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Gran Canaria is one of Spain’s Canary Islands, located off the coast of northwest Africa, known for its year round sunny climate, numerous sandy beaches, dramatic volcanic landscapes and historic towns.
There are plenty of things to do in Gran Canaria for every style of traveller, whether it’s relaxing in one of the many family-friendly resorts of Puerto Rico, partying at the drag clubs of Playa del Inglés or hiking to the famous Roque Nublo volcanic rock.
Being the most diverse of the Canary Islands, there are many fantastic places to visit in Gran Canaria. So to help you start planning your own trip, here’s a rundown of the best…
The top places to visit in Gran Canaria
For cities and beaches
The exciting cities, charming coastal towns and bustling beach resorts that make a perfect base or fun day out during a visit to Gran Canaria…
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: history and culture.
Las Palmas is the capital of Gran Canaria and the largest city in the Canary Islands.
Not only is the city home to several beautiful family-friendly beaches, a bustling shopping district and plenty of restaurants and markets serving up Canarian delicacies, but thanks to the historic Vegueta district and attractions including a replica of a traditional Canarian village, Las Palmas is also one of the best places to visit in Gran Canaria for those interested in cultural and historic attractions.
Each February, Las Palmas is also the location of one of Spain’s most famous carnivals. With colourful parades, live music, street parties and the newly added ‘Gala of the Drag Queen‘, the Las Palmas Carnival is one of the best free things to do in Gran Canaria and just another reason the island makes a great destination for some winter sun.
Things to do in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria:
- Relax on Playa de las Canteras, the city’s award-winning urban beach.
- Wander through the historic Vegueta district, the original settlement from which Las Palmas grew into the city it is today.
- Step inside Casa de Colón, the house where Christopher Columbus stayed while on the island which is now home to a museum of his possessions.
- Enjoy traditional music and dance at Pueblo Canario, a replica of a traditional Canarian village right in the heart of the city.
- Pick up some local products at Mercado Central.
- Grab tapas at Mercado del Puerto.
- Go shopping in Triana, Las Palmas’ busy pedestrianised shopping district.
- Visit the large Poema del Mar Aquarium.
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: family-friendly fun.
Maspalomas is a popular coastal resort town in the south of Gran Canaria, known for its vast sand dunes, which will have you feeling like you’re in the middle of a desert, and its never-ending stretch of golden beach, which is so long that it’s split into different areas for families, nudists and the LGBTQ+ community.
On the Western edge of Maspalomas, you’ll find the upmarket area of Meloneras where there’s an abundance of luxurious 5* hotels and resorts, plus plenty of ocean-side restaurants, bars and high-end shopping malls sitting along the palm-tree-lined Paseo de las Meloneras Promenade.
Maspalomas is also home to plenty of family-friendly attractions, including the Canary Islands’ largest waterpark, the Holiday World Theme Park and Europe’s only permanent outdoor cinema.
Check out my full post on how to spend the perfect day at Maspalomas beach.
Things to do in Maspalomas:
- Walk the full lengh of Playa de Maspalomas.
- Get lost exploring the sand dunes of the Dunas de Maspalomas Nature Reserve.
- Take a stroll through El Parque Botanico de Maspalomas peaceful Botanic Gardens.
- Splash around at Aqualand waterpark.
- Ride the rollercoasters at Holiday World Theme Park.
- Spend a day at Palmalitos Zoo.
- Play a round of golf at the 18-hole Maspalomas golf course.
- Watch a movie under the stars at Moonlight cinema.
Playa del Inglés
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: water sports and nightlife.
Located to the eastern edge of Maspalomas sits the famous beach resort of Playa del Inglés.
The resort’s large stretch of beach merges with Maspalomas beach and sand dunes to the south and is one of the best places in Gran Canaria for water sports, with a whole range of fun activities available including jet ski hire, banana boat rides and more.
Away from the beach itself, Playa del Inglés is packed with high-rise apartment blocks and hotels, international restaurants suiting every budget and large shopping centers.
The resort is also Gran Canaria’s main nightlife hub.
While you can find everything in Playa del Inglés, from lively British pubs and German beer halls to huge nightclubs open until 7am, the main draw of the area is its many vibrant gay bars and drag clubs that can be found concentrated inside the shopping centers including the famous Yumbo Center.
In keeping with this, Playa del Inglés is the heart of the huge Maspalomas Pride in May each year, one of the largest and best-known pride celebrations in all of Spain.
