Many see Gran Canaria as a place where tourists go for the sole purpose of getting drunk in an all-inclusive atmosphere. I found they couldn’t be more wrong! There are some fantastic things to do in Gran Canaria – from fantastic watersports to dolphin watching to jeep safaris to brilliant food to gorgeous old towns.
There is a multitude of Gran Canaria excursions and day trips on offer. No wonder this island is marketed as a “miniature continent” with the breadth of variety on offer.
Gran Canaria Excursions
Gran Canaria is known as a miniature continent with good reason! There is a massive range of day tours and guided tours to take across the island. As Gran Canaria is not that big no matter where you are based you should be able to experience any and all of the following Gran Canaria tours.
1. Gran Canaria Tours: Experience the Dunes
Maspalomas is in the south of Gran Canaria and the home of the sand dunes. There were other areas of sand dunes in Gran Canaria (Las Palmas for one) before development. Maspalomas Gran Canaria is now the only one left and is a heritage site.
The dunes literally start from the beach. They are across 1000 acres and as it is rather hot on them some kind of tour is a great idea to give a feel for the dunes. It is not easy to find your way around the dunes. There are some paths but I never feel safe wandering somewhere so dry and hot solo!
The best way to experience the Dunes is to take a Camel Ride. This tour takes about 40 minutes (which is all you need in the heat!), protects your feet and gives you a great feel for the dunes. All of that at a very low cost!
⇒ And if you are heading south don’t miss my post on the Best Things to do in Maspalomas
2. Sightseeing and Culture Tours in Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria has some great and interesting cities to explore. The capital Las Palmas has an atmospheric old quarter called Vegeuta. The buildings of this area have been standing for nearly five centuries. I loved hearing about how the streets of Las Palmas literally snake in shape due to the fact that locals wanted to confuse potential attackers.
Then on to the lovely harbour area of Las Palmas Gran Canaria which to my mind gives the Bondi to Coogee Walk a run for its money!
If you are tight on time and want to get a feel for the island this Explore the cities of Gran Canaria tour is a great option. This is sort of a Gran Canaria Highlights tour and covers some of the key towns as well normally includes a stop at a rum distillery!
All entrance fees and pick up and drop off at your hotel are included in the price which makes it great value.
If you’re more interested in the North of the island this Full Day tour of North Gran Canaria is perfect. The day covers the gorgeous mountain town of Teror (my favourite!), a climb to Roque Nublo if you are up for it (another Gran Canaria highlight), volcanic playa stop with a swim, a coffee plantation and some almond tasting. This really covers the highlights of Gran Canaria in one easy pickup and drop off at your hotel tour.
3. Gran Canaria Boat Trips
As you would expect there are loads of boat trips on offer all over Gran Canaria! If you are staying in the south of the island have a look at this 4 hour boat trip from Mogan. What I liked about this tour is it is only 4 hours vs an entire day (can get too hot with a whole day) and is in a rather luxurious vessel! Lunch is included (along with wine) and you are able to swim and snorkel from the boat. And this boat tour runs Monday through Friday so it is nice and flexible.
For checking out the local wildlife there is no better option than this Dolphin and Whale Watching from Mogan tour. Again, this tour is based in the south of the island and sets off from Arguineguín pier (hotel pick up and drop off is also included).
The tour only lasts 2 1/2 hours – again for me that is enough time to be out on the often very hot open sea scouting for wildlife! The tour runs at either 1115 or 215. This way you can either have a leisurely morning or afternoon at your hotel, do an activity and still be fresh for drinks!
4. Gran Canaria Trips: Learn some Water Activities
There is a huge range of water activities on offer in Gran Canaria. The consistent weather means it is a great place to try some activities you may not have before. If you are looking to try Scuba for the first time this Introduction to Scuba Diving is the perfect tour.
This scuba diving course is a full day and includes getting into the open water so you really get a feel for whether or not scuba is for you. So many scuba courses require you to commit several days which can be tough if you’re not sure if it’s for you.
The same goes for surfing. This introduction to surfing course lasts 4 hours – long enough for a beginner to have quite a few tries and see if it is for you or not. The lesson is great value and if you like it there is an option to move on to a 3-day course.
If standing up on the board is a bit more than you want to try out why not see if you like Body Boarding? This lesson also runs for 4 hours and gives you a good chance to figure out if bodyboarding is for you or not.
Stand up paddle boarding seems to be everywhere at the moment – this 2-hour Paddle Surf lesson is a great way to test it out. Or try a different type of padding with Paddle Yoga and Pilates! You’ll have a certified instructor to guide you through this one hour lesson. Make sure to check the weather though as it only runs at low tide.
5. Grand Canaria Day Trips & Half Day Trips: Explore the Outdoors
There is much more on offer than just water activities for those seeking some adventure and activity. One of my favourite Gran Canaria experiences was the walk up to the base of Roque Nublo (1813m). Roque Nublo is the highest point on the island and it is a stunning walk (about 1.5km each way).
What I really like about the Full day Gran Canaria Peaks tour from Las Palmas is that it combines some exercise with some eating!!!! You will climb up to Roque Nublo as well as Pico de las Nieves, the highest point of the island. The tour also includes visits to the cute mountain towns of San Mateo and Vallesco where you can taste some of the local cheese, almond and wine delicacies – and do some shopping!
Gran Canaria is a great place to figure out if rock climbing is for you. This four-hour Climbing lesson is designed for those with no experience (or with some) and has trained instructors providing a perfect taster. Or if climbing isn’t for you why not try this introduction to Canyoning tour.
The stable weather on Gran Canaria also makes it an ideal place to try paragliding! This Paragliding Tandem Flight can run for either 20 minutes or 45 minutes and takes off and lands around Las Palmas.
