Best Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain

The 15 Best Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain

With undulating sand dunes, quaint fishing villages, world-class attractions, and some of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever laid eyes on, Gran Canaria is much more than a typical tourist vacation destination.

Whatever type of vacation you’re seeking, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Gran Canaria. From award-winning aquariums, excellent watersports, and lively festivals to stunning natural attractions, gorgeous botanical gardens, and fantastic hiking trails, there’s always something to do here, whatever you’re in the mood for! 

With such a great choice of things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Gran Canaria. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Gran Canaria bucket list, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time exploring this gorgeous subtropical island. 

The Top 15 Things to do in Gran Canaria

1. Explore underwater treasures at Poema del Mar

Cool Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Poema del Mar

Poema del Mar is one of the biggest and best Gran Canaria attractions. The largest aquarium in the Canary Islands, Poema del Mar is divided into three separate sections, each of which invites you to explore a different type of marine environment.

Your journey begins in the jungle section, where you’ll be surrounded by dazzling blue frogs, shocking electric eels, quirky pig-nosed turtles, and mesmerizing stingrays. The whole place is decorated according to the underwater theme, so you really will feel like you’re in the jungle.

As you move up through the aquarium, you’ll come across the deep ocean section. This is where you’ll discover all kinds of fascinating marine life, from giant octopuses and great white sharks to tiny sea dragons and king crabs. 

The final part of the aquarium is dedicated to underwater species you find on coral reefs and at the beach. This area is filled with stunning creatures, such as clownfish, seahorses, jellyfish, and turtles.

2. Gaze in awe at the Maspalomas Dunes

Fun Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Maspalomas Dunes

You’ll find some of the best sights in Gran Canaria along the southern coast in Maspalomas. While this part of the island is usually considered a family-friendly tourist resort, it’s also home to some of the most remarkable sand dunes you’ll ever see in your life.

These golden dunes are absolutely huge and stretch along the coast for miles. They form a very fragile ecosystem, which is why it’s important to follow one of the walking routes when exploring. Although you may feel like you’re in the middle of an endless desert, all the routes are clearly marked, so there’s no chance of getting lost. 

For some high-speed thrills, sign up for a sandboarding experience. Sandboarding is very similar to snowboarding. But instead of wrapping up and zooming down snowy slopes, you’ll cover yourself in suntan lotion and speed down sandy dunes. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!

3. Snap photos of the iconic Roque Nublo

Best Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Roque Nublo

Roque Nublo is the most popular Gran Canaria sightseeing attraction. A protected UNESCO landmark hidden away in the central region of Tejeda, this natural attraction is a spectacular volcanic rock that stands a staggering 262 feet tall.

The eye-catching wonder was created as a result of a powerful volcanic eruption that happened around 4.5 million years ago. Roque Nublo is surrounded by a rocky, barren, alien-like landscape that looks like it comes from another world. The easiest way to get there is to drive into Tejeda and take a short walk to the rock.

But if you’re feeling energetic, there are loads of amazing hikes in the area that show off some of Gran Canaria’s most spectacular and breathtaking landscapes. We suggest starting at Degollada de la Goleta and following the signposts for the hiking route. You’ll be treated to amazing views of Tejeda mountain and Roque Nublo along the way. 

4. Visit the Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo

Unique Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo

For some of the most beautiful things to see in Gran Canaria, spend the day at Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo. Set in the northeastern part of the island in Tafira Alta, this gorgeous botanical garden is remarkably green and lush, in comparison to the rest of the dry, rocky landscape. 

Take a look around, and you’ll discover around 500 stunning plants which are endemic to the Canary Islands. As well as spiky cacti and plump succulents, you’ll also come across a number of beautiful species which have been imported from countries all over the world. 

Close to the entrance, you’ll find a modern bronze bust of José de Viera y Clavijo. He was the Spanish botanist who dreamed of opening up a beautiful botanical garden in Gran Canaria.

If you’re really into horticulture, you’ll be fascinated by the laboratory and library onsite. The Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo does a great job at protecting all kinds of species and plants and records all their research and achievements within these two educational spots. 

5. Sample cochino negro canario

If you love trying new food, one of the top things to do in Gran Canaria is to stop by a Canarian restaurant and order yourself a plate of cochino negro canario. This dish is made from the tender, juicy meat of the Canarian black pig. It tastes so much better than regular pork and has a long history that goes back centuries.

Years ago, families would raise their own pig to eat. Not only did the pig provide the family with a source of food, but it also gave them a way to sustainably dispose of organic material by feeding it to the pig. Because the meat became so popular, the Canarian black pig almost became extinct. 