Things to do in Playa del Inglés:
- Take part in a whole variety of fun water sports including jet-skiing, windsurfing, water skiing, parasailing and banana boat rides.
- Hit the gay bars and drag clubs inside the Yumbo Center.
- Dance all night at the resort’s most famous nightclubs including Pascha and Club Ozono.
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: the prettiest beaches.
Puerto Rico is a lovely resort town on the south of the island and another of the most family-friendly places to stay in Gran Canaria.
The town is known for it’s two beautiful artificial beaches made with imported sand from the Sahara Desert; Playa de Puerto Rico and Playa Amadores (a 20 minute walk from the center). Both beaches sit inside large sheltered coves so are great for people of all ages to swim in the calm clear waters.
The promenade which lines Playa de Puerto Rico is packed with bars, restaurants and even public swimming pools, while the beach area also offers plenty of exciting water-based activities and tours including jet skiing, diving, boat trips and more.
Things to do in Puerto Rico:
- Grab a drink at one of the bars overlooking Playa de Puerto Rico.
- Sunbathe on the luxurious white sand of Playa Amadores.
- Go shopping for anything and everything at the huge Europa Centre.
- Spend the day at the unique Angry Birds Activity Park.
Puerto del Mogán
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: the photo ops.
Puerto del Mogán is a picturesque fishing village just along the coast from Puerto Rico, often referred to as Gran Canaria’s Little Venice due to the canals which link the marina with the fishing harbour.
One of the prettiest places to visit in Gran Canaria, Puerto del Mogán’s charming old town is a maze of narrow alleyways lined with colourful historic houses, while an assortment of restaurants and bars sit overlooking the many small fishing boats and luxury yachts of the town’s marina. Its small beach is also one of the most peaceful urban beaches on the island.
However, Puerto del Mogán goes from sleepy little seaside town to bustling hotspot each Friday when people from all over the island come to scope out the weekly market – probably the most famous market in Gran Canaria – where you can find everything from fresh produce to souvenirs and more.
Things to do in Puerto del Mogán:
- Relax on Playa Mogan, the town’s sheltered urban beach.
- Wander around the scenic Puerto del Mogán marina.
- Hike up to the Mirador Mogan Viewpoint for panoramic views over the town and valley.
- Don’t miss picking up some handicrafts at the weekly market on Fridays.
- Attend the annual Mango and Avocado Festival each September.
The top places to visit in Gran Canaria
For natural beauty away from the beaches
Did you know that there’s so much more to Gran Canaria than just its beach resorts and towns that people tend to associate it with? The mountainous center and natural parks of Gran Canaria are filled with stunning natural scenery and plenty of outdoor adventures for nature lovers too…
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: hiking and climbing.
Roque Nublo is a giant free-standing rock formed by a volcanic eruption around 4.5 million years ago and one of the most famous natural attractions in Gran Canaria.
Standing at a height of 80 metres and 1,813 metres above sea level (the 3rd highest spot on Gran Canaria), Roque Nublo is considered one of the biggest natural crags in the world.
Located in the Tejeda municipality in the mountainous central area of Gran Canaria, the landmark can be visited by walking the scenic 5km Roque Nublo hiking route which takes you past a number of other unique rock formations and lets you take in the amazing panoramic views across the island.
Caldera de Bandama
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: an off the beaten track adventure.
Caldera de Bandama is a volcanic crater in the north-east of Gran Canaria, measuring an impressive 1km in diameter and 200m+ deep.
Which the journey to reach the crater isn’t the easiest, with steep winding roads taking you through a number of small towns and past several vineyards, the drive is certainly worth it, with an observation platform at the peak which offers breathtaking views over the entire north and east coast of the island.
You can also hike down to the bottom of the crater which takes around 30 minutes.
Tamadaba Natural Park
Best place to visit in Gran Canaria for: diverse scenery.
Parque Natural Tamadaba is 7,500 hectares of land which stretches down the west coast of Gran Canaria within the Unesco Biosphere Reserve and is made up of a series of mountains, valleys, forests, coastal cliffs and rich biodiversity which makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Gran Canaria for nature lovers.
You can follow one of the many hiking trails which will lead you through the lush pine forests, drive straight up to the Mirador del Balcon viewpoint where you can admire the famous ‘Dragon’s Tail’ – a procession of dramatic zigzag cliffs which drop into the Atlantic sea below – or stop for a quiet picnic surrounded by the area’s calming picturesque beauty.
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