Our first holiday abroad in over a year, and our first holiday as a family of 3, was to Gran Canaria. We never would’ve picked one of the Canary Islands (and we never will again), but we needed somewhere warm in November which isn’t too far away as Adelaide was only 3 and a half months old, and Gran Canaria ticked all the boxes. We went all inclusive with TUI and stayed at a resort called HD Parque Cristobal in Playa Del Ingles.
HD Parque Cristobal was so close yet so far from being amazing. The decor and layout were great; it all felt really clean and modern and had quite a lot of Scandinavian vibes which made it feel homely. The all inclusive drinks included nice wine and Amstel beer (both good quality), as well as the usual local spirits, cocktails and soft drinks. Here lies the first problem; bottled water wasn’t included in the ‘all inclusive’ and when we asked, they recommended we didn’t drink the tap water (we did try and it tasted like it came straight out of the swimming pool). There was a water dispenser at the bar but not ideal to have to keep going backwards and forwards to get water, especially in the middle of the night. We ended up buying a big bottle of water from the little supermarket on site and filling it up daily to have in our apartment.
The restaurant there served buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner and they did have a huge amount of food there. Breakfast offered something for everyone – fruit and juices, continental cheeses, breads and meats, cereals, pastries, fry up style food and our favourite – churros. Lunch and dinner had pretty much what you’d expect from an a la carte. The meals here did vary day by day but after 11 days of being there, it got a bit repetitive and boring as the paella and chicken curries circled back around.
The second issue we had, which ended up being quite a negative, was the allergen advice. Each of the dishes had a label on not only saying what it was, but also had symbols for the allergens. The problem came when we noticed the roasted tomatoes which were smothered in cheese, didn’t have a milk allergen on. Adelaide has CMPA – an allergy to milk products, which means that I have to cut them all out of my diet whilst Im breastfeeding her. My already-limited list of foods that I can have was cut even shorter by their lack of knowledge of what they’ve cooked and what I could eat. At one point, the chef was pretty much guessing – this didn’t fill me with much confidence, and sadly Adelaide had a flair up for a few days as something clearly wasn’t labelled correctly. If you have a serious allergy, I wouldn’t recommend coming here.
There were a good selection of areas and pools here – a ‘splash zone’ for kids, as well as some larger pools and baby pools all spread out in different areas. We never had a problem getting a sun bed. There were tennis courts, sports areas, a yoga zone, a ‘kids club’ and also a games area with table tennis, snooker and some other similar games. There is also a sports bar here, which brings us onto problem number 3.
We are Manchester United fans and were chuffed to see that this place had a sports bar. It was a really cool area underground with screens and a couple of arcade games. The problem was, the people who were running it had literally no idea what they were showing or who would know. We asked a few times if the Man United game would be shown and one lady questioned if this was the Spanish league…! After a while of looking, it appeared the premier league wasn’t being shown that day so we managed to just stream it on our phone and sit out in the sun instead (a huge positive was the WiFi strength and reach here!). The sports bar isn’t part of the all inclusive package either so I guess we ended up better off upstairs with free drinks.
The area upstairs is really nice as it’s right in between the bar and the pools, under cover but little areas of sun. It was perfect for us to sit out and plan our 2022 holidays as we could park Adelaide in the shade with us and enjoy some drinks. The rooms were also great for enjoying our evenings once Adelaide was put to bed, as each of the rooms had a little outside terrace with 2 sun beds and a little table and chairs. If you wanted some peace and quiet away from the Butlins style evening entertainment, your terrace was the perfect spot, as long as you’re happy to walk back and forth to the bar for top-ups. Annoyingly, a couple of our lights didn’t work including our outside one, and despite the ‘please repair’ sign that we hung on the door for 3 days, this never got sorted. We spent many nights playing Uno in the dark, adding an extra level by having to guess the difference between green and blue!
The staff here were so lovely. Every person we passed, whether they were a manager, cleaner or chef all said hello to us and gave Adelaide some special attention as she stared aimlessly at them, occasionally breaking a smile. Francisco was the lovely man who worked at the main bar. Every time we walked past he would say ‘Hola Adelaide’ and have a good chat to us. He was always so helpful and friendly and made us feel really welcome.
Scott treated me and paid for me to have a Swedish massage and spend an hour afterwards in the spa here. This was the first time that he had Adelaide on his own and I was able to give my muscles some much needed TLC from carrying around and bouncing a baby for a few months. They offer loads here for really reasonable prices – they had all kinds of massages and treatments available, as well as waxing, manicures and kids treatments like a ‘jelly bean massage’ to have with a parent. The spa itself had a freezing plunge pool, a warmer plunge pool, a swimming pool with jets and a sauna and steam room. I was the only person in there and had the most peaceful and relaxing 2 and a half hours in long long time.
The location of the resort was okay – about a 20 minute walk from Maspalomas beach. Alternatively, there was a free shuttle bus which we knew when we booked so we brought the pram with us and her car seat just in case we needed them. We decided to walk the first time and ended up in an area that looked on the maps to be the centre of town, with a shopping centre called Cita. If you end up anywhere near this area, turn around and walk away. It’s a weird area, like an indoor market of shops, most of which were closed or selling souvenirs.
Maspalomas beach is the area that you want to be, which is a nice enough strip of bars, restaurants and cafe’s all stretching out along the main beachfront path. There was a shopping area which had things like a pharmacy, a few tourist shops and Pandora etc… There were a couple of tacky looking bars and cafes around which brought the place down a bit but it was still a good place to come for a change of scenery.
We went for a drink at Pingüino Soul and it took over half an hour for them to even take our order. The people aren’t hugely friendly in Maspalomas beach area in our experience, and it’s pretty touristy. There really isn’t much to do on the island other than some of the water sports and sitting in a bar or restaurant. There are a few things like go-karting that we passed on the way to the airport, but they didn’t seem easily accessible.
We really didn’t get a good feel of the island – it felt quite Benidorm-y and cheap. A lot of the resorts that we were surrounded by were high rise blocks of apartments and it felt dirty. Although it was the best choice for us at the time, testing our little lady out on a plane for the first time, we definitely won’t be visiting any of the Canary Islands again or recommending them at all. The only positive was another country visited and another shot glass (and Adelaide’s first experience of the beach).