As anyone who follows my blog already knows, traveling is one of my passions. One of the places that I have not been to yet, but that I would love to visit someday, is the island of Gran Canaria.
For those that don’t know, Gran Canaria is a second-most populated of the Canary Islands, right after Tenerife.
What is Gran Canaria Famous For? Gran Canaria is famous for its beautiful beaches that contrast with its sandy dunes and mountainous peaks. It’s a great travel destination for anyone who loves to spend their time in or around the water. There are plenty of attractions for couples, families, and even solo travelers to enjoy.
Personally, I would love to visit Gran Canaria sometime in the winter.
Because of the island’s close proximity to the Northern Africa, the island is blessed with warm summer temperatures all year long.
While seeing the snow is nice, it’s also nice to be able to get away from it once in a while.
Full Island Tour
One of the best ways to start off a vacation in Gran Canaria, if you don’t know what you want to do, is to plan to see the island in its entirety!
There are several tourist agencies on the islands that provide full island tours. These tours usually last for a few hours at a time.
Depending on what agency you choose to travel with, the tours could take an entire day!
While on these tours, visitors are sure to see some of the many pristine beaches. As mentioned, the island also has its fair share of dunes and mountainous hiking trails.
Depending on the tour picked, you are also likely to travel throughout the cities, which are wonderful shopping destinations with attractions of their own.
Bananas for Bananas
Gran Canaria has a long history of producing bananas and exporting them all over the world. While this may not sound like the most exciting thing to some people, it is of important cultural significance to the island.
Buy some bananas for a quick snack. Since they are so abundant, they are sold for a low price. If you need something a little more “adult” try some of the island’s famous banana liqueur, which is sold in bars and restaurants all over the island.
One place to visit, if in search of bananas, is the Bodegas Los Berrazales. This is one of the largest banana plantations on the island. Outside of bananas, the Bodega also makes wine and coffee. To learn more about this winery, to schedule a tour, or to look into their projects, check out this link.
There are over a dozen high-quality beaches on Gran Canaria, each with their own great features that help to set them apart from one another. A couple things that these beaches have in common, though, include their almost-white sand beaches and their clean Atlantic Ocean waves.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the island is Playa de las Teresitas. Believe it or not, this beach is man-made. Another man-made beach on the island is Andi de Mar. Flowers and palm trees inhabit both of these beaches, providing beautiful scenery and a pleasant atmosphere.
Maspalomas is one of the most famous natural beaches on the island. It is famous for its large ranging dunes. This is one of the less-popular beaches on the island. Because of this, it’s a great spot to go to if you want to enjoy the beach but avoid the crowds.
Bodega San Juan Winery
The Bodega San Juan Winery has been in operation in Gran Canaria since 1912. During the course of its over 100 years of operation, the winery has been run by the same family for five generations. The first owners traveled from Spain, bringing their wine recipes with them.
Today, visitors can tour the winery, which spreads over 2.41 hectares. The primary grape used in the wine belong to the Muscat variety. So, enjoy a tour of the vineyard and winery, appreciate a quiet wine-tasting, and learn all about the estate’s long history.
The sandy dunes on the island (which we will discuss in more detail later) provide a feel of being in an African desert, rather than a Spanish-owned tropical island.
However, the island embraces its unique geography. Keeping in theme with its desert-like appearance, the island plays host to several camels.
Of course, the camels are not native to island. Instead, they were brought over solely for the purpose of providing camel-back rides to tourists who visit the island. Take a spin on one of these giant animals and experience desert-living, if even just for an afternoon.
Cocodrilo Park is a unique zoo in Gran Canaria. Unlike many zoos on the Canary Islands, and around the world, most of the animals here don’t come from the wilderness.
Instead, many of the animals housed here come directly from people’s homes in Gran Canaria, the Canary Islands, and even Spain!
Sometimes, people adopt wild animals, like crocodiles. When these animals are little, they are not much harder to take care of than an oversized lizard.
However, as they get larger and older, they often become more violent and harder to manage. When the owners can no longer take care of their exotic pets, they are sometimes brought to Cocodrilo Park.
Not only does this park function as a safe haven for these animals but also a source of entertainment for human visitors as well! Each day, visitors can see the animals at the park, just like they would with any other zoo.
There are also opportunities to watch the animals get fed and for people to interact with the animals, under careful supervision, of course.
One of the many things that Gran Canaria is famous for is its coffee. While many tourists don’t come to the island just for its coffee, it’s definitely something to check out while you’re already visiting.
There are so many small coffee shops on the island that there seems like there is a new one (or two) on every street.
There are so many places to get coffee from, a tourist could definitely make a day out of it. In fact, some of them do!
Several tourist agencies on the island offer what they call “coffee tours.” During these tours, visitors are brought to a number of different coffee shops on the island in a day. It’s the perfect activity for caffeine addicts!
NOTE: For those who don’t want to spend a whole day drinking coffee, they can still enjoy a cup or two from their choice of cafes around the island.
Explore Sandy Dunes
As mentioned earlier, camels traverse on the sandy dunes on Gran Canaria.
However, visitors are free to see the dunes whether they are on a camel or not. While there are dunes in many places on the island, some of the best dunes are located on the Maspalomas beach.
As mentioned earlier, it’s the sandy dunes that make this beach stand out from the rest on the island.
So, put on a pair of flip flops and walk across the dunes. One minute, it will seem like you are in the middle of a hot African desert, the next minute, you could have your feet in the Atlantic Ocean.
TIP: The dunes on Maspalomas beach, or anywhere else you can find them on the island, are the picture-perfect spot. The beautiful scenery is sure to make any family photo stand out.
