Taurito Princess, Gran Canaria – hotel review

10 things you’ll want to know about staying here

My wife Rachel and I had long wanted to take a winter sun break; this year we took the plunge. The Canaries were the obvious choice. They’re easily accessible from our local airport, and offer reliably warm weather at this time of year. Having travelled with Thomson before, we booked our week with them less than four weeks from departure. We chose the Taurito Princess on Gran Canaria because it was in a quiet resort, all-inclusive and highly-rated by other guests. This is my review.

1. The hotel in general

Located right next to the beach, white marble is the architectural theme of this hotel.

Hotel atrium with white marble floor.
The atrium

The atrium is very light; the central staircase less so. The hotel comprises over 400 rooms over eleven floors. You have a bit of a walk and a slow but scenic lift ride to get anywhere if your room is on one of the upper floors. Members of staff are reasonably friendly and the hotel is very clean.

2. Rooms

We stayed in a junior suite on the second floor. It was spacious and included a desk, TV, sofa and armchair, two large single beds, generous hanging space and balcony. Other rooms in the hotel have yet to be refurbished, I believe.

Hotel bedroom, including sofa, desk and two single beds, looking towards the double windows.
Our beds
Hotel bedroom, including sofa, desk and two single beds.
The seating area in our room

There are four electrical sockets, so recharging multiple phones and other devices shouldn’t be a problem. Our bathroom was a very good size, and its shower over the bath was the hottest and most powerful I think I’ve come across in a hotel.

Hotel bathroom with shower over bath and dark tiling.
Our bathroom washbasin
Hotel bathroom with large white sink unit.
Our shower over the bath

We paid €21 to use the safe for the week (this includes a €5 key deposit). The interior of ours was about 30cm tall, wide and deep, with a single shelf, so if you intend to bring a DSLR and lens or two, they should fit.

3. Food and drink

This hotel works on an all-inclusive buffet basis. Whatever your nationality, dietary needs or general preferences, I imagine this hotel caters for it.

Breakfast is served in the main restaurant on the ground floor. You can enjoy their version of the full English: egg, bacon, sausages (not really in the English style), beans and so on. I loved their scrambled eggs, in particular. A selection of cereals, fruit and yogurt are also on offer, along with cheese and cold meats for continental palates.

Bananas, melons, kiwis and other fruit on hotel buffet
The hotel’s fresh fruit buffet

Lunch is served in a smaller restaurant on the floor above. As many people do, you can take this meal out to the terrace around it. Rachel tended to stick to salads. I loved the chance to try different fish, like tilapia, hake and panga. Their ratatouille-like vegetable dishes are very good.

Dinner takes you back the main restaurant on the ground floor. It’s very busy early in the evening, so we tended to wait until about 8.30pm (it closes an hour later). Again, there’s a very wide selection and a griddle, where meat and fish is cooked throughout the evening. We found most dishes well cooked and delicious. Each night has a different theme – French, Italian, Tex/Mex and so on – with the restaurant decorated to match. Our stay coincided with St. Valentine’s Day, so each table acquired a balloon and other romantic decorations.

Tables in outside restaurant with red table decorations
Al fresco dining on St. Valentine’s Day

At lunch and dinner, dessert choices tend to be cold. Cream sponges featured throughout the week; fresh fruit and ice cream were also available. Expect to go home a pound or two heavier!

Melon, grapes, kiwi cream tart, cup cake
A mix-and-match dessert of mine from the buffet.

4. Drinks

Wine on tap was one of the highlights. I’m sure it’s just table wine, but it was very drinkable and spared us the extra expense of a new bottle every couple of nights. Beer and soft drinks are also available on a similar basis. Fruit juice is some sort of concentrate – the pineapple is OK – and hot drinks were dispensed from machines. I recommend the hot chocolate, but coffee with milk was weak. Cappuccinos seemed to be some sort of concoction involving chocolate – best avoided. Smoothies and cocktails are also available to buy at the poolside bar.

5. Wifi

This was disappointing. It’s €19 for the week, or €12 for three days, and only available in public areas on the ground floor. The hotel is closing in May for refurbishment, I understand; I hope it’s one service they’ll improve.

6. Outside

Built on the side of a cliff, the hotel makes the most of its small grounds. There are two main pools – one heated in winter – plus a couple of paddling pools for young children.

Swimming pool outside large white hotel, with beach bar in background.
One of the swimming pools

During our stay, they were only open between 10am and 6pm. Sun loungers are plentiful and patiently rearranged by the poolside team at the end of each day. Beach towels are provided. Reserving loungers them first thing in the morning is futile; hotel staff remove towels and items left on them.

7. Beach

There is a small beach at Taurito, with a lifeguard and paid-for sunbeds.

