Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands and a part of Spain. And while most people plan vacations there because they want a resort holiday, the island offers much more. There are many amazing things to do in Gran Canaria, and if you do not leave the resort, you will miss out on amazing adventures.
Therefore, I can only encourage you to spend only a part of your holiday at a resort and to venture out. It is more than worth it to explore the island’s attractions and to see as much as possible. Do yourself a favor and do not miss out on all these fantastic activities in Gran Canaria. They take your vacation to the next level and you get to see areas that many tourists never venture to.
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This post about the attractions and things to do in Gran Canaria is based on a press trip.
Adventurous Things to do in Gran Canaria
1. Hike to Roque Nublo
There are hikes you like and then there are hikes you love so much that you do them twice in two weeks. The hike to Roque Nublo falls in the second category and it definitely is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria. This 67 meters tall volcanic rock is on a plateau and its top is the third highest point on the island.
With a length of less than 2 km, the hike there is rather short, but there are some parts where you have to watch where you step. Therefore, stable footwear is a must.
I first hiked there during the day and then again two weeks later so I could watch the sunset from the endpoint of the hike. And let me tell you, that watching the sunset here is one of the most amazing things to do in Gran Canaria. After all, it might just be the greatest sunset spot.
2. Go scuba diving: explore the underwater world
It might surprise you, but Gran Canaria is a real paradise for scuba divers. It offers divers the chance to see diverse marine life, swim-throughs, caves, wrecks, and even an artificial reef. Therefore, diving in Gran Canaria is one of the adventurous things to do in Gran Canaria that you should include in your itinerary even if you only have the time for a single dive or a double dive.
The diving there is fantastic and if you are a certified diver you do not want to miss out on a good time. If you have no experience, you can book a discover scuba dive.
Some of the most fantastic dive sites are Pasito Artificial, Pasito Blanco, Le Catedral, and of course the El Cabrón Marine Reserve. There are several wrecks as well, so you are bound to find a dive site that is exactly what you are looking for.
3. Snorkel at El Cabrón
If you love the underwater world but are not a certified diver, you should rent some snorkeling gear and explore the El Cabrón Marine Reserve. While you will not get to see everything that scuba divers can explore, snorkeling here still allows you to see the vibrant underwater world.
In the Marine Reserve you can potentially see more than 400 marine species and even merely exploring the shallow parts is so much more amazing than any aquarium visit will ever be. Snorkeling here is a must-do in Gran Canaria and is suitable for all ages.
Sardina del Norte and Las Canteras Beach are further nice snorkeling spots.
Don’t have snorkeling gear? Book a snorkeling excursion!
4. Kayaking, SUPing, surfing, and windsurfing
If you want to explore the coastal area, you can rent a kayak or go on a kayak adventure. While most popular in the south, you can also rent a kayak or SUP in other places around the island.
Other popular watersports are windsurfing and surfing. If you are just learning to surf, the south is ideal, but if you are an experienced surfer, you will love the higher waves of the north.
There are all kinds of watersports courses, so you can easily use your vacation to pick up a new hobby.
5. Go hiking
There are amazing hiking trails, including the Canarian Camino de Santiago. Due to the terrain ascents and descents are close to unavoidable, and good hiking shoes are a must.
I only got to do some shorter hikes but loved every single one. At times, I did find myself wondering where the path continues, so I recommend using a hiking map. I always managed to find my way up or down, but there was one hike where I spent around 5 minutes trying to figure out how the hike starts. It turned out, that the hike starts with climbing up a short rock wall.
There were also times when I had no idea how to get to the starting point of some of the hiking routes I saw as they were in the middle of nowhere. So always do your research on the hike you want to do and bring enough water and some snacks.
If you love hiking, you might want to plan your vacation during the annual Walking Festival.
6. Take in the view from Pico de las Nieves (Viewpoint)
Pico de las Nieves might or might not be the highest point that you can visit*, but it is one of the must-see attractions. After all, it offers a stunning view that requires no hiking or climbing as you can drive all the way to the viewpoint.
While best on a sunny day without clouds, you can still get a nice view when it is cloudy. You just have to wait a while until the low-hanging clouds pass, so you can spot Roque Bentayga and more in the distance. I visited Pico de las Nieves on a cloudy day and had a nice breakfast to go while waiting for the perfect view.
