Fringed with banana plantations, Gran Canaria’s rocky north shore is a surfer’s dream with consistent waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean. However, most people wanting a swim drive all the way along the north coast to west-facing Puerto de las Nieves where the water is calmer.
However, there are plenty of spots for a swim along the north coast thanks to its natural seawater pools. The biggest of these, and the closest to the capital, are at El Puertillo in Arucas and are called Los Charcones.
North Gran Canaria’s biggest natural swimming pool
El Puertillo is easy to reach from the GC2 road that follows the coast; just look out for a turnoff as you drive west from Las Palmas that is just after a field of bananas. It has a signpost.
The main pool at El Puertillo is over 100 metres long although most of it is shallow enough to stand up on the bottom. You often see swimmers doing lengths alongside the snorkelers and locals just splashing about.
The small pool at the far end is smaller and is popular with kids because it has a sandy bottom.
The third pool, called Sea Urchin Pool, is only accessible at low tide on calm days and is full of crabs and starfish and even the odd octopus.
The two main ones are protected by walls so they are safe for swimming in all but the roughest weather. At low tide, they are completely calm and the water is clear.
The wall around the main pool is one of the coolest things at El Puertillo because you can walk along it and even sunbathe on it at low tide. On rough days you are perfectly safe but just a few metres from the big Atlantic breakers crashing into the rocks.
Be a bit careful when you walk around the edge of the pools as the rocks can be slippery when wet.
What to do at El Puertillo
Bring a snorkel because there are lots of fish in the main pool including wrasse and damselfish, a host of gobies and bream and even some big parrotfish. A little bit of bread brings the fish to you but don’t use too much as it makes the water cloudy.
Along with its wide sunbathing platforms and calm, clear water, El Puertillo has plenty of other advantages.
There is plenty of parking and the village itself has a shop and a seafood restaurant and even a small beach where local sunbathers share the golden sand with fishing boats.
The beach is sheltered by rocks even on rough days but is quite small at high tide. Look out for the bunker on the rocks between the beach and the open ocean; it dates back to the Second World War when Spain was worried that the British were going to invade the Canary Islands. These days, local fishermen use it as a place to put their chairs.
Stick around until sunset and you get a golden view westwards towards Galdar volcano. The sea mist coming off the waves and the silhouetted people around the pools create a magical effect, especially from the middle of the big pool.