HAVE you ever come across a resort, or hotel or travel gem that unexpectedly ticks all the holiday boxes?
You want to tell everyone how lovely it is, but hesitate in case all your neighbours book it and deny you the (slightly smug but understandable) joy of a “secret” holiday haven?
Marina Suites Hotel on Gran Canaria’s sunny south coast is one of those special finds.
The island, just off the north of Africa, is one of the sunniest places on earth with 3000 hours of sunshine a year.
Temperatures range from 14C in winter to 40C in high season so it’s a great choice for families who want guaranteed sun without having to sit on a plane for days.
Marina Suites is in the bustling tourist town of Puerto Rico. Most of the resort is built in to the hillside with dozens of paths and hundreds of stairs climbing to hotels, but this hotel is on the flat at the foot of the resort and offers stunning views of the horseshoe bay.
From the moment you arrive to a complimentary glass of bubbly, it’s clear this is a business that has mastered the personal touch.
Just 300 metres from the beach and overlooking the yacht harbour on one side and a panorama of the Atlantic on the other, the hotel has a stylish nautical theme.
It’s fantastically well-kept with beautifully-styled rooms and immaculate public areas.
The air-conditioned rooms are large – particularly the two-bed apartments – and well equipped. Each has a balcony overlooking the sea or marina, kitchen and living room. It’s near to the action but in a nice, family-orientated area.
The pool and sunset terrace, outdoor jacuzzi and Balinese beds are where most people spend their lazy days.
It’s a laid-back place with a fantastic family vibe. And even the most die-hard couch (or sunlounger) potato will be persuaded to join in the fun aquagym with hilarious compere Chris.
There are also quieter pursuits. Yoga, massage, staring out to sea from the gorgeous infinity pool or board games in the chic bar area.
Youngsters love the waterpolo tournaments and great kids’ club offering crafts, activities and performances on the outdoor stage.
My favourite place was our balcony overlooking the harbour. People potter on their boats long into the evening and I sat for hours watching them, the stunning sunsets and the holidaymakers meandering around the bay.
Everything is in strolling distance, from shops to mini-golf, bars to beach clubs, and it’s a 10-minute wander from Marina Suites to Puerto Rico’s commmercial centre.
Some say it is reminiscent of Blackpool in the sun. Irish pubs, sports bars, tourist shops and every type of restaurant you can imagine (read on for the best) are crammed in here.
But the best restaurants are away from the centre. One is Torro Bravo, brilliant service and fantastic food at great prices, just a right turn and under the bridge on leaving Marina Suites!
If you want adventure and action, the rugged terrain of the beautiful landscape has it – from hiking to cycling.
Even getting from resort to resort can be a hair-raising experience as you negotiate hairpin bends and clifftop drops on the coastline’s rollercoaster roads.
Hire a car, if you dare, or take the well-organised public transport, mostly air conditioned coaches and taxis.
Don’t miss a trip to Amadores beach. It’s a lovely 30-minute stroll or five-minute taxi ride around the bay from Marina Suites.
Amadores is a more upmarket resort and makes for a great day out. Be aware that tides can be strong here so families with toddlers might be best to choose the more gently shelving bay in Puerto Rico.
Along the coast is the charming fishing village of Mogan. Its white-washed buildings, quaint streets and marina-side bars make it well worth a day trip.
For family days out, look for reps at the airport handing out 2-for-1 tickets for excursions in nearby Maspalomas.
Palmitos Park is home to dolphins, monkeys, flamingoes and a whole list of other animals and exotic birds, while Aqualand is a large water park built on a hill. Both are great fun days out at reasonable prices.
We booked our holiday independently online after seeing the eye-watering prices of package deals.
It cost just £1 to secure the hotel booking and we paid the balance on arrival. We flew from Edinburgh to Las Palmas with Ryanair. You can bag a bargain if you have the nerve – we waited until just six weeks before departure and got five flights for £200 each, return. Bargain – more to spend on sundaes and sangria!
Whether you’re a dedicated sun-seeker looking for a dreamy poolside destination; a group aiming for family fun with home comforts; or you just want to explore a new and beautiful landscape, this island has the answers.
Just remember to keep it to yourself…
Flights to Las Palmas from Edinburgh or Glasgow with Ryanair start at £24.99 in winter, £180 return in summer. See Ryanair.com
Marina Suites, Puerto Rico, offer a range of rooms with prices starting around £75 per room per night.
Book directly at marinagrancanaria.com