Gran Canaria has rightly been called a continent in miniature form. This means that that there are so many things to see in Gran Canaria. It is the most diverse of the Canary Islands giving you plenty of things to do in Gran Canaria.
The roaring Atlantic surf on the West gives way gradually to a lush and verdant north. The Spanish island is therefore an island comprised of many microclimates as well. If you decide to hike around the island you should bring layers that are easy to take off and put back on as you go from one mini region to the next.
Visitors have an abundance of things to do in Gran Canaria. You can tour the cosmopolitan and historic capital of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria or dance, enjoy the beach, and be a typical tourist in its various resorts of Playa de Ingles, San Agustin, Meloneras, Maspalomas, Puerto de Mogan, and Puerto Rico – Amadores.
Whatever you are interested in doing while here, Gran Canaria has something to offer everyone from families to couples to individual travelers. Keep reading to learn our top 25 things to do in Gran Canaria.
What to do in Gran Canaria? 25 Best things to do in Gran Canaria
1. Take A Gran Canaria Highlights Tour
As there are so many things to see in Gran Canaria, a visit to the island is not complete without going on a highlights tour. This tour begins by loading up visitors from the tourist resorts of the south of the island then heading to the northeast to Arucas.
It makes a pass through the capital Las Palmas going by the seafront promenade and two of the cosmopolitan city’s beaches. Throughout the tour, participants will pass numerous banana plantations where you will see the world famous Canarian banana growing.
In Arucas the tour visits two important locations. These include the Arehucas Rum Factory where you will learn all about making rum and the neo-Geothic era San Juan Bautista church from the 1900s. Rum was originally invented here in the 1500s and it remains a big island tradition.
The tour continues through Teror to take you to see the famed Basilica of the Virgin of Pino, the island’s patron saint. You will be able to walk the streets to take in the many post-colonial era houses with their traditional Canarian balconies and courtyards.
Here you will also see many lovely fountains, terraces, and landscaped gardens. On the way out of Valleseco village, the tour passes by traditional cave houses actually carved into the mountains. These are mostly inhabited to this day.
On the entire trip, you will see a wide range of contrasting flora. At more than 1,000 meters (over 3,000 feet), the tour will show you uniquely beautiful landscapes covered by the Canary Pine, fennel, ferns, and other native flora.
2. Visit the Aquarium of Poema del Mar
Poema del Mar is the only aquarium that you will find on Gran Canaria. The capital’s latest and most wonderful attraction for tourists is something that everyone should see in Gran Canaria.
Visitors claim that going is something like witnessing a live recording session of Blue Planet. You are able to closely watch their many interesting and rare attractions including the Asian sheepshead wrasse that is able to switch its gender.
The aquarium derives its name from a painting series created by symbolist painter Nestor Martin-Fernandez de la Torre from 1913 to 1924. The paintings are still on display in the Museo Nestor in Las Palmas. Buy your ticket here.
3. Go See Cueva Pintada Museum and the Archaeological Park
For those who are interested in the generally top-rated archeological site of the island, Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria.
The site remains among the most critical pre-Spanish era archaeological sites on the island. The cave is decorated with geometric patterns and shapes. One theory is that these are connected with solar and lunar calendars.
A great feature of this site is that it turns out to be the easiest to get to of the various archaeological sites on the island. The cave is not up a steep cliff, but rather lies right in the middle of town. This cave proves to be the site’s highlight, and you get a guided tour to bring it to life.
As for the museum, this provides reconstructions and videos to illuminate what local island life was like before the Spanish conquerors came. A central exhibit of the museum is the 5,000 square meter excavated area that allows you to see the remains of cave houses that archaeologists have excavated from volcanic rock.
You are able to walk around and explore these. The 90 minute tour of the painted cave is offered in English, Spanish, German, and French. While sadly the triangular shapes and their colors adoring the walls have deteriorated significantly, you can still appreciate them.
4. Take A Cruise Aboard a Turkish Gulet
Aphrodite is a Turkish gulet that has been refitted as a party cruise. From the resort of Puerto Rico you can set sail aboard this chartered vessel.
