All of the Canary Islands are blessed with year-round sun, vast expanses of family-friendly beaches and plenty of activities to try day and night. But each of the Spanish Canaries is unique so take time to match the island to your requirements; are you looking for adventure, watersports, sun-worship, culture, history, activities, eco travel, luxury getaway or bar-hopping? There’s a Canary Island to suit every mood! Hopefully our travel guide will make the decision process a little easier…
Tenerife is the granddaddy of the Canaries! The largest Canary Island and the longest established on the tourist trail and a huge favourite with families from across the planet. And with great reason too; the tourism infrastructure is rock solid and caters to all tastes. The natural parks are a huge draw with miles of walking trails, cultural treasures and native birds and wildlife. Spend a day at the sprawling Parque Rural de Anaga, climb Spain’s highest peak, Mount Teide in Parque Nacional del Teide which stands at 3,718m and is UNESCO listed (or cheat and take the cable car) and explore traditional architecture amongst the Parque Rural de Teno. As you’d expect the watersports on offer are rich and varied with parasailing, diving and snorkelling to name just a few. Try kitesurfing, sailing and windsurfing against the Atlantic breeze – Tenerife offers some of the best watersports in Europe. Popular tourist spots include Playa de las Americas and los Cristianos; the original big and bold resorts, Costa Adeje; more laidback and Puerto de la Cruz; set against a mountainous backdrop.
With 150 glorious beaches along the 340Km of coastline, Fuerteventura is a beach lover’s paradise. The island is easily accessible yet remains more relaxed and low-key than neighbour Tenerife. Surrounded by a turquoise ocean with beaches of both powder white sand and black sand, these spots are ideal for exploring deep coves whilst swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. The vast sandy dunes are perfect for dune jumping and adrenalin-filled 4×4 adventures. The small towns and villages have a distinctly cosmopolitan atmosphere and the main tourist haunts of Corralejo and Caleta de Fuste cater to travellers of all ages and tastes. Families will enjoy a day out at the Baku Euro Waterpark, El Cotillo is the perfect spot for surfing and windsurfing aficionados and Jandia town has traditional markets with great local bargains. And with over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, you can’t go wrong with Fuerteventura!
Often called a ‘miniature continent’, Gran Canaria is bursting with a stunning variety of landscapes and unique microclimates. The island also has a lively and exciting capital; Las Palmas, which offers fantastic nights out. With some 500 beaches and lying just west of Africa, Gran Canaria is a sure-bet for fabulous year-round sultry weather. Sports activity enthusiasts will appreciate the vast bike trail network that runs throughout the island and as you’d expect there’s plenty of watersports happening on the beaches. Gran Canaria is also a hiking hotspot with a huge variety of hill walks through cave villages, lakes and mountains, whilst soaking up the magnificent flora and fauna. Get off the beaten track for a true trekking adventure. The main tourist spots include Maspalomas which is ideal for groups, Puerto Mogan is perfect for a quiet laidback break and Puerto Rico and Playa del Ingles are lively and bright with plenty of happening bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
Dubbed the ‘Hawaii of Europe’, Lanzarote is famous for its black sandy beaches as well as its stark lunar-like landscapes. In fact the vistas around Timanfaya Park have featured in many films including One Million Years BC and The Martian Chronicles. Whilst at Timanfaya enjoy a meal cooked by the sheer heat of the volcano below and watch as water is tuned into steam instantly. Lanzarote is a recognised UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which protects the coastline. Probably the best beaches in the Canary Islands are the golden Papagayo beaches. Famous architect Cesar Manrique lived here and his buildings and sculptures are evident throughout the island. Surfers will appreciate the voracious waves in the north. Prime tourist hotspots are Playa Blanca, Costa Teguise and Puerto del Carmen.
Created from a volcanic formation, La Palma is known as the beautiful island – “La isla bonita”. With untouched natural resources and outstanding landscapes, La Palma makes an ideal alternative to the more established Canary Islands. The lush green island attracts eco travellers and the clear skies, free of light pollution, attract astronomers from across the world. In fact the astrophysics observatory here is said to be the most important in the northern hemisphere. There is plenty of traditional culture in the two main cities of Santa Cruz de La Palma and Los Llanos de Aridane. Keen walkers can tackle the Los Tilos, Ruta del los Volcanos and GR130 routes. Try hiking up the highest point at El Roque de los Muchachos which rises to 2,426m.
La Gomera – Lush unexplored paradise island
The second smallest Canary Island of La Gomera may be small, but is perfectly formed. And this largely unexplored gem features a wealth of traditional culture and history. The capital of San Sebastian de la Gomera is also the main port where Christopher Columbus set sail. The largest tourist resort is Valle Gran Rey which has fantastic hiking trails. Quaint Playa de Santiago is a small resort with a large-scale golf course – the only one on the island! Explore Hermigua town which is said to have the best climate in the world and is the epicentre of the island’s banana industry. Visit La Garajonay National Park which is a protected world heritage site. Hikers and walkers can explore the lush Laurisilva forest as La Gomera is blessed with ancient subtropical forests.
The Meridian Island is the smallest Canary Island with just 10,000 inhabitants. El Hierro is surrounded by crystal clear waters making it an ideal diving hotspot. With a fantastic ocean depth and serious lack of tourists this island really feels off the beaten track. As well as scuba diving, travellers can try exciting activities including mountain biking, horse riding, paragliding and whale spotting off the coast.
There are also smaller Canary Islands, many of which are uninhabited including La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste.