Adjacent to the wild beauty of Fuerteventura’s Corralejo Natural Park, overlooking a shimmering Atlantic bay, and the protected Lobos island, is the 5-star Secrets Bahía Real Resort & Spa (formally the Garn Hotel Atkantic Bahia Real). It’s a foodie spa resort, that’s designed to offer couples and families with everything one might need for a relaxing and indulging Canary Islands holiday.
Yet endeavour to temporarily resist the allure of the gourmet restaurants, trendy beach club, and the family swimming pools, and head out to explore one of the most surprising island of this Spanish archipelago, writes Andrew Forbes.
Spain’s Canary Islands have long been a favourite with holiday-makers, thanks to their all-year round temperate climate, and sunshine that is pretty much assured each day. A relatively short flight from Northern Europe, these volcanic islands, off the west coast of Africa have evolved into some of the world’s most successful vacation destinations.
Yet contrary to perceived wisdom, not all of the Canaries are over-developed. Wild natural landscapes, uncrowded beaches that run for kilometres; and a fascinating historic centre makes Fuerteventura special. Lovers of surfing need no introduction this island of broad golden beaches and powerful surf; and increasingly, Fuerteventura is being recognised for its attractions as a family holiday destination.
Secrets Bahía Real Resort & Spa
Secrets Bahía Real Resort & Spa has been the pioneer for 5-star luxury on the island for the last decade or more. The property lies beside the now protected Corralejo Natural Park, an extraordinary coastal reserve that includes vast sand dunes that extend into the distance, towards the volcanic mountains beyond. To the north, a few minutes’ drive away, is the village port, with tourist services and boat trips to the uninhabited Lobos Island. The immediate vicinity is a residential area, with a shopping centre under construction behind the property.
Transfer from the international airport is about half an hour. I would strongly recommend hiring a car, as not only does the hotel offer valet parking as part of its upscale services, but the freedom afforded by your own transport means you can really get the most of a stay at the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahía Real.
When you enter reception, and walk under the large dome ceiling and past the marble fountain decorated with sub-tropical flowers you know you’re entering a stylish resort. The Canaries have always conveyed a slightly Latin American feeling to me. Maybe it’s the laid-back vibe of the people, their gentle accents, and the weather – either way, from the moment you arrive at the hotel really makes you feel like you’re on vacation. Well, the welcome glass of bubbles also helped! The front desk was friendly and professional, and set the tone for a break where the staff was warm and hospitable.
Fuerteventura is one of the world’s top water sports destinations and that is thanks for great surf and ideal conditions for sailing, wind and kite surfing. But of course, that does mean that depending on the season, during your holiday you will become aware of the island’s breeze, which in the height of summer is a blessing keeping temperature and humidity to comfortable levels.
Also, the hotel has been cleverly designed, with a large internal courtyard patio garden where the pools are located. The hotels restaurants and the Beach Club Las Palmeras pool bar spill out on this sheltered, sub-tropical oasis which whatever the weather on the coast, is always protected – a real sun-trap. Sun loungers are elegant and comfortable; and surrounding the entire courtyard is a shaded terrace with rattan chairs and sofas. It has an evocative colonial, Latino feel.
Coco Beach Lounge & Club
A relatively new addition to the Secrets Bahía Real Resort & Spa is the smart Coco Beach. It offers oceanside dining, in a contemporary, beach club setting, as well as an adjacent private sun terrace with premium loungers and cabanas with drinks service – available to hire for the day.
Coco Beach is a good option for a sophisticated lunch; a break from sun bathing and just chilling with a book. The dining space is surrounded by glass, offering magnificent views, the bright Canary Island light, but also a stylish, sheltered environment in which to enjoy the menu of seafood and contemporary tapas.
For me, a significant quality of the property was its foodie credentials. This may be a predominantly family-orientated holiday resort, (that’s not really in walking distance to alternative eateries), but that doesn’t mean the property is complacent in its catering.
To the contrary, the dining was a highlight. Premium restaurants, a buffet and bars complete a wide selection of places to eat.
In addition to the poolside Beach Club Las Palmeras offering a light Mediterranean menu, and the smart Atlantic view Coco Beach with cocktails and seafood, there is the La Alacena Real buffet.
