Gran Canaria is a beautiful island known for its incredible black and white sandy beaches and stunning landscapes. This subtropical island has everything from volcanic craters to scenic drives, waterfalls, and even the largest botanical garden in all of Spain. We here at Road Affair don’t want you to miss out on any of these amazing attractions, which is why we have compiled a list of the best things to do in Gran Canaria. This way, no matter how long you’re planning to stay on the island, you’ll know all the best attractions to pack into your itinerary!
Take a Scenic Drive Along the Barranco de Guayadeque
First up on our list of fun things to do in Gran Canaria is driving along the scenic road following the Guayadeque Ravine to Montaña de Las Tierras.
This beautiful circular road is a rugged climb that offers spectacular views and unique roadside attractions. Visitors can stop in at one of the many cave restaurants along the way to sample some local cuisine or enjoy a picnic at the end top of the road near Montaña de Las Tierras. Once at the end looping area at the top, visitors can enjoy a cold beer at Restaurante Vega while taking in beautiful views of the ravine below.
Snap an Instagram Pic at Barranco de Las Vacas
If you find yourself driving on GC-550 between Temisas and Agüimes, make sure you stop at Barranco de Las Vacas.
This stunning slot canyon is known as the Antelope Canyon of Gran Canaria. Tall terracotta-like walls line the sides of this small popular attraction, offering visitors a unique spot to snap some cool pictures. The canyon itself is quite small in size, so it can get quite crowded on weekends and during the holiday seasons. The best way to reach Barranco de Las Vacas is by car. To get to the entrance of the slot canyon, drive along GC-550 until you get to the 14-kilometer marker. From here, park the car alongside the road, and you’ll see a small path beside the bridge that will lead you down to the canyon.
Wander the Aviary and Botanical Gardens at Palmitos Park
If you’re wondering what to do in Gran Canaria with the kids on a day out, then consider getting up close and personal with birds and dolphins at Palmitos Park.
Here, visitors can see flamingos, emus, and other exotic birds in the park’s aviary and botanical garden, stroll through the aquarium and spot seahorses and clownfish, or even swim with dolphins. The park is also home to reptile and mammal sections where visitors can see an assortment of animals from all over the world. There are plenty of shows to catch while visiting, including a bird’s of prey show and a dolphin show. Palmitos Park is the largest zoo in the Canary Islands and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can purchase your tickets to Palmitos Park here.
Drive Along the Barranco de Fataga
Make a small road trip out of this gorgeous windy ravine drive on the south end of Gran Canaria.
Barranco de Fataga, also known as the Valley of 1,000 Palms, is one of the most spectacular ravines on the whole island, and the best way to experience it is with a day-long road trip along GC-60 to Fataga. The first stop on the drive is the impressive scenic lookout point Mirador Astronómico de la Degollada de las Yeguas. Here, you will get picturesque views of the famous valley. After enjoying the view, drive 10 minutes north along the GC-60 to the small town of Arteara to visit Gran Canaria’s largest aboriginal burial ground, the Necrópolis de Arteara. Here, visitors can wander along the rocky gravesites and learn more about the lives of ancient Canarians at the visitor center. The final stop on this mini road trip is the mountainside village town of Fataga, where you can wander the beautiful quaint town and grab a bite to eat with an incredible view at El Albaricoque. If you want to explore more of this stunning rugged area and its mountains, consider going off-road with a buggy tour of the Valley of 1,000 Palms.
Hike Roque Nublo
If you’re looking to go hiking in Gran Canaria, then you should definitely consider an excursion to Roque Nublo.
Roque Nublo is one of the most recognizable volcanic rock formations on the island and is one of the largest natural crags in the world. It is situated 1,813 meters above sea level, and once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the island. This rocky formation seemingly erupts out of nowhere and has been an important monument on the island for thousands of years.
The hike is roughly a 1.5 kilometers one way and takes about 30 minutes to reach from the parking area of Aparcamiento de la Degollada de La Goleta. This incredible site is a must-see in Gran Canaria.
Hike or Drive to the Top of Pico de las Nieves
Are you a fan of fantastic views? I mean, really, who isn’t? If you want to experience sweeping views of the island, then make your way to Pico de las Nieves.
