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The Gran Canaria Island Rundown

A “continent in miniature” and home of the potential 2016 European Capital of Culture, Gran Canaria compels visitors to consider charms beyond the usual beach resorts. If beach is all you want, of course, the Canarias island delivers the goods, with scores of seaside developments built expressly for bliss-out tropical escape. From Playa del Inglés to San Agustin, Mogán to Agüimes, the paramount enclave of the autonomous community of Spain is chock full of wildly popular coastal gems.

Yet Gran Canaria has another side. Inland, miles from the surf and beach bars, souvenir shops and timeshare agents, the physical geography of the island unfurls inordinate diversity. From the stratovolcano summit of Pozo de las Nievas to deep ravines, dense forests to immense sand dunes, subtropical foliage to wide craters, the island is never the same from one place to the next.

The city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the lifeblood of the island and subsumes the vast majority of the island’s population. The handsome Capital of Culture candidate serves up heritage landmarks, museums, contemporary architecture, vibrant pedestrian strips, a busy commercial and passenger port and much, much more. All told, Las Palmas provides a nice contrast from Gran Canaria’s beach resorts and old-world hillside villages, all of which merit thorough investigation.

Gran Canaria Island’s Top 10

10. Casa/Museo de Colón is not exactly a former abode of one Christopher Columbus but legend has it that the Genoese navigator did stop here in 1492. Whatever the case, the museum presents a first-class range of exhibits on Columbus’ travels and the Canary Islands’ role in transatlantic trade.

5. Museo Néstor is a wonderful tribute gallery to the late modernist master Néstor Martín Fernández de la Torre.

9. Catedral de Santa Ana took well over 300 years to complete but the wait was worth it. The 15th century Gothic church is one of Gran Canaria’s best and the view from the bell tower is terrific.

4. Castillo de la Luz Persistent pirates forced the construction of Gran Canaria’s standout citadel in the 16th century.

8. Casa/Museo de Pérez Galdós was the birthplace of eminent Spanish novelist Benito Pérez Galdós. The Las Palmas native son, who died in 1920 at the age of 76, is widely regarded as the “Dickens of Spain”.

3. Calle Mayor de Triana is the shopping pulse point of the island. The scenic pedestrian artery is a fun spot for a stroll.

7. Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Tecnología A retrofit warehouse by the docks of Las Palmas provides a perfect home for what amounts to a surprisingly good science and technology museum.

2. Iglesia de San Juan is an exquisite Catalan-designed neo-Gothic landmark built between 1906 and 1976.

6. Museo Canario is the national museum of the Canary Islands, if you will, and chief archaeological repository and archive. Exhibits cover all the bases, from ancient skulls to pottery shards. Even the gift shop is excellent.

1. Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo is the largest botanical garden complex in all of Spain. Located 9 km outside of Las Palmas, the grounds unveil a bevy of extraordinary native and non-native flora.

Gran Canaria Island History

  • Vegueta – Some of the most beautiful monuments to be found on the island.
  • Plaza de Santiago – Examine remains from ancient times on Gran Canaria Island.
  • La Guancha – Check out how the locals of Gran Canaria Island used to build their houses.
  • Casas Cuevas – These cave houses are still lived in by residents of Gran Canaria Island.
  • Mogan – Come see one of the more traditional and typical villages on the island.

Gran Canaria Island Art & Culture

  • San Francisco, San Juan – The cultural district and a great place to see beautiful architecture.
  • Casco Histrorico – Many monuments are located in one of the oldest neighbourhoods.
  • Bodega de San Juan – Best place on Gran Canaria Island to drink the famous Del Monte wine.
  • Rum Factory – Take a tour and see how the most popular liqueurs on Gran Canaria Island are made.
  • Galdar – This historic town is known as the City of Kings.

Gran Canaria Island Shopping

  • FEDAC – A Gran Canaria Island outlet which offers great and unique local handicrafts.
  • Las Palmas – The largest commercial centre of Gran Canaria Island.
  • Las Arenas – The largest shopping centre on Gran Canaria Island selling just about anything a traveler might need.
  • Las Terrazas – The best place on Gran Canaria Island to find discounts on designer labels.
  • Playa del Ingles – This collection of shopping centres promotes discounted items at a great steal.

