One of Spain’s Canary Islands and a popular tourist destination all year round, here are some of the best things to do in Gran Canaria.
1. Maspalomas Sand Dunes
Located in the south of Gran Canaria, Maspalomas Sand Dunes are a unique landscape. Covering 400 hectares (1000 acres) they are one of Gran Canaria’s most popular attractions.
The dunes have been protected as a nature reserve since 1987. As such, visitors are reminded to keep to the well-signed trails to protect the vast range of ecosystems found here.
An enjoyable way to see this area is to walk across the dunes one way and then around the coast on the way back. The sand is fairly easy to walk on but it can get pretty hot, so footwear is recommended.
At some points you really do feel as if you are in the Saraha Desert, with sand as far as the eye can see. With that in mind a Camel Ride in the Dunes of Maspalomas is a fun option, if you don’t fancy walking!
Home to an amazing sand dune system, stunning beach, palm grove and a lagoon this unique landscape is well worth a visit.
If you prefer things to be organised for you, Treasures of Gran Canaria Tour includes a visit to the dunes, along with a couple of other popular destinations.
2. Visit A Botanical Garden
Gran Canaria has an amazing choice of botanical gardens to choose from. Located in the centre of the island and as well as around the coastline.
One of the most popular and largest botanical gardens in Spain is the Jardin Botanico Canario Viera y Clavijo.
Located in Las Palmas, this unique garden is constructed on the side of a ravine. It has over 500 plant species native to the Canaries, including trees, cacti and other succulents.
A stroll through one of these beautiful gardens, with their array of native plants and water features etc, is a great way to spend a relaxing couple of hours.
If you like things arranged in advance, Bandama Caldera, Botanic Garden and Old Town from Las Palmas includes a botanical garden visit.
3. Las Palmas Old Town
Located just 6km from Las Palmas, the Old Town (also called Vegueta), is the original settlement from which Las Palmas was born.
This historical area is full of narrow streets, beautiful old buildings, plazas, tapas bars, restaurants and some nice little shops. As well as an awesome cathedral.
This is a beautiful area to enjoy a few hours walking around, taking in the history and architecture of Gran Canaria.
In addition, there are plenty of places to enjoy a coffee or some tapas. I would definitely recommend it as one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria.
If you prefer things to be arranged in advance, Bandama Caldera, Botanic Garden and Old Town from Las Palmas tour visits the Old Town and other popular attractions.
4. Las Palmas Cathedral
The Cathedral of Santa Ana, is a Roman Catholic Church located in the Old Town (also called Vegueta) neighbourhood of Las Palmas.
This historic cathedral is stunning inside and out. Furthermore, it is considered to be the most important monument of Canarian religious architecture.
Entry is €3 and for an extra €2, you can take the elevator to the top of the bell tower. From here you have spectacular, 360° views across Las Palmas.
Included in the entry fee is a visit to the Religious Art Museum. In the museum there are artefacts dating back to the 15th century.
There is also an attractive interior courtyard garden that you can visit. I would recommend the online audio tour as you walk around as there is not a lot of written information to follow.
Alternatively, you could book the Las Palmas: Old City Private Walking Tour. With this tour you could visit the Cathedral as well as other Old Town attractions of your choice.
5. Visit The Canaria Dog Statues
Located in the Plaza de Santa Ana, in front of the Cathedral are the famous Canarian Dog Statues.
These 8 bronze dog statues, in various poses, are a popular tourist attraction. Moreover, people love having their photograph taken with them.
They are said to represent the first settlers hunting dogs, after whom the islands got their name. With Canaria coming from the Latin ‘Canis’ meaning dog.
Again the Las Palmas: Old City Private Walking Tour would give you the opportunity see these statues with a guide.
For dog lovers especially, getting a photo with these bronze beauties is a must.
6. Eat Tapas
Tapas are small, savoury Spanish dishes, typically served with a drink in bars or restaurants.
Served cold or hot, in some bars and restaurants, tapas have actually become a quite sophisticated cuisine.
Going out to eat tapas is one of the most popular things for locals to do. Therefore, this a must as one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria.
One tapas dish that is always on the counters of traditional bars in Gran Canaria is Ensaladilla Rusa. Although it varies from one premise to another, the essential ingredients are always potato, tuna, carrots, peas, and mayonnaise.
Other popular tapas dishes include papas arrugadas(potatoes with spicy sauce), pimientos de padron (peppers in olive oil). Along with churros de pescado (fish goujons with garlic mayo).
There are way too many of these traditional, delicious little dishes to list. However, you are sure to find one that suits your tastebuds!
To try hidden locations serving tapas that only the locals know about Las Palmas: Tapas and Drinks After Sunset is recommended.
7. Try The Local Beer
If you are looking to try the local beer when in Gran Canaria then Tropical is the brand to look out for.
