From April 1-10 I attended the Digital Nomad Girls Retreat in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, which is a Spanish island off the coast of Africa. It’s pretty much perfect weather all the time. It was warm enough to swim in April, without being too hot. In all honesty, before I went I just assumed it was a big packaged resort location older Germans go to, but I stand corrected! There’s actually a big digital nomad scene there, it’s affordable, and there’s loads of outdoor stuff to do, water sports, as well as nice nightlife and, of course, the beach.
Where to Stay
Restation Coliving and Coworking – We stayed here as our retreat location, but you can rent a room separately. It’s mostly for digital nomad types, and people working online while traveling. Restation is really great at organizing social and work events, so that you end up with a ton of friends by the time you leave even if you come alone. They do breakfasts every morning with a talk from a member, and they have a whatsapp channel everyone is on, where meetups over dinner and drinks are planned. They also had yoga mats for us to borrow, and of course fast internet. The owner, Maria, is fantastic and really involved in making sure everyone has a great and happy time.
Camino Art Hotel – They had me at “200 year old cave rooms”. This is not in the city part of Gran Canaria, so it’s good if you’re going for the experience and to get your outdoors on. If I stayed longer I probably would have taken a short holiday in the mountains in the center of the island, because it’s breathtaking. Plus, you can sleep in a cave!
Camino Art Hotel (photo from Booking.com)
Ecohostel Bettmar – This one is in the center of Las Palmas, for those who are more into hostels. They offer simple, modern rooms with free Wi-Fi. It is an eco-friendly hostel with recycled furniture and an interior patio with a vertical garden. Water is heated using solar power. There are 2 lounges where you can relax, as well as a computer area. Guests may use the equipped kitchen to cook their own meals. A selection of restaurants can be found within a 10-minute walk. Prices around 20€ per night.
Ecohostel Bettmar (photo from Booking.com)
Manipa Hostel Eco-friendly – I didn’t stay in this area, but it looks fantastic. The hostel itself looks gorgeous, so I’d go there simply just to chill in that environment and meet some new people. You can stay in a shared room, or get your own double room. There’s lots of lofts, rooftop patios, shared and private rooms, hammocks. Please go and tell me how it is, I’ll have to check it out when I’m back.
Manipa Hostel Eco-friendly (photo from Booking.com)
Apartamentos Colón Playa – Here’s one if you just want your own normal apartment with a kitchen to chill out in. Also, so you can cook your own accidentally vegan chocolate churros (see my supermarket find below). There’s also a shared rooftop sun terrace. Each apartment in Colón Playa comes with a kitchen, a private bathroom and a lounge with sleeping area. There is a satellite TV, free Wi-Fi and a safe. Most apartments have a private terrace. This one is around the area I stayed in. Prices are pretty affordable too.
El Warung – I heard a lot about this place, a cave hostel! A few people I met went here and stayed a night or two just for the experience. Let me know if you’ve been there. The views from the place look stunning.
While Gran Canaria is really closer to Africa, it’s part of Spain (hello colonialism, I see you!) and thus Spanish is spoken there. Most people speak of a bit of English, but not a ton. I downloaded the Google Translate package for Spanish on my phone offline when I first arrived and that did me wonders. Everyone is very friendly there though, so people put up with my barely existent Spanish just fine.
It’s an island, thus the beach is everywhere. There’s awesome mountains in the center, good wine, and surprisingly, a big traveler and digital nomad scene. I guess it’s a good local option to avoid a cold winter in Europe. I got roundtrip direct tickets for 80€ from Ryanair. Yes, it was a five hour fight from Berlin…with Ryanair…but I survived and would do it again.
While food was not the focus of the retreat, of course I scoped out the vegan situation there.
Strangely, while doing my vegan food research in advance, I didn’t find very many blog posts about vegan options in the area. The few I found were from a few years ago, so I thought it’d be a good idea to write my own. Of course there is Happy Cow, but looking at blog posts is usually one of the first things I do when I know I will travel somewhere.
Now, Gran Canaria is not the most vegan friendly destination ever. Luckily, however, there are a lot of accidentally vegan things and several vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants. The most popular are these Papas Arrugadas con Mojo (wrinkled potatoes with mojo sauce). The mojo sauce is essentially a shit ton of garlic, olive oil, peppers, paprika, etc. I could swim in it. These are everywhere, so get on that.
(photo credit to the official Gran Canaria tourist website because I accidentally deleted my photo)
Papas Arrugadas con Mojo pictured above. The first night we went to Toma Pan y Moja, and our retreat organizer warned them ahead there’d be vegans. So I had a lot of vegan-friendly tapas, including these famous local potatoes. We also had a bunch of stuff with tofu, etc.
Basal Grill & Beach
The night before the retreat, the few of us who were there early headed to Basal Grill & Beach for dinner and sangria. They are mostly non-vegan, but had a few good vegan dishes like these sweet potato noodles with tofu and veggies. The sangria was excellent!
Our second day we went hiking
Not a bad view, right?!
I would just like to point out that I got sunburned on April 2nd. Yes, sunburned in April. It’s my fault for only putting sunscreen on my face, but whatever.
Anyway, after our hike we headed to a cute town in the mountains. By the way, the roads are crazily windy getting up and down the mountains in the center of the island, full of switchbacks. Bring your motion sickness pills if you get carsick!
During our hike, I crawled through caves and saw my first almond tree in real life!
Little baby almond in progress!
We went to a restaurant in the small town in the mountains called Los Almendros. The view from the patio here was fantastic, and luckily they had a vegan dish.
