Before scuba diving in Gran Canaria, I was not sure what to expect in terms of underwater landscape and marine life. And then I got the chance to dive there and was blown away by the marine diversity and the underwater landscape. Since I learned to scuba dive in Australia back in 2017, I had the chance to explore the underwater world of several countries including Australia, Germany, and Egypt. And yet diving in Gran Canaria was a completely new experience.
After all, Gran Canaria has it all: Diverse marine life, swim-throughs, caves, wrecks and even an artificial reef. And it also offers plenty of photo opportunities for lovers of macro- and wide-angle photography. It is the perfect getaway destination for divers in Europe and overseas. So, skip diving in the Red Sea or the Mediterranean and consider planning a diving trip to Gran Canaria instead.
This post about scuba diving in Gran Canaria is based on a press trip.
About Scuba Diving in Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands and located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco. Along with the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde, the Canary Islands are a part of Macaronesia. Thanks to the islands’ volcanic heritage there are a lot of arches, caves, and pillars that form an astonishing underwater landscape.
While scuba diving in Gran Canaria you can see species from the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Caribbean. And there are even a few species that are endemic to the Canary Islands. Gran Canarias’ underwater world is the home of endangered and even critically endangered species like angle sharks.
The visibility is usually good and often over 25 meters. Another thing to know is that the dominant wind direction is from north to south. Therefore, the north of the island tends to have higher waves which impacts boat diving in the area. Additionally, the water in the south is slightly warmer.
Boat dives in Gran Canaria are from a RIB (rigid inflatable boat), which means that you have to enter the water with a back roll. Surprisingly a first for me even though I have been diving for four years. As some dive sites are further out, the surface interval sometimes takes place on the boat. If you are lucky, you can opt to swim to a nearby remote beach or rocky area with tidal pools.
The dives in Gran Canaria are usually between 40 and 50 minutes long. And as always, it is crucial to dive within the limits of your training. Something that is especially if you want to explore the caves.
If you love taking photos, you should keep in mind that the temperature difference between the air and the water might cause the camera to fog if you use a camera with a housing. Be sure to add a little absorbent package to the inside of the housing and maybe even place the closed housing in a bucket of seawater to slowly cool it down before you actually enter the water.
Water Temperature in Gran Canaria
If you look up the water temperature in Gran Canaria, you might be able to find slightly different temperatures. This can usually be attributed to the fact that the water in the south of the island is usually slightly warmer than in the north.
The Best Time to Scuba Dive in Gran Canaria
While it is a great diving destination year-round, the best time to dive in Gran Canaria is from September to February, when the weather is calm and the visibility is great. Of these, the month of September has the warmest water temperatures, so it is the best month to scuba dive in Gran Canaria.
June to August are the windiest months, so it is best to avoid them if you want to dive in the north of the island. Additionally, prices tend to be higher, as European tourists flock to Gran Canaria for their annual summer vacation.
When it comes to the water temperature, March and April are the coldest months. This means that the water temperature in winter is warmer than in the Mediterranean Sea with 20°C down at 12 to 30 meters. Therefore, scuba diving in Gran Canaria is the perfect winter diving getaway. Winter is also the best time to dive in Gran Canaria if you want to see angel sharks, as late November to January is the sharks’ mating season, which means that they move around more than they do in other months. It is also the best time if you want to see nudibranchs.
If you also want to hike during your time on the island and therefore want to avoid rainy months, May to August is great, as there is very little rain during these months. There is some in September, but it is usually in the north. The rainiest months are October to March.
The Best Dive Sites in Gran Canaria
Pasito Artificial, also known as the Arguineguin Artificial Reef, was created in the early 1990s as a study object of the University of Las Palmas. The goal of the study was to determine which concrete mix and which shape is the best selection when building an artificial reef. And while the results of the study are unbeknownst to me, it is clear that the structures created an amazing dive site.
The depth of this dive site is between 23 and 24 meters, and there is usually some current. And while the visibility is not as good as at other Gran Canarian dive sites, it is still around 15 meters.
At this dive site in Gran Canaria, divers will find tubes and wall-like structures in a sandy area that is frequented by stingrays ‘chuchos’, and a plethora of fish. I was lucky enough to see a turtle at this dive site, but based on what I have been told, I was very fortunate. People that have been diving there for eleven years have only seen a turtle three times including this instance.
