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If you’re going on holiday to Gran Canaria, you can expect almost guaranteed sunshine and some truly excellent food. While many holidaymakers are content to lap up the good weather and sangria, more discerning travellers might be wondering what’s on offer in terms of sightseeing in Gran Canaria.
I recently spent four days in Las Palmas, the capital city of Gran Canaria. I stayed at an incredible Royal Hideaway hotel called Santa Catalina but made sure to get out and about and experience some of the best things to do in Las Palmas.
Here, I’ve put together the ultimate list of the 40 best things to do in Gran Canaria including the top Las Palmas tourist attractions, best Gran Canaria day trips and other must-sees. I’ve included links to the best tours and excursions in Gran Canaria to make it easier for you to plan your trip.
Things To Do In Gran Canaria: Las Palmas and Beyond
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1. Sip Coffee at Cafe Regina
The best coffee in Las Palmas can be found at Cafe Regina. There’s one on the promenade of Playa de las Canteras, or you can visit the one further inland on Av. José Mesa y López.
In addition to delicious coffee, they also serve an assortment of mouth-watering cakes and other sweet treats. The lemon meringue pie and cinnamon apple crepes are a must!
2. Visit Vegueta cathedral
No day of sightseeing in Las Palmas is complete without a walk around the old town, Vegueta. Do it yourself or book a guided tour for local insight into the area where you’ll find the first church in the Canary Islands, Santa Ana Cathedral, which also houses the Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro (Sacred Art Museum).
I’d recommend spending some time exploring Vegueta’s cobblestone streets and plazas. It was one of our favourite places to visit in Gran Canaria.
More of the cultural attractions in Las Palmas can also be found there – check out Museo Canario museum, Gabinete Literario club, Casas Consistoriales and Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno gallery.
3. Go dolphin and whale watching
Take to the waves in a glass-bottomed boat to get close to the local marine life in the Atlantic. This cruise departs from Puerto Rico harbour and the company will pick you up from your accommodation or a meeting point in Mogan, Taurito, Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, San Agustin, or Bahia Feliz. The ticket price includes unlimited soft drinks.
Check prices and availability here.
4. Try snorkelling
Another way to witness the marina life around Gran Canaria is to head out on a boat on an organised trip. This snorkelling tour departs from Puerto de Mogan and includes a tasty tapas lunch, while this one starts at the diving center in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria.
Alternatively, book a tour that gives you the option of stand up paddling boarding as well as snorkelling. Check prices here.
5. Learn to scuba dive
Whether you’ve always wanted to try it or you’d like to improve your skills, Gran Canaria has lots of options for scuba diving. This experience in Las Canteras is suitable for beginners, as is this one in Maspalomas. There’s even a scuba diving course for kids!
If you’d like to get qualified in the Canary islands, take a look at this two-day padi course.
6. Watch the sunset from a volcano
The island’s volcanic landscape lends itself to the most romantic thing to do in Gran Canaria. The peak of Pico de Las Nieves is a spectacular place to watch the sunset. If you really want to sweep someone off their feet, book a tour that includes a hike followed by local food and wine which you can enjoy as you observe the last rays of the day paint the sky.
You can check prices and availability here.
7. Learn to surf
Did you know that Gran Canaria is a popular destination for surfers? Sieze the opportunity to try surfing at some of the island’s best beaches with a lesson from a pro. If you’re staying in Playa del Inglés, this class is a great option. If your hotel is in Meloneras, try this one.
8. Expand your mind at the science museum
If you’re looking for things to do on a rainy day in Gran Canaria, look no further than the The Elder Museum of Science and Technology, also known as Museo Elder. It’s located in the harbour of Las Palmas and boasts four levels of interactive exhibitions.
This is a great idea for things to do with kids in Gran Canaria but that’s not to say adults won’t enjoy it too! You can get tickets for the museum online in advance here.
9. Taste the tapas
One of the things I loved most about Gran Canaria was the food! Some of our favourite tapas bars were in Vegueta, along the promenade of Playa de las Canteras (El Tipico Espanol’s fried fish was stunning) and near the market at a bar called La Tapatica.
If you want to make sure you’re really sampling the locals’ favourites, book a sunset tapas tour in Las Palmas.
10. Go canyoning
Those looking for adventurous things to do in Gran Canaria will be pleased to learn that the landscape offers plenty of activities for adrenalin junkies. The most popular canyoning tour includes all the safety gear and takes you through waterfalls, forests and natural slides. Check the reviews and book your spot here.
