Happy weekend gluten free-ers! 🙂 I am still dreaming about our vacation to Gran Canaria, Spain, and wanted to share my travel experience there. After diving back into work, I am finally taking a breather to write this post. International vacation #3 since celiac diagnosis was a success! I was never glutened, never hungry, and always had variety. We stayed at Hotel Suite Princess in Taurito, right on the ocean. Because a vacation is about the whole package, I will cover all aspects of this resort: from food (the most important obviously) to atmosphere and beach. This resort was all inclusive which meant unlimited food and drinks (alcohol included).
Food: Before booking Hotel Suite Princess, I checked their website directly and was happy to see that they even noted that gluten free can be accommodated. I then checked TripAdvisor for gluten free mentions (note: if you are from the US, do not be alarmed if “celiac” returns no results. In Europe, it is spelled “coeliac.” We were the only Americans there–everyone kept commenting on our unique accents). I found a TON of positive reviews. I was reassured. Upon booking, I Facebook messaged and e-mailed the resort inquiring about their gluten free options. I was re-assured promptly that I would not go hungry and that they understood celiac disease. Phew. So off to the resort we went! I loved how every single one of their items were labeled with allergen info. Every single one!! Clearly the staff was well trained to understand allergies and was used to accommodating guests. Just check out the list of allergies they list! Impressive! I still checked with the chefs at each meal to make sure that each item was properly labeled though to be safe. Although this labeling system made me quite happy, one thing that worried me was that all of their meals were buffet style—uh oh, potential cross contamination. Luckily, I was greeted during our first lunch there by staff who offered to get me food from the back when needed. There was also a sign that said that if you have a severe allergy, please speak to a chef and they can prepare something seperately. For the most part, there were few gluten containing items so I was not too worried. For items near gluten containing items, I asked the staff to bring me some from the back. In terms of availability, my main complaint was that breakfast starts at 8am which is too late if you plan to do an excursion/activity. Dinner also ended at 9:30 which was too early if you are doing an all day excursion. There were no food options after 9:30am and before 8am….so that was quite annoying!
- Breakfast: THIS WAS BY FAR MY FAVORITE MEAL HERE!!! Every day for breakfast I
ate several omelets, some type of potatoes, fresh fruit, a yogurt, and some toasted gluten free bread with
nutella and jelly (they didn’t have peanut butter…I learned quickly that peanut butter is an American thing..but hey I will never turn down chocolate!). I loved how their jelly and nutella were individually packaged—means no cross contamination for me! When I explained to the chef that I have celiac disease, he immediately asked if I wanted gluten free bread. I said sure and he brought me some and put them in the toaster. I yelled “NO!!!” and then he pointed out that the toaster, which is kept behind the counter, is for celiacs only! It was clearly labeled in several languages and the staff understood that only gluten free bread goes in there. How cool is that?!?! So I, of course, had to have my gluten free bread with nutella and jelly every single morning. The staff was very friendly and never judged me for going to get more and more food. Note: on the last day, I saw that the chef used the same flat grill for the pancakes as the eggs. This very much bothered me so I grilled him on it, explaining that cross contamination is an issue. Luckily, he reassured me that they clean very well between batches–they typically only make pancakes once but then eggs for rest meal–and that they make sure they use fresh utensils and scrub everything. Still made me a bit uneasy but I never once became ill. I would be much more concerned if the grill was not flat and thus would be a lot harder to clean.
- Lunch: Probably the worst meal here..lunch was pretty much the same thing day after day after day. The majority of the foods were classic outdoor summer foods–pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, french fries. However there was always a rice dish and potato dish which were gluten free. Plus their fries were gluten free! I double checked and they used a separate fryer for the fries so I was good to go. Since lunch offered more gluten options than the other meals, I did ask for fries and items from the back. The staff was super kind and did not hesitate to get me food from the back. I was always very very full from breakfast so I usually only ate french fries and rice dishes. Oh and ice cream!!! I ate so much ice cream. The best part is that the syrups were all labeled gluten free (“sin gluten”). Most products in Spain seemed to label if the product was gluten free. SO EASY! I wish that they offered the dedicated gluten free toaster during lunch though!
Dinner: Dinner was always a treat! The variety
was quite good. There were several fresh meat and fish options and lots of sides. I LOVED the meat station because the chef would sometimes just hand me meat rather than me having to use the tongs to grab some off the buffet line. Ice cream made its appearance here and as always, didn’t disappoint. There were not really any other gluten free dessert options so if you are dairy free and gluten free, beware! Again, I
wish they kept out the gluten free toaster for dinner.
- Romantic dinner: Guests are allowed one sit down (non-buffet style) “romantic dinner” per week. Options are clearly displayed and reservations must be made in order to attend one. We chose not to eat at one because there were surprisingly very very few gluten free options–none for dessert (the most important part of the meal!). Granted, we could have checked with the staff to see if they could accommodate us, but we were perfectly happy eating at the buffet instead.
Atmosphere: Hotel Suite Princess is an adults only resort. Thus, it was extremely quiet and relaxing. However, the average age group was much older than us, probably in their 50’s. This was fine with us because we just wanted to spend time together and planned on passing our time at the beach or on excursions. The pool was super super (almost awkwardly) quiet as everyone just sun bathed so we spent our days at the beach–right within walking distance. We felt somewhat uncomfortable even just talking by the pool. The view was outstanding though! Situated on a cliff right
on the ocean, each room had a breathtaking view of the ocean with a balcony complete with tables and chairs to sit and bask in the perfect view. Honestly, I could not have dreamed of a better view. Being on the southwest part of the island, the sunsets were unforgettable. If you are looking for a bit more activity, Hotel Suite Princess’ sister hotels are right next to and across from it including Taurito Princess, which is not adults only.
Activities: The resort was quite mellow but offered two joined pools, a beach, bars with live music at night, and scheduled activities during the day. The activities were advertised on displays, but we never participated in them. The activities ranged from cooking classes to archery to water aerobics. The staff did not make an effort to encourage or remind
guests of the activities–contrary to those resorts in the Caribbean. There is a water park right at the resort which is quite fun! It is not included in the price, but its less than 20 euros for a day. There are some decent water slides so Ryan and I spent several hours here. There is also a garden on the premise where you can walk around as well as shops. The hotel does not book excursions unlike Caribbean resorts, but there is a little hut right by the water park where tour guides are situated and happy to book any trips. These tour guides were knowledgable about gluten free, which was super helpful of course! The excursions we took will be covered in another post though. 🙂
The Beach: This is a unique beach! On the smaller side, the beach is covered in black volcanic sand–SO COOL! The sand was so soft with very very few rocks. It was PERFECT to walk along and wade through the water. Although the weather wasn’t too hot, the water was nice and warm. The waves were large at times and a ton of fun, but they were not too rough–I am wary of super rough waters and I was comfortable . The water was crystal clear. We could see fish swimming by our legs. The beach was never very crowded and we often stayed in the ocean until sunset. The beach was surrounded by cliffs so only resort members were able to use the beach. It felt very personal.
Weather: This resort is on the southern portion of the island, which means perfect weather. No rain, all sun. Surprisingly no humidity. We went the last week of May and were surprised to be able to eat outside without feeling miserably hot. The sun was warm and we were eager to swim, but we were never uncomfortable.
Overall: Fantastic experience! Some things to keep in mind…
1) Speaking Spanish or at least enough to know a few key phrases would be a plus. When I said “Celiaco. Necesito comida sin gluten,” the staff immediately knew what to do. However, this may not always be the case. I had to converse with the staff in Spanish to check about the fryer status (is it dedicated gluten free?) as well as whether the surfaces were thoroughly cleaned.
2) All Inclusive here is not the same as All Inclusive in the Caribbean…You must pay to use the fridge or safe or drink bottled water. We were happy to find that we were upgraded (!!!!) so our fridge was free and was stocked with bottled water. We still had to pay to change out our beach towels–2 euros per change!! WHAT! But…in all honesty..we never changed them. We left those towels out on our balcony to dry and they were fine. Bath towels were replaced every day and that was what we cared about. Resort did not provide true shampoo/body wash and no lotion or tissues (?!?!). We caved and bought overpriced tissues from the gift shop.
Would we return? Definitely. We were very happy with the laid back relaxation and romantic atmosphere. I was never glutened and the staff happily accommodated me when I was not comfortable with the buffet. Plenty of gluten free options. Great labeling. Unlimited nutella. Need I say more?
Stay tuned for the details on eating gluten free on Gran Canaria excursions! 😀