You can do Las Palmas without stepping off the 15th-Century cobbles of Vegueta. As the first Spanish city founded in the New World, Las Palmas is gravid with history. It was attacked by cavemen, visited by Columbus, fought off an attack by Sir Francis Drake and got sacked by Dutch privateers. Vegueta is the perfect cultural destination: Compact, well-preserved and full of small, interesting museums.
However, there's a spicier side to the city that you miss if you focus on the past.
Cocktails at sunset
Down at the modern end of the city, by the beach, tourism is about catching waves, learning Spanish, scoffing tapas and dancing salsa until you drop. Visitors discover an exciting, modern city with Latino flair. They may wander over to Vegueta to hat tip Columbus, but spend most of their time having fun in the sun.
A typical day would be a morning surf, coffee by the beach, a walk up in the mountains, sunset cocktails and a few hours of dancing.
This alternative scene isn't as new as it sounds. Until the late 1960s Las Palmas was the island's main tourist destination and the beach was covered in Scandinavians and Brits. After the resorts in the south took off the city lost its mojo.
Now not then
With millions of cruise ship passengers spending a day in the city, and three million tourist a year on the island for a week or two, Las Palmas has an opportunity to remind people that it's a destination in its own right. But it's not history and architecture that will bring the visitors back, it's today's city with its beach culture, great Spanish food and laid back cool.
We believe that modern Las Palmas is missing a trick by focusing on the city it was 500 years ago rather than the city it is now. Nobody leaps out of bed in the morning because they are excited about visiting a cathedral. But sunset cocktails, tasty tapas, warm sand and Latino rhythm? That's fun.
There are bars by Las Canteras that do the best caipirinhas this side of Copacabana and the streets behind the beach are full of restaurants knocking out quality Spanish tapas. And then there's live music on the beachfront every Saturday, tapas night in Vegueta on Thursdays, carnival, the surf competitions, the marathon, the food and film weekend ... Las Palmas is already happening, it's just that nobody knows about it yet.
It is time for Las Palmas to get its mojo back and remind the rest of Europe that there is a Habana on this side of the Atlantic: That's the sexy Habana with mojitos and rumba by the way, not the Habana of crumbling buildings and long dead heroes.