The Digital Nomad lifestyle in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Up until recently, I’ve never considered myself to be a digital nomad. I have been freelancing / running a small web development agency since February 2015, and since then have been lucky enough to have the freedom to work from wherever I want.
Yet I’ve spent most of the past 3 ½ years working either from various co-working spaces in my home town of Cardiff, or in Madrid, where I had a 2-month stint in late 2015, and a 7-month stint in 2017.
Although I guess I was a “digital nomad” while I was living in Madrid, it never quite felt that way. I was taking Spanish classes for 4 hours each day, then socialising with people from the Spanish school, so although I was working a lot, and theoretically ticking the ‘nomad’ box, I didn’t actually meet any other nomads or feel part of that community.
I’ve also been on a few other vacations, fitting in the odd bit of work here and there – but again those were just holidays, with the necessity of work.
With the UK winter starting to set in, I decided it was time for another break. This time, I’d fully embrace the digital nomad culture. I was going alone, had nothing planned to fill my time, so joined a co-working / co-living space called ReStation.
Here, I’d spend the days in the office getting some work done, and the evenings / nights in a shared communal living space with other nomads and remote workers. There are individual bedrooms, with some shared rooms available, and then a shared kitchen, living room and bathroom.
My time as a digital nomad in Gran Canaria
I was only in Las Palmas for 10 days in the last weeks of November – and it was nowhere near enough time.
The weather was beautiful the whole time, with temperatures in the mid to high 20s (around 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit), and the water more than warm enough for a swim.
It was originally meant to be a two-week trip, but I had to cut it short by a few days as I’d accidentally left a few days open on my Airbnb calendar without realising, and somebody booked my Cardiff flat out with nobody available to let them in.
With Airbnb my ticket to being able to afford to travel, I didn’t want a black mark against my name on the platform, so had to fly back to let them into the flat.
I’ve never been sadder to leave somewhere, saying Adiós to the 25-degree weather and flying back to the cold and the rain of a Great British winter. Saying goodbye to my coworking colleagues, I promised I’d be back in early January, and fingers crossed I stick to that plan!
While I’m not the most experienced digital nomad in the world, having only ticked Madrid and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria off the long list of fantastic and varied nomad destinations, I can thoroughly recommend this beautiful little island off the west coast of Morocco.
There are a number of coworking spaces in Las Palmas, the northern capital of Gran Canaria.
I worked in ReStation during my 10 days, but there are countless spaces dotted around the city. For such a small city with a population of just 383,000, it’s remarkable just how many spaces there are, all within a 20 minute walk of one another:
ReStation is the only one of these I’ve got any experience of, but I fully intend on exploring the others when I go back.
It’s a vibrant co-working/co-living community, with three shared living spaces located just a few minutes’ walk away from the central office space on Calle Lucas Fernandez Navarro 32.
Although the centrally located co-working space is the heart of the community and where most of the ‘ReStationers’ spend their days getting stuff done, each of the individual flats (or ‘pisos’) also has its own workspace, where some members work from when the 5-minute walk to the central space is just too much to bear thinking about!
The central space itself is fairly small, so there’s no possibility of hiding in a corner and not getting to know people.
You’ll almost certainly be on a desk shared with 2 or 3 other people, so it’s super easy to meet people and make friends – but don’t worry, people are there to work, so if you need to get your head down and crack on, you’re unlikely to get distracted by a constant stream of conversation.
In fact, that was the one thing that surprised me (and, I suppose, impressed me) about the digital nomad vibe. People really were there to work – despite the sun constantly shining and the beach just minutes away, there were plenty of people who’d be in at 9 and working late into the night, quietly ploughing away at their latest project.
The people were very much what you’d expect – a heady mix of software engineers, developers, marketeers, designers and writers. Basically, those of us who are lucky enough to not need to be constrained by offices, either because we work for ourselves, or because we’ve got bosses who understand the concept of location independence and know that with the likes of Slack, Trello and email, their employees are only a few seconds away, wherever they are in the world.