This cruise will provide you with not only a breathtaking voyage, but also the opportunity to try some of the typical Canarian cuisine. They serve a traditional papas arrugadas y mojo (which is boiled new potatoes served with a zesty sauce) that you can polish off with wine, cava, and beer.
5. Tour Casa Museo de Colon (Christopher Columbus Museum)
A famous site that remains among the most important things to see in Gran Canaria is the museum house of Christopher Columbus (Casa Museo de Colon).
In this fascinating place you see a well-documented exhibit on the voyages of Columbus with interesting showcases of the Canary Islands’ important role of the staging port for transatlantic shipping.
A highlight is the model galleons section (which includes “La Niña”) on the first floor. Children are always fascinated by the detail. They have a crucifix believed to be from the explorer’s ship. All three of Columbus ships are modeled in another room.
Other rooms contain various historical maps and reproductions of ancient maps from the 1500s along with astrolabes that were critical in long distance oceangoing navigation. In the upstairs section there is an impressive collection of art.
There are also many exhibits from the various early governors’ of the island who called this lavish residence home.
READ ALSO: Where to stay in Gran Canaria
6. Visit the Catedral de Santa Ana & Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro
Las Palma’s beating spiritual heart is the impressive grey cathedral of Santa Ana. The building is massive and required 350 years to finish from the time they started it in the 1400s.
Its facade is neoclassical while the interior is graced by stained glass that allows beautiful sunlit patterns to shine through. Art historians call this a fantastic example of the Atlantic Gothic style.
The tall columns appear to be a modeling of the palm trees lining the square outside. For art lovers, the cathedral contains a few beautiful paintings of the most respected 1700s era Canarian artist Juan de Miranda.
With your admission you can also go see the museum of sacred art nearby in the Patio de los Naranjos. Here you will see an impressive collection of religious memorabilia and art such as wooden sculptures, hundreds of years old books and manuscripts, ornaments, and sacred art.
The setting of the museum is beautiful and comes with lovely orange blossom scents in the spring. From the bell tower top (accessible by an elevator) you can take in the incredible full view of the encircling city as well as the coast.
7. Shop at the Mercado del Puerto
If you have ever been to the London Borough Market, then you will appreciate Las Palmas’ version of it. Shopping here for vegetables, fruit, fish, seafood, and meat like the locals did here from the 1800s is a great thing to do in Gran Canaria.
The stalls from the original years are still serving locals and visitors today. There are now also food and drink locations here that provide interesting variety. You have a range of choices such as Italian Cachuk, Mexican Ay Carmela LPA, and international cocktails in DO Mercado.
8. Go to Dunas de Maspalomas and Take a Camel Ride
The regular top pick for best nature reserve on the island is found in Maspalomas. The dunes here cover an incredible 400 hectares and earned the status as nature reserve back in the 1990s. This has preserved them from the constantly building hotels.
In order to take in the best angle of the dunes you should view it from Avenida Tirajana at the bottom. You can walk past the arches in the Hotel Riu Palace of Maspalomas to reach the balcony that is encircled by a lovely botanical garden featuring flora original to the Canaries Islands.
Another way to enjoy this top nature reserve to see in Gran Canaria is to access them from a lane that lies immediately east of the Hotel Riu Palace of Maspalomas. From here you can walk right into the dunes.
My recommendation? Take a camel safari trip to fully enjoy the experience and feel like you are riding in the Sahara Desert.
>>> Book your Camel Ride here <<<
9. Take A Day Trip to Loro Park Animal Shows
A great way to spend a day at one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria is to go to the Loro Park to see the animals and shows. The park features four different world famous shows of performing animals along with the chance to view many different species of animals.
Transportation can be provided from your Gran Canaria hotel to the Loro Park. Without a doubt this is one of the most popular attractions on the island with roughly 1.5 million yearly visitors.
There is a sea lion show where you can watch them jump through loops, juggle balls, and splash and dance in the pool with their trainers to musical accompaniment. The killer whales show is best seen while wearing one of the park’s raincoats as these huge whales tend to splash the audience as they jump and perform. The dolphin show is also well worth watching.