Genuine cochino negro canario can be tricky to get your hands on. While a lot of restaurants have it on their menu, only a few sell genuine black pig. Granja el Tio Isidro is one of the places that sells real cochino negro canario.

This restaurant specializes in farming and cooking the famed pig and produces some of the most delicious meat you’ll ever try in Gran Canaria. 

6. Discover Canarian cultural secrets at Pueblo Canario

If you want to learn more about the local people and the heritage that made the Canary Islands what they are today, spend some time at Pueblo Canario. One of the top things to do in Gran Canaria, this cultural attraction is located in the center of the capital city and invites you on a fascinating journey into the past.

The museum is designed to look like a traditional Canarian village, complete with pretty plazas, typical Canarian architecture, and iconic Canarian balconies. To make the place feel even more local, you’ll find staff members throughout the museum dressed in typical clothing and doing things the Canarian people have been doing for generations.

You can watch traditional Canarian folk performances, see people making baskets that have been used to carry fresh produce for centuries, witness locals caring for typical Canarian farm animals, and loads more. Pueblo Canario is also home to a captivating art gallery filled with masterpieces from the Canary Islands and further afield. 

7. Shake your hips at Carnival

Gran Canaria, Spain Bucket List: Carnival

The annual Carnival is one of the most incredible Gran Canaria activities that you’ve got to check out. Held each year between February and March (the dates change depending on when Easter falls), Carnival is celebrated in all parts of the island. But for the most impressive events, head to the capital of Las Palmas.

Here you’ll find the streets filled with music and laughter as extravagant parades wind throughout the city. Larger-than-life floats, people wearing amazing costumes you rarely see outside Brazil, and remarkably talented bands flow throughout the streets and provide hours of entertainment.

Fun Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Carnival

What makes the Gran Canaria Carnival different from the other Carnivals in the Canaries is the drag queen pageant. Men decked out in stunning makeup, phenomenal ball gowns, and shoes as tall as stilts take to the stage and compete for the top prize. 

Although programs are advertised throughout the city, things rarely stick to a schedule. Activities tend to start a little later than planned in the Canary Islands, and parties go on for hours longer than expected, so be flexible!

8. Explore the Venice of Spain

Gran Canaria, Spain Things to do: Puerto de Mógan

Walk through the stunning streets of Venice without leaving Spain by heading to the dazzling town of Puerto de Mógan. One of the most unique things to do in Gran Canaria, a day trip to this charming village is guaranteed to make you feel relaxed and serene, no matter how tired you are from sightseeing.

As soon as you step foot in the village, you’ll instantly understand how it got its nickname. Puerto de Mogán is filled with whitewashed houses dressed in bright pink bougainvillea, which are dotted in between gently flowing canals that run out to sea. There are several bridges that cross the river and connect you to hidden plazas, secret cocktail lounges, and clandestine tapas bars. 

There’s no major landmark or attraction in Puerto de Mogán. The coastal village itself is the highlight! If you’ve got your swimming gear with you, there’s a beautiful golden sandy beach in the village. It’s protected by a marina and rock wall, so the water is always perfectly calm for swimming. 

9. Seek out wild whales and dolphins

Cool Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Seek Out Wild Whales and Dolphins

One of the coolest things to do in Gran Canaria is to sign up for a whales and dolphins boat trip. There’s nothing like sailing on the water and admiring these magical creatures in the wild, playing and doing whatever they feel like.

The waters around Gran Canaria are teeming with more than 30 different species of whales and dolphins. You’re almost guaranteed to see pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may also be lucky enough to see humpback whales and even sperm whales. 

Turtle sightings are also pretty much a sure thing, whenever you sail. The captains get to know the turtles and can recognize them thanks to their unique markings. They’ll be able to tell you how old the turtles are and give you a little background on their lives so far. 

This tour is one of the best in Gran Canaria. It’s suitable for people of all ages, there’s a bar onboard, and the boat is fitted with a glass bottom so you can see the amazing underwater world below you.

10. Try All The cheese

What to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Become a Cheese Addict

If you’re a fan of cheese, you’ll find one of the most fun things to do in Gran Canaria hidden away inside the island’s local Canarian restaurants. Most traditional restaurants on the island offer an incredible selection of Canarian cheeses as appetizers, and you’ve absolutely got to try them.

You’ll often see “Tabla de queso” or “Tabla mixta” on restaurant appetizer menus. The first is a plate of different local cheeses and the second is a mixed plate of local cheeses and cured meats. They often come with a pretty hefty price tag, but that’s because the quality is superb. If you’re on a tight budget, you can usually find small local cheese plates available in most supermarkets. 