11. Visit a local winery
Did you know that the island makes its own wine? As well as sipping it in restaurants all over Gran Canaria and picking it up as a souvenir at the airport, you can actually visit the scenic hundred year old winery where the wine is produced. There’s a wine museum there and you can taste the creations along with local cheeses.
The winery is family-run and you can book your visit here.
12. Set sail on a catamaran cruise
Another of the more romantic activities in Gran Canaria is the various cruises you can take around the island. This luxury cruise includes a fabulous buffet and gives you the option of going out on a speed boat – or you can book a half day catamaran cruise instead. Check prices for that here.
13. Swim or sunbathe at Playa de las Canteras
The stretch of coast in the north of the island boasts a beautiful sandy beach that’s perfect for catching some rays or swimming. It’s popular with all ages and you’ll usually find a group playing volleyball or football on the sand.
14. Stroll along the promenade
Playa de las Canteras is lined with a pleasant, clean promenade with plenty of bars and restaurants where you can sit and people watch with a jug of sangria. It’s a lovely walk and while a lot of the island is hilly, this walk is nice and flat!
15. Try Canarian potatoes
I just had to dedicate a whole item on this list of the top things to do in Gran Canaria to these wrinkly little potatoes! Papas arrugadas are a local dish and they’re absolutely gorgeous when dipped or doused in the red and green mojo sauce. Seriously, order them everywhere you go!
As well as Spain’s big department store for luxury purchases, El Corte Ingles, Las Palmas has a number of international shops like Primark, Zara and Massimo Dutti. Of course, there are also lots of beautiful boutiques on the island. If you’re into antiques, you might need to add an extra bag to your return flight home!
17. Visit the rainforest
Gran Canaria’s unique climate means you can be on the beach in the morning and in the rainforest that afternoon! If you’re a nature lover, you can visit the ravine of Barranco de Azuaje, Los Tilos de Moya, Valle de Agaete and Finca-Bodega Los Berrazales, where you’ll be surrounded by fruit trees and coffee plantations.
Book a Gran Canaria rainforest trip here.
18. Dine in style
I was pleasantly surprised to find a great variety of fine dining options in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Our standout meal was at a restaurant called Triciclo in Vegueta. Triciclo serves a creative menu filled with Canarian and other flavours, the service is fantastic and you can see the chefs at work. it also isn’t extortionate, which is refreshing.
Craving steak? We had a slap-up meal at El Churrasco and I’d definitely recommend.
19. See the Red Canyon
One of the greatest natural attractions in Gran Canaria looks like it belongs in Jordan. The Barranco de Barafonso is a stunning ochre-hued 250 metre ravine that was carved by water many years ago. It’s one of the best photo spots in Gran Canaria.
You can rent a car and drive to La Fortaleza, walk or book a tour to see the canyon.
20. Sip sundowners
My favourite memory from our trip to Gran Canaria was the evening we spent watching the sun set on the roof of our hotel. Santa Catalina Hotel has a stunning rooftop bar with a pool and even if you’re not a guest, you can book a table for drinks. The cocktails are exceptional – we had the best whiskey sour I’ve ever tasted.
21. Visit the sand dunes of Maspalomas
Another of the best activities in Gran Canaria is a trip to the island’s desert. The Maspalomas sand dunes are a sight that’s become synonymous with the destination. The dunes can be reached from Playa del Ingles and there are three walking routes.
Book a tour here.
22. Plan a day at Sioux City Park Gran Canaria
One of the more unique things to do in Gran Canaria takes you back to the Wild West! Sioux City Park is a realistic replica of a Wild Western town that was used to shoot movies. There’s an onsite zoo and a real saloon bar for refreshments during your day out.
The park offers some of the best activities for kids in Gran Canaria, as they can watch cowboy duels, bank assaults and cattle demonstrations.
Buy your entry ticket for Sioux City Park here.
23. Do an off-road jeep safari
Kick your holiday into gear with a jeep adventure in Gran Canaria that takes you from Salobre to Lake Chira. During your trip, you’ll see views of Roque Noblo and drive through the Valley of the Thousand Palms to the quaint village of Fataga.
24. Go abseiling
Only one of the canyons in Gran Canaria actually has water: the Barranco de los Cernícalos ravine in the northeast of the island. Avid explorers can trek through the jungle and abseil down a 12 metre waterfall.
Book your canyoning activity in Gran Canaria here – the fee includes all of your equipment, guide etc. Alternatively, you can book a full day of coasteering that includes rock jumping, zip lining, via ferrata climbing and abseiling.
25. Spend a day at Gran Canaria’s waterpark
Take a break from sightseeing in Gran Canaria and cool off at Aqualand Maspalomas. This family-friendly park is the largest in Gran Canaria and has resident sea lions.
