Puerto del Carmen was a sleepy fishing village until the 1960’s, but it has since grown to become Lanzarote’s most popular resort. Named after the Virgin Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen, the town is situated close to the island’s airport, and is centred on 6KM of golden, sandy beaches, bordered by a promenade with a cycle lane, called The Avenida de las Playas, known locally as “The Strip.” The promenade is fabulous for exercise as you can walk or ride all the way to Arrecife in one direction, passing directly beside the airport runway, or to Puerto Calero in the other direction. At the airport end of The Strip, you’ll find Matagorda and the simply huge Los Pocillos beach, and at the other end, the original “Old town” and the harbour, which is still a working fishing port. In between, there are literally hundreds of bars, shops and restaurants, catering to every kind of budget.
Matagorda is one of the quieter parts, attracting families, and there are several hotels and large apartment complexes there, as well as a large shopping centre. Moving along The Strip itself, there are many much smaller complexes in the streets behind the shops, and you’ll also find the famous Centro Atlantico – Lanzarote’s hottest night spot, with live music, dancing and clubbing every night until the early hours. The well-known Fariones Hotel – the island’s first, is at the far end, and was completed in 1966.
Moving into the old town area, the streets are much narrower and there are some quirky and interesting shops, as well as the impressive Biosfera shopping centre on three storeys. The harbour area is a starting point for several boating excursions, and is surrounded by a wide array of good restaurants.
The blue flag beaches offer a choice suitable for everyone – Playa Grande and Los Pocillos are typically large beaches with sun beds, parasols and pedaloes, while there are smaller, more private sandy beaches in between. Playa Chica is a sheltered bay ideal for snorkelling and is a mecca for local divers, with several reefs going down to 40 Metres a short swim out from shore. Here, you’ll also find jet skis to hire, and banana boat / parascending rides being offered.
Puerto del Carmen also features the island’s second Golf Course, built on the hill behind the resort, which is an 18 hole par 72 course with wide fairways and large greens. Also nearby is Rancho Texas Park, a theme park with some amazing animals, including white tigers, and an interesting aquapark that kids will enjoy. Puerto del Carmen’s carnival celebrations take place every February, and the carnival procession travels all along The Strip for several hours while the floats make their way along the seafront. There is also a Santa Parade every Christmas, when hundreds of Santa Claus make the same procession!
The resort is home to the island’s largest sporting event, Ironman, which takes place every May. Over 2,000 competitors swim 3.8K, Cycle 180KM all around the island and finally complete a 42KM marathon. Ironman starts and finishes in Puerto del Carmen and there is a fantastic atmosphere all day. Lanzarote’s Ironman is renowned as the world’s toughest because of the amount of climbing required on the bike course and the hot and often windy weather conditions.
For less energetic sports people, Carmen offers good road bike rides in several directions, and some excellent trails for mountain biking and running. There is a sports centre at the side of The Fariones Hotel, with swimming pools, a gym and tennis courts and several scuba diving schools who will teach beginners, or take experienced divers on guided dives.
The Fiesta del Carmen is celebrated in August, the Virgen Carmen is the patron saint of fishermen and celebrated throughout Spain. A full calendar of cultural events are centred around the harbour area including a marine procession of boats and fairground.
There is a weekly market at Plaza del Varadero in the old town harbour every Friday, which runs from 1000 until 2000, and it features local crafts, interesting food and Lanzarote souvenirs. The resort is also home to the island’s only Casino, which is located right on The Strip and is open every day. The Casino has all the classic games like roulette, blackjack and poker and also has an impressive slot hall. In terms of shopping, there are several well-known branded stores in the Biosfera shopping centre, and because Lanzarote is duty free, there are many perfume, tobacco and alcohol shops as well as electronic goods shops throughout the town. Of the island’s three resorts, Puerto del Carmen is the most ubiquitous, genuinely offering something for everyone, from youngsters who want to party all night to young families who enjoy the beaches and also to the retired generation who appreciate it’s accessibility.