This incredible, central mountain peak located is the tallest point on the island and one of the best Gran Canaria attractions. There are two options for experiencing the 360° panoramic views. You can opt to drive up the road to the top, or you can park your car at the Llanos de la Pez recreation area and strap on your hiking boots to trek your way there. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views of Gran Canaria!
Explore the Village of Tejeda
Nestled in the middle of the island sits the rural retreat town of Tejeda. This village is known for its almonds, more specifically, the delectable desserts they make with this nut!
While trying one of the delectable desserts like bienmesabe is a must while visiting the town, there are other things to check out as well. The town itself is quite picturesque, with incredible vistas, observation decks, and classic Canarian white and red homes. There are also dazzling small churches, a town square, and a free museum (Museo Tipico Canario Tres Cruces) where visitors can learn more about how people used to live in the area. The town is located just a 15-minute drive north of Roque Nublo, so it makes a great spot to enjoy lunch and relax after hiking out to the monumental crag.
Hike or Boat to Playa de Güigüí
If you are looking to spend a day sunbathing somewhere you don’t have to worry about tan lines, then consider making your way to the remote beach of Playa de Güigüí.
This secluded beach can only be accessed by boat or by foot, but its pristine sands and surrounding rocky cliffs make it totally worth the journey. It also happens to be a clothing-optional beach, so keep that in mind if you’re traveling with little ones or are worried about your partner’s wandering eye. Now hiking to this beach is quite a trek, and it is recommended you are in good physical condition to do so. It is roughly a four-hour hike, so bringing snacks and water is a must. If you’re not up to the challenge, you can also hire a boat from the town of La Aldea de San Nicolas. Since the beach is tucked away and remote, it is a great place to go to escape the crowds from other more popular beaches on the island.
Book a Dolphin-Watching Cruise
Ah, dolphins. Essentially the dogs of the sea, no? Or is that seals… Either way, these fun sea creatures have a way of pulling at our heartstrings, and there is no better way of seeing the island and these quirky animals than with a dolphin cruise!
This three-hour boat cruise will take you on a glass-bottom boat to explore the marine life of the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy unlimited drinks while encountering green turtles, flying fish, and even whales while cruising along the coast. The tour leaves from Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, and if you don’t see a single dolphin on your trip, you will receive a ticket voucher for another journey!
Visit Poema del Mar Aquarium
One of the most popular attractions in Gran Canaria is the incredible Poema del Mar Aquarium in Las Palmas.
The aquarium boasts a number of fantastic attractions, including the largest curved glass tank in the world. Get up close and personal with sharks, turtles, and crocodiles, all the while learning about the aquarium’s 35 diverse ecosystems. You can even walk underwater through glass tunnels while viewing different sea creatures in the Reef Beach section or take a stroll through a lush paradise over in the Jungle section. After visiting over 350 different species, you can enjoy lunch at the on-site restaurant.
This is a great activity for couples or families, and the best part is kids under the age of four are free! If you’re not a little munchkin, then you should definitely purchase a skip-the-line pass so that you’re not waiting in line in the hot sun for this popular attraction.
Explore the Old Town of Las Palmas
Las Palmas is the capital city of Gran Canaria, and it is packed full of loads to see and do, so it’s only fitting that you spend a day touring the town and discovering all the top attractions!
If you’re tight on time in the city, then make sure you at least visit the old town, also known as Vegueta. Here, you will find some great museums, like the Casa de Colón, the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, and the Museo Canario, the last of which showcases the precolonial history of the island’s indigenous people. While visiting the area, make sure to check out the stunning 15th-century Gothic-style church, the Catedral de Santa Ana de Canarias, which is also home to the Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. On the other side of Plaza de Santa Ana, across from the cathedral, is another fascinating attraction, the Casas Consistoriales de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It is the town hall of Las Palmas and features incredible architecture and over 90 wall paintings. Free tours of the building are offered every Sunday.
Go Snorkeling at Playa de Las Canteras
If you’re touring around Las Palmas and find the weather quite hot, why not cool off with a visit to one of the best beaches on the island, Playa de Las Canteras?
This two kilometer urban beach is located right across from the ferry terminal and the Poema del Mar Aquarium. It offers fantastic white sands and excellent snorkeling due to a volcanic rock barrier known as La Barra. The reef also breaks the waves, offering a calm area to swim and snorkel. You can set yourself up for the day on rented loungers and enjoy the Canarian sun or take a quick dip, then head to one of the beach bars for a bite to eat and a drink.