6. Gran Canaria Excursions: Food and Wine Options
I was blown away by the quality of the food and wine in Gran Canaria! The temperature and location mean much of what you eat will have been grown nearby and you can taste it. The quality of the fruit and vegetables is fantastic and the seafood amazing!
If you are based in or near Las Palmas (or have a car!) this Small Group 3 ½ hour Tapas tour in Las Palmas is the perfect way to explore the old town of Las Palmas and try the local cuisine! The tour kicks off at 5 pm so it covers you for dinner (there are 5 tasting stops) and is a perfect way to spend the evening if you’re travelling solo.
Sunday is the market day on Gran Canaria. Some of the best markets are held in the small towns of the mountains. However, without a car, they are very difficult to get to. Even with a car, the roads are very windy and parking is difficult. So a great solution is to take the Explore the markets of Gran Canaria tour. This tour covers the 3 key market towns – including the wonderful Teror – and gives you all the insider tips.
For coffee lovers, this Finca Coffee Tour will take you to a Finca where you will see how coffee is grown and harvested – and of course, taste some! The tour runs at 930 every morning and only takes 90 minutes so you’ll be back by the pool before you know it!
Serious foodies will love the Full-Day Culinary Tour of Gran Canaria This 8-hour tour takes you across the entire island, allowing you to sample so much of what Gran Canaria has to offer.
I was also surprised to discover Gran Canaria wine – and that there are quite a few wineries. Winery product on the island is still very small with many steps done by hand. This means that there are not adequate quantities to ship the wine overseas – so all of the wine stays on Gran Canaria.
As the local wage on Gran Canaria is not particularly high even great bottles have quite low prices. The quality of the wines and the processes used to produce them are there – both whites and reds. I found the whites so drinkable – scarily quaffable!
Most hotels and restaurants serve local wines on Gran Canaria so they are quite easy to try out. If you have a car you can easily plot a route to visit a few wineries over a day. However, it is so much easier to take a guided tour – and it means you can taste properly!
This Full-Day Wine Tour will have you visiting several wineries and even potentially meeting some winemakers! If a full day sounds like more than you can handle why not try a Wine Tasting Morning instead?
If you have a car and are keen to explore on your own that check out Bodega Los Lirios, a winery near Las Palmas that runs private tours and sells direct. Bodega Los Lirios has a strong focus on quality and produces only a superior and a table wine some years. Their superior wine is delicious and amazing value for money.
I had a lovely tasting at Bodega Los Lirios (they also have a very strong sweet wine) which included some amazing local cheese and “hard bread”.
Bodega Las Tirajanas is a winery that is nearly in the middle of the island. It was highly recommended to me by my hotel but I didn’t get a chance to visit – so if you do please write to me and I will update this post with your views! The winery is open Mon-Fri 10 am-1600 and sat-sun 10 am-1400. It is possible to book a guided tour of Bodega Las Tirajanas and a tasting with cheeses and olives from the area.
And finally, a great local company which I used and runs a mix of the above is Trip Gran Canaria. Ask for Selene – she is brilliant!
How to get to Gran Canaria & Get Around
Gran Canaria is a 4-hour flight from London. Considering how far it is flights are very reasonably priced! However, the key carriers are Easy Jet, Ryan Air, Tui etc which means Stansted and Luton. A pain for me but might work for you! Easy Jet does do flights from Gatwick but their return flight gets you in quite late eg after midnight.
Once you arrive definitely the best option is to hire a car. It is super easy to drive around the island – it is essentially one big round road. Do watch out when heading into the interior. What can seem a short distance on the map can take some time due to windy roads and mountains!
When to visit Gran Canaria
Due to its location, Gran Canaria has quite consistently spring-like weather all year round. Peak season is generally seen as May through November where temperatures vary between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius from August to October. December till April temperatures hover around 22 degrees Celsius – so basically a great temperature all year round! Seasonality tends to be more driven by the prices of airfares rather than the temperature.
What to Pack to Visit Gran Canaria
With an eternal spring temperature, you will want to bring a swimsuit and sunscreen all year round! The island is great for walking. I like Uniqlo for dual purpose activewear and not so active tops. Kathmandu is great for some of the more serious stuff. Flip flops are essential as are some decent runners.
Generally, the island is quite relaxed so I spent most of my time in bathers, cover-ups and maxi/floaty dresses for the evening. Check out Top Shop and Marks and Spencer for some reasonable priced yet stylish options for all of these.
Gran Canara Boutique Hotels
The two key areas for hotels in Gran Canaria are Las Palmas and around and then down in the south in the Maspalomas and Meloneras areas. These are where the majority of hotels are located and usually ensure that you are not too far from the action for dinner or drinks.
I really enjoyed my stay at the Salobre Resort. Salobre is near Maspalomas but is about a 15-minute drive into the interior of the island – mainly due to the fact that it is based around a golf course. For quite a large hotel Salobre has a fantastic boutique feel. The design and the details are all very stylish. As the hotel covers quite a big area physically it never feels busy.
Importantly the hotel has seven pools! Yes, seven! My favourite was the adults-only Sunset pool which is located on the top floor of the resort. The pool has its own bar and a very large area for deck chairs and beds.
For style, a spa and a great location only 200m from the beach in Maspalomas
Rustic Chic and great value in Las Palmas
For an authentic Finca stay just north of Las Palmas
Who Paid for What with this Post
Gran Canaria Tourism was kind enough to cover the costs of my hotel, hire car, most meals and activities during my visit. I paid for my airfare. But as always my opinions are my own.
This post contains affiliate links. What that means is that if you click through on them and make a purchase I will generally receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure that you knew!
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