21 Things to Do in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands can offer a world of unbelievable outdoor exploration with the most spectacular natural backdrops. From the sandy beaches of Tenerife and the exhilarating water sports of Fuerteventura to the diverse landscapes of Gran Canaria and the volcanic craters of Lanzarote, there’s always something to do and see when you’re visiting the Canaries. And because there’s an island for every type of traveller, whether you’re a serious adventurer or a luxury seeker, you’ll be wanting to come back time and time again. A fantastic destination for families, honeymooning couples, and groups looking for a good time, the Canary Islands simply has everything. Here are 21 things that you can do in the Canary Islands, and tips on the best places to do them!
Relax on Beautiful Beaches
The Canaries are known for their beautiful beaches so no matter which island you decide to visit, you’ll have so much choice for sunbathing. From white sand and pebbly beaches to the volcanic black sand beaches of Tenerife and Lanzarote, the islands offer so much variety. Some of our favourite beaches to check out include the gorgeous Corralejo Beach on Fuerteventura with its sand dune nature reserve, El Bollullo Beach on Tenerife, Gran Canaria’s resort beach of Playa del Inglés which is extremely convenient for families, or Gran Canaria’s Las Canteras Beach lined with bars and restaurants, Lanzarote’s unspoilt Famara Beach, Hermigua Beach on La Gomera, or Las Conchas on the tropical isle of La Graciosa off Lanzarote’s north coast.
Go Island Hopping
If you can’t pick an island to lay your hat, why not go island hopping to discover them all? The two closest islands are Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, just 30 minutes by ferry and with 17 journeys running daily from Playa to Blanca Corralejo. You can also get from Tenerife to Gran Canaria in less than 1 hour, with 2 different routes and both running several times a day. Small ship cruises are also a great way of experiencing the different islands.
Scuba Dive in Canarian Waters
If you love the ocean, the Canary Islands are a great place for diving. There are so many dive sites to explore, including wreck diving, night diving and landscape dives, with endless ocean life to see. Some of the top dive sites are La Burrera (Lanzarote), La Cuevita (La Gomera) Veril Grande (Fuerteventura), Armenime (Tenerife), Playa Chica (Lanzarote), El Bajon (El Hierro), and the ‘Telamon’ wreck (Lanzarote).
Explore the National Parks
One of the most wonderful things about the Canary Islands is the diverse nature and wonderful landscapes. El Teide National Park in Tenerife is the biggest national park of the islands and is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, best known for its volcanic peak. Other parks worth a visit are Caldera de Taburiente National Park in La Palma, Garajonay National Park on the island of Gomera, and the famous fire mountains at Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote.
Enjoy a Volcano Tour
Volcano tours are an extremely exciting outdoor activity, especially if you’re travelling with children. Touring the national parks and volcanic landscapes are great for exercise, and can also be educational. If you love volcanic landscapes and beautiful panoramas, don’t miss Lanzarote, La Palma, El Hierro, Tenerife.
Discover Quaint Seaside Towns
If you’re bored sunbathing at big resorts, why not arrange a day out at one of the Canaries’ many seaside towns? Visit a quaint coastal commune or fishing village like the laid back El Puertito (Tenerife), Los Abrigos (Tenerife) for its old world charms and incredible seafood, Tazacorte (La Palma) for its black sand beach and colourful houses, Arrieta (Lanzarote), or the beautiful Puerto de Las Nieves (Gran Canaria).
Charter a Yacht / Go Sailing
From yacht charters and catamarans to houseboats, there are so many ways you can explore the waters when in the Canaries. All of the seven main islands – Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro – are within a day’s sail of each other, so you can easily visit them all during your sailing adventure. The marinas all offer good facilities and each island has its own unique character too so be sure to stop off at each one for a few days.
Try Authentic Canarian Cuisine
Leave the tourist resorts behind if you want to discover real Canarian food. To explore the islands’ authentic cuisine, head to where the locals eat. The Canary Islands combined have around 100 different types of traditional dishes that you just have to try. Some of our favourite are Papas Arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes), Sancocho Canario (salted fish dish), Potaje de Berros (Canarian stew), Carne de Cabra (Canarian goat meat), Bocadillo de Chorizo de Teror (sausage spread served on bread), and Queso Asado con Mojo (grilled fish with sauce).
Spot Rare Endemic Birds
There are many different species of birds in the Canary Islands and there are some superb birding sites across each of the islands. The islands are also home to some endemic species that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Such as the Blue Chaffinch, the Bolle’s Pigeon, the Canary Islands Chiffchaff, the Canary Islands Kinglet, the Canary Islands Stonechat, and the Laurel Pigeon. Some of the best birding sites include Punta de la Rasca and Golf del Sur in Tenerife, Barranco de Rio Cabras and Rosa del Taro in Fuerteventura, and Playa Blanca in Lanzarote – just to name a few.
Check Out Colonial Cities
As well as incredible nature, the islands offer beautiful architecture too. Tenerife’s San Cristobal de la Laguna is one of the cities that has to be on your bucket list. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and due to its rich colonial history, it’s become a popular place for culture vultures. San Cristobal de la Laguna is the island’s former capital and within the historic town, you will find a glorious cathedral, Neoclassical churches, Renaissance architecture, and colonial buildings dating as far back as the 17th Century. The famous church, the Iglesia de Nuestra La Concepción, is not to be missed and Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán is worth visiting too.
Rejuvenate at a Luxury Spa
The Canary Islands create the perfect escape for luxury and relaxation. Known for its 5 star spa resorts, the islands offer a paradise for anyone who loves to pamper themselves in the most exclusive surroundings. Some of the best spa resorts to check out in 2017 include H10 Rubicon Palace in Lanzarote, Barcelo Castillo Beach Resort in Fuerteventura, the Nautilus Lanzarote, Regency Country Club in Tenerife, and the Radisson Blu Resort in Gran Canaria.
Learn About the Islands’ Religious Heritage
Discover the religious heritage of the Canaries in one of the many cathedral towns or Franciscan convent towns, such as Betancuria in Fuerteventura. Betancuria is a 15th century former capital and is best known for its impressive cathedral building, the Catedral de Santa María de Betancuria. Built in Norman-Gothic style and later renovated in Baroque style in the 17th century, this cathedral building is a true