Community and Events
I spent the first day or two in Las Palmas thinking that the place wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, that actually it’s quite dull for digital nomads and solo travellers.
Although the coworking space is busy, plenty of people pack up their laptops in the early evening and head back home to relax. It makes perfect sense – tomorrow is another day to get stuff done, and it’s no fun waking up with a hangover on a Wednesday with plenty of work to do.
However, the truth is, there is plenty to do if you spend a little bit of time seeking it out, and plenty of people to do things with!
My coworking space, ReStation, organises a number of regular events for its members, and they seem happy enough to welcome nomads from other spaces as well.
Every Monday there’s a big coworking lunch at a local café or restaurant. Each Wednesday morning they run a breakfast meetup, with free coffee, cereal and croissants and a good excuse to get to know your fellow nomads and catch up before you start work. Then every fortnight they run Nomad Coffee Club, inviting speakers to talk on a variety of topics. Plus there are occasional larger events, such as their Christmas BBQ.
Las Palmas Coffee and Coworking – A weekly get-together of digital nomads and remote worker. Each week they meet up in a different bar or café around Las Palmas, so just bring your laptop along and get some work done whilst meeting fellow nomads.
Nomad Coffee Club – Run by ReStation, this is a fortnightly event where they invite speakers from the local community to run talks on a different theme. I arrived slap bang in the middle of two events, so missed both their Procrastination event and their Hopes and Fears event, but everyone I spoke to thought the Procrastination event was great.
They’re always looking for new speakers, and usually have 3 per event, so if you’ve got some knowledge and wisdom that you’re looking to impart on the nomad community, perhaps you could be their next one?
Sunset Nomad Vibes – A weekly party every Friday evening, on the beach just in front of Restaurante Tipico Español. Bring along some drinks and meet people.
With plenty of WhatsApp and Facebook groups, it’s easy to get a group together to go out for a few drinks at the countless bars and restaurants up and down the beach, and the hidden gems dotted around the narrow streets set back from the seafront.
Learning Spanish? Intercambios y Clases de Español en Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
If you’re learning Spanish, or are already a Spanish speaker and looking to practice, there is a busy weekly Intercambio / Tandem event at Aloha Tiki Bar every Wednesday night.
If you’re not familiar with an intercambio lingüistico, it’s an event for speakers of two or more languages, where they’re encouraged to practice with each other, switching every now and again between each language to ensure everyone gets a fair go!
While I didn’t make it to Aloha’s event myself (I only found out it existed until my final day! Another reason to go back!) the community manager for my coworking space tells me that the bar is packed each week with Spaniards and English-speakers looking to mutually help each other improve their speaking skills in a casual, relaxed environment.
If you’re after classes, then I can definitely recommend “Gran Canaria School of Languages”. Literally seconds from Las Canteras beach (as is almost everything in this city!), they run Spanish classes at all levels, from beginner level (A1) up to the most advanced levels of C1 and C2.
The classes are intensive, running every weekday from 9am till 1pm, so they’re a pretty hefty commitment, but I’d definitely say intensive classes are the way to go if you want to get a good grasp of the language.
Although immersion in a language is always a must, and a great way to pick up vocab, it’s key to get a good grounding in the grammar that makes up the language if you ever want to sound remotely natural, and classes are invaluable in providing those building blocks.
I’ve taken almost a year’s worth of classes in Madrid and loved every single second of it, coming away with C1 level Spanish and enough confidence to chat with any local who’s patient enough to accept my many mistakes.
In Las Palmas I just took a week’s worth of classes. While the Gran Canaria School of Languages didn’t provide quite as well rounded as an experience as my fantastic Madrid school – namely by not having any kind of evening activities to encourage you to get to know your classmates, and to get you using your Spanish outside of the classroom – our knowledgeable and friendly teacher Patxi (a Basque name) still made it a rewarding experience that I would definitely repeat.