Famous Gran Canaria Rum
Just like Gran Canaria is known for its coffee, it is also famous for its rum. It’s easy for tourists to find rum at any bar on the island. Of course, there is one distillery that stands out from the rest. This is the Arehucas Distillery, located in Arucas.
This distillery was first opened by Spainards in 1885 and has been in operating every snice.
Because of this, Arehucas is one of the oldest rum distilleries in Europe/owned by a European country. However, it wasn’t always known as Arechucas; it used to be called La Fabrica.
Today, the distillery still produces high-quality rum that is available on the island and is exported to other parts of Europe. Visitors to Gran Canaria are also invited to tour the distillery and try a few of their beverages while they are there!
Among Gran Canaria’s many natural biomes, there are sandy dunes, tropical beaches, and also jungle-like forests and mountainous hills.
While beaches and dunes might not be the best hiking spots, there are many man-made trails in the hills and forests on the island.
There are easily dozens of individual hiking trails all around the island, with the best of them being near the mountains.
The best part is that, not only are there many hiking trails, but there are trails for every skill level! Skilled hikers can travel up steep mountains, while families with young children can enjoy an easy nature walk through the forest.
No matter which hiking trail you take, you are sure to be surrounded by wonderful scenery and exotic wildlife. Make sure to bring hiking boots, sunscreen, water bottles, and a camera!
Isle of the Dogs
Many people assume that the Canary Islands are named after the canary bird. However, that’s not the case at all.
As one of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria is also known as the “Isle of the Dogs.” Because of this there are many dog statues and other art pieces all around the island. It’s every dog-lover’s paradise!
Believe it or not, the Canary Mastiff (also known as “Perro de Presa Canario” in Spanish) actually comes from Gran Canaria.
Today, it is known as one of the island’s natural symbols. However, just because they are the island’s national symbol, doesn’t mean they roam the streets without owners.
If you’re lucky, you might see one on a leash, though!
Gran Canaria is surrounded on all sides by the mighty Atlantic Ocean. For this reason, water sports make up some of the island’s biggest attractions. One favorite thing for tourists to do while on vacation here is to indulge in some fun at sea by renting a jet ski!
Expert jet skiers are sure to have fun zipping around the island. If you are feeling adventurous, try out one of the many jet skiing tours the tourist agencies on the island provides. It is sure to provide hours of fun.
New to jet skiing? That’s okay too. Often times, the companies that rent out jet skis will also provide lessons for people who are new to the sport.
It is less likely that they will be willing to teach young children how to ride the machines, but adults should have no problem finding a tutor.
So, no matter your skill level, so long as you can swim and afford to rent a jet ski, you can play on the ocean all day! Who knows, you might even see a dolphin, but we’ll discuss that in more detail near the end of the article… so keep reading!
Las Palmas Mountain Tour
Las Palmas is the name of both a city and a mountain in Gran Canaria. The city has much to offer, but it’s the mountain and the tours that come with it, that is most impressive—especially for those who enjoy spending time outdoors.
The highest point in Las Palmas is Pico de las Nieves, which reaches its peak at 1,949 meters. Of course, this isn’t the only mountain in the areas. Nearby, visitors can check out a mountain with a similar height, at Morro de la Agurjerada.
One cool feature of these mountains is that they are so high that mountain climbers may even find snow!
It does not snow on any regular basis on Gran Canaria, or anywhere else on the Canary Islands, so it can be nice for visitors to spot snow in the mountains.
NOTE: As always, visitors need to be careful when climbing mountains. While there are many mountain paths, it is still important for the hikers to wear the proper footwear.
Always take a friend with you as well, just in case something happens, and you need help.
Outdoor Cinema (Moonlight Cinema)
If you enjoy being in the outdoors, but you’re not necessarily a fan of hiking, then taking a trip to the Moonlight Cinema in Masalomas could be the perfect thing for you. As the name implies, the Moonlight Cinema is a movie theatre that shows movies outside, usually under moonlight.
Other than being outdoors, this theatre works like any other. Go here to see the newest movies, buy overpriced popcorn and candy, and sit in comfortable chairs. As most movie theatres are, this is a great place to go with the whole family.
One common way of getting around Gran Canaria is to rent motorized scooters.
There are vehicles on the island, and it is easy to walk from place to place. However, riding around on a motorized scooter is a fun novelty thing to do.
While it may seem a bit childish (or maybe just a bit fun), this is more of an activity for adults to do, rather than for children to do.
REMEMBER: If children do use the scooters, they should be carefully supervised by an adult.
Snorkeling in the Sea
One thing to do near the island, even if its not “on” the island is snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean. There are a variety of tourist agencies on Gran Canaria that offer snorkeling (both lessons and equipment rentals).
While in the sea, divers can expect to see all sorts of tropical fish and other aquatic species. Depending on where you dive, you may even be lucky enough to spot a dolphin or two, as both dolphins and whales are known to live in the waters near Gran Canaria (but it is unlikely to see a whale while snorkeling).
NOTE: This is a great activity for adults and teenagers who are strong swimmers. However, it is best that children stay on shore for this activity.
The next time you are considering a tropical island vacation, check out the Canary Islands and Gran Canaria in particular. This island has a little something for everyone. From families with several children to adults on vacation alone, there is always something new and exciting to do.
So, climb a mountain, travel on camel-back on the dunes, sit and drink coffee or rum, enjoy a movie outdoors, and dive into the deep blue sea. Whatever you do, you are sure to have the time of your life on the island of Gran Canaria.