If you are up for a little adventure and some scrambling, you can visit the Ventana de Morro and Roque Señor Champiñon just below the viewpoint. The way there starts around 100 meters before the parking area and at times it can be hard to know where you have to go, but if you are used to hiking with some obstacles, you will be fine. Keep going left until you see the individual formations and always watch your step.
* Note: The highest point is Morro de la Agujereada, which is on the same ridge as Pico de las Nieves.
7. Go whale watching
The ways to explore the underwater world are not limited to snorkeling and scuba diving. If you love the ocean, whales, and dolphins, going on a whale and dolphin safari is a must-do in Gran Canaria. During the 2 to 3 hours long cruise, you will likely see dolphins and whales. And on some days you also get to go for a swim in a bay close to Puerto Rico.
I previously went on a whale watching cruise in Sydney, but this whale-watching cruise felt like a new experience. During the cruise, we got to see a large pod of dolphins and pilot whales. It was an incredible experience that makes me consider whale watching a must-do activity.
8. See volcanic calderas
Thanks to its volcanic origin, there are calderas that hint at the islands’ explosive past. If you love natural sights, visiting at least one of them is one of the most adventurous activities.
The most popular one is the Bandama Caldera, which is especially stunning when the landscape is green. The caldera is a leftover of the volcano’s last eruption that caused the surface layer to collapse and is now home to several vineyards that use the earth of the crater. It is possible to hike around the crater, but if this rather challenging hike is not for you, you can see it from the Pico de Bandama viewpoint.
The Caldera de Los Marteles is another crater that you can visit. While it is a lot smaller, it is a nice place to visit as the weather here is quite interesting. The upwards drifting wind that goes up the terrain causes a ‘Foehn effect’ and clouds can suddenly appear even on the sunniest days.
9. Swim in natural pools
If you love swimming in natural pools, then Gran Canaria is your ideal destination. After all, there is a plethora of them in the northern part of the island. Some of my favorite ones are the Agaete Piscina Natural, Piscinas de Punta de Gáldar and the Piscina Norte de Gáldar. Jump into the refreshing, salty pools to go for a swim or head there to watch the sunset with a picturesque reflection on the water.
Keep in mind, that there might be crabs in the pools, so watch your step. And know that the ocean’s waves might just slam some of them against the rocks if you visit the pools on a windy day. So only swim there on windy days if you can handle getting up close with a dead crab. They might just get close enough to you to qualify as your new best friend.
10. Explore Tamadaba Natural Park
Located in the northwest of the island, Tamadaba Natural Park is one of the most rugged areas. Covering the area between La Aldea de San Nicolás and Guayedra Beach near Agate, it is vast and has a rich biodiversity. In fact, it is part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
More than 14 million years ago, the landscape of Tamadaba was created by a volcano, and today you get to explore vast Canary pine tree forests and the impressive steep cliffs that tower at the coast.
It is an ideal hiking location, but if you are not up for more hiking adventures, you can also drive to the Mirador del Balcon. A viewpoint that grants you a stunning view of a cliff formation known as the ‘Dragon’s Tail’.
I only had the chance to see a very small part of it this natural park, but based on what I saw, exploring more of it there is on my ‘things to do in Gran Canaria’ list for my next vacation.
11. Go canyoning
There are a lot of ravines of different kinds, so it should not surprise that one of the main adventurous things to do in Gran Canaria is canyoning. As it requires rappelling and therefore gear, it is a good idea to book a canyoning excursion.
Different ravines have different difficulty levels, so book a climbing adventure that suits your wishes and level of fitness. Alternatively, you can also go dry-canyoning, climb a Vía Ferrata or do traditional climbing. Climbo offers a large variety of climbing tours and even courses.
12. Wander through the Maspalomas Sand Dunes
I love exploring sand dunes and throughout my adventures, I have been fortunate enough to visit a variety of them all over the world including those near Lancelin in Western Australia. But even after having seen several of them, the Maspalomas Sand Dunes took my breath away.
The golden sand is a truly incredible sight and it is obvious why they are one of the main attractions. If you want to spend a while walking over the dunes, I recommend going there in the morning, as the sand heats up in the mid-day sun.
They are also an amazing place to watch the sunset. Be sure to go there early, as you will still have to walk through the dunes to get to the best spots. The best access is near the Rio Palace Maspalomas. It took us quite a while to get there, as all paths that exist according to Google Maps were blocked by construction works.