For something truly decadent, order “Queso a la plancha.” This is a medium-texture (somewhere between soft and hard) cheese, which is cooked on a hot plate until it’s tender and golden. It’s usually drizzled with local honey and served with Canarian mojo sauces. After your first bite, it’s the only thing you’ll ever want to eat! 

11. Go thrill-seeking on the coast

Gran Canaria, Spain Bucket List: Thrill-Seeking on the Coast

Gran Canaria is an amazing place to push yourself to your limits and find out exactly what you’re capable of. The waters around the island provide the perfect conditions for snorkeling, scuba diving, water skiing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, and loads more.

There’s no single best place for watersports in Gran Canaria. The conditions are almost ideal all over the coast. Because of this, you’ll find watersport kiosks dotted close to practically every beach that rent out equipment. Some spots even provide multi-day courses so you can learn how to surf or scuba dive during your vacation.

If you’d rather stay out of the water, there are still plenty of places you can seek out high-speed thrills. You can go skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping, canyoning, and coasteering throughout the island. The landscape is so diverse in Gran Canaria that you can do loads of different exciting activities in a single day without wasting hours driving all over the place. 

12. Get a bird’s-eye view of the island

Gran Canaria, Spain Things to do: Bird’s-eye view of the island

If you’ve never been in a helicopter before, one of the must-do things in Gran Canaria is to strap yourself in and fly high above the island. Helicopter tours are hugely popular throughout the island because they give you the chance to see the remarkably diverse landscape you simply can’t see any other way.

There are a number of different helicopter tours to choose from. If you’re not sure how comfortable you’ll be in the air, you can start with one of the simple 10-minute coastal packages. This route takes you along the coast from Bahía Feliz to Faro de Maspalomas. You’ll get to see the famous Maspalomas sand dunes, and you may even spot turtles in the water if the helicopter flies low enough.

If money’s no issue, splash out and treat yourself to the longer 45-minute tour. This tour includes the part of the coastline listed above, but it also continues up the coast past a number of stunning beaches. It circles around the iconic Roque Nublo and Valle de Tejeda before dropping you off at your starting point.

13. Celebrate with Día de Canarias

Unique Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Día de Canarias

If you’re planning your trip for the end of May, you’ve got to take part in Día de Canarias. Joining in with this annual festival on May 30 is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria!

Locals in Gran Canaria are incredibly proud of their culture, and Día de Canarias gives you the chance to learn all about it. All kinds of events take place all over the island, from streets and plazas to supermarkets and museums. Keep an eye out for posters advertising activities or ask at your nearest tourist information office for more information.

Expect to see loads of adults and children wearing traditional Canarian clothes and behaving as people did generations ago. You’ll see people making, sharing, and eating traditional Canarian food. Random dances will also break out throughout the plazas and streets, with folk bands playing typical Canarian music and loads of traditional drinks to go around.

14. Step back in time at the Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park

Best Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park

If you love stepping back in time and seeing what things were like centuries ago, the Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria. This tourist attraction is one of the most important pre-Spanish era archaeological sites in Gran Canaria and is a fascinating place to spend the day, even if you’re not usually into ancient history.

Set inside a network of caves, the museum is covered in cave paintings that show basic geometric shapes and patterns. Experts aren’t quite certain what they represent, but it’s thought that they’ve got something to do with lunar and solar calendars. 

Cool Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park
Image courtesy of Koostrip

There are guided tours in various languages organized each day so you can learn all about the ancient caves and what researchers think went on there. The caves are lit up with atmospheric lighting, giving them a really spooky and mystical vibe. 

15. Try sausages only made in Gran Canaria

Unique Things to do in Gran Canaria, Spain: Chorizo de teror
Image courtesy of Chorizo de teror

The food in the Canary Islands is absolutely amazing. Sausages are something the islands specialize in, and you’ll find one of the most unique and delicious in Gran Canaria. Chorizo de teror is made exclusively in Gran Canaria and tastes incredible. While it’s regularly imported to the other Canary Islands, it’s almost impossible to find it anywhere else in the world.

Chorizo de teror is a type of flavor-packed chorizo that’s made with paprika and salt. This gives it a striking orange color that sets it aside from regular chorizo. It has a deliciously soft and creamy texture similar to sobrasada. So instead of slicing it up and layering it on a sandwich, it’s often spread on toast or baguettes.

The best place to buy chorizo de teror is from local farmers’ markets or even supermarkets. It’s often served in single small chorizo links or a great big coil made up of multiple sausages. 

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Gran Canaria. What’s your favorite thing to do? 



  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

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