There are plenty of fascinating things to do in Gran Canaria, a mountainous, volcanic island and one of the most popular of the Canary Islands.
You could spend time learning about the island’s pre-Hispanic history or opt for windsurfing, whale watching, or wine-sipping at sun-dappled bodegas. Activities here run the gamut, from relaxing on beaches and diving into natural volcanic pools to exploring postcard-worthy towns and villages.
Discover the 12 best things to do in Gran Canaria to make the most of your time on this idyllic island.
Discover Puerto Mógan
The chalk-white town of Puerto Mógan, which has grown from a small fishing village to an upmarket vacation resort, lies in the southwest region of Gran Canaria.
A half-moon beach meets a bustling marina, where pristine yachts, fishing boats, and passenger ships frequently come and go.
Wander around the sparkling, restaurant-lined harbor to the soft, sandy beach. One of the best beaches in the Canary Islands, Playa de Mogán is popular with families and swimmers of all abilities thanks to its gently sloping shore.
There’s a bustling Friday market held by the marina selling everything from crafts to local produce. You could also wander the canalside streets to browse Puerto Mógan’s many shops.
If you’re looking for a culture fix, make your way to the nearby Archaeological Zone of Cañada de Los Gatos. These landmark ruins are part of a pre-Hispanic stone settlement, including the village of La Cañada de Los Gatos, burial pits, tombs, and caves scattered around the slopes of a ravine.
Marvel at Maspalomas Dunes Nature Reserve
One of the most remote and beautiful natural attractions in Gran Canaria is the UNESCO-protected Maspalomas Dunes Nature Reserve.
Skirting the island’s southern tip, Maspalomas Beach and its colossal expanse of rolling dunes glow in the endless Gran Canarian sunshine.
Delve further into Spain’s nature and walk through the 400 hectares of undulating sands, where you’ll feel as though you’re in the midst of the Sahara Desert. Stick to the dedicated paths as you gaze at the towering dunes plunging into the sapphire-blue ocean.
One of the best beaches in Spain, Maspalomas Beach is popular with watersports enthusiasts and offers plenty of space for travelers to spread out on the velvety sand.
Notice the imposing Maspalomas Lighthouse as you wander towards the western tip of the beach. The lighthouse stands at 180 feet and has guided vessels since 1890.
If you’re looking for a more unusual Gran Canaria activity, enjoy the gentle ocean breeze as you join a segway tour of Maspalomas’ pretty promenade.
Read: Most Romantic Places in Spain for Couples
Explore the Charming Village of Firgas
Firgas is a compact and beautiful old town clinging to a mountainside in the north of Gran Canaria. At 1,525 feet above sea level, Firgas, which dates back to the 15th century, offers glorious views of the Atlantic Ocean from its elevated position.
Visit the 1502-built San Roque Church, constructed on the ruins of the first Hermitage of San Juan Ortega, in Plaza de San Roque. In the square, there’s also a monument to San Juan de Ortega, the town’s first patron saint.
Firgas is known for its steep hills and network of flowing gullies. Stroll down the cobbled Paseo de Gran Canaria, adorned with 22 coats of arms representing all of the island’s municipalities.
Tour Firgas’ 16th-century corn mill, the oldest on the Spanish island. Straddling a gully, this impressive mill is still in use today.
Witness Life Underwater at Poema del Mar Aquarium
Gran Canaria’s extraordinary aquarium in the island’s capital, Las Palmas, is a great day out for families or marine life enthusiasts.
The aquarium is divided into three zones. The Jungle, Reef, and Deep Ocean zones display myriad diverse underwater landscapes and are home to 350 different species of sea life.
View crocodiles lurking in The Jungle, along with the shimmering American cichlid and emperor scorpion.
The Reef takes the form of an eye-catching walkway wrapped around an 87,988-gallon cylinder. Inside, a coral reef forms the habitat for hundreds of fish, including Atlantic stingray, blue-girdled angelfish, and clown fish.