If you want to go on sand buggy rides, Fuerteventura is where you want to go, as those near Maspalomas are a protected natural area.
13. Chase waterfalls
At this point, you will already know that there are many amazing things to do in Gran Canaria outside of the popular resorts, so it should come as no surprise, that this Canary Island also offers stunning waterfalls. While you can only see many of them at their best if you visit Gran Canaria between October and February and some of them not at all if you are there during the late summer months, you should definitely add chasing waterfalls to your itinerary.
They are located in the many gorges and you have to hike a while to reach them, but the way there is well worth it even if you are not a fan of hiking. As my trip there was in September, I was sadly out of luck, but I saw the location of one dry waterfall. And let me tell you that it still looked impressive. Therefore, I look forward to a return trip in the colder months.
14. Go on a road trip
At first glance, Gran Canaria might look small, but once you arrive there, you are bound to realize that the distances are a lot bigger than you would expect them to be. This is especially the case if you want to explore the more rugged interior of this phenomenal island. Due to this, and also thanks to the natural beauty, Gran Canaria is ideal for road trips. In fact, going on a road trip is one of the top activities.
Hereby, you can do one-day loop road trips that allow you to extensively explore one part of the island, or you can plan a road trip over several days whereby you spend the night in different hotels. Both are amazing options and allow you to see some of the hidden gems of Gran Canaria.
As you explore the mountainous areas and drive along scenic roads like the GC-50, GC-60, and GC-200, you will encounter breathtaking views left and right. And while it might seem tempting to stop for every single amazing view, I can only urge you to stay safe while doing so.
Please only park your car you can pull over in a safe location. You might not be able to capture a great view, but I promise that the next stunning sight is just around the corner.
More amazing things to do in Gran Canaria
15. Tour Europe’s only coffee plantations
Few people know it, but Gran Canaria is the home of Europe’s only coffee plantation. Therefore, touring one of the three plantations that offer tours is a wonderful and rather unique opportunity to learn more about how coffee is made and also about other tropical fruits that grow on the Canary islands. It is one of the more unique activities to do during your vacation.
A coffee plantation tour in Valle de Agaete usually also includes a taste tasting of some of the products that grow on the plantations. If you choose to visit the Cafe Platinium Plantation, you get to try the coffee and even learn how to roast coffee by hand. A truly unique experience that is well worth the visit.
And thanks to the fact that this plantation grows more than just coffee, the taste tasting is also a fantastic activity for those that do not drink coffee. After all, you also get to try some biscuits, marmalade, and even liquor. Try not to be the designated driver, or you will miss out on some great liquors as I did!
16. Explore Agaete & Puerto de las Nieves
Agaete and Puerto de las Nieves overlap, so you can easily visit them at the same time. Puerto de las Nieves is a charming fishing village with white and blue buildings and the historic Ermita de las Nieves church. Be sure to check out the old crane on the pier and see younger people use it as a jumping platform. There are plenty of restaurants right at the beach, so grab a bite before exploring Agaete.
The historic center of Agaete has some beautiful buildings too, and the vast majority of them are white. I was more than pleasantly surprised by what Agaete has to offer and am incredibly glad that I found the time to add it to my itinerary. I think that the village is especially beautiful during the golden hour as the fading sunlight casts the buildings in amazing soft colors and gives them a dream-like appearance.
Explore the botanical garden ”Huerto de Las Flores’ while there and be sure to check out the small park hidden behind the Rama museum.
17. Take in the view from Cruz de Tejeda
Gran Canaria is full of astonishing viewpoints, but the most famous one is likely Mirador Cruz de Tejeda. Located in the center of Gran Canaria, a visit can easily be combined with Roque Nublo and Pico de las Nieves. The mirador is at the Parador de Cruz de Tejeda hotel, which happens to have a pool that offers the same view.
Walk through the hotel’s entry arch and then down the walkway on the left to reach the area with arches and the terrace viewpoint of the hotel. Get a slice of cake or a cup of coffee, and enjoy the stunning view of Roque Bentayga, and the surrounding area.
Tip: The view from Mirador Degollada de Becerra is quite similar and a great alternative if you want to take photos that include your rental car.