Buy your Aqualand ticket in advance here.
26. Visit the alligator zoo
Did you know that Gran Canaria is home to the largest collection of alligators in Europe? Cocodrilo Park has over 500 animals including turtles, lizards, llamas, monkeys, and chimpanzees.
If you buy an entrance ticket here, you’ll get your transport to the park included in the price.
27. Eat paella
When in Spain, it’s sacrilegious not to tuck into a steaming pan of paella on your holiday. To avoid eye rolls from the locals, order paella at lunch, never dinner. Some of the best paella in Gran Canaria is served at the beachfront restaurants that line Playa de las Canteras.
28. Explore Gran Canaria on horseback
There aren’t many places in the world where you can ride a horse on volcanic terrain, and Gran Canaria is one of them. During your horseback excursion, you can admire views of the island’s sand dunes and Maspalomas Beach.
Choose from a one or two hour horse riding experience at a local ranch here.
29. Go kayaking
Another popular water-based activity in Gran Canaria is kayaking. You can either hire a kayak on the beach closest to your accommodation or book a half day tour which includes a stop at the Los Militares archeological site where you’ll learn about the local culture, then a stop at one of the last remaining untouched beaches on the island, Playa de Montaña Arena.
30. Have fun at the amusement park
The aptly-named Wooland is the only park of its kind in the Canary islands. It has around 30 rides, a dedicated children’s park, roller coasters, carousels, a ferris wheel and live entertainment.
Get your Wooland entry ticket here.
31. Browse at the local markets
Sightseeing in Gran Canaria isn’t just about natural attractions and historic sites. One of the best ways to have an authentic experience in any destination is to dive into its local markets and there are plenty in Gran Canaria!
Pop into the mercado in Las Palmas or pick out handcrafted Canarian souvenirs and other treasures at two of the best markets on the island: the San Mateo and Teror markets.
You can book a day trip to these markets that includes a visit to a traditional village.
32. Wander around Puerto de Mogán
Puerto de Mogán has to be one of the most picturesque places to visit in Gran Canaria. The traditional fishing village has that typical Spanish aesthetic with bougainvillea spilling over its whitewashed walls and is often referred to as ‘little Venice’.
While you’re in Puerto de Mogan, stop at the local market if you happen to visit on a Friday, have drinks at the harbour and snap lots of pictures!
You can book a day trip to this beautiful town that includes a boat trip to Puerto Rico here.
33. Explore the island on an electric bike
One of the most fun ways to get around during a day of Gran Canaria sightseeing is by hiring an e-bike here. The island is relatively large and I was expecting the main attractions in Las Palmas to be a bit closer together, so an e-bike would have been a brilliant addition to our trip.
I’ve previously done an e-bike tour in Benidorm and it was so fun!
34. Stroll around the botanic gardens
Take a moment of calm amid the lush greenery at Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo in Tafira Alta. This peaceful botanical garden boasts more than 500 plants, many of which are unique to the island.
35. Hike to Roque Nublo
If hiking is your thing on holiday, you can’t miss Roque Nublo. It’s a volcanic rock in Tejeda that dates back millions of years and visiting it means you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping mountain views. Drive or get a taxi to Degollada de la Goleta and start your hike.
36. Learn about local culture
If you’d like to learn more about Canarian culture, Pueblo Canario is a must-visit in Gran Canaria. It’s great for kids because there are live performances by musicians wearing traditional local costume.
37. Visit Las Palmas’ art galleries
The city of Las Palmas is home to many of Gran Canaria’s cultural attractions and in the old town of Vegueta you’ll find San Martín Centro de Cultura Contemporánea.
38. See where Columbus stayed
Casa de Colón is another important place to visit in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The museum is dedicated to Christopher Columbus, who stayed there while his ship was being fixed en route to the New World.
39. Marvel at the local architecture
Gran Canaria’s architecture is wonderfully diverse, with a clear Spanish influence. Many of Gran Canaria’s most interesting structures hark back to the island’s colonial past.
Nowhere on the island is this better exemplified than in Vegueta, where the cobblestone streets are fringed with an array of beautiful old buildings with wooden balconies.
40. Visit Museo Canario
Also located in the Vegueta district, Museo Canario is one of the best places to go in Gran Canaria to learn more about the destination and its pre-colonial era. The exhibits are mainly archeological artefacts and mummies.
There’s a gift shop at the museum.
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I hope you found this guide to the best things to do in Gran Canaria helpful for planning your trip! Have a great holiday.
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