There are four different modules, I scuba-dived at the circle farthest away from the coast, which is supposedly the best one. It is locally dubbed ‘Ray Bank’ thanks to its location close to a former fish farm. And while I cannot compare it to the others, I loved the marine life I encountered at this part of Pasito Artificial. There were several stingrays hiding in the artificial structures and it was especially nice to spot them relaxing in the stack of tubes.
The Pasito Blanco reef is located around 2km off the coast of the southernmost point of Gran Canaria. While diving here, divers make their way around the oval-shaped reef that is 60 meters long and 16 meters wide. There are soft corals, and rock plateau, ledges, and overhangs are everywhere. Hereby, the best one is under an overhang near a small cave near the center of the reef where intertwined moray eels tend to hide.
Despite the maximum depth of 22 meters, it is a good dive site for newer divers. At least if the current at the bottom is not too strong. It is also an amazing dive site for experienced divers as stingrays are often found in the sandy area around the reef. A fact that caused locals to sometimes call the reef ‘chucho’.
There is a large array of marine life at this dive site including a giant school of fish at one end of the reef. Other common marine animals are moray eels, arrow crabs, trumpet fish, and grunts. And if you look away from the reef towards the open water, you might spot amberjacks.
Mogán Wrecks: Cermona II Wreck
The two Mogán wrecks are close to Puerto de Mogán and it is only a 5-minute-long boat ride to the dive site. The wrecks are 50 meters away from each other, so it is possible to explore both of them in one dive as long as you know which direction you have to go.
The Alagranza was sunk in 1990 and after it was heavily damaged by storms, a second ship, the Cermona II, was sunk in early 2002. Today, both wrecks are covered in algae and are visited by the popular touristic ‘yellow submarine’.
Depending on the tide, the wreck lies at a depth of 18 or 20 meters and while some current is possible, it is usually quite moderate. Therefore, it is a comparatively easy wreck dive for newer divers.
The Cermona II is a 32-meters long, former fishing boat and at this point, this wreck no longer looks like the dive maps that the dive centers show you. Just like the Alagranza, it seems to have been damaged during storms and some of the most appealing parts from a photographer’s perspective are gone.
However, it is still a worthwhile dive during which you get to see the diverse marine life that now calls this wreck it’s home and shelter. Oftentimes, you will find thousands of roncadores (bastard grunts) swimming near the bottom around the wreck. A truly impressive sight. Other common sights include barracuda, moray eels, arrow crabs, trumpet fish, rays, and octopus.
There are different dives routes in different parts of El Perchel and based on a variety of sources, the different routes tend to be suitable for different levels of divers. Some of them are suitable for Open Water Divers, while others sometimes have a stronger current and are therefore recommended for more advanced divers. The maximum depth is around 17 meters.
El Perchel is a wall dive east of Puerto de Mogán, and if the current is going in the right direction, you explore El Perchel as a drift dive along the wall. And if you are lucky and venture a few meters away from the wall, you might spot rays and angel sharks in the sand or spot a ray in the small cave.
There are a lot of boulders at this dive site in Gran Canaria. And you should definitely look under them as this is where you will find colorful anemones, arrow crabs, moray eels, and octopuses.
El Cabrón Marine Reserve
The El Cabrón Marine Reserve, also known as ‘Arinaga Marine Reserve’, is likely the most famous of all dive sites in Gran Canaria. There is no boat traffic allowed, so all scuba diving in El Cabrón is shore diving. Additionally, no commercial fishing, so the marine life in this marine reserve is pristine. These days, more than 400 species call this marine reserve their home.
Unless you intentionally do one of the deep dives, the maximum depth of all common routes is 23 meters. However, a lot of interesting places of El Cabrón are not as deep, which makes it a great dive site for all levels of scuba divers. At least, if they can handle the somewhat tricky entry at the ‘Table Top’.
In total, there are four entry points that have two common routes each. At least one dive center offers more routes to experienced divers. However, exploring these is far from a must if you are scuba diving in Gran Canaria for the first time.