Gay & Lesbian Gran Canaria Island

  • palomas – One of the hottest centres for gay and lesbian nightlife on Gran Canaria Island.
  • Las Palmas – Great place to mix nightlife and fun with the Spanish culture of the island.
  • The Villas Blancas – This well-known complex caters exclusively to the gay and lesbian crowd.
  • Basement Studios – This unique complex of bungalows is a favourite spot of gays and lesbians.
  • Tropical la Zona – Offers bungalows and a weekly pool party.

Gran Canaria Island Outdoor

  • Parque Doramas – Many people on Gran Canaria Island come here for the quiet walks and beautiful greenery.
  • Montana de Arucas – From the top of this Gran Canaria Island Mountain, you can get exquisite views of the entire island.
  • Valleseco – Known as the greenest part of Gran Canaria Island, it is favourite spot for locals to take a relaxing stroll.
  • Moya – Many people on Gran Canaria Island come here to explore the caves.
  • Pinar de Tamadaba – This pine forest is the largest on Gran Canaria Island.

Gran Canaria Island Sport

  • Ride a horse and get instruction on Gran Canaria Island at the Centro-Hipico Gines.
  • Play a relaxing round while on Gran Canaria Island at the Salobre Golf Resort
  • Learn to surf on your Gran Canaria Island holiday at the Canary Surf School.
  • Walk the most scenic Gran Canaria Island trails with the guides at Mountain Walking.
  • Catch one of Gran Canaria Island's famous giant carp with Canary Safari Carp Fishing.

Gran Canaria Island Local

Gran Canaria is not a small place. Though not quite as big as Tenerife, the island tops out at more than 1,500 km<sup>2</sup>. Moreover, the population exceeds 1 million people, which translates into a lot of nooks to explore, even beyond the capital.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is home to more than one in three residents of Gran Canaria. As a city with close to 400,000 people, Las Palmas is far from a sleepy island community and, indeed, ranks fifth in Spain in terms of urban population. Furthermore, Las Palmas shares capital city status for the entire Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. As such, the vast majority of Gran Canaria’s cultural landmarks and architectural gems reside within the city’s limits. Las Palmas’ historic city centre, which encompasses the precincts of Vegueta and Triana, is up for a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription and looks to be a shoo-in. Even if you have a date with a beach resort somewhere else on the Gran Canaria coast, give Las Palmas a few days of your time.

Arucas is a municipality and suburb of Las Palmas that not only produces some very fine rum but also boasts two fantastic points of interest in the Church of San Juan Bautista and the Jardín de la Marquesa de Arucas.

Agüimes is beautifully nestled between plains and mountains and, happily, has been the target of recent restoration efforts to pretty up and bring out the best of what amounts to fortuitous natural environs. The coast of the small municipality in east Gran Canaria is a magnet for avid windsurfers and scuba divers.

Puerto de Mogán, in the municipality of Mogán, is the least flashy and overrun with crass real estate developments part of Gran Canaria. Breathe a sigh of relief and say a silent prayer that it remains so for the foreseeable future. Though not quite the “Venice of the Canary Islands”, as a few signs and locals proclaim, the picturesque harbour has far and away the most charm of any village in Gran Canaria. Cool fact: the sand on Mogán’s small beach comes from the Sahara.

San Bartolomé de Tirajana is a municipality on the border of Mogán, in southeast Gran Canaria, that covers close to a third of the island. Less than 50,000 people live in the area and most on the coast; the rest of San Bartolomé de Tirajana is mountains, valleys and forests. Therein lies a sizable chunk of the municipality’s charm, rewardingly so for anyone willing to pull their toes out of the sand for a few hours. Of course, San Bartolomé de Tirajana is home, much more famously, to Maspalomas. The somewhat faded grand dame of tourist towns on the island still pulls in the holiday hordes, thanks to ever-popular resorts like Playa del Inglés and San Agustin.

The Bandama Caldera is at the intersection of three municipalities on the island: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Santa Brígida and Telde. The volcanic natural monument, part of the Tafira Protected Landscape, is the real deal and well worth the short, steep climb.

Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria is a deliberately-constructed holiday resort in southwest Gran Canaria.

Tejeda is the municipal home of Pozo de las Nievas, the tallest peak on the island, and the awesome Roque Nublo monolith.