Explore the Caldera de Bandama Volcanic Rim
Much of the Canary Islands is known for its volcanic activity, and while Gran Canaria doesn’t have any active volcanoes, traces of its volcanic past are evident.
Caldera de Bandama is a 1,000-meter-wide volcanic crater located on the northeast side of the island, about a 20-minute drive from Las Palmas. Visitors can drive to the top of the crater and enjoy views of the island and old volcano from the viewing area. It is also possible to hike the trail around the rim of the crater, the Sendero Circular La caldera de Bandama, and enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. The path can usually be walked in roughly one hour. For those who won’t be driving on the island, some buses leave from Las Palmas to the area, but be aware it is a 25-minute hike up the road to the top of the crater.
Take a Camel Tour of the Dunas de Maspalomas
If you are on the hunt for unique activities in Gran Canaria, then look no further! This 30-minute camel ride tour through Dunas de Maspalomas is sure to be one of the most memorable parts of your trip to the island.
The tour will take you on two-seater saddles on the back of a camel for a gentle guided ride through the sand dunes of Maspalomas. Tours are offered in English, Spanish, and German and are perfect for those aged three years old and older. The Dunas de Maspalomas is a large nature reserve along the coast stretching 998 acres, and trekking through the area (by foot or camel, your choice) will make you feel as if you’re exploring a mini desert!
Stroll Through the Town of Puerto de Mogán
For those planning on going sightseeing in Gran Canaria, be sure to stop in at the fishing village of Puerto de Mogán on the southeast side of the island.
This small seaside town is a popular destination as it is set in the mouth of a steep valley overlooking the ocean and offers a relaxed and beautiful landscape. One of the most popular attractions in the village is the market that runs every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Here, visitors will find a selection of souvenirs, fresh produce, clothes, and knock-off brand bags and watches. After browsing through the market, visitors can go for a stroll around the town and find a place to have a bite to eat and a drink.
Dive Into Nature at Parque Natural Tamadaba
Parque Natural Tamadaba is a vast nature reserve that boasts stunning coastal paths within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and inland forest walks lined with tall pine trees.
On the south end of the park, visitors can drive to the Mirador del Balcón observation deck, which offers impressive views of a series of tall, rugged coastline cliffs known as the Dragon’s Tail. Another unique attraction in the park is Playa de Guayedra. This beautiful rocky beach offers visitors beautiful black sands to stroll along when the tide is out and is more secluded than other popular beaches on the island. It only requires a short hike to get to, and families should be aware it is a nudist beach. For an inland scenic point, check out Mirador Llanos de La Mimbre. Here, visitors will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the coast and island and can go for a stroll amongst the tall pines.
There are plenty of popular hiking trails within the park for those looking to get out and experience the nature of Gran Canaria. One of the more popular hikes is to the Charco Azul waterfall, where tourists can swim and marvel at the blue waters. The hike is just under an hour, but visitors should take note that the waterfall can dry up in certain seasons.
Spend a Day in Firgas
Firgas is a beautiful hillside town located just outside of Las Palmas, making it the perfect day trip destination for anyone staying in the capital.
There are lots of lovely strolls to take throughout the town on pedestrian pathways. One of the more unique attractions is the Paseo de Gran Canaria, a pedestrian walkway with cascading waterfalls down the middle of a hilly path and coats of arms lining the walls. Further along is the Paseo de Canarias, which is a similar structure that features sculptures of each of the Canary Islands. Another must-see attraction in Firgas is the Plaza de San Roque. Here, tourists can visit the Iglesia De San Roque and enjoy breathtaking views from the Mirador (observation area) of the island. On a clear day, it is even possible to see Tenerife and Fuerteventura.
Firgas is an area known for growing watercress, which is a leafy green plant related to cabbage. Visitors should definitely try some of the local cuisine made with this yummy vegetable. One of the best places to try a meal based on watercress is at El Rincon de Marcos. The restaurant serves a delicious potaje de berros (watercress soup) among other specialties.
Visit the Mountainside Village of Teror
Teror, a village on the northeast side of the island, is a great spot to stop and explore while traveling around the island.