After all, the common routes of El Cabrón are full of arches and caves. Additionally, you can discover some rare species like glasseye and verrugato (Canary Drum) at this dive site. And of course, there are also large schools of roncadores (bastard grunts) that are so common in the south and east of Gran Canaria.
While incredibly popular, the ‘Table Top’ entry is not the easiest entry point. Especially if the waves are higher than 1 meter. Upon parking, divers have to put on their equipment before carrying it down to a small, slippery, and rocky area. Hereby, the size of the area depends on the tides, and at times up to a hundred divers tend to be here.
After doing the buddy check, divers have to walk over a slippery surface, so caution is advised. There is a small wall just a bit below the water and you have to walk along it while carrying your fins in your left hand so the right hand can be used to hold on to a rock. After walking to the end of the submerged wall, you have to jump forward into the water with your mask on and the regulator in your mouth.
The water you are jumping into is around 1 meter deep, so be sure to inflate your BCD a bit. Then you have to swim out a bit to make space for the next diver, before putting on fins. Once your entire group is in the water, everyone then must drop down in the pool-like sandy area in the reef to around 5 m.
At the beginning of dive one, divers have to swim straight along the reef for 10 minutes towards the Small Arch. If you know how to frog kick, you can swim through it and if not, it is best to swim around it so you do not kick up silt. There is an area with garden eels right after the Small Arch.
At the nearby ‘Cueva de los Verrugatos’ you will find a school of Canary Drums that are particular to this dive site in Gran Canaria. This cave has a chimney and 50% of the time you will encounter stingrays in the cave. Once again, frog kicking is a must.
After exploring the area near the cave, you then make your way back to the entry point by swimming over a shallower part of the reef. Be sure to ask your dive guide to show you the picturesque overhang that is home to two anemones and arrow crabs.
The second dive starts by diving across the reef on the right at a depth of around 8 meters for around 15 minutes. Then you slowly start dropping off near a cave and dive all the way to the Big Arch. It is a truly impressive sight, but not the easiest photo subject.
On the way back, you can explore the Cueva Grande. Hereby, it is important to check if you have enough oxygen before you enter the cave as you still have a long dive back. Most dive guides will only let your group enter the cave if everyone has at least 100-120 bar.
The Cueva Grande (Big Cave) is at a depth of 14 meters, and at the cave entry you will find a big field of sponges. Ten meters into the cave, it opens up into a bigger camber. Therefore, it is right at the cross point of cavern and cave diving, so only enter it if it is within the limits of your training, you know how to frog kick and if you have a torch.
There tends to be a sea horse in the shallow area near to entry and exit point, which makes for a nice stop if you end your dive with a lot of air in your tank.
If you love photography and love looking for the small things, it is better to split the dive routes into smaller routes, so you do not end up doing an underwater track. Doing so might mean having to hire a guide just for you, but I think it would be worth it.
The dives here are usually between 40 and 50 minutes long, and it usually takes around 10 minutes to reach the main parts, so it is best to see less per dive if you actually want some time to actually observe what you are seeing.
Other Great Dive Sites in Gran Canaria
Due to windy conditions and time constraints, I did not get to dive these two dive sites in Gran Canaria myself, but based on what others told me about them, they happen to be some of the best scuba dives in Gran Canaria. Therefore, I decided to include them and to include some facts I learned about the dives sites while planning the trip and by talking to local divers.
Thanks to its unique rock formations, the La Catedral dive site is what some describe as the most impressive dive site in Gran Canaria when it comes to the underwater landscape. It is located 20 minutes north of Las Palmas and with a depth from 6 meters to 45 meters and potentially also currents, it is only suitable for experienced divers with a depth specialty. This dive site has multiple arches and a cave that divers enter through a hole before dropping down and exiting it another way. There are two popular dive routes.
Sardina del Norte
With a maximum depth of 17 meters, this dive site is suitable for all levels of divers. Sardina del Norte offers divers the chance to see vibrant marine life including, but not limited to sea horses, stingrays, moray eels, and anemones. And if you are lucky, you might even see an angel shark.
The dive can be done as a shore or boat dive, and both options have their benefits. Due to a reconstruction of the area near the beach, which is the starting point of the shore dive, you now have to park and gear up quite a walk away from the beach. Therefore, it can be quite hard if you struggle to carry your gear for long distances. However, you do get to start and end the dive in a sheltered bay, which means that there are few days when this shore dive is not possible.