Telde municipality is home to over 100,000 people. A de facto bedroom community of Las Palmas, Telde has a remarkable array of archaeological sites and heritage landmarks.

Teror hosts the best Sunday market in all of Gran Canaria.

Valleseco is a small, sparsely populated municipality in the north with some stellar ravine and volcanic landscapes.

Gran Canaria Island Eat & Drink

Take a healthy dose of Spanish, throw in a little Berber, some North and West African, continental European and a splash of Latin American for good measure. The demographic tale of the tape for the Canary Islands as a whole sums up, to a large extent, the restaurant scene on Gran Canaria. Resort areas do pander and offer the usual banal Western fare but thankfully, enough quality alternatives exist in abundance.

Mamma Mia (Centro Comercial Yumbo, Playa del Inglés) generates kudos time and time again for superb Italian food in a rather eyesore-ish part of Playa del Inglés.

Casa Vieja (Calle El Lomo 139, Carretera de Fataga San Fernando, Playa del Inglés) is a breath of fresh air. Far from the beach and bustle, the rustic kitchen doles out seriously good, homestyle food.

Minanas (Calle Gran Canaria 18, Puerto Rico) is easily one of the top tables in Gran Canaria. On the expensive side and with a menu that scampers all over the globe but solid and with generous portions to boot.

Mesón Condado (Calle Ferreras 22, La Isleta) serves affordable, well-prepared Galician cuisine, in addition to predictable Spanish classics.

Cosi Come Sei (Barranco Agua de la Perra, Centro Comercial Las Olas, Puerto Rico) is the only restaurant in Puerto Rico with the clout to compete with Minanas’ rave reviews. Small, intimate and authentic.

El Salsete (Secundino Delgado 4-5, Maspalomas) inspires fierce loyalty among regular clients, who often declare it the best restaurant on Gran Canaria.

Natural Burger (Avenida Mesa y López 3, Alcaravaneras) is a popular budget spot, with a diverse lineup of burgers and sandwiches on the menu.

Hipócrates (Calle Colón 4 S) is conveniently across from the Columbus house and museum in Las Palmas and one of the most veg-friendly spots in the city.

Taberna La Cana (Avenida de Tenerife 4, Apartamentos Green Park, Playa del Ingles) is a good bet in busy Playa del Ingles for tapas, paella and sangria.

Zona Verde (Lugar Lomoquiebre, Puerto de Mogán) could very well be the best restaurant in Puerto de Mogán. The jewel of a spot serves mouth-watering carne, barbecued over open flames.

Gran Canaria Island Events

Gran Canaria’s capital Las Palmas is sufficiently cosmopolitan to host a wide variety of events throughout the year. Events that often draw the stars, glitterati and beautiful people to hop on planes from Madrid, Barcelona and all over Europe.

Food and Fashion Week takes place in early April in the Zona Comercial de Triana of Las Palmas.

The Canary Islands Music Festival has been a beacon on the archipelago’s arts calendar since 1985. The festival run is from January to February and regularly features some of the most prolific stars in the classical music world. Concerts take place in Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival first took place in 2000 and is now one of the most important events for cinephiles in Spain. The eclectic international festival occurs in the month of April.

Carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a cornerstone event in Gran Canaria that draws thousands of revelers to the streets every February and March.

WOMAD Las Palmas de Gran Canaria The objective of WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is to elevate the countless forms of creative expression that flourish in the world with festivals in various destinations. With that in mind, Las Palmas’ Parque de Santa Catalina is an ideal host for the organization’s inclusive ethos.

Opera de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria All opera, all the time, at the grand Teatro Pérez Galdós.

Festival Internacional de Jazz de Canarias seals Gran Canaria and the rest of the islands as a foremost festival hub. A good reason to visit in July.

Estadio Gran Canaria is a multi-purpose stadium primarily in use for football and occasional big rock and pop concerts.

When To Go

In his 1996 reference guide, Pleasant Weather Ratings: Enjoy Travel More and Save Money by Planning for the Weather, Syracuse University director of research on climatology Thomas Whitmore avers that Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has the best climate in the world. Crunch the numbers and the lofty assertion pans out. If you despise rain, wild temperature fluctuations and extreme heat, Gran Canaria is the island for you.