Laura Leon also runs private and group Spanish classes at La Casita de Laura, and you can find her Facebook page here.
Facebook and WhatsApp Groups for Digital Nomads and Freelancers
While WhatsApp is pretty well-used in the UK, in Spain it’s a different thing altogether!
When I rented my flat in Madrid in 2017, almost the whole transaction was carried out over WhatsApp – it was how we organised the initial viewing, it was how they sent me the rental agreement, and most daunting of all, it was how they sent me their payment details so I could cough up 2 months’ rent for my deposit.
It’s hard to convince yourself that a rental agency is 100% legit when they’re sending you their payment details via WhatsApp rather than on some official letterheaded document – but in Spain, it’s just how it works.
So expect a lot of your communications to be carried out via WhatsApp – and it’ll likely be no different for your coworking space. Lots of different groups have their own WhatsApp group convos, where they post key information, and, perhaps most importantly, organise social events.
Restation WhatsApp group
ReStation has its own private WhatsApp group, where they welcome their new members, post about all their upcoming events, and let the members organise their own evening drinks. If you’re staying there, their lovely community manager Myriam will add you before you get there, but you can also ask to join if you go along to any of their events.
I can’t guarantee they’ll let you join if you’re not a bonified ReStationer, but if you put on your best smile and show you’re keen to be part of the active nomad community, it’s worth a shot!
‘New in Las Palmas’ Meetup, and ‘Meetup Las Palmas’ WhatsApp group
The New in Las Palmas Meetup is active, with regular events for residents and nomads alike.
Run by the same guy, there’s also a WhatsApp group called “Meetup Las Palmas Group”, which you can join by clicking here from your phone.
It’s not specifically for nomads, but for locals, expats and nomads alike who are looking for something to do throughout the week, and people post new activities as they hear about them. There are plenty of native Spaniards in the group, but don’t worry, for the most part everything’s conducted in English.
Facebook Pages and Groups
There’s also a Facebook group called Las Palmas Info, specifically designed for digital nomads and expats, where members can ask for advice, share accommodation adverts, or post info on events they’ve stumbled across. It’s run by Laura Leon, who organises the fun and packed out evening beach event ‘Sunset Nomad Vibes’, and who also runs Spanish classes, which are perfect whether you’re just looking to brush up on your Español or learn your first words.
Gran Canaria Digital Nomads is another Facebook group, with close to 4000 members, but seems a little bit quieter.
Things to do
The capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, seems to be primarily split into two zones – the older districts of Vegueta and Triana, and the more modern area adjacent to the beautiful Las Canteras beach.
I’m sure there are plenty of areas that I’ve yet to see, so I’m probably simplifying things massively by splitting the city into just two bits, but in terms of the digital nomad lifestyle, these are probably the areas you’ll be spending your time.
It’s far from the prettiest neighbourhood in the world, with countless ugly 1960s-style buildings, and numerous beachside towers that give it a little bit of a Benidorm-esque ‘Brits Abroad’ look and feel.
However, what it lacks in architectural prowess, it makes up for with its gorgeous 3km-long urban beach and the beautiful protected hills of La Isleta at the top of the island.
The beach makes it difficult to stick to the work side of being a digital nomad – when the sun is shining, the inviting waves lap up against the shore, and it’s 20-something degrees in the middle of November, the glowing screens of your co-working space of choice is probably the last place you’ll want to be.
While the towns of Maspalomas and Mogán in the south are the best places for sporting activities like skydiving, hang gliding and sailing, the beaches at Las Palmas offer some of the best surf around, explaining why El Confital beach off La Isleta used to be home of the annual WQS World Men’s Surfing Championship.
Real Club de Victoria offers activities in numerous watersports, although I believe you need to be a member to take part, so perhaps not ideal for short-stay nomads.
Check out Oceanside or Mojo for more casual classes.
Have you experienced Las Palmas as a digital nomad? What did you think? Are there any key things I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!