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Gran Canaria is the second-most populous and third-largest destination in Spain’s Canary Islands, an archipelago located just 93 miles (150 km) off the northwest coast of Africa. The volcanic island is known for a diverse landscape that includes gentle waters, white-sand beaches, rugged mountains, dense forests of pine. The main resort towns of Las Palmas and Maspalomas offer a range of both outdoor adventure and city attractions, while the quieter coastal towns of Puerto de Mogán and San Agustín are perfect for those looking to kick back and let their worries melt away. Whether you want to sail the Atlantic Ocean, explore the nature reserve by horse, or simply relax on a beautiful beach, there are countless things to do in this Macaronesian destination.
Agaete — This picturesque seaside community—with its whitewashed houses, stony beaches, spectacular cliff faces, and boardwalk along Puerto de las Nieves—is the ideal place to spend a few tranquil days. Stroll the local craft stores along the main street, enjoy a hike through the pine forest at Tamadaba Natural Park, or savor a plate of paella or fried fish at any of the seafood eateries along the harbor.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria — The capital city of Las Palmas is the cultural, historical, and entertainment hub of the island. At the main beach of Playa de Las Canteras, a stretch of golden sand offers much in the way of sun-bathing and water sports. In town, uncover art museums, performance venues, and plenty of shopping, as well as an enclave of traditional architecture in the centuries-old Vegueta district. Come nightfall, the city is even more alive with chic restaurants, terrace cocktail bars, and eclectic nightclubs.
Maspalomas — Boasting the most diverse ecosystem on the island, the city of Maspalomas is known for its rolling sand dunes, groves of palm trees, and sparkling lagoon. Animal lovers appreciate the region for its rich birdlife, as it provides a resting spot for species migrating between Europe and Africa. Along the lively promenade near the historic lighthouse, you can find a host of restaurants and gift shops to explore after a day on the beach.
Puerto de Mogán — With its iconic architecture, sheltered beach, and charming seawater canals, this quaint coastal village is a refuge when you want to recharge your batteries. A cherished holiday destination for decades, Puerto de Mogán is a favorite spot for families thanks to its ocean activities, fun-filled water park, and a wealth of places for fishing.
If the views of the Atlantic from the beach aren’t enough, there are plenty of other ways to see Gran Canaria, as well. Scope out the magnificent coast from high up in the sky on a tandem skydiving adventure above the secluded beach of Tarajalillo. Strapped to an expert instructor, feel the rush of adrenaline as you freefall for up to 45 seconds, taking in views of the emerald landscape below your feet.
Once back on the ground, see Gran Canaria from an entirely different perspective—deep below the surface of the water. Board a yellow submarine for a trip into an underwater wonderland, where you can look out upon marine life like colorful trumpetfish, massive amberjack, and bluefin tuna. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of the odd shapes at the man-made reef, which has become a prime place for spotting the mysterious angel shark.
A nature-lover’s paradise, Gran Canaria offers a wealth of outdoor activities—whether you’re a beach bum or prefer the ruggedness of the mountains. Learn to surf and paddleboard off the coast of Las Palmas, head off on a hike through the volcanic landscape of Nublo Park, or go horseback riding through the valleys and forests of the dusty desert. For a truly exotic adventure, join a local guide for a thrilling drive through rocky ravines on a 4x4 Jeep, followed by a camel ride in the sandy Arteara Valley.
Treat your taste buds to an unforgettable afternoon of authentic Spanish tapas, paired with a glass of mouthwatering local wine. Set off with a guide to explore the rich history of the Vegueta before settling in for eats like patatas bravas, ham croquettes, and manchego cheese. If you want to take your culinary experience up a notch, head off on a tour into the leafy vineyards and shady plantations scattered near the northern coast. Gain insight into the island’s acclaimed coffee production, sample warming mugs of their café, and later learn to sip and savor vintage varietals at a local winery.
With its water parks, aquatic activities, and action-packed amusement parks, Gran Canaria is truly a child’s playground. Kids can go delight in the games and attractions at Holiday World Theme Park, and will love making friends with the hundreds of animals at Palmitos Park. For thrillseekers who want to cool off, don’t miss a chance to visit to Aqualand Maspalomas, where a slew of sensational slides and white-knuckle rides await.