Let’s Go Exploring! Las Palmas: Spanish Paradise with a Tiny Price Tag

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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We discovered Las Palmas completely by accident.

After freezing our butts off in London and meeting fellow Chautauquans for our family reunion, Wanderer wanted to find a warm place to park our butts until Europe becomes warm enough to travel around. After travelling the world for 3 years, we’ve lost a bit of our Canadian-ness and are giant wimps now. As it turns out the most southern point in Europe ended being the Canaries islands off the coast of Africa. While the rest of Europe is shivering under a blanket of snow, the Canary islands enjoy sun, fun, and beaches all year round. And lucky for us, Norwegian Airlines flies there from Dusseldorf for 50 Euros each (why-oh-why can’t we have these ridiculously cheap budget airlines in North America?). So we jumped on a 5-hour flight, excited to bid farewell to winter and ditched the icicles for sand.

The Airbnb I booked for the month was somehow only 640 Euros/$1000 CAD/$800 USD for the month, despite being listed as only 5 mins walk from the beach.

It was around this time, that I clued into the name of the island we’re going to—Las Palmas—a popular tourist destination with 800,000+ inhabitants—as a favourite digital nomad destination. Apparently, this was one of the top recommendations that popped up few years ago on Nomadlist when I put in my criteria of warm weather, fast wifi, safe, and good value.

As soon as we got to the AirBnb, I realized that we were literally a hop and a step away from the beach, as Las Canteras Beach beach was just across the street. From beach-side restaurants to choose from, each with an ocean view better than the last, to volcanic black-sand, to a scenic hike along the coastline, we were surrounded by nature, all the while being minutes from modern conveniences. There was also a grocery store just around the corner and even a neighbourhood work sharing space with lots of artists and digital nomads hard at work. Being close to everything meant that we could easily walk everywhere and having the beach as our backyard didn’t hurt either:

We only had to spend a day in Las Palmas to find out that that locals have a great sense of humour. When the nice owner at the work-sharing space told us not to miss “the Funeral of the Sardine” during the Carnival festival, we were confused. I thought it was something that got lost in translation, but as it turns out “the Funeral of the Sardine” is basically an excuse for the Spanish to take a giant sardine and blow it the HELL up.

After a week of partying, concerts, and parade floats—which aren’t so much floats as neon-decorated trucks equipped with beer taps—it was time to bring out the Sardine:

Yup. That’s a giant sardine all right. After a winding parade around the city, they took said sardine down to the beach, into a raft, and rowed it into the ocean.

Then they lit it on fire.

And that’s when we realized the entire thing was full of explosives.

God, I love the Spanish.

We got another taste of their weird and wonderful sense of humour the next day, when we went to what we thought was a relaxing and tame botanical garden. How stupid and naïve we were. Especially given that I had seen this review before we went

“ This was the worst holiday experience of my life. This Botanical Garden was the scariest thing I have ever done.”

My first thought was “It’s a Botanical Garden! Get a grip!” But as we descended down the winding path built into the side of a mountain, overlooking a ravine, I started to see why this was the Mad Max of all Botanical gardens.

Before our descend to our doom…

So apparently the garden is actually at the bottom of the cliff, on the other side of a small ravine. To get down, you have to climb down some steep steps made of rock, and they are so narrow, if another person is coming up, you can’t walk past them. You just have to back up hard against the cliff and hope to God the other person doesn’t trip over you and send both of you to your doom.

There are no railings. None.

And as a bonus, if you plunge over the side (at some sections, it’s easily a 100 ft sheer drop), the only things breaking your fall are cacti.

I have to admit; I didn’t get a good picture of these scary steep steps. I was too busy concentrating on, you know, not dying.

On the plus side, after we finally managed to get down, the garden at the bottom was actually quite nice—though not worth plunging-over-a-cliff-into-cactuses kind of nice.