Marvel at the largest curved window ever built, forming a jaw-dropping phantasmagoria of scintillating fish in the Deep Ocean zone. Some of the ocean’s most fearsome creatures are found here, including bull sharks and fangtooth moray.
Relax on Gran Canaria’s Beautiful Beaches
Quaint coves, long stretches, and unspoiled shores—with 147 miles of coastline, Gran Canaria offers every type of beach on its foaming Atlantic shores.
On the southwest coast of Gran Canaria, Playa de Amadores is a beach that has it all. Swim, sunbathe, and snorkel in this dazzling cove, with a sweep of creamy-colored sand and inviting turquoise water.
Enjoy the short cliffside walk from Amadores to Puerto Rico Beach for sensational ocean views. Look for dolphins jumping in the ocean as you stroll by green cacti clinging to the cliff.
Playa de Las Canteras is a marvelous two-and-a-half-mile urban beach in the capital of Gran Canaria. Watch fishing boats bobbing in the ocean, or join the flurry of surfers at the southern end of the beach.
The family-friendly Paseo de las Canteras promenade has shops, restaurants, bars, and ice cream parlors.
For a more remote beach experience, head to GüiGüi on the west coast. Clothing is optional on this dark sandy cove tucked into the bottom of towering cliffs.
GüiGüi is reserved for more adventurous travelers, accessed via a serious hike from the small village of Tasartico through the surrounding nature reserve.
You could also try taking a boat from La Aldea Beach’s fishing pier, a few miles north. There are no facilities on or near GüiGüi Beach, so ensure you carry plenty of supplies.
Stroll Around the Historic District of Las Palmas
There’s plenty of action to keep visitors in the center of Las Palmas. Head to the pastel-colored Old Town, Vegueta, on the city’s southern fringes.
The neighborhood was established in the 15th century, with ancient streets and beguiling squares filled with historical buildings and fascinating Spanish museums.
A focal point is the palm tree-lined Plaza de Santa Ana. The square is home to the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Ana. Completed in 1570, the church’s two bell towers rise above the low-lying city.
Tour the beautiful Casa de Colón (Columbus’ House), once the home of the first governor of Gran Canaria. Christopher Columbus is believed to have lodged here during his stay in the Canary Islands on his way to the Americas.
Casa de Colón features three exhibition rooms narrating the history of the Canary Islands, including the islands’ pre-Hispanic period and Columbus’ epic journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
Things to do in Gran Canaria’s Old Town also include exploring the Canarian Museum, filled with archeological treasures from the island’s past.
If you’ve got a penchant for contemporary art, browse the Atlantic Center of Modern Art, showcasing drawings, paintings, and sculptures themed on Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The museum’s gift shop is a wonderful place to pick up modern art prints, chic stationery, and decorative Spanish souvenirs.
Vegueta also offers boutiques and plenty of places to enjoy a coffee, a glass of wine, and tapas.
Travel to the Extraordinary Agaete Valley
An emerald swathe of northwest Gran Canaria is known as the Agaete Valley, blanketed by sweeping pine forests.
One of the island’s many awe-inspiring landmarks lies on the edge of Agaete. Las Salinas de Agaete consists of three natural swimming pools with connecting volcanic tunnels.
These volcanic pools are filled with salt water, though well-sheltered from the wild Atlantic Ocean. The pool walls resemble the ruins of an ancient fortress; eroded and worn down by the ocean. Soak up the breathtaking scenery from the balmy water. There are dedicated areas for diving and sunbathing.
Once you’ve dried off from a refreshing swim, follow the waterfront promenade to Puerto de las Nieves. This short walk will lead you to an attractive whitewashed town offering a selection of superb seafood restaurants.
After a tasty seaside lunch, explore Agaete’s striking sugar-cube houses, 19th-century church, and serene walled garden, Huerto de las Flores.
On the edge of Agaete is Maipés necropolis, where pine forests and palm trees give way to an arid landscape. This archaeological site comprises nearly 700 tombs of volcanic stones dating back over 1,300 years.