18. Visit archeological sites
Gran Canaria’s history started long before Europeans colonized the island and if you want to learn more about the island’s long history, you should visit some of the archeological sites. Some of the most impressive ones are the Caves of Valeron and Cueva Pintada (the Painted Cave). Check the opening times of the archeological sites before you head there or you risk standing in front of closed gates which might force you to miss out on this attraction in Gran Canaria.
19. See rainbow rocks
Many of the amazing things to do in Gran Canaria are related to the island’s natural wonders, and the Rainbow Rocks (Los Azulejos De Veneguera) are no different. These colorful rocks are rather remote, so you need a car to get there, but it is well worth it.
The orange, yellow and green parts of this wide ravine received their colors when magma escaped nearby vents and met a moist environment. This in turn altered the mineral composition of the surrounding rocks and caused the colors to change. What is visible today once used to be inside the Tejeda volcano and only became visible as the volcano eroded.
20. Stroll through Firgas
With its fountain and tile art, Firgas is one of the most beautiful towns in Gran Canaria. Visiting Firgas is a must if you love exploring picturesque areas and if you want to see where most of the island’s bottled water comes from.
Check out the tiles that show you images of the different municipalities of Gran Canaria at Paseo de Gran Canaria. You might just see a spot that you will want to add to your itinerary. After that, you can take a look at the tile art that depicts the seven Canary islands at Paseo de Islas Canaria.
Take your time to take some photos of all Firgas has to offer and enjoy the charming town before heading towards the next amazing location.
21. Attend a regional festival
Gran Canaria has a lot of regional festivals, and attending one of them is a great way to learn more about the Canarian culture and customs. I more or less stumbled upon ‘El Pino‘ in Teror and can only say that it was nice to experience the town during the festival. Seeing the decorative offerings on the houses and getting to stroll over the large market was an unexpected bonus.
The only downside to visiting festivals is that some businesses and supermarkets are closed during festivals. Some of them even for several days if it is a bigger festival. So be sure to buy everything you need for the next several days in advance.
El Pino in Teror is in September and Agaete’s La Rama takes place in early August. There are many other bigger festivals, but the smaller festivals are also worth a visit. the km 0 festivals that happen in different places celebrate the regional agriculture and the short transport ways. And the accompanying markets are a great place to buy groceries.
22. Explore Puerto de Mogán
With its white houses with colorful details and bougainvillea flowers, Puerto de Mogán is what some might call “a very instagrammable location”. This fishing village, which is also known as ‘Little Venice’, is delightful and the perfect place to spend the morning or afternoon.
Stroll through the streets and take in the atmosphere, before eating at one of the many restaurants right at the harbor. Look into the clear water to spot fish chasing each other around the ships and relax at the beach.
Puerto de Mogán is also where the touristic Yellow Submarine departs, so book a submarine ride if you want to explore the local underwater world and intentionally sunken wrecks without having to enter the water yourself. As a scuba diver that did some dives in the area, I can promise you, that you will see interesting structures and plenty of marine life during the submarine ride, even if it was not on my personal list of things to do in Gran Canaria.
Relaxing Activities in Gran Canaria
23. Enjoy the amazing Canarian food
The Canary Islands have an amazing variety of Canarian food, so be sure to try local dishes and specialties like ‘chorizo’ sausages in Teror. The regional cuisine has a lot of fish dishes that I cannot write about as I much prefer to see the fish while diving, but I can tell you that ‘papas arrugadas con mojo’ is amazing. Eating the salty potatoes with one of the mojos is one of the things you have to do in Gran Canaria.
If you want to eat a Canarian dish with chicken you are out of luck, as there is only one Canarian chicken dish. And I have yet to find a restaurant that serves it. So you will not be eating chicken while enjoying the local cuisine. That is unless you decide to hunt down your own food. If you for some reason feel inclined to do so: there are a lot of free-roaming chickens near the parking lot in Cruz de Tejeda. Tho I do suspect that the chicken would win the hunt, as it is a downhill area.
Tip: If you love the mojos, you should know that most souvenir shops sell small mojo cookbooks. I did and cannot wait to make all the delicious mojos at home.
24. Relax at amazing beaches
There is no denying that Gran Canaria has some amazing beaches and that no trio there would be complete without a few hours at a beach. There is everything from dreamy sand beaches to pebble beaches with great tidal pools, so check out a few of them. So be sure to add a trip to one of the beaches to your list of things to do in Gran Canaria.