A subtropical, semi-arid, quasi-Mediterranean climate ensures temperatures stay between a low of 59°F (15°C) in January and comfortable high of 81°F (27°C) in August. From July to September the mercury never dips belwow 68°F (20°C) and the peak month for precipitation is December, when, on average, it rains a paltry 4 days out of the month for a grand total of 27 mm.

By that measure, there is no “bad time” to visit Gran Canaria per se, especially not weather-wise. There are more popular periods of the year for tourism, of course, most notably from December to March and July to September. Prices tend to reflect demand, with no better example than Carnival season.

What To Miss

While a minority in Gran Canaria, unscrupulous dive operators often promise the moon - or bottom of the sea, as it were - and fail to deliver. Scuba conditions off Gran Canaria may not compare with some of the other islands in the archipelago but good, honest dives can be had for a reasonable price. Be vigilant, do your homework and, above all, go to Puerto de Mogán, the gateway to the best underwater excursions in Gran Canaria.

Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria is a purpose-built resort town. If that fact alone makes you cringe, stay away. If the thought of a package-type tropical beach turns you on, however, Puerto Rico can be a decent island holiday option. One caveat: the shops and restaurants within the resort’s borders tend to charge outlandish prices for otherwise everyday goods and humdrum food. Grabby salespeople patrol popular pedestrian areas and turn on the charm (and hard sell) to coerce tourists. At best, a pesky distraction. At worst, a complete drag.

Similarly, scores of predatory timeshare pushers prowl busy beach areas on Gran Canaria on the make for new victims. Resist the urge to make eye contact and ignore the slick talk and “attend our information session and collect a cash prize” pitch. Just be curt and go about your day.

Getting Around

Gran Canaria (Gando) Airport welcomes close to 10 million passengers a year, which puts it in the top 5 in Spain. Modern and spacious, the hub provides service to and from a wide range of destinations not just in Spain but, indeed, from London and Dublin to Oslo and Berlin, throughout the United Kingdom and Europe as well.

Affordable taxi service is prevalent on Gran Canaria island and the best way to and from the airport and, furthermore, from town to town. Las Palmas has about as good a bus system as any major city in Spain. Most lines run frequently and, most conveniently, through the night.

Ferry access to the best of the rest of the Canary Islands - Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura - comes via the busy port of Las Palmas.

General Information

Spain's veritable slice of heaven, the Canary Islands, has a crown jewel in Gran Canaria. The island is a superb vacation spot for anyone in dire need of sand, sun and divine escape from the humdrum of office life. A cut above most package resort destinations on the coast of the Mediterranean, Gran Canaria benefits from a location that is decidedly more exotic. West of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, the island welcomes sun and surf-thirsty visitors to gorgeous shores, idyllic coastal towns and a blissful pace to life perfectly in line with a holiday paradise.

Of course, if you want to party and live it up, Gran Canaria is more than happy to oblige. Though not Ibiza, beachfront bars and superb clubs in and around Las Palmas de Gran Canaria make the island a premier nightlife hub. Music, dance and film festivals throughout the tourist season certainly add to Gran Canaria's flair and overall appeal.


  • Beaches
  • Maspalomas Dunes
  • Palmitos Park
  • Roque Nublo
  • Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Cathedral


  • Carnavales de Las Palmas
  • International Film Festival
  • Fiestas de San Juan
  • World of Music, Arts and Dance
  • International Theater and Dance Festival

Restaurant & Nightlife


  • La Buena Vida
  • Samsara
  • Casa Martell
  • Tobarne Macabeo
  • Espetada


  • Snoopy's
  • Sugar
  • Music Factory
  • Heaven
  • Fabric


While the weather of Gran Canaria is rather idyllic, it can vary from region to region because of trade winds and subtropical microclimates.

  • Winter (December to February) 15-23°C
  • Spring (March to May) 16-26°C
  • Summer (June to September) 18-29°C
  • Fall (October to November) 18-26°C

Gran Canaria Island - General information

Hotels in Gran Canaria

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From US$99

1 AC Hotel Iberia Las Palmas

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4.0 / 5 1 reviews

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2 Elba Vecindario Aeropuerto Business & Convention Hotel

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3 AC Hotel Gran Canaria by Marriott

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4 Palmera Mar Apartments Gran Canaria

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6 Beach Boys Boutique Resort - Gay Men Only

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