While this makes boat diving at this dive site in Gran Canaria seem like the better option, it also has one big disadvantage. Due to its location in the north of the island that is heavily impacted by wind, you might now be able to access the dive site from the ocean side. Especially in the windy summer months, there is a good chance that it is just not possible to safely enter the water. That is why I did not get to dive at Sardina del Norte.
If you want to do it as a boat dive, Buceo Agaete is your only option, as all dive centers do it as a shore dive.
More Dive Sites in Gran Canaria
This dive site is located near a beach between Agaete and Sardina del Norte. While diving here, you encounter big rocks and schools of small fish, but the biggest highlight of El Juncal is a cave with a big air pocket. You might have to fight the current if you want to explore the caves, but it is well worth it.
Do not take your regulator out when you are in the air bubble. No one knows what the quality of the air is, and it is an incredibly bad idea to be the human test object. So please play it safe so you can dive another day.
While diving with Buceo Agaete I did two dives at this dive site in Gran Canaria. While the first dive was all about circling around, we entered the cave during the second dive. And while I loved the cave, I have to admit that my favorite thing about diving there was the surface interval.
After the boat drive to the next bay, we decided to swim towards an area of tidal pools and a blowhole, that is only accessible by swimming there. And the biggest of the tidal pools was full of tiny scrimps that were incredibly curious and therefore investigated everything that entered the water – including my camera.
Las Merinas, Puerto de las Nieves
Named after a group of rocks at the site in Puerto de las Nieves, this dive is a shore dive with little to no current. With a depth of 12 meters, it is suitable for all divers. As you explore the underwater world, you swim along the rocks and can do a swim-through. All in all, it is a great dive if you love looking for small things like arrow crabs, other crabs, anemones, and if you are lucky even nudibranchs. And according to the nearby dive center, big stingrays tend to frequent the area.
Great Dive Centers in Gran Canaria
Scuba Sur, Anfi del Mar
Scuba Sur is my dive center of choice when it comes to diving in the south of Gran Canaria. The dive center is located next to the marina of Anfi del Mar and is positioned right between some of the best dive sites of the south. Therefore, the boat rides are never too long even if the sea is rough.
Aside from its office building and a gear storage room, the dive center has a roomy, shaded outdoor area. Therefore, you have more than enough space to set up your gear.
After doing so, all gear is loaded on a golf cart, which is used to transport everything to the RIB. Something that is more than convenient if you struggle to carry your gear. Additionally, they have a gear cleaning area that allows you to extensively wash your gear after scuba diving.
The owners Anita, Joris, and Deiniol bought the dive center six years ago, and less than three years ago, this lovely dive center got an entirely new building. And since then, the wonderful Scuba Sur team has weathered some storms including a fire in August of 2020, which destroyed everything in the gear storage room.
But through hard work and by renting scuba gear from other dive centers in Gran Canaria, they were able to reopen after only four days. An impressive feat that can be seen as nothing but proof of how much the team loves scuba diving and how dedicated they are to providing their customers with amazing service.
They even offer some dive sites that are exclusive to them as they are the ones that discovered the dive sites. And if you end up having any issue while diving, they are more than happy to help you out: be it to magically produce a bucket of cold water on the RIB when your camera starts to fog up or to offer advice on how to descent when you struggle because their wetsuits are really new and therefore incredibly buoyant.
I absolutely loved diving with them and could not recommend them more. So be sure to reach out to them while planning your scuba diving trip to Gran Canaria, so you can arrange your dives with Scuba Sur.
Buceo Agaete is located right at the harbor of Puerto de las Nieves and offers both shore and boat dives in the north of Gran Canaria. It is an SSI Diver Center and Miguel and his team offer everything to Discover Scuba Dives to advanced courses including cave and wreck diving. If you end up renting gear while there, this dive shop has everything you need including 5mm wetsuits.
The dive center itself has a nice outside sitting area where the dive briefings take place and after the dive, you can wish your gear in the shower inside the dive center. They are the only dive center that offers Sardina del Norte boat dives.
