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Holidays in Gran Canaria: Black lava, green palm trees and golden beaches

Despite the approximately three million tourists who go on holiday in Gran Canaria every year, the areas just out of reach of the tourist centers retain their charm. Gran Canaria is a great place for a beach holiday with a nature feel, due to it's thousands of palm-fringed beaches and beautiful bays. Gran Canaria is the third largest of the Canary Islands and a popular destination for many tourists. Like its neighboring islands, Gran Canaria has volcanic origins and the volcanic rock leaves plenty to discover in the mountainous interior. A trip to Gran Canaria is ideal both for a typical beach holiday or for a more off-the-beaten-path adventure holiday.

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Gran Canaria’s weather throughout the year

Gran Canaria enjoys a subtropical climate, with consistently warm, sunny weather throughout the year – an ideal location for some winter sun or a half-term holiday.  Temperatures generally stay at a comfortable 22-25 degrees on average, and it easily reaches 40 in parts of the island in the summertime – perfect for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. Another welcome change from the UK is that the island only gets about two days of rain a month so you can leave the waterproofs at home.

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5 reasons to visit Gran Canaria

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1. Natural wonders of the Canary Islands

At 600 square miles, Gran Canaria is not a big island, but it is home to a vast array of flora, wildlife and natural beauty. Thanks to its volcanic origins, Gran Canaria is a very special place for a walking holiday – try climbing up to the Roque Nublo (meaning “cloud rock”), which at 80 metres high, gives you a view of a moonlike craterous landscape around it. Visit the Maspalomas dunes, one of the island’s top attractions, which will make you feel like you’ve wandered into the middle of the Sahara – or have a sunset drink and admire them from afar. You can explore the sands on foot or horseback, or for a unique experience, why not travel by camel?   

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2. ¡Bailamos! Gran Canaria’s nightlife

Gran Canaria is famous for its vibrant nightlife, with most bars open till 2am and nightclubs not closing before 6am. Las Palmas has plenty of fun places to hang out until late, but the undisputed clubbing hotspot is Playa del Inglés, where the shopping centres turn into clubs after midnight. Promoters along the boardwalks will hand you special offer flyers for 2-for-1 shots or discounted entry, saving you a few euros. Kasbah is the place to go for the 18-30s crowd, Pacha is the most famous for house music, while Yumbo Centrum is the heart of the island’s gay scene. Gran Canaria is a proudly LGBTQ-friendly holiday destination, with Yumbo offering drag shows and gay and lesbian bars, as well as serving as the location of the annual Gay Pride celebrations.  

Don’t worry if you stay out too late – remember, 3pm is siesta time

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3. Gran Canaria’s history and culture

Gran Canaria has a fascinating and ancient history. Its indigenous population, the Guanches, are believed to have inhabited the island since 500 BCE. You can find out more about the prehistory of the Canaries and the Guanches at the Museo Canario in Las Palmas. For an even more in-depth look, head out to the Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park in the town of Gáldar to see cave paintings left by Ancient Canarians. For a little more modern history of Gran Canaria, check out the Christopher Columbus museum, located in the Casa Colon where Columbus visited on his way to discover the Americas in the 1400s. 

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4. Action and adventure in Gran Canaria

If you’re the kind of person who can’t sit still, Gran Canaria is a great destination for an adventure holiday. With its rocky terrain, strong coastal winds and warm sea, it’s an ideal location for mountain biking, canyoning and water sports. Why not learn how to kitesurf at Maspalomas beach or scuba dive at Puerto Rico? Or if you’re looking for family water sports activities, you could give stand up paddleboarding a try. If you feel like getting away from the ocean, head to the Southwest of the island for a canyoning trip to explore the ravines. Climb the island’s highest peak, the Pico de Nieves, for views across the entire island, thunder across the sand on a quad biking tour or hire a bike and explore at your own pace. If you love adventure holidays, Gran Canaria has all the action you can handle. 

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5. And of course, beaches…

Once you’ve experienced all of Gran Canaria’s natural beauty, cultural sites, adventures, history and partying, you’ll probably need a lie-down – and where better than on one of the island’s world-famous beaches? Las Canteras, popular with Las Palmas locals, is one of the best urban sandy spots to people-watch and enjoy a drink or a snack by the seaside. For a sunbathing experience a little more off the beaten track, you might try paddling in the black volcanic shallows of Arguineguin’s Las Marañuelas beach.

The top 5 things to do in Gran Canaria

While many holidaymakers head to Gran Canaria to relax on the beach, there’s more to this Spanish isle than its famously gorgeous coastline. From the mountainous interior to the volcanic shoreline, there’s plenty to explore.