Embark on a Whale & Dolphin Safari
Few experiences compare to spotting mighty whales and majestic dolphins pirouetting in nature’s aquarium.
While there’s no guarantee, whale-watching is still one of the best things to do in the Canary Islands. Travelers stand a good chance of spotting a range of cetaceans within a few miles from Gran Canaria’s coastline.
Strap on your binoculars to search for common and striped dolphins. Be on the lookout for gray, pilot, killer, finback, and sperm whales, and humpbacks breaching the water.
Marine enthusiasts could join a tour with a qualified expert from Pasito Blanco or Puerto Rico on the south coast and Mogán on the west. Most tours take around four hours.
Visit the Historical Town of Arucas
Six miles from Las Palmas, Arucas is an enchanting mountain town resting 2,000 feet above sea level.
Wander the attractive streets around the old town. Among the uniformly whitewashed houses are buildings painted a vibrant rainbow of colors.
Most of Arucas’ winding lanes lead to the stone-built Church of San Juan Bautista. This sprawling church was completed in 1909, featuring stained-glass windows by renowned French firm Maumejean et Frères.
Look inside to view works by 16th- and 17th-century Canarian painter Cristóbal Hernández de Quintana and a wooden sculpture of the Resting Christ by local artist Manuel Ramos.
Stop by Destilerías Arehucas, a rum distillery where over 4,000 American oak casks fill one of the oldest rum cellars in Europe.
Explore the history of rum-making in Arucas, which began in the 1800s. Before tasting a selection of silky rums and liqueurs, visit the cellars, mill, and bottling plant.
Finish your time in Arucas at the tranquil botanical garden adorned with exotic trees, vibrant plants, and strutting peacocks.
Hike to Bandama Caldera
Bandama Caldera, also known as the Bandama Natural Monument, is the showpiece of the Tafira Protected Landscape in the northeast of Gran Canaria.
The colossal volcanic rim spans over 3,000 feet and is blanketed in lush, subtropical vegetation.
Just 20 minutes’ drive from Las Palmas, a visit to the Bandama Natural Monument is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria, and one of the most striking places to hike in Spain.
Follow the trail from the caldera to Pico de Bandama, a 6,189-foot volcanic cinder cone. From the lookout point, you’ll be met with heart-stopping views of the hollow caldera and sparkling ocean. This scenic route passes ancient houses and caves used by early islanders to store grains.
Wander Through Spain’s Largest Botanical Garden
Viera y Clavijo Botanical Garden, nestled in the Guiniguada ravine, is a gargantuan open space on the edge of Las Palmas. The luscious 75,000-square-foot subtropical park is the largest garden of its type in Spain, with over 500 species of indigenous plants.
Stroll among the pine, palm, and dragon trees. A highlight is the collection of over 2,000 cacti and succulents, while the laurel forest is a delightfully serene space.
Look out for the burial site of the garden’s Swedish founder, botanist Eric Sventenius.
Sip on Wines at Vine-Covered Bodegas
One of the more relaxing things to do in Gran Canaria is sip on island-made wines.
Gran Canaria’s grapes are typically grown on high-altitude vineyards, with the volcanic soil lending an intense mineral-rich flavor.
To explore the wines that Spain is known for, start at the charming Bodegas Bentaygas in the center of Gran Canaria. Enjoy a walk through the rows of vines before trying Bentaygas’s dry and fruit Algala Altitude 1318.
Bodega Las Tirajanas is a splendid winery in the San Bartolomé de Tirajana region, where you’ll find the cellar doors open year round. Join a guided winery tour before sampling a variety of white, rosé, and red wines, including the intense, cherry-hued Red Oak.
The San Juan Winery near the capital is a family operation that started in 1912. Immerse yourself in Canarian wines at the bodega’s cellar, vineyard, and wine museum, before sampling a selection of berry-tinged wines.
Explore Celebrity’s luxury cruises to Gran Canaria to take advantage of the Canary Islands’ year-round sunshine, gorgeous beaches, and breathtaking landscapes.