I had a great time exploring the underwater world of northern Gran Canaria with Buceo Agaete. Just keep in mind that the weather in the north can be quite windy and that dive might have to be rescheduled to another day. Something, that Miguel is more than happy to help you with.
Marine Life to See in Gran Canaria
What to Pack when Scuba Diving in Gran Canaria
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- mask – Also pack antifog spray if you need it.
- snorkel – You do not need it while diving in Gran Canaria, but the island has some amazing snorkeling sites. Therefore, I recommend bringing it.
- fins – If you plan to explore the caves of Gran Canaria, there is a good chance that you will be frog kicking to avoid stirring up silt. I personally love the Apeks RK3 fins.
- boots – You are diving in waters below 23°C, so having boots that keep your feet warm is a good idea. Additionally, it is a requirement if you want to dive at El Cabrón, as the water entry at this dive site is quite rough.
- BCD – Bringing your own BCD allows you to dive with the setup you are used to, so the dives will always feel more comfortable than with rental gear. After all, you know how to attach everything and have likely configurated it to suit your own needs. Note: While scuba diving in Gran Canaria, I noticed that a lot of divers have a back-inflated BCD like the ScubaPro Hydros Pro. Based on that I am inclined to believe that back-inflated BCDs are better suited for diving in Gran Canaria than the normal rental BCDs. So, bring your own if you have one. You will be happy about it when you enter caves.
- wetsuit or drysuit – Be sure to pack a 5.5mm or 7mm wetsuit if you are scuba diving in Gran Canaria during the warmest months. Do not be like me and assume that a shortie is enough based on the fact that Gran Canaria is on the same latitude as many great dive sites in the Red Sea and some incorrect data concerning the water temperature. If you plan to dive in Gran Canaria in winter, packing your drysuit might be a good idea, as the water can be quite chilly.
- regulator set – Check when your regulator has last been serviced and pack a yoke to DIN conversion kit if you need it.
- SMB & reel – You are diving in the ocean, so having an SMB is an important safety feature. Having one on you is always a good idea, but especially if you plan to do a drift dive at El Perchel.
- dive computer – Be sure to check your battery before you travel to Gran Canaria or to bring your charging cable if your dive computer has a rechargeable battery. And based on my own experience: Check if the strap of your computer is okay by opening and closing it a few times. Mine somehow snapped on the plane and there was no way to get a new strap before my first dive in Gran Canaria.
- torch – As you dive in Gran Canaria, you explore volcanic underwater landscapes full of arches, swim-throughs, and caves. Therefore, having at least one torch is a must. Especially, if you want to enter the caves.
- camera – The volcanic underwater landscape and marine life in Gran Canaria are amazing, so bringing an underwater camera is a must. If you do not have one, I recommend getting a GoPro or an Olympus TG-6.
- reef-safe sunscreen – Part of being a responsible diver is not destroying what you dive to see, so ensure that your sunscreen is reef-safe. Stream2Sea and Amazinc are great options.
- travel scale – Scuba gear is heavier when it is not entirely dry, so having a scale is a definite advantage when you pack your bags before flying back home. Check if your bag is within the weight limits and if not, you might be able to move around things between bags or book an additional bag without having to pay the additional fee for doing so at the airport.
Most-do Dives if You Have Limited Time for Scuba Diving in Gran Canaria
If you plan to scuba dive in Gran Canaria during a short vacation, there is a good chance that you will not have the time to explore everything that the local underwater world has to offer. Should you only have time for two scuba diving days in Gran Canaria, you should spend one day shore diving and one day boat diving. This way, you get at least a small overview of the variety of dives that this island has to offer.
Hereby, I recommend doing shore dives in the El Cabrón Marine Reserve and boat diving in the south. My personal favorites in terms of dive sites would be Pasito Blanco and Pasito Artificial as diving there allows you to see a huge variety of marine life and a nice contrast compared to the volcanic underwater landscape of El Cabrón.
Planning your dives in Gran Canaria
If you want to dive all over Gran Canaria, it is best to move around the island and to stay in different parts so you can avoid long driving times to dive sites and seemingly endless boat rides when the water can be rough. If you plan to dive everywhere, you should therefore look for a place to stay in the south, in Agaete, and in Las Palmas.