The park features animals found on all continents of the globe from every species. You can take in a range of monkeys including chimpanzees and gorillas as well as tigers, penguins, crocodiles, jaguars, and a vast array of aquatic life in their aquarium.
10. Shop the Malls and then Party at the Massive Dance Clubs of Playa Del Ingles
By day Playa del Ingles offers several large shopping malls where you can look for all sorts of goods and souvenirs. By night the resort provides unique dance venues in the same shopping malls of this massive tourist complex.
After the sun sets, the malls convert into dance floors and feature some of the largest dance parties in all of Spain, complete with renowned deejays providing the pounding beats.
11. Try the Top Fusion Restaurant Llévame al Huerto in Las Palmas
Las Palmas offers more than simply Spanish and Canarian food. The top-rated fusion restaurant Llévame al Huerto is one not to miss. The place has excellent ambience with oversized lampshades, plants potted in baskets, tables in blonde wood, and uniquely colorful cushions.
The menu is called “flexitarian” and the food is consistently rated as “to die for.” Featured items on the menu include pad thai, vegan corriander risotto, and quinoa falafel.
12. Dine at the Top-Rated Spanish Restaurant Deliciosa Marta in Las Palmas
A classic thing to do in Gran Canaria is to try the local cuisine. Deliciosa Marta is a top-rated Spanish restaurant in the capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
The restaurant is chic and resplendent with an exposed stone wall. In the last decade the restaurant has gained the reputation as among the most beloved dining locations in the capital.
The owner is Chef Pol who trained while at the famed El Bulli in Barcelona. His menu is constantly evolving and features such delicacies as pork belly, scallops, and truffles (locally sourced whenever possible). You will want to make a reservation to be sure of a table.
13. Take A Dolphin and Whale Watching Boat Tour
No trip to the Canaries would be complete without taking in a dolphin and whale watching boat tour, a must do in Gran Canaria. These tours will allow you to look for over 30 species of sea mammals.
Among these are the whales and dolphins that call Gran Canaria home. The tour is more impressive as it promises a guarantee. If passengers do not see any dolphins while on the tour, the company will provide a free ticket for another tour on a different day.
You only have to sail a couple of miles from the shores of the island to appreciate the various species of whales and dolphins living here. The dolphins will seemingly perform in their natural habitat, hunting, jumping, and playing alongside the catamaran.
Thanks to the glass bottom boat, you can see the beloved mammals of the sea from many angles.
14. Go on a Gran Canaria Fishing Trip
Gran Canaria is famous for its big sport fishing. Some of the tours leave from Pasito Blanco pier found in between the tourist complex stretching from Puerto Rico to Maspalomas. The tours will allow you to charter the entire boat or come alone or with friends and clients.
Because the fish are so abundant here year round, this is one of the things to do in Gran Canaria on any visit. The deep sea fishing in winter and fall yields groupers, snappers, seabass, mackerel, eels, blacktail combers, and morays.
During the spring or summer, the current ushers in white marlin, blue marlin, longfin, yellowfin, bluefin, spearfish, skipjack tunas, big eye, and dorados. All year long you can catch small tuna while large tuna is caught from the months of March to May.
15. Experience the Adventure of the Yellow Submarine
The island offers something fairly unique to see in Gran Canaria in the Yellow Submarine. This appropriately named underwater vessel takes you on a full 45 minute sea adventure to depths of over 20 meters (more than 60 feet).
You enjoy comfortable seats while taking in the sea and its world via large portholes and TV monitors that are linked to video cameras found outside the submarine. Among the beautiful schools of area fish you will see are zebra breams, parrotfish, grey mullets, trumpet fish, bastard grunts, and groupers.
The Yellow Submarine also takes you out to an authentic shipwreck lying on the sea bed. This “Cermona II” is actually a 32 meters long (over 95 feet) fishing boat made with a steel hull. The hull has provided shelter and a habitat for countless shell fish and fish native to Gran Canaria.