One of the few places with a low wall where I could take a picture without plunging over the side
Yay, we made it to the bottom without plunging off the cliff

But for some reason, the locals had no problem navigating this death-trap of a Botanical garden. At some point, I even saw a whole group of Spanish school children bounding down the steps like it was nothing. Hm. Maybe safety is just too overrated in North America. Who knows.

You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson, but the next day I decided to give myself another adrenaline rush by going down into a volcanic crater, the locals call “Bandama”. The path down was also slippery, narrow, and “safe-guarded” by cacti, but much easier as there are small trees and shrubbery to hold on to on the way down.

Or maybe the ass-whopping the Botanical Garden gave me made it seem much easier in comparison. I have no idea. But the scenery on this one was absolutely worth it:

After this whole excursion, I couldn’t wait to go back to the beach, and cool off with a nice refreshing swim:

Overall, Las Palmas ended up being the perfect escape from winter in Europe—just make sure you don’t fall off a cliff at the Botanical Gardens.

Here’s how much we spent in Las Palmas:

Category Cost in USD/couple Cost in CAD/couple Notes
Accommodations: $31 USD/night $39 CAD/night Since we're slow travelling, we booked an Airbnb for a month for $1000CAD, which ended up being around $39/night for 28 nights.
Food: $27 USD/day $34 CAD/day ($19/day for eating out, $15/day for groceries) We alternated between eating out and cooking. Groceries were shockingly cheap for an island–1 Euro for wine, 1.50 Euros for strawberries, etc. The locals told me it's because the Canary Island enjoy tax exemption that the main landers don't. We mostly ate out for lunch–enjoying a pizza, fruit smoothie, and beer on the beach at our favourite seaside cafe, Del Rel, for only 10 Euros.
Transportation: $6 USD/day $7 CAD/day If you stay near Las Canteras beach it's surprisingly easy to get around. Everything is within walking distance and we were able to get to Bandama and the Botanical garden with the city bus, which costs less than 3 Euros a person. Getting to our Airbnb from the Airport was also easy by taking the bus for 3 Euros each to the bus station and then walking for 15 mins. The flight from Dusseldorf to Las Palmas on Norwegian was cheap at only 50 Euros a person. Overall, our transportation cost of $208 CAD ended up being only 7 CAD/day over 28 days.
Entertainment: free free With so much free entertainment (beaches, hiking, gardens), there's on need to spend any money entertainment at all.
Data: $6 USD/day $7 CAD/day Since our Airbnb didn't have Wifi, we bought a Simyo card that gave us 10GB of data for 12.50 Euros and rented a portable wifi hotspot for 40 Euros/month. Over the month, our data average out to cost around $7/day. This was worth it, as the Airbnb was priced $400/month lower than other comparable places.
Total: $70 USD/couple/day $87 CAD/couple/day For a glitzy island destination, I was shocked to find out how affordable Las Palmas is. It's comparable to some of the places we went to in Central America, except it's much safer and more convenient. I'm seriously thinking of applying for the Spanish non-lucrative visa so we can stay here long term."

What do you think? Would you go to Las Palmas?



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35 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Las Palmas: Spanish Paradise with a Tiny Price Tag”

  1. Looks awesome! Hope we can make it to Las Palmas one day. The landscape (other than the beach itself) reminds me of a lot of central Mexico – dry, scrubby, cacti.

    1. Good eye! Yeah, the vegetation did remind me of Mexico. And the main square does look like the Zocalos. No street tacos though 😛

  2. Thanks for a great write-up! I’m convinced. And if I show this post to my wife — as soon as we hit seven figures of investment, we’d never see ice outside of a drink in our lives. Y tengo suficiente español para comenzar…

    1. “we’d never see ice outside of a drink in our lives”–that’s a fantastic goal to aspire to. Muy bien!