Teror is known for its market, which takes place around the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pino every Sunday. Visitors can browse local crafts and souvenirs, but the best part of this market is its pastries and cuisine, such as typical Canarian cheeses, sweet black pudding, and the famous chorizos de Teror (a spiced sausage spread). There is also a great hiking trail that starts from the basilica and leads hikers through lush nature and ravines, and up a steep wooden staircase. The El Álamo Trail is a circular route roughly five kilometers long and takes an average of an hour and a half to walk.
Go On a Horse Riding Tour
Another unique way of exploring the natural beauty of Gran Canaria is with a horseback riding tour.
This hour horse-riding excursion takes tourists on a one- or two-hour relaxing ride through the volcanic mountain region on the south end of the island. There is no need to fret if you have never ridden a horse, as the tour is suitable for riders of all levels. The journey begins on a small horse ranch where visitors first get familiar with their new riding companions, then head out on mountain trails. Throughout the tour, guests can enjoy spectacular views of the dunes at Playa de Maspalomas and the volcanic landscape of the island. After the tour, there are refreshments and snacks available for purchase at the ranch, and visitors are welcome to visit with the other farm animals on the property.
Go On a Canyoning Excursion
If you’re looking to get your adrenaline pumping on an excursion, you should consider booking this four-hour canyoning tour in Gran Canaria.
Experience the thrill of a lifetime as you rappel into canyons, slide down natural slides, jump, and swim. No experience is required, and safety equipment and lunch are included in the excursion. In the summer months, the tour takes place in the laurel forests, where you will descend waterfalls and jump into crystal clear waters. In the winter months, the tour takes you to natural water slides. Regardless of when you book, you’re sure to have an absolute blast!
Explore Gran Canaria’s Archeological Sites
There are plenty of interesting archeological sites on the island that visitors should consider visiting while on vacation.
On the northwest side of the island sits the Cenobio de Valerón, a group of caves that used to be a communal granary until the 15th century. Those looking to stay above ground on their adventures can make their way to Maipés de Agaete to experience the burial grounds that date back over a thousand years. What is interesting about this site is the mass of tombs (around 700) that are built from volcanic rocks in mounds and are about eight meters high. On the southwestern part of the island sits Cañada de Los Gatos, an ancient town dating back over 1,600 years ago. Here, visitors can see the remains of aboriginal homes, stone buildings, and burial tombs scattered around the ravine. The Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park is another excellent stop where visitors can explore caves, artifacts, and cave paintings. Guided tours are also offered.
Visit the Resort Town of Playa del Inglés
Playa del Inglés is a seaside town known for its beach, bustling nightlife, and excellent shopping, making it one of the best places to visit in Gran Canaria.
The beach along the town stretches for miles and offers plenty of different areas, from family-friendly spots to clothing-optional sections and sports areas. If you’ve always wanted to channel your inner surfer, this is the place to do it! If you’re ready to ride the waves like a pro, then check out this surfing class for beginners. There are many shopping areas throughout the town to browse for souvenirs or boutique items, like the Yumbo Centrum and the Cita Shopping Center. Unlike mainland Spain, Playa del Inglés has a lively nightlife crowd all year round, so you can enjoy a night of dancing and fun after spending the day in the sun!
Go Swimming in a Natural Pool
Gran Canaria has an abundance of natural pools where visitors can swim and play in the ocean waters. While there are many throughout the island, we’ll list some of the top ones for you to check out.
If you’re looking for a family atmosphere, then head to the natural pool El Agujero just outside of Gáldar. Here, you will find a calm natural pool with steps leading into the water, perfect for little ones. Another great place for a swim is Las Salinas in Agaete on the northwestern part of the island. The waves here are usually popular with windsurfers, but the rock barrier that surrounds the pool makes for a great calm area to go for a dip. For a spot with a bit more waves and space to swim around, check out Charco de San Lorenzo in Moya. If you’re looking for a natural swimming pool that is a bit more remote, then head to Los Charcones in Arucas. The area is more secluded and features an abandoned hotel.
Explore the Vibrant Nature in the Reserva Natural de Los Tilos de Moya
While most of Gran Canaria has a volcanic desert look to it, the landscapes at the Reserva Natural de Los Tilos de Moya are a stark difference in comparison.
