In 2014 El Puertillo's beach and natural pools eared a Blue Flag from the EU.
Unless you surf or like eating in giant warehouse-style restaurants, the north coast of Gran Canaria is the bit you drive through to get somewhere else. It doesn't have the glamorous sandy beaches of the south coast and lacks a must-see attraction. Most of the highlights of Gran Canaria's northern strip (like Arucas' old town and its impressive, if disproportionate, Gothic church) are all inland.
This lack of a stand-out destination keeps the north coast low key: You never see tourists on the shore between Las Palmas and Sardina in the north west corner. Canarians are happy to keep the area quiet.
There is more to the north coast than banana plantations and pounding surf.
El Puertillo is a tiny village perched on a rock about 15 minutes out of Las Palmas on the north coast road (the GC-2). The village itself is a mass of higgledy piggledy Canarian houses perched on a rock by the sea. What makes it stand out from the other towns on the coast is its tiny, sandy beach, sheltered in an open bay. The beach is only about 60 metres long and bits of it are covered with fishing boats. There are no public toilets but there is a water tap for washing your feet.
The town has added to the beach by creating natural swimming pools across the bay and an attractive promenade to link them up. There are a couple of big restaurant terraces along the promenade: Very modern but lacking the charm of the restaurants looking out over the beach.
The promenade is due to be extended all the way along the north coast to San Felipe. However, between the crisis and resistance from locals (who don't see why their houses should be demolished to make way for a path) the extension is not going to happen any time soon.
Fishing is popular in El Puertillo as the rocky shore holds plenty of bream and parrot fish. The heavy surf along the rocky coast outside the bay protects the fish from the island's unscrupulous spear gun fishermen. The locals fish just by the beach from what looks like a purpose built platform. It's actually one of the last remaining machine gun bunkers on the coast. Franco built them all along the coast to deter invasions and most have now been demolished or eroded away. The El Puertillo bunker remains, probably because it's the only flat place for miles to put a bucket of ground bait!
See this Google Map of El Puertillo for details of all the sights and highlights mentioned in this post.
El Puertillo beach fills up fast at the weekends and during the summer holidays it's almost impossible to find a towel's worth of sand. Arrive early to find parking and a good spot on the sand. Weekdays are the best time to visit.