My favorite beaches are Playa de Guayedra and Playa de La Aldea.
25. Visit a spa or thalasso
While I love all the adventurous things to do in Gran Canaria, it is also important to relax on vacation. And there is no better way than to head to a spa or thalasso. Especially, if you have spent the last several days exploring the great outdoors.
I had the chance to visit the spa and thalasso of the Gloria Palace Amadores hotel and loved the chance to relax for a few hours. And right after relaxing there, I headed to a nearby harbor for another diving trip – my favorite form of relaxation.
26. Enjoy the local life in Ingenio or Agüimes
If you want to know what life on this volcanic archipelago is like, you should actually experience it. So rent a vacation home in a less touristic town like Ingenio or Agüimes and live like a local. Shop at the supermarket or weekend market, and cook your own food – try to make some Canarian dishes yourself!
I spent a week in Ingenio and loved it. Being there for a while and living in a normal home allowed me to see a different side of the island, and I would not have wanted to miss it. Enjoying a ‘regular’ life is a wonderful thing to do in Gran Canaria if you want a deeper understanding of what living there is actually like, and I can only recommend it to you.
The area is incredibly picturesque and home to some stunning locations including the Guayadeque Ravine and Barranco de las Vacas.
Things to do in the capital city Las Palmas
27. Explore the old town – Vegueta
If you love architecture and history, exploring the old city district of Las Palmas is an amazing thing to do in Gran Canaria. As the original settlement of Las Palmas, this area is full of historic buildings with imposing architectural features. It is amazing to spend an afternoon strolling through the streets so you can take in the atmosphere and learn more about the history of what you are seeing.
My favorite locations in Vegueta are Plaza del Espíritu Santo, Plaza de Santa Domingo, and Plaza de Santa Ana with its Los Perros statues and the amazing view of the Santa Ana cathedral.
28. Learn about the Canaries and their connection to the Americas – Casa de Colón
Casa de Colón used to be the residence of the first governors and according to some sources it is also the place where Columbus stayed for a while. Today, it houses exhibitions and a library. The exhibitions focus on the voyages of Columbus, the post-colonization history of the Canary Islands, and how they are historically connected to the Americas. Going here is a great thing to do in Gran Canaria if you want to learn more about the more recent history.
With its beautiful 18th-century facade, it is also worth a visit even if you do not have the time to visit the exhibitions.
29. Learn about the pre-colonial history – Museo Canario
Visiting the Museo Canario is a must-do attraction in Gran Canaria if you want to learn more about the pre-colonial history of the island. It houses the archeological collection and you can see many prehistoric artifacts if you visit the museum.
The permanent exhibitions focus on the Aboriginal population that called the island their home before the Castilians colonized it. The exhibitions are a great way to learn more about pre-colonial customs, traditions, and the life and death of those that originally lived there.
30. See Las Palmas from above – Catedral Rooftop
Gran Canaria has many amazing viewpoints, and even Las Palmas itself has several ‘miradors‘ that have a fantastic views. However, it is the rooftop of the Catedral de Santa Ana that has the most amazing view of the historic center ‘Vegueta’. Take the elevator up to the rooftop and enjoy the view before walking up the stairs in one of the two bell towers to reach a second viewing platform.
Where to stay in Gran Canaria
While there are many great hotels in Gran Canaria, the following accommodations are my favorite ones. They are located all over the island, so you can choose one or more based on your choice of activities.
Agaete: Occidental Roca Negra
Maspalomas: Kumara Serenoa by Lopesan Hotels
Puerto Rico: Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel
Ingenio: Lala’s House, Ingenio – the best place to stay if you want to know what it is actually like to live there
Roundup: The Best Things to do in Gran Canaria
There are so many amazing attractions that it can be hard to decide what you should and should not add to your trip itinerary and maybe you will even realize that you should plan two vacations instead of one as different seasons are better for different activities.
At least that was the case for me. Even while only looking at all the adventurous things to do in Gran Canaria I found myself deciding to return to the island that might as well be a continent because it has it all. If there is one thing I know, it is that I cannot wait to return.
Planning to explore this volcanic wonderland?
Pin it for later so you can use this list of Great Things to do in Gran Canaria!
Written based on a press trip organized in cooperation with the Gran Canaria Tourism Board.