The buffet at first looks like a classic hotel self-service restaurant; with its large food stations, and expansive dining area that runs from the ocean view terrace through to a small patio garden with fountain. This is where breakfast is available each day, and then goes on to offer themed dining that is family-friendly and relaxed.
Yet I was impressed at the standard. I’ve experienced resort dining and cruise line all-day restaurants before, so I know how sometimes buffets can set the tone for the overall quality of a holiday experience. Here the buffet was creatively presented, and excellent quality.
There are three themed premium restaurants:
La Cúpula de Carles Gaig is the resort’s fine-dining eatery with an upscale menu designed by Michelin star chef Carles Gaig. The restaurant is open on a rotation basis with the other three signature restaurants.
Yamatori is the hotel’s Japanese restaurant, designed in classic Asian style. It has a Teppanyaki show cooking grill as well a sushi bar.
Las Columnas is the third of the themed premium restaurants. Its focus is Spain, a country renowned for its produce and cuisine, and the menu incorporates local and regional flavours. The setting is elegant and sophisticated and the team is friendly and knowledgeable. There’s a good wine list including regional wines from the Canaries. I particularly enjoyed the house white, which is from neighbouring Lanzarote.
It all adds up to a very foodie holiday.
SPA Bahía Vital
The property also has a spa, which at 3000 square metres, means you can find your place to relax. There is a heated pool with hydrotherapy circuit; gym; and treatment rooms offering wellness and beauty therapies.
The property has a range of rooms and suites for couple’s. families, and multi-generations holidays.
My guest room had a stunning view, looking out over the shore line and the Atlantic, and beyond to the striking Lobos Island, and Lanzarote in the distance. The fresh, warm sea breeze and the sound of the waves is a constant reminder of one’s privileged place by the ocean.
The room was well designed and spacious, reminding me of US style resort suites. The décor is from a decade or so ago when the property opened, so to some it may look a little dated, but maintenance is good, and the details that count, like the bed, the linens and the towels are all new and of excellent quality.
Housekeeping was amongst the best I have experienced in a hotel. The room thoughtfully prepared, turndown was excellent and the level of cleanliness was superb. The house-keeping team were on-site all day.
As one might expect from the island’s most upscale resort, there’s plenty at Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahía Real to keep you from leaving the property; spa pools, gardens, beach club, and restaurants – but I strongly recommend you leave your sun lounger for a while and discover the stunning scenery of the island.
The wild natural park of Corralejo is within walking distance of the hotel; it’s a landscape of huge sand dunes that are evocative of nearby Africa. The beaches stretch for kilometres, so even in high season you can find a spot that feels private.
From the nearby port you can join a boat trip to Lobos Island. There are catamaran yachts offering all day excursions with snorkelling; or for families there are larger glass bottom boats that take you the short distance to the island and offer the chance to see the marine life; snorkel, and spend a few hours to explore the island. It’s no longer inhabited, but has a few places to purchase refreshments. A few hours here is a good chance to discover the sandy coves and bays.
With a car, you head inland and visit some of the less well known sights of this, the second largest island of the Canaries. There are several charming small museums celebrating the former way of life on this island, as well as some historic villages, including the picturesque Betancuria, said to be the oldest settlement in the Canary Islands. This former island capital is a great place to try the local speciality of roast goat. On the way, you can see the island’s most famous volcanic mountain, Montaña de Tindaya, considered a sacred place by the first settlers on the island.
Make your way to the south of Fuerteventura, and one finds the striking Jandia peninsula. Worlds away from the tourist centres of Morra Jable, this protected volcanic park offers an amazing landscape that leads onto some of the islands best beaches, renowned for their golden sands and impressive surf.
So, my recommendation is to consider Fuerteventura for your next family get-away. The island’s natural environment is strikingly beautiful, the inland villages have a simple charm, and what’s more the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahía Real offers upscale accommodation and dining not found elsewhere on the island.
At the time of writing, a double deluxe room at the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real on a B&B basis is available from £153.
Address: Secrets Bahía Real Resort & Spa 5*GL, Avd. Grandes Playas, s/n, 35660 Corralejo, La Oliva
Fuerteventura – Canary Islands – Spain