“Take vacations. Go as many places as you can. You can always make money. You can’t always make memories.”
Dates: 4th June 2013 – 11th June 2013
Accommodation: Corona Roja
Back in the summer of 2013, Ronan and I had our first holiday together – for some reason I never count our few days in Lahinch as our “first trip”. I have to admit, this holiday to Gran Canaria seems like a life time ago now, and I suppose in a way, it was. We both had just finished our degrees and hadn’t started our first “real jobs” yet. It was for this reason that we wanted to keep the trip as cheap as possible, so that it wouldn’t be too harsh on our newly graduated pockets.
The planning and saving began for this trip in October 2012, with a visit to Budget Travel on Abbey Street on a very rainy day – the best type of day to book a holiday in my eyes. We had already decided to go to Playa del Ingles in Gran Canaria, as Ronan had been there several times before when he was younger, so there wasn’t a risk of getting too lost on our first holiday. The decision was made to stay in Corona Roja for a week – we decided to stay for just a week this time around, to make sure we didn’t kill each other (luckily, nearly 3 years later, we’re both still travelling together). As it was Ronan’s first time to Gran Canaria in several years, and my first time ever, we decided to get a coach transfer with Budget Travel from the airport to Corona Roja. However, there is, in fact, a public bus that runs from the airport to the Playa del Ingles and the final stop was a 2 minute walk from our aparthotel.
In the weeks leading up to our holiday, we started reading reviews on Trip Advisor about our accommodation – which made us quite anxious about where we decided to stay. The reviews left an awful lot to be desired, as most of the reviews described it as Fawlty Towers without the comedy, how it should be shut down and was just all round awful. But when we arrived, we discovered it wasn’t as bad as the reviews made out. Now don’t get me wrong, you know you’re not staying in a 5 star hotel – the rooms were basic but they were clean and quite well looked after. There was a coin slot attached to the TV where you had to pay to watch anything (including Sky Sports), but who goes on holidays to stay in their room watching TV. If you purely want a room to sleep in and maybe make yourself a bit of lunch, it’s perfect. From a food side of things, we don’t have much to report there as there are so many places to eat a short stroll from the apartment that we never ate in the hotel section. However, listening to other guests who had an all-inclusive stay, our way was better. Also, as the building itself was quite tall, the sun would be blocked in the pool area from about 4 and so would get a little chilly, especially in the water. However, as we were a stone’s throw from the beach, this wasn’t too important. I would say that if you’re used to staying in luxury, this probably isn’t the best place to stay – but for a recently graduated couple like we were at the time, it did the job as we were hardly ever in the complex.
In what was a very quick week, we managed to fit a fair bit of activity in around the resort. We had two full days out, one to the water park and one long day on a boat, deep sea fishing.
The water park on the island, Aqualand, is about 15 minutes from Playa del Ingles. The number 45 bus takes you from the main bus stop in Playa del Ingles to the main entrance of the water park and is a very affordable way to get there. The water park itself is definitely worth a day out, and even as a non-swimmer, I found it very enjoyable. It has something for everyone, from the adrenaline junkie to the people who would prefer to chill out. Some of my favourite rides included the Tornado, the Kamikaze, the Adrenalina and the Boomerang. Ronan quite enjoyed the Aquamania slide and the Crazy Race, however you would want to be a better swimmer than I am to have a go on those rides.
Naturally, buying your tickets online for the water park is a little cheaper, however you can get quite good deals at the park also, particularly if you plan to go back for a second day. In this case, bring your passport and you’ll get your second day half price – however you must buy both days together. Like most water parks, there’s other “extras” once you get inside. Food is at a premium, so if you have a family with you, it’s probably best to bring a picnic. There’s also the option to get henna tattoos while you’re there and on some days, you have the chance to get a fish pedicure. Essentially, this involves letting your feet get nibbled on by Garra Rufa fish. Although quite ticklish at first, your feet do end up feeling lovely and soft afterwards. Ronan and I had the pleasure of having this done while in the park, and it certainly gave us a nice break from running around.