Instead of rugged rocks and sand dunes, the area boasts a lush and vibrant green feel. The area has one of the last standing laurel forests on the island, meaning it has a unique ecosystem that produces flourishing vegetation and majestic-looking trees. Therefore, this is the ultimate place for a hike! The most popular hiking trail is the Tilos de Moya, which is a 1.8-kilometer circular hike that starts beside Los Tilos Restaurant. It is a fairly flat trail that is perfect for hikers of all physical levels, including children.
Wander Through the Gardens at Jardín Botánico
Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo is one of the more popular Gran Canaria attractions, and for good reason. It is the largest botanical garden in Spain and offers visitors a chance to stroll along well-manicured paths through over 66 acres of gardens. There are over 500 species of plants for visitors to see, including many endangered and rare plants, over 2,000 cacti, and a collection of exotic palm trees. After wandering through the beautiful landscapes, visitors can enjoy lunch at the on-site restaurant. Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo is open every day, including some holidays.
Spend a Day Swimming at Playa de Amadores
With its pristine white sands and calm cove waters, it is no wonder that Playa de Amadores is the most popular beach in Gran Canaria.
Located in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, this incredible beach boasts a plethora of shops, bars, and restaurants along the water. Tourists can relax on rented loungers and enjoy sunbathing in the Canarian sun while little ones splash in the water. Playa de Amadores is perfect for families and those with disabilities, as there are lifeguards on duty and wooden pathways. The beach also has the added bonus of public toilets for visitors, so camping out for the day here comes with little worry. Amadores Fun Park is also located on the beach, which is a floating water park with blow-up slides and toys!
Cool Off at Aqualand Maspalomas
Aqualand Maspalomas is Gran Canaria’s largest water park, and it’s packed full of plenty of fun rides for kids and the young at heart!
On a hot day, is there really any better (and more fun) way of cooling off than a trip to the water park? Aqualand Maspalomas features more than 30 waterslides, a wave pool, a bubble pool, and a lazy river. Visitors can even get up close and personal with a seal lion swim. There are plenty of snack stands and restaurants throughout the park to enjoy a bite to eat. The park is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To purchase tickets to the park, click here.
Plunge to the Ocean Floor in a Yellow Submarine
We might not all live in a yellow submarine as the Beatles declared, but you can take a tour in one in Gran Canaria, which is pretty much the next best thing.
This 40-Minute Submarine Tour in Mogán will bring you on the adventure of a lifetime 25 meters deep to the ocean floor of Puerto de Mogán. While onboard, you’ll get to explore shipwrecks and spot sea creatures through TV screens. This is a great excursion for tourists of all ages, including pregnant women or anyone with a heart/ear condition, as the submarine was built so that passengers won’t feel a change in pressure. However, the minimum age for the tour is two years old.
Stroll Through the Cacti at Cactualdea Park
Cactualdea Park is the largest cactus park in Europe, boasting over 1,000 species of cacti. Enjoy wandering through this desert-like paradise and snapping pictures of cacti from around the world. If you’re looking to get Instagrammable pictures, this is the place to do it! Throughout the park, there are also donkeys and peacocks wandering about. After enjoying a stroll through the garden, you can sample some sweet cactus juice and tapas at the outdoor bar. Cactualdea Park spans just under four acres and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Last on our list of the best tourist attractions in Gran Canaria is the highest village on the island, Artenara.
The town is surrounded by a gorgeous rugged landscape in Gran Canaria’s Biosphere Reserve, offering breathtaking views of the island and some of Gran Canaria’s most notable monuments, like Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga. Visitors can walk around the Plaza de San Matías, enjoy the views from Mirador de Unamuno, and explore some of the cave homes in the town. Those looking for interesting and free things to do in Gran Canaria should check out the Museo Etnográfico Casas Cuevas de Artenara. This is where tourists can learn more about the local cave homes and the history of the people who used to live here over 700 years ago. The Risco Caído Interpretation Center is another fantastic attraction where visitors can easily spend an hour learning about the important archeological site nearby. What is truly unique about this museum is that it features a life-size replica of a cave from the Risco Caído archaeological site, allowing visitors to gain a whole new perspective into the lives of those who used to live on the island.
Well, there you have them, all the top things to do in Gran Canaria. You might not be able to fit every one of these incredible attractions into your itinerary, but as Lucius Annaeus Seneca said, ”It is quality rather than quantity that matters.” So go forth and enjoy your adventure to Gran Canaria!