Brewed in Las Palmas, Tropical is Gran Canaria’s most famous beer brand and most popular beer of choice for locals. The correct way to ask for a Tropical beer is to say “una Tropical”.
In addition, there are a few different craft beers brewed on the island including, probably the most well known one, Jaira. Made in the south eastern municipality of Aguimes, there are eight different varieties of Jaira beer.
If you fancy drinking with the locals then the Las Palmas: Tapas and Drinks After Sunset promises to take you to the best local venues.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a refreshing soft drink, I can recommend the strawberry flavoured Clipper drink.
Considered the best strawberry soda in the world, Clipper is produced and distributed exclusively in the canaries.
8. Hit The Beaches
One of the best things to do in Gran Canaria is definitely a trip to a beautiful beach. Known for its black lava and white sand beaches, you will be spoilt for choice on this island.
However, if you’re only going to visit one beach, then Las Canteras Beach has to be one of the best.
Located in the capital city Las Palmas, it is the jewel of the city and highly rated amongst Europes most famous city beaches.
This large beach is very popular due to its locality, natural beauty, golden sands, calm waters and facilities it offers.
These include, lounger and parasol hire, toilets, showers, bars, cafes, ice-cream parlours and lots of room for surfing and beach activities.
Also, its natural offshore lava reef acts as a wave break, protecting the beach and the plentiful marine life. Making Las Canteras a great spot for snorkeling enthusiasts.
If snorkelling is your thing, then Las Canteras Beach Snorkeling Trip will take you to the best spots.
9. Maipes Archaeological Park
Located in the village of Agaete in the north west of Gran Canaria, Maipes Archaeological Park is a volcanic lava plain that is also home to an ancient burial ground.
Used by the indigenous people of the island to bury their dead, there are nearly 700 tombs here, some dating back 1300 years.
The park is recognised as a Cultural Heritage Site, not only due to the ancient tombs but also the geology, plant and animal life found here.
In addition, there are plenty of information boards and exhibits in Spanish and English giving you all the fascinating facts. As well as a Visitor Centre.
The small entrance fee for adults (children are free) is certainly worth paying to visit this very well presented and interesting archaeological site.
10. Visit A Vineyard
If you like a glass of wine, visiting one of the many vineyards on the island is going to be one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria.
The Gran Canaria vineyards are quite unique due to the extremely dry and volcanic soil conditions.
However, not only do the vines grow well in this soil, the wine also has a distinctive taste due to the Gran Canaria microclimate.
We visited San Pedro’s Finca La Laja in the Valle de Agaete. Home to Bodega Los Berrazales Vineyard, a visit here offers a real treat for your tastebuds.
Following a lovely tour around the vineyard on this 200 year old farm, we got to sample, wine, coffee and even some of the tropical fruit that is also grown here.
If you are a real connoisseur of wine the Winery Tour, Wine Museum, and Tasting might be right up your street!
11. Parador De Cruz De Tejeda
Set at one of the highest points in the centre of the island, Parador Cruz de Tejeda is Gran Canaria’s only parador – a hotel owned and administered by the Spanish government.
At an altitude of 1500 metres, this hotel has some of the most stunning views in all of Gran Canaria. With vistas across the surrounding mountains, forests and the volcanic Caldera of Tejeda.
These views can be enjoyed from the outdoor, hydrothermal, infinity pool, where you can relax amongst the clouds. Or from the beautiful terrace whilst enjoying a coffee or ice-cream.
In addition, Parador Cruz de Tejeda has a spa that offers a wide range of treatments including volcanic rock treatment and seaweed wraps. As well as a restaurant serving local and regional food.
This has to one of the best places to stay on Gran Canaria with the most amazing views, great facilities, delicious food and you get to sleep above the clouds!
12. Roque Nublo
Located in the Rublo Rural Park central municipality of Tejeda, Roque Nublo (Cloud Rock) is considered one of the biggest natural crags in the world and is an iconic landmark in Gran Canaria.
Standing at a height of 67m, this volcanic rock was formed 4.5 million years ago and is the third highest peak on the island. As such, it makes for a great viewpoint to look out across the island.
In fact, on a clear day, you can see the peak of El Teide (the highest mountain in Spain) over on the nearby island of Tenerife.
It is said to have been an ancient place of worship for the indigenous people of Gran Canaria and 1987 it was declared a protected natural space and a few years later named as a Rural Park.
There are several, different hikes that you can take to the foot of Roque Nublo, all taking you through the beautiful Canarian Pine Forests. Also look out for local wildlife along the way, including lizards, salamanders, woodpeckers and various birds of prey.
Visiting Roque Nublo is a family friendly activity and one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria, especially for mountain lovers.
However, if you are a mountain lover and prefer to have activities arranged for you, Bandama, High Peaks, and Roque Nublo Tour is a great option.
13. Relax At A Beach Club
If you are looking for a day of relaxation then I can recommend visiting a beach club. We spent an amazing day at Perchel Beach Club in Santa Agueda.
