Comparing the Canary Islands and Portugal’s Silver Coast

With a week off for Chinese New Year, I packed my bags and headed to Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. It’s been eighteen years since I’ve been back to the Canary Islands. I last spent time here studying Spanish as an undergrad. I absolutely loved it then and love it just as much now. So much so, that when I first set foot in my Airbnb, I thought, “I’m not leaving this island without buying an apartment.” While I still may make a purchase here, I think it will probably be later in the year. Since I’ve spent the last few days comparing the tiny beach town where I live in Portugal to this urban beach in Las Palmas, I decided to make that the subject of this week’s blog. Bear in mind that Portugal is a big place. I recently wrote on the differences between Lisbon and my home on the Silver Coast. Likewise, the Canary Islands (and even the island of Gran Canaria) may be quite different depending on where you are. I’m going to compare my town, Peniche, with Las Canteras Beach here in Las Palmas. 

Cost of Accommodation

There’s no comparison here. Portugal is FAR cheaper. I purchased a two-bedroom condo in Portugal, directly across the street from the ocean, for 130,000. It includes a small studio upstairs with a separate entrance. The living space is 115 m2 downstairs and 17 m2 upstairs. By comparison, a small studio near the beach in Las Canteras is about the same price. You’re likely to only get about 25 to 40 m2 for a fairly new studio apartment between 100,000-150,000. I saw some small apartments that were further from Las Canteras (near Confital) for lower prices. Also, as you go west on the northern coast, prices drop significantly, too. Being in the center of Las Canteras will of course drive the price up.

CLEAR ADVANTAGE- PENICHE

Social Life

Las Canteras is an urban beach environment. As a result, it has much more of a city feel than Peniche, which has an incredibly small permanent population. Tourism is huge in Las Canteras, but you also have a lot of permanent residents in the area. There are tons of people to go out with, and there’s so much to do. By comparison, Peniche is a sleepy little beach town. I also find the people in Gran Canaria to be incredibly outgoing. The Portuguese, while friendly, are very private, somewhat somber people. Even the two months I spent in Canteras years back, I remember how friendly and welcoming the people were.

CLEAR ADVANTAGE- LAS CANTERAS

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Weather

The Silver Coast of Portugal is warmer than most of continental Europe in the winter. However, it’s still continental Europe. Winter months in Peniche are cold, windy, and rainy, with highs that struggle to reach the upper teens (Celsius). By comparison, Las Canteras offers sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s, even in the month of January. It’s common to see people sunbathing and running on the boardwalk in just a pair of shorts. The ocean temperature is also MUCH warmer.

CLEAR ADVANTAGE- LAS CANTERAS

Cost of Groceries

I found the cost of groceries to be fairly comparable. There were a few things that I saw in Las Canteras (almond milk, vegan products) that made me say, “Wow! That’s cheaper than back in Portugal!” Similarly, there were also a few things (chicken, juices) that I thought were slightly more expensive than back in Portugal. Ultimately, this is really splitting hairs. I think the costs are very comparable and shopping for food in either place won’t break the bank.

ADVANTAGE- EVEN

Coffee

Both countries are known for their coffee, and it’s good! Both Spain and Portugal offer a variety of coffee drinks depending on your taste. Coffee is about the same price in both places, but the Spanish coffee really can’t be beat. Café con leche and cortados in Spain can’t be matched by their Portuguese counterparts. Even a head to head comparison between straight espresso goes to the Spanish coffee.

ADVANTAGE- LAS CANTERAS

Wine

Much like the coffee, you won’t be disappointed in the wine in either place. However, one of the things I noticed right away upon arriving in Las Canteras is how much more expensive the wine is- and not only in the touristy restaurants. I found the price of wine in the grocery stores to be considerably higher. This is where Portugal just can’t be beat. There is such an amazing variety of wine and it is so cheap. It’s not uncommon to go into the grocery store in Portugal and find a very drinkable bottle of red for 2-3€. Being in a smaller town in Portugal, wine in restaurants and bars is far cheaper too- both by the bottle and the glass.

CLEAR ADVANTAGE- PENICHE

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Beer

Both places offer great beer. The larger brands, such as Super Bock or Estrella, are very drinkable. Both places have craft beers (or artisanal) that offer beer lovers a bit of variety. You probably won’t find a West Coast IPA in either place, but the beers are good. Las Canteras offers a bit more variety than Peniche. However, a bottle of craft beer in a bar or restaurant in Las Canteras will likely set you back about about 6-7€. Whereas a similar beer in Peniche will likely set you back about 3€.

TOSS UP- LAS CANTERAS FOR THE VARIETY/PENICHE FOR THE COST

Eating Out

As for the quality and taste of food, it would be really tough to make a call. The food in both places is amazingly good. However, living in small town in Portugal, eating out is incredibly cheap. I could literally eat out every meal in Portugal and still manage to live with a reasonable budget. Dinner for two with a few glasses (or a bottle) of wine will set you back about 30€ in Peniche, while that same meal in Las Canteras will likely set you back about 50€. Bear in mind that Las Canteras is a huge tourist destination, so this will have a huge impact on prices. Another determining factor is that I found beer and wine to be more expensive in restaurants and bars here. If you enjoy a meal without alcohol, you may find the prices to be more comparable.

ADVANTAGE- PENICHE 

Surfing

Both places are huge surfing destinations that offer great waves. However, if we focus solely on the areas of Peniche and Las Canteras, it’s a clear win for Portugal. Las Canteras offers a few waves within walking distance of the city. All are fun, and the water is warm. Having said that, the variety and quality of waves in Peniche bests Las Canteras. Because of the peninsular shape of Peniche, it’s far easier to find a place with offshore winds. Portugal is truly one of the most wave-rich countries on the planet. Though, the ocean temperature in Portugal in winter can be a bit brisk.

CLEAR ADVANTAGE- PENICHE

Visas

I wrote about some of the visa options in both Spain and Portugal. In my opinion, it depends on exactly what you are looking for. Spain’s non-lucrative visa allows you to live in Spain, so long as you don’t work in Spain or access social services. After ten years, you can apply for a Spanish passport. Portugal, on the other hand, offers a path to an EU passport in about half the time. You’re also able to access social services, such as public healthcare in Portugal. Though, in my opinion, you will want to have private insurance in both places.

ADVANTAGE- PENICHE 

Final Thoughts

Both spots offer a lot and you really won’t be sorry wherever you choose to post up. Las Canteras is a busy and very touristy spot. If you like the quiet life, finding a beach town on Portugal’s Silver Coast might be a better option. Or you can just get an apartment in both places and split your time. Life as a digital nomad has its advantages…

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Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