We’ve catalogued our 5 favourite things to do in Gran Canaria here:

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1. Las Palmas

Gran Canaria might not be your first thought for a city break, but the capital city of Las Palmas has a lot to offer. Find your inner foodie as you peruse local goods in Mercado de Vegueta and Mercado del Puerto, shop for unique clothing and gifts on Calle Triana, and top it all off with a long walk on the famed promenade of Las Canteras beach.  

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2. Playa del Inglés

One of Gran Canaria’s most popular beach spots, Playa del Inglés is a resort area on the south coast of the island. If you’re looking for a laid-back beach holiday with plenty of time for relaxing, pick a resort right by the water’s edge. Those more in the mood for an adventure holiday can try snorkeling, jet skis, and stand-up paddleboarding to take in the surf from a different angle. 

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3. Dunas de Maspalomas

If you’re already heading for a day of sand and surf at Playa del Inglés, you’re in luck—one of Gran Canaria’s other top natural wonders is right around the corner. These rolling sand dunes with a backdrop of the glittering coast are a step up from your typical walk on the beach. Be sure to set aside a solid few hours to truly immerse yourself in this island “desert”.

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4. Roque Nublo

The evidence of Gran Canaria’s volcanic past is all around, perhaps most notably in the black sand beaches that line the coast. However, Roque Nublo, one of the most significant testaments to the volcanic eruptions that helped form the island, is worth a trip. The unique rock formation is found right in the middle of the island, and can be easily tacked onto a sightseeing tour of the mountainous interior region.

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5. Puerto Mogan 

This small coastal town in the south is perfect for those who want a break from some of the more overrun areas closer to the capital. Enjoy a small but quiet beach, beautiful whitewashed buildings, and picturesque narrow canals. A special highlight is a walk along the water, where you can peruse the many brightly-coloured boats. 

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Things to do in Gran Canaria with the kids

Gran Canaria is an ideal place to take the family. If your little ones like animals, wow them with a trip to the Palmitos Park zoo or the brand new Poema del Mar aquarium, featuring the largest curved glass window display ever built. You might even hire a jeep and take them on a safari of the island’s flora and fauna, or take a boat ride and look for whales and dolphins off the Canarian coastline. On scorching hot days, treat the kids with a visit to one of the island’s water parks, like the Ocean Fun Park at Playa de Amadores. You can take them back in time to visit Sioux Park, a Wild West-themed experience for the whole family, with pony rides, live shows, saloons and a goat farm for children a little too young for westerns! 

A closer look at Las Palmas 

Las Palmas is the capital city of Gran Canaria and also the name of the province it is in. While the island might be small, Las Palmas is one of the largest cities in Spain. Home to some of Gran Canaria’s most important historical sites and a fabulous place to start your trip if doing a two-centre holiday. Well-connected by public transport, many visitors stay in Las Palmas and travel outward by car or bus on day trips to attractions, other towns and sights on the island.  

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Take a stroll through Vegueta 

Vegueta is the beautiful old town of Las Palmas, where the city was first founded in 1478. Wander through the cobbled streets and its pretty plazas, stop for lunch at the 19th century Gabinete Literario cultural centre (it was the island’s first theatre!) and take a visit to the historical, Gothic-style Santa Ana Cathedral. It’s also where you can visit some of the island’s art galleries and museums.

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Eat everything at the Triana Market

An indoor market bustling with stalls and a bar offering deliciouslocal treats, this is a wonderful place for a cheap meal in a group who can’t agree on what to eat. Croquetas, cheeses, Iberian ham, rice plates, chips and sandwiches and of course wines – just pay at the stall, grab your food and take a seat at the long central table and make some friends. 

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Have a cold beer at La Buena Vida

For a friendly, Canarian experience, stop in at La Buena Vida, with small beers at just €1.60 and a pint for €2.90. An ideal place for a pre-dinner drink, or somewhere to stop for a sandwich and a cheeky mid-afternoon pint (you’re on holiday, after all!). It’s known for its cosy atmosphere and chatty patrons.  

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Shop at the historic street market in Teror 

A pretty town just outside of Las Palmas, set among green mountains, Teror is a great place for a day trip. Don’t miss the traditional Sunday street market, which has taken place in the Plaza de Sintes for two centuries. It is frequented by Canarians from all over the island looking to buy and sell sausages, sweets, cheeses, bread and crafts. Save some time to stop by its famous Basilica of the Virgin of the Pine, which dates back to the 1700s and is the heart of the town. 

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Take a tour and a tipple at the Arehucas Rum Distillery 

Just 15 minutes away from Las Palmas is the Arehucas rum distillery. For just €3.50, you can take a short tour and learn about the distillery’s history dating back to the 19th Century, see how they turn sugar cane into this famous Canarian export and taste a little for yourself. Don’t worry if you don’t fancy driving back afterwards – the bus stop is well within staggering distance.

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