The only downside of doing so is that you might have to move your gear while it is still wet. My recommendation if you want to avoid getting water all over the inside of your rental car, a taxi, or a bus?
Put your gear in thick, big trash bags after cleaning your gear and letting it dry for at least an hour. The gear will be just dry enough that the bags will contain any remaining water.
It might feel like everyone else is trying to figure out if it is body bags, but it definitely works. Be sure to open the top of the bags if you decide to leave your gear in the car for one night so you can bring it to the new dive center the next day. And keep in mind that it is not a good idea to store it in the bags for more than one night even if you open them.
Another thing to keep in mind when planning your dives in Gran Canaria is the weather. Particularly the north of the island can be heavily affected by strong winds, so there might be days when diving there is simply not possible. Therefore, it is always better to plan to spend several days there in the area.
Scuba Diving in Gran Canaria Itinerary
While it is always best to create an itinerary based on the dive you actually want to do, this is my recommended one week in Gran Canaria itinerary for scuba divers that want to see a little bit of everything. If possible, you should chat with the dive centers to ensure that you get the chance to see the dive sites listed.
Day 1 & 2: Diving from Agaete or Las Palmas – El Catedral, Sardina del Norte
Day 3: El Cabrón Marine Reserve
Day 4, 5 & 6: Diving in the south – Pasito Blanco, Pasito Artificial, Mogán Wrecks, El Perchel
Day 7: Explore Las Palmas or Maspalomas, or relax on the beach in Puerto Rico
Scuba Diving in Gran Canaria Costs
Diving costs are undeniably going to be a good part of your Gran Canaria travel budget, but thankfully the prices are not really higher than in other parts of Europe.
If you only plan to do one diving day per area and thereby dive center, you can expect to pay between 37€ and 50€ per shore dive, and sometimes slightly more for boat dives. Meanwhile, double dives usually cost between 60€ and 75€, whereby some dive centers do not distinguish between shore and boat dives.
If you want to see more of the astonishing underwater world of Gran Canaria, you should furthermore look at the dive packages the dive centers offer, as a 6 dives pack usually costs less than 200€, while a 10 dives package is available for less than 300€.
Where to Stay
If you are wondering where to stay in Gran Canaria, these hotels are great options if you want to be close to amazing dives sites all while staying in nice hotels:
- when scuba diving in the south of Gran Canaria: Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel
- when scuba diving in Agaete: Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra, Agaete
- when scuba diving from Las Palmas: Boutique Hotel Cordial La Peregrina
If you want to stay a little bit further inland, you have to ensure that the location is not higher than 600 meters above sea level and that you do not have to cross higher areas to get there. Just keep in mind that it will be a longer drive to the dive center in the morning and that you will likely be on the road during the morning rush hour.
Other Things to Do in Gran Canaria
On diving days or less than 24 hours after the last dive:
- go on a whale-watching cruise
- relax at the amazing beaches of Gran Canaria
- explore charming coastal towns like Puerto de Mogán, Agaete or Puerto de las Nieves
On days where you can explore elevations:
- hike to Roque Nublo
- explore inland Gran Canaria by going on a road trip along the GC-50 & GC 200
- visit Cruz de Tejeda and its’ amazing viewpoint
Planning a trip soon? Check out these useful websites and resources that I use to plan my own adventures
Roundup: Scuba Diving in Gran Canaria
Scuba diving in Gran Canaria is amazing and I could not recommend it more. The water might not be the warmest, but the visibility is good and there is plenty to see. As you explore the underwater world of the island, you get to see large schools of fish, stingrays, morays, and cute little arrow crabs.
And of course, there are also a lot of small caves and impressive arches that show Gran Canaria’s volcanic heritage. In addition to that, you also have several wreck dives. Therefore, it is safe to say that Gran Canaria offers great dives sites for all types and experience levels of divers.
More about Gran Canaria
If you are making plans for your Gran Canaria trip and want to do more than just scuba dive in Gran Canaria, you might also want to check out these travel guides:
Things to do in Gran Canaria
The Best Viewpoints in Gran Canaria
Amazing Beaches in Gran Canaria
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Written based on a press trip organized and funded by the Gran Canaria Tourism Board.