16. Take a Buggy Tour Safari of Gran Canaria’s Rugged Interior
Seeing the rugged interior of Gran Canaria by buggy tour is an interesting way to enjoy the nature of this stunningly varied island. The guided tour takes no more than eight buggies through incomparable landscapes and gorgeous ravines.
Participants get to drive the buggies in a safari that covers both off road and asphalt paths for maximum adventure. The tour operators watch closely over the vehicles to ensure that everyone has a safe and good time.
17. Take a Helicopter Guided Tour of the Island
A fantastic way to enjoy the amazing scenery of Gran Canaria is to take it in by helicopter. This panoramic view from above gives you so much to see in Gran Canaria. You have several different route packages from different companies.
Some of these will take you on a flight above the island’s south coast while another will get you on top of the island’s famous Clouded Rock (Roque Nublo) which lies in the heart of the island.
18. Visit Las Palmas the Island’s Capital
You should not come to Gran Canaria and not spend a day exploring the capital. These excursions will take you on a guided tour of the historical center, beaches, and other interesting sites. They provide shopping time during the afternoon in the best commercial districts.
Most tours will start with the historical city center called the Vegueta. This is where the original settlements occurred and the Spanish founded Royal Las Palmas back in 1478.
While strolling along the peaceful streets of the old town, you can see the traditional colonial Spanish architecture of that era, particularly the pine wood balconies adorning the house facades.
This city was the penultimate stop for Christopher Columbus en route to the Indies that actually turned out to be his discovery of America. The Hermitage of San Antonio Abad was constructed where the legendary explorer and his crew prayed before departing for the New World.
You should also make time to see the prior residence of the governors at the Columbus House Museum.
The tours will take you to see the social center of the old city at the Plaza de Santa Ana, the Episcopal Palace, Cathedral of Las Palmas, and the old town hall. From the main square opposing the cathedral you can see the dog statues that epitomize the name Gran Canaria’s origins. In Latin, Cannis means dog.
19. Go See the Volcano Crater and Largest Botanical Gardens in Spain
There are tours that will take you out to see the volcano crater of “Caldera de Bandama” as well as the “Viera y Clavijo” botanical gardens that are the biggest in all of Spain. The enormous volcano crater erupted over 3,000 years ago. It possesses a diameter of a kilometer (over half a mile) and is 200 meters deep (over 600 feet).
The botanical gardens typically referred to as El Jardin Canario are the next stop on the guided tour. This enormous garden covers 23 hectares .You will see more than 570 native to the island species here.
20. Take the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour of Las Palmas
A great way to see the capital of Las Palmas is via the city’s Hop on Hop Off Bus tour, operated by the Las Palmas tourist bus. This will take you to see the most significant locations in the Gran Canaria capital.
The tour provides 11 individual stops where you can take in at your leisure the museum, monuments, attractions, and beaches of the cosmopolitan city. The upper decks of these two level busses give fabulous views and let you appreciate the balmy climate of Las Palmas that has been named the best in the world.
Some of the stops will take you by the city’s two principle beaches, the west side Canteras Beach called among the finest urban beaches on earth and the eastern side charm-filled Alcaravaneras Beach.
Other stops cover the finest areas for shopping, such as Mesa y López that contains the Corte Ingles primary boutique shops and the city’s top commercial street Triana. You can also access the two primary shopping centers from some of the stops, including Las Arena Shopping Center and Muelle Shopping Center.
Included with your hop on hop off tour is a no additional cost walking tour of the old town that departs from the Vegueta bus stop at 1:15 pm. This will take in all of the most essential locations of the historical quarter and be led by an official city guide.
You will be able to experience the Plaza del Pilar Nuevo behind the cathedral and fronting the Columbus house. It will take you to see the most excellent Las Palmas’ museums including:
- the Columbus House Museum,
- the Canary Museum that concentrates on the aboriginal inhabitants’ history,
- the Elder Museum focusing on technology and science,
- the Perez Galdos House Museum that covers the works and life of one of the greatest Spanish literary geniuses,
- and the Nestor Museum that shows off the great Canarian artist’s paintings.