No holiday with Ronan would be complete without doing something on the sea, so we spent a full day mid-way through our holiday on a fishing charter. There are several companies throughout the island who offer this excursion and include a hotel pickup, lunch and, of course, all your fishing supplies for the day. It does involve an early start with a 9am departure on the boat, so pickups can start as early as 7.30am. Bearing the early start in mind, along with a rocking boat, it’s probably best not to have a wild night out in the clubs the night before.
Unfortunately, our boat didn’t have any luck catching any fish while we were out – and that’s even with my trying to help with extra bait and getting sick off the edge of the boat. On the plus side, we lucky enough to spot several whales and dolphins and we had huge tuna leaping out of the water around our boat, so from a sightseeing point of view, the day wasn’t a total waste.
As Gran Canaria is an island with near guaranteed good weather all year round, there is a wealth of water sports around the island, with everything from banana boats and parasailing to kayaking and jet skis. As Ronan is a water baby, he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity of renting a jet ski from one of the numerous rental huts along the beaches close to us. Prices can be a little expensive, with an hour for one person costing about €110, while 2 people sharing a jet ski would be about €130. Better deals can be found though, depending what rental hut you use. But it does make for a very enjoyable hour, and when you get photos like what Ronan got, it’s easy to see how enjoyable it is.
Of course, there is a lot to do on land also, if you want to avoid the water all together. We spent one afternoon trying to find the famous sand dunes of Maspalomas in order to do a camel trek through the dunes. After quite a long stroll and finally stopping to ask for directions, we hopped into a taxi after finding out it would have been a longer walk in the heat than we anticipated. We later discovered that a bus which stopped close to our apartment would have taken us close also.
The camel trek itself was a lovely little trip, and gave us a chance to see something different on the island and made a welcome change to the pubs, clubs and souvenir shops in the resorts. The camel ride itself lasts between 30 and 35 minutes and the journey gives you the feeling that you have ended up in a desert. The treks start every 15 minutes or so, and there is a nice waiting area where you can purchase cold drinks and ice creams to help you keep cool. The waiting rooms also help make you feel that you have left Gran Canaria and arrived in Northern Africa. It is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets, and was made all the nicer (and funnier) when one of the camels sneezed in Ronan’s face.
Naturally, no recent graduate holiday would be complete without some nights out. As anyone who has visited Playa del Ingles would know, there are often people on the streets selling tickets to events. A lot of the time, these people can be more hassle than they’re worth but we were lucky to come across a more reputable and genuine ticket seller. One of the main events they had was a bar crawl, which started off in Pacha, one of the most famous clubs on the island. Some things that were included in your ticket prices were free entry into Pacha and several other bars and clubs (including the finishing point of China White), free shots, special offers on drinks and a free t-shirt for everyone who made it to the end. We found this to be quite an enjoyable night, after making the mistake of being misled into the wrong starting bar by another club rep. The best part of this bar crawl when you are new to the resort is that it gives you a better feel for where you would like to go back to for future nights out and if you are a small group like we were can give the chance to meet up with other groups for an even more enjoyable night out. This pub crawl now seems to be included as part of the MTV Party Boat, if you decide to go a little more crazy.
One evening, after this pub crawl, we were welcomed into a lovely Irish bar by a rep called Chantal. Naturally, as an Irish bar, it was called Molly Malone’s and has since become our local, of sorts, in Gran Canaria. The evening entertainment was always very enjoyable here and included musicians, hypnotists, and games (with free shots as prizes) to get people laughing between people singing karaoke. Some brilliant memories were made here, between dancing on tables with the staff and dropping Ronan’s chicken nuggets which he got in the burger king next door all across the floor. It was a great place to get chatting to people, and we ended up continuing our nights out with people we met there in the clubs downstairs. It was also conveniently located over-looking many of the clubs in the Kasbah Centre, and so was only a short stumble away to continue our nights out.
During what was a very quick week, Ronan and I made a lot of memories on our first proper holiday together. In a way, this was the start of our “wanderlust”. We discovered a mutual love for adventures and travelling, and most importantly, that when we travel together, we still come home together and not wanting to kill each other or run away from each other as soon as we land back home. We had such an enjoyable trip to Gran Canaria in 2013 that we returned for 2 weeks in 2014 to have more adventures and relax a little bit more than the first time… And we’re going back for more at the end of June – more adventures and fun are to be had.