Opened in 2022, this new and luxurious club is part of the the Cordial Resorts Santa Agueda but is also open to paying day visitors.
The entry fee is approximately €30 per adult (children €5/under 3s free) and for this you get to relax in stunning surroundings with great facilities and friendly, professional staff.
One of the best things for me was the magnificent infinity pool with its incredible views. Also available are massage beds, comfortable sun loungers, Bali beds and daybeds.
In addition there is the Nami Sushi Bar, the Chill Out Bar and the Restaurant Arroceria, all serving delicious freshly cooked food.
You can even order food and drinks to your sun bed! So you really do have everything you need for a super relaxing day.
14. Visit A Banana Plantation
The Banana is the most famous fruit of the Canary Islands. Therefore, we had to pay a visit to the banana plantation at Hacienda La Rekompensa in Arucas.
Covering over 56000 square metres of land, this farm is home to a banana plantation, a Canarian house dating back to 1804, and a beautiful courtyard.
As well as, most importantly, the only Banana Museum on all of the Canary Islands and home to 13 different varieties of bananas from all over the world.
We enjoyed a tour around the farm, learning about the cultivation of the banana trees and got to try various and tasty banana based products, including jams, banana wine, cake and of course milkshake. They also produce banana based cosmetics.
As a big fan of bananas, this was a perfect destination for me and I thoroughly enjoyed tasting all the banana based produce!
15. Arehucas Rum Distillery
Although I don’t drink, I still really enjoyed the tour of the Arehucas Rum Distillery. Learning about the history and traditions of rum was pretty interesting.
As well as seeing the various stages of rum processing in the mill, fermentation and distillation rooms, you also visit the bottling plant and get to taste some of the wide variety of rums and liqueurs. Which I’m told are very good!
You also visit one of the oldest rum cellars in Europe, made up of an impressive 4308 American oak barrels!
Lasting about an hour, the Arehucas Rum Distillery tour, has to be one of best things to do in Gran Canaria. Whether you are a rum lover or not!
For an inexpensive way to visit a rum distillery as well as many other main attractions Gran Canaria Highlights Full-Day Tour by Bus is recommended.
16. Eat Local
I always love trying out local food when travelling and Gran Canaria didn’t disappoint! Here’s three of my favourites:
Bienmesabe – literally translating as ‘tastes good to me’ is a sweet paste with an almond base that can be added to cakes, nougat or even spread on toast.
It also goes really well with a variety of desserts such as custard and ice-cream.
Papas arrugadas – meaning wrinkled potatoes, is a traditional Canarian dish of salty, boiled potatoes, usually served with a red pepper sauce called mojo icon.
This basic sounding dish is absolutely delicious on it’s own or accompanying meat, fish or other vegetables.
Padron Peppers – these small green peppers are commonly tossed in sea salt and lemon juice and served as a delicious bar snack.
They are sweet and smoky tasting and generally quite mild, although occasionally you can bite into a surprisingly spicy one! They also taste great with fried eggs and potatoes.
So, for me, one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria was definitely trying the local cuisine which turned out to be delicious!
For the more adventurous, The Volcano’s Heart Tour & Local Food Tasting is a great option.
Where To Stay In Gran Canaria
Luxury – Radisson Blu Resort & Spa
This property is 10 minutes far from the beach. Featuring an on-site fitness centre and a spa, Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Mogan, Gran Canaria is located in Puerto de Mogan.
This resort offers 2 swimming pools with a hot tub, as well as 1 pool for children.
All spacious, air-conditioned rooms and suites at Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Gran Canaria Mogan have modern décor and large balconies or terraces.
There is a seating area with satellite TV and Apple TV, free WiFi and a bathroom with a bathrobe and slippers.
The spa features an indoor pool with water jets, a hot tub, sauna and a Turkish bath. Massages and a range of beauty treatments are also available.
Mid-Budget – Apartamentos Cordial Magec Taurito
A sustainable apartment in Taurito, Apartamentos Cordial Magec Taurito offers sun terrace, private parking and sports facilities.
Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and a lift, along with free WiFi throughout the property.
The apartment provides an outdoor swimming pool with a pool bar, as well as a fitness centre and a concierge service.
The apartment complex will provide guests with air-conditioned units with a wardrobe, a coffee machine, a microwave, a toaster, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a shower. At the apartment complex, every unit includes bed linen and towels.
Budget – Sercotel Playa Canteras
Sercotel Playa Canteras offers ocean views from its setting overlooking Las Canteras Beach, in the centre of Las Palmas. It features a spa and rooms with free internet access.
The hotel offers simple, bright décor and each of its air-conditioned rooms has a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Many rooms feature views of the bay.
The Canary Islands Congress Centre and Alfredo Kraus Auditorium are within 5 minutes’ walk of the Sercotel Playa Canteras. Free parking is available nearby.
For more places to stay in Gran Canaria, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.
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