I’m not sure what to call this, but it had avocado so I was happy. We also got more papas arrugadas con mojo and some fried veggie appetizer with sauce. By the way, I bought four GIANT avocados in the supermarket in Las Palmas for 4€. Four euros!!! In Berlin, one shitty small avocado will set you back 2€. If I lived here I would just eat avocados all the time, with everything.
Literally across the street from our co-working space was Racimo 16, an all-vegetarian restaurant. They offer a few different daily specials, and 1-2 are always vegan. I got this carrot ball thing on rice and a salad. It was nicely spiced and quite tasty!
Carrot Meatballs on Rice from Racimo 16
I went to Natural Burguer to share lunch with some people from the co-working space. They have meat and veggie stuff, and a big picture menu of everything so it’s easy if you don’t speak Spanish. There’s soy meats and soy remoulade well. Reading Happy Cow afterwards, it seems there is some controversy over whether the bread is vegan, and whether the soy meats are cooked in the same oil as the regular meat. You’ll need to draw the line wherever is comfortable to you. If you can speak Spanish, I bet you can clarify that better than me. If so, report back!
The food is quite affordable here. Not mind-blowing, but exact what you expect and good.
Falafel, potato wedges and ketchup from Natural Burguer
Salad with Soy Chicken from Natural Burguer
My burger with soy patty from Natural Burguer
Bioloco was the first and only all-vegan place I went to. It’s a restaurant and cruelty-free bar. I really liked the space, they also sold vegan iChoc chocolate bars. Everyone was friendly and they spoke a little bit of English, although I tried by tiny bit of newly-learned Spanish out on them relatively successfully. They do have an English menu though, filled with salads, sandwiches, burgers and cakes.
I started out with a soy latte, which was served with raw (or maybe coconut?) sugar.
My favorite thing I ordered, however, was this Caesar salad. It’s filled with vegan cheese, veggie chicken, croutons, lettuce and of course ample creamy salad dressing. It was pretty epic, and I liked it a lot more than what I got the second time.
Loaded potatoes from Bioloco to-go with vegan ketchup, mayo and all sorts of things. Good if you need a carb fix.
My to-go burger from Bioloco. This wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t bad and got the job done. I think I just wasn’t a fan of the bread they used.
Chocolate cake from Bioloco. I also wasn’t a huge fan of this, as I found it too dry. I like my cake moist. Ah well, maybe it was a bad day for that cake. The sauce was yummy!
Casa Ari Indonesian Food
I really want to go to Indonesia, so I was excited to try some Indonesian food at Casa Ari. Everyone I met raved about this place, and it lived up to the hype. They also have a “vegano” labeled section of the menu, and the owner was aware what vegan was a was happy to recommend a dish to me.
To be honest, I don’t really remember what I got because I just asked them to recommend something. It had a lot of tempeh and veggies and was yummy! Next time I want to try something with noodles.
Mr. Kale is in the Old Town of Las Palmas, Vegueta, which is super pretty. It’s vegan-friendly here, with a build your own concept for stir-fries, smoothies, smoothie bowls, and burgers, plus some a la carte things. I got another noodle stir-fry, which was tasty. What stood out though, was the cake…
Seriously, it’s a bad picture, but this red velvet cake was vegan and gluten-free, and it was possibly the best cake I’ve ever had in my life. It was moist, and just the right amount of sweetness, with a super creamy, yummy frosting. Oh my. I will dream about it, it came totally unexpected.
Best of India
I ended up at Best of India because a group of us wanted to go to Casa Ari, but it was closed and this was around the corner. It wasn’t anymore vegan than a normal Indian restaurant, but of course you can order all the lentil, beans, potato and spinach, etc. dishes without ghee. I got a lentil dish. It was tasty, but I found the whole experience very over-priced. My lentils were around 8€, and didn’t come with rice. A portion of white rice would have cost an extra 4€!!! So I went without.
If you’re really craving Indian food, I’d say go for it. Otherwise, there are other places with more affordable prices.
Lentil dish from Best of India
One thing Las Palmas doesn’t do much of is hipster coffee shops. My retreat mates kept raving about Cafe Regina, however, so I went to check it out. It’s nice and big inside, and they roast their own coffee beans. They have sandwiches and stuff, but none of them are vegan. There is soymilk, however!
If you want a nice coffee I’d definitely check this place out. I got the latte below for less than 2€!
Soy latte from Cafe Regina for less than two euros!
Checking out the supermarkets
You’ll find little supermarkets all over, but there’s also a big supermarket with lots of international food in the basement of El Corte Ingles department store. One downside to all the supermarkets I noticed, however, is the amount of packaging.
I mean, is that really necessary for a squash?! Really?
Anyway, in the big Carrefour and in El Corte Ingles they also have a veggie section where you could get your soymilks, soy meats, seitan, tofu, Alpro products, etc.
My best find in the smaller local supermarket, however, were these chocolate-filled churros:
There were some other places I wanted to check out, but not enough time. One major one I missed is Zoe Food. My friends went there, but I was in severe need of alone time so I skipped it. They all immediately texted me raving about how great it was and all the vegan options, and sent pictures.
So you should probably check it out if you go!
Those were my lovely 11 days in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain! As I mostly went for the retreat, I didn’t expect much from the place, and I was so, so happily surprised! I will definitely be back when I want an affordable break from the Berlin winter.
Oh, and if you want to read my review of the Digital Nomad Girls Retreat, you can do so here.