The bus tour will also show off a number of the most important avenues and main streets of the Gran Canarian capital. You will be able to visit parks and plazas like San Telmo Park, Santa Catalina Park, the Doramas Park, Cairasco Plaza, and the Spanish Plaza.
You will also become acquainted with the two locales for theater and concerts in Alfredo Kraus Auditorium and the Perez Galdos Theater.
21. Visit the Puerto de Mogan Market
Puerto de Mogan is among the most gorgeous developments on the island. The charming village became constructed surrounding an older fishing village during the 1980s through reclaiming land from the sea.
You should take the time to walk the tiny streets that lead to the charming harbor. There are many beautiful Mediterranean styled homes containing color and detail as well as gardens bursting with life in the form of bougainvilleas.
Be sure to walk along the waterways and the tiny beach containing powdery sand as well as the impressive yacht harbor that boasts 225 individual moorings. Friday is market day.
You should not miss the stalls full of authentic Canarian plants, handicrafts, linens, flowers, vegetables, fruits, leather goods, clothes, jewelry, shoes, and Canarian cuisine. The market day is a perfect time to take in the ambience of this idyllic place on Gran Canaria.
22. Take in the Traditional Markets of Teror and San Mateo
Two markets that you will not want to miss are the traditional markets of Teror and San Mateo. There is a Sunday morning excursion that goes to both, allowing you to enjoy the most evocative towns of the north-central region of Gran Canaria while you shop at their beloved markets.
The tour will pass by beautiful ravines common to the island like the Barranco de la Mina and the Barranco de las Goteras. These two towns of Teror and San Mateo lie 600 meters (over 1,800 feet) above sea level in the island’s north.
The villages are encircled by fertile, verdant landscape that is completely different from the desert looking regions of the island’s south.
Each of the markets pulls in literally thousands of individuals each Sunday. The market in San Mateo is covered and found within two huge halls. Teror’s market is an open air street market held on the streets located around the church. The two markets boast stalls containing crafts, textiles, jewelry, food, toys, and locally produced goods.
You should try the traditional Teror sausage, the island’s world famous cheese, and Gran Canaria’s delectable sweets. You can try these delicious edible bites in the stalls as well as the restaurants and pubs nearby these markets.
You can also come learn how to dance the world famous Spanish, Canarian, and international dances played live by area musicians.
The visit to Tenor will also let you experience its charming historic city center that remains among the most gorgeous on the entire island. In the Basilica de la Virgen del Pino you will see the island’s patron saint. The houses contain colorful facades featuring the traditional pine balconies of Gran Canaria.
The beautiful thing about this half day tour to both markets in San Mateo and Teror is that it lets you mix popular traditions, culture, gorgeous landscapes, history, shopping, and cuisine all into one fun filled Sunday activity.
23. Take in the Town of Artenara and View of Mirador de Unamuno
Artenara features a top-rated viewpoint for the island in the View of Mirador de Unamuno. It is only one of several excellent viewing vantage points in the town. This Mirador de Unamuno lets you gaze out into a stunning panoramic vista of the volcanic caldera. It will take your breath away every time.
24. Eat at Samsara in Maspalomas
While in the tourist enclave of Maspalomas, you should not miss the chance to eat at the outstanding Samsara restaurant. It is found directly across from where the Palm Beach hotel sits. You can not miss the enormous Buddha statue setting the mood.
The dishes here merge Spanish and Canarian ingredients with flavors from Asia. Two examples are the island’s famous smoked goat’s cheese served with wasabi and black pasta featuring shellfish and shrimp in lemongrass and lemon sauce. You will want to make reservations to secure a table.
25. Try the Local Brewery and Fusion Restaurant Texada
For a local brewery that is also an excellent fusion restaurant, be sure to try the Texada. Another unique feature is that this fantastic eatery gets its provender directly from its very own farm. They feature three different hand crafted beers as well.
Texada is found in Tejeda. Visitors recommend the fabulous cheese soup and Burger Nublo that comes on a traditional roof tile. You will need reservations to get a table.