  3. Nice post! It would be very good if you guys could post the link to the AirBnb you stay in each city. This one looks really nice, for instance 🙂

  4. Oh my goodness, that looks wonderful. After having miracle baby I would have to seriously hold in my tummy for that bikini shot ; )

  5. As a Spanish FIRE Seeker I’m very happy to see that you enjoyed the Canary Islands. And you only discovered Gran Canaria! , there are another islands like Fuerteventura or Lanzarote, each one with it’s own essence.
    In my geo-arbitrage search I feel that I don’t need to move from my country and that’s quite an irony… and a great adventage. Perhaps I could run a colony for FIREs here :D.

    Great to have you here and you’re welcome back anytime. Come back soon!

    1. We also went to Tenerife (that’s coming up in a future post) and I’d love to visit Fuerteventura or Lanzarote on a future trip too.

      You should definitely run a colony for FIREs in Spain 🙂 As I said, I’m desperate for us all to live on a commune 😉

      We’ll be back soon. Love the canary islands!

  6. Wow, Las Palmas looks great! Very affordable too! Looks like a great way to escape the chilly weather in winter.

    I had to look at the local weather and… OMG it’s like perfect year round!

    Spain is looking better and better all the time.

    1. I was shocked by the affordability too! Can’t believe you can get these prices in Spain.

      One of the biggest attractions for the Canary Islands is its stable, mild temperature all year round. Great escape from winter!

  7. Yo, MR. As you know, I love your blog.

    But a question. Do readers really like the travel write-up stuff? I’ve been cruising all over the world, especially Europe, for the last two years — but never put up pictures cuz I thought it would like humble bragging minus the humble….

    But do your readers really dig on this stuff? Las Palmas looks cool BTW.

    Mighty Investor

    P.S. Worried about letting my secret locales in Croatia (which are waaaaay off the beaten path) out of the bag…..

    1. If you try to make it useful by including cost of living, rather than just “look and me travel and stuff”, it should be fine. This series is more of a “let’s hunt for deals all over the world so we can use geo-arbitrage for FI”. So far, I’ve been getting good responses in emails and comments (but who knows it could be all lies :P)

      Would love to know about your Croatia tips! (I get hung up on sharing tips about off the beaten path places too, but I can’t not share it when I love a place.)

      1. Totally makes sense about giving specific cost-of -living deets. Happy to share about Croatia. I lived there for three years and speak the language. So I know it wicked well. Best to probably just exchange emails if you like.

    1. I know right? After we left Canada, I couldn’t believe how much we’re paying for flights, data, and wine.

      The good news is that I saw an article about budget airlines opening up in Canada. Hopefully that’ll be an option soon.

  8. Safety is definitely overrated in North America! I know if I was looking at those kids making their way down the trail making it look like it’s as easy as pie, I would probably be a little impressed that they could make it look so easy. Sounds like you all had a great time and were able to make the trip affordable as well. Congrats!

    1. Thanks, Luis! Yeah, maybe we need to be less coddled in North America. Learn from the European kids!

  9. I also really enjoy the travel posts… motivation to hit FI, ideas for future places to visit, and your lovely detailed cost of living breakdowns – keep posting them!

  10. Mary Kingsley Victorian explorer was a dynamic woman ahead of her times … one of her stopping points for rest and supplies was the Canary Islands ….before she went off exploring and doing scientific research in central Africa during the old sailing days of the 1800’s … I covered her story with my students at our international school … so you have brought it to life with a modern angle and a pair of modern explorers! 🙂 Thanks for the cool update and the link for Nomadlist etc etc God Bless – From the Far Side of the Planet
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kingsley

    1. ” African women were surprised that a woman of Mary’s age was travelling without a man, as she was frequently asked why her husband was not accompanying her.”

      Definitely a dynamic woman ahead of her times. Great lesson for the kids!

  11. After reaching my FIRE 5 years ago (now 60 years old and a freelance consultant) I bought a nice bungalow with a terrace in San Agustin (45 km away from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). I can confirm that if you cook by yourself and go occasionally to dinners it is much more cheaper than living in Germany. And the weather is much better in winter.

    1. The weather is fantastic! I couldn’t believe how good the prices were despite it being an island. Doesn’t food and supplies have to be flown in?

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