchen, walk to dunes or bars.
Los Almendros (Av de Francia, 3; 34-928-761-688), gay and lesbian resort bungalows near Cita Center, tropical garden, clothing-optional pool, Jacuzzi, sauna; bar, restaurant/lounge, WiFi.
Los Tucanes (Av de los Estados Unidos 29; 34-928-760-558), 32 bungalows/kitchenettes near Yumbo Center, pool, TV, WiFi, breakfast, near most gay nightlife.
Nayra Gay Resort (Calle Irlanda, 25; 34-928-773-466), men-only resort opposite Yumbo Center, 12 bungalows, bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom, palm garden,TV/AC, microwave, fridge; terrace, internet. Heated pool, Jacuzzi. Bar/nightclub with play rooms open to both guests and visitors.
Pasion Tropical (Calle Las Adelfas 6, San Agustin; 34-928-770-131) beautiful complex on the coast at San Augustin, about five-minutes taxi ride from Playa del Ingles. A gorgeous tropical oasis of natural gardens, pool area with Jacuzzi, sun deck and bar, roof deck overlooking the sea. Studios, private apartment/kitchenettes, WiFi access satellite TV, and generous continental buffet breakfasts.
Rainbow Golf Bungalows (Touroperador Finnmatkat 6), gay men's boutique resort bungalows by the 18-hole Maspalomas Golf course, also near Meloneras Golf; 21 units, reasonable prices, satellite TV, WiFi.
Tropical La Zona Gay Bungalows (Av Sargentos Provisionales 18; 34-928-773-342), gay men's kitchenette units, TV, stereo, DVD, WiFi; large clothing-optional swimming pool, Jacuzzi, gym, gardens, cafe-bar and fetish-equipped cruising area.
Villas Blancas (Av de Tjaereborg, Campo de Golf; 34-928-770-122), gay men-only resort, 30 villas and bungalows with kitchen, satellite TV, internet; two clothing-optional pools, restaurant/bar, sauna, excursions.
The GayMaspalomas website can book you into other small gay resorts, including: Bungalows Santa Ana, 25 duplex chalets with sea views, private terraces/garden areas, and pool. Paso Chico, 6 bungalows around a pool, across from the Yumbo; and The Vista Bonita, 20 duplex apartments around a pool and Jacuzzi, in Sonnenland.
The Rui hotel group has two large hotels right at the edge of the Maspalomas Dunes -- on each side of the gay beach and cruise area. See our maps & listings page for the Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas and the Riu Grand Palace Maspalomas Oasis, plus the IFA Dunamar Hotel overlooking Playa del Inglés. Also find map locations and website links for all the gay resorts listed above.
Dreamhome (Av Tirijana 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 suprising cheap, your dream home could be closer than you think.
Home from Home offers holiday-letting services in Playa del Ingles, with a range of 233 apartments and rooms. Options include rooms in lavish shared accommodations with pool and wi-fi, or self-contained apartments. Even those with the most basic facilities have pool access and a balcony.
Check Out the Capital
Set between two bays with beautiful beaches, on the northeast coast of the island, the city was founded by the Spanish in 1478. Rich in cultural and historical heritage, especially in Vegueta, the oldest part of town, it has a cosmopolitan feel without being as touristy as Maspalomas. The distinct Canarian culture is perhaps best experienced at one of many cafes and restaurants; also in the streets during Carnaval Las Palmas celebrations, held just before Lent. Around 10 museums of history and modern art can also be found here, as well as many small shops. Vela Latina Canaria regattas and the Lucha Canaria, similar to Japanese sumo wrestling, are two more annual events to check out.
The Gran Terraza Lolita Pluma (Parque Santa Catalina 7) is a Las Palmas landmark, literally a grand terrace cafe named in homage to a local colorful character who once fed street cats and sold chewing gum to tourists, in the park that faces here.
Restaurante Clandestino (Calle Doctor Miguel Rosas 8), Las Palmas cuisine in the harbor area from 1pm daily, gay-friendly atmosphere; steak, seafood, pastas, tempora.
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.
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