Beach, promemade, large hotel, blue sea and sky
Taurito beach

Its sand is volcanic: dark grey and moderately fine. Even in February, the water is warm enough for swimming. With currents coming in from across the Atlantic, breaking waves can be big. There are submerged rocks on the south side of the beach, so be especially careful here.

8. Weather

Average temperatures on Gran Canaria in February are about 21 Celsius, and a lot hotter during the summer. Half-way through our week, thanks to the Calima wind blowing in from the Sahara, they soared to 27C. We had lots of sun, one afternoon of cloud and a bit of rain in Taurito. We understand the weather was worse in the capital, Las Palmas, on the north side of the island.

9. The resort

Enclosed within a deep canyon, Taurito is quite a small resort. It’s dominated by big hotels like the Taurito Princess. Apartment blocks, a waterpark (€15 for adults) and some bars and gift shops also feature. Probably its biggest attraction, at least for Rachel, were its resident cats. They now have their own Instagram account, @tauritocats!

White, ginger and tabby cats begging for food on blue and white paving.
Some of Taurito’s cats

10. Getting around

There’s a daily courtesy bus from the hotel to the neighbouring resort, Puerto de Mógan. To use this on a Friday – market day – you need to ask for a ticket from reception at least a day in advance. The resort styles itself ‘Little Venice’, although this overstates the case somewhat. Its beach, protected by a breakwater, is nice – and there’s a very pleasant grid of whitewashed houses behind the harbour.

White-washed cottages and palm tree beneath blue sky
Harbour-front cottages at Puerto de Mogán.

Local buses are plentiful and cheap. We took one to Puerto Rico, a few miles down the coast (€1.40 per person each way). The coast road is pretty hair-raising, so you can understand why millions were spent boring motorway tunnels a short way inland. Puerto Rico is a bigger resort than Taurito, but there isn’t much to see there.

Sandy bay with hotels behnd, captured from the coast road heading south of the resort.
Puerto Rico

We thought about visiting Gran Canaria’s capital, Las Palmas, but didn’t on this trip. There’s a semi-fast – and probably inexpensive – direct bus from Taurito.

Various excursions are available from the hotel. A tour of the island in an eight-seater people-carrier tempted us – but again, perhaps next time.

My verdict

This hotel is a great place for a week away from it all: good food; comfortable rooms and reliable weather. Unless you make a few excursions, you might go a little stir-crazy if you stay longer. Rachel and I would happily return, and use it next time as a base to see more of the island.

Other hotel reviews you might enjoy:

Sol Gavilanes, Menorca

San Ranieri, Pisa

Have you stayed at the Taurito Princess? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Day trip to Pisa

If you’re staying in or near Pisa, it goes without saying that you should visit the city itself. The Leaning Tower – the cathedral’s campanile, or bell-tower, to be exact – is of course the stand-out attraction.

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If you’re looking to get good photos, visit first thing in the morning both to benefit from the soft light of sunrise and to avoid the crowds, which are huge in the summer. Most visitors seem to be overtaken by the urge to pose for a photo, pretending to hold the tower up, which makes for amusing people-watching.

 

Sunset doesn’t work quite so well for the tower because the adjacent cathedral casts a large shadow shadow in the evening; conversely, it is very good for shots of the west front of the cathedral and nearby baptistry.

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Getting into the town from our hotel, the San Ranieri, was easy: the no. 13 departs from a stop nearby every 20 minutes, took about 20 minutes and cost just a couple of Euros each way. We alighted at the railway station and then walked north through the city centre; the streets you take, Corso Italia and then the Via Goisuè Carducci, have been pedestrianised nearly all of the way to the Leaning Tower.

Climbing the Leaning Tower costs €18/person; perhaps the strange sensation of climbing a building that is listing heavily is worth it but, arguably, the view of it is far better than the view from it. The real secret is the cathedral which, thanks presumably to the revenues raised from tourists who queue to climb the tower, is free to enter. Entry is timed but, since there were only two of us, we were allowed in immediately when I explaind that we were flying home later in the day and couldn’t visit later.

Unlike in Siena Cathedral, with its ornate mosaic tiled floor, ugly and very utilitarian blue plastic seats filled the central aisle of the nave. Look up and around, though, and there is an ornate gilded ceiling, a higly ornate octagonal pulpit by Nicolà Pisano and his son Giovanni, huge paintings and a flamboyant mosaic of Christ flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist in the apse behind the high altar.

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The views along the river are very picturesque and would would make a great dusk cityscape, yet it’s probably no coincidence that the main pedestrian street from the station leads directly to the tower: my impression is that there’s not so much else in the city to inspire the culture-seeking visitor.

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Florence is of course the mecca for Tuscan tourism; my wife and I are saving it for a future trip.

Day trip to the heart of Tuscany

No less beautiful than all the architecture in cities like Siena and Lucca is the countryside of rural Tuscany, as we found on our ramble through it from Pisa. In fact, we liked it so much that we went out on two trips.

Assuming that you have only one day spare, though, I’d suggest an itinerary like this.

From Pisa, take the FiPiLi and turn off at the first junction after your spur from Pisa has merged with that from Livorno: follow signs for Ponsacco. Strike south-east towards Volterra through Capannoli and La Sterza.

Beyond there, follow signs to Saline di Volterra rather than those for Volterra itself. We took the direct road and, with little warning, it became very steep, winding and difficult to drive. It’s from the road to Saline that you’ll enjoy views of the rolling fields that epitomise the classic Tuscan landscape.

From Saline, turn left and climb towards Volterra; there are some steep hairpin bends on the final approach from the west, too. Volterra dates from Etruscan times and has been continuously occupied for nearly three millenia, so there’s lot to see, especially if you’re interested in archæology.

From Volterra, continue east along the main road towards Poggibonsi; it’s not as steep or winding as the one you’ve just followed. There are some gorgeous views to be enjoyed along this road, not least a mile or so down the hill from Volterra, just before a hairpin bend.

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After 15 km, turn left off the main road at Castel San Gimignano and head north towards San Gimignano. Pause and enjoy some of the lovely rural views along this route, if you can.

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Another of the highlights of Tuscany and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is dominated by a dozen mediæval tower houses. Its historic centre is pedestrianised and thronged with tourists, probably for much of the year. We were fortunate to get to its main square when a historical re-enactment – watched by a newly-married bride and groom – was in progress.

There are various car parks dotted around the outside of the city walls but finding a space must be quite a challenge during the summer months. It’s only a fairly short, albeit steep, walk into the town centre from most of them. We parked in the one off Via Ghiacciaia on the north side of town; the charge was €2/hour.

I particularly wanted to get some good sunset photos of the city from the west and found a good vantage point a kilometre or so along the SP69. I found that the sun sets more quickly than in England.

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From here, follow the road north-westward  towards Forcoli, Pontedera and eventually back to Pisa. It runs through woodland for much of the time, with very few villages along the way, so it’s not a great place either to break down or run out of fuel.

Day trip to Vernazza

Vernazza al crepusculo
Vernazza at dusk

One of the villages of the Cinque Terre, a rugged stretch of Ligurian coastline to the west of La Spezia, Vernazza is among the most photographed locations on 500px.com. It was therefore on my bucket list for this holiday and part of the reason why we chose to stay in Pisa.

My major concern with this trip was the last leg of the journey. The road to Vernazza from the autostrada looked to be narrow, steep and winding – unforgiving to somebody unfamiliar with it like me – so I found a very good alternative.

My top tip for you is Continue reading →

San Ranieri, Pisa, hotel review – a good base for exploring Tuscany

In early September, my wife and I spent a week exploring Tuscany and used the Hotel San Ranieri on the outskirts of Pisa, as our base. We chose Pisa because it is served by a weekly direct Ryanair flight from our local airport, Bournemouth (at the time of publishing, this route doesn’t appear on its Summer 2015 schedule). It is, moreover, an interesting city in its own right and offers good road connections, both to the heart of Tuscany and northwards to the Cinque Terre in Liguria.

The San Ranieri was our chosen hotel because Continue reading →

Sol Gavilanes Hotel is worth a second visit

My wife and I spent a week earlier this autumn at the Sol Gavilanes Hotel in Cala Galdana. Following a great holiday there a year ago and being too busy to look at any other options, having moved house and been busy with garden improvements, we booked again with Thomson. We weren’t disappointed. The hotel is very well-managed, clean and comfortable, serving excellent food in both of its buffet restaurants. Unfortunately, it still does not offer free WiFi.

Villas on a clifftop
A view from the hotel terrace at dawn

So what was different this time? Most importantly, we took advantage of being able to fly from Bournemouth airport, rather than Gatwick. This cut down our travel time dramatically and meant that we could get a bit of sleep at home before setting off for our early-morning flight (last year, we drove through the night before catching one at a similar time); we were also able to check in for it a little later.

We took a boat trip along the coast. Along the way, we passed some fascinating rock formations, not least the sea arch at Punta de Sant’Aleix.

Sea arch
Paddle thru

The voyage was an ideal way to take a look at other beaches along the coast; I have to say, however, that none surpassed our favourite, Cala Mitjana.

My birthday fell half-way through our stay and, on our return to the beach, we were delighted to find that the hotel had left a complimentary bottle of Cava in an ice bucket for us. Along with the fresh fruit left for us a couple of days previously, it was a lovely touch.

Finally, the weather turned a little more unsettled towards the end of our stay: windy but no rain. Whilst it wasn’t so good for sunbathing, I enjoyed dodging higher waves in the surf and we enjoyed a couple of fabulous sunsets.

Complex sunset
Sunset viewed from the beach

We were really glad we paid a return visit and are now interested in trying other hotels in the Sol portfolio.