Spain has always been a first choice for my holidays but Fuerteventura was never on my list of places to visit. However, when I came across pictures of the island and the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real, I was blown away – so I headed off to discover what this sun-kissed isle had to offer.
One of the oldest of the mid-Atlantic Canary Islands, Fuerteventura is a destination for sun, beach and watersports enthusiasts. It didn’t even exist 20 million years ago when a volcanic eruption forced it out of the waves. And the tourist industry is one of the biggest benefactors of this geological miracle – thanks to the islanders’ famous openness to people from all around the world.
As the plane came in to land, I could glimpse some of the 152 beaches that stud the coastline. The clear blue sea surrounds you and its natural beauty makes you feel like you’ve just discovered paradise.
This was just the start. As I was driven from the airport to the town of Corralejo, I soaked in views of the island’s volcanic coastline, turquoise clear waters, white sandy beaches. It felt almost unreal and I couldn’t wait to discover more.
When the taxi pulled up to Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahía Real, I could see it had the wow factor. In fact, as I walked through the entrance, the words ‘wow’ did leave my mouth and continued to be on my lips throughout my stay.
An immense hand-painted dome, overlooking sea views welcomes your arrival. The dome was created to compliment the changing light the lobby receives throughout the day. As a extra special touch, the female artist was asked by the hotel to add a small symbolic-flourish to signify that a lady painted the mural – see if you can spot it.
Atlantis Bahía Real has been perfectly designed to incorporate its most impressive asset – the view. No matter where you are in the hotel you can see or hear the ocean. My hotel room was no exception.
For my four-night visit I stayed in the double deluxe sea-view room, with breathtaking views of Lobos island. As I stepped out onto my private balcony and reveled in what felt like my personal view – I felt instantly relaxed. The amount of open space on the island is a refreshing change to city living – and one that I had no problem adjusting too.
During my visit I aimed to experience everything the hotel had to offer – this wasn’t easy as there’s so much to do. But I did manage to take in four of the five on-site restaurants, the hotel spa, fitness center and swimming pools. And to experience the island, I also took a tour of the old town, got lost in the sand dunes and improved my Spanish with some of the locals.
My first evening stay in the hotel I got to dine at La Alacena Real. Part of the half-board package, it provides a buffet style dining experience of international and local dishes. You name it, they serve it. With friendly waiters and cooks to cater to your every need, you’ll feel very welcome into this community. The desserts were a particular hit for a sweet tooth like me.
After dinner I found my room had been prepared for the night, not just with the usual slippers by the bedside and chocolate on my pillow but also with a little poem card to welcome the night – quite sweet. That’s the kind of special touch – the resort thrives on. The friendliness of all the staff is another. As you pass anyone around hotel they greet you with ‘hola’ and ‘¿Cómo estás?’ By the end of my stay I was responding with such confidence my high school Spanish teacher would be proud.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of waves and a view of the sun rising in the bright blue sky – a nice change from back home. Breakfast was in the same setting as the dinner the night before, where again, my eyes were bigger then my belly, such was the choice on offer. Chocolate con churro (a Spanish classic – fried pastry dipped in chocolate) after a fry up is normal no? After this, I got settled by the outdoor pool with a book to start on a much-needed tan.
While around the pool, I noticed the other guests staying at the hotel. A mixture of old and young, families, couples – both straight and gay. The hotel welcomes everyone that likes a touch of class with a personal touch. I felt right in my element and never wanted my trip to end.
Evening two found me experiencing the Las Columnas restaurant. Dining outside on a balcony, overlooking the hotel pool was the most romantic experience ever. The waiters are very helpful and great for recommendations. I tried the tapas set menu, as I wanted to experience a little of everything the chef had to offer. After the 10 different courses, I felt I really had experienced it all – each course was as magnificent as the next. It’s well worth reserving a table for at least one night during your stay.
My brief view of the sand dunes at the start of my trip confirmed this as something I had to visit. So next day, I packed my beach bag and set off to get the most inspiring pictures. The hotel provides a great free bus service both to and from the sand dunes. Once the bus drops you of, it’s about 10-minutes walk along the beach until you see a desert of pure white sand. It is truly breathtaking and I wouldn’t be wrong to make comparisons with the Caribbean islands – a touch of paradise.
Getting more tanned each day and loving it, I regularly used the hotel spa – Spa Bahia Vital. It has more than 3,000 square miles dedicated to the mind and soul. With volcanic saunas, a massive in-door heated pool and spa baths I was worried I might just melt away into a relaxation coma. The full-body massage further confirmed this.
Having never had a professional massage before, I was a little apprehensive. But when I met my masseur her solid handshake and friendly manner made me sure I would be in capable hands. It was a 45-minute session and she made me feel confortable and at ease – even after I discovered I was required to put on spa pants that were more like a g-string. The hot wax and her firm approach made my muscles realize what they’ve been missing all these years – definitely book in a treatment or two.
The last meal I experienced while staying at the hotel was at Yamatori – an authentic Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar and hotplate dining. I’m not a fan of sushi myself, I like my fish cooked, but the menu is varied with something for everyone. Aside from the food, the cooking experience for is amazing. Seated around a hotplate, the chef preparing your chosen meal becomes the night’s entertainment. His quick knife skills and flame sizzling explosions leave you blown away (and slightly worried for his and your eyebrows). The meal was just perfect.
My last full day was an opportunity to venture a little further afield and I headed into the town center. From the hotel you can walk along the beach for 15-minutes and it brings you right into the harbor area. With the predictable souvenir shops and street sellers, you feel the tourist area is now upon you. It’s great if you like this sort of thing but I continued to walk and discover more of the island. That’s when I came across a man creating sand art. Luckily he spoke some English so was able to explain to me it takes him two days to complete. And he was happy for me to take photos. It’s sad to think something he created and continue to perfect would soon be washed away by the tide, so I value the pictures I snapped even more.
Nearing the end of my stay I was sad to pack and leave, but knew I would make a return visit (the hotel has some of the highest return-guest levels in the industry). It’s that kind of result, based on excellent service and personal touches, the Cebria brothers envisioned when they opened the resort 35 years ago.
If you ask me, they have achieved there other aim too – to incorporate all the good points from their own past hotel experiences and marry them with a beautiful setting. Atlantis Bahía Real provides a five-star setting complimenting the beauty that Fuerteventura has to offer.
See more of my photos below. Also, more pictures of the hotel and island can be found on their Facebook page here.
For more advice about Fuerteventura and your stay, contact the helpful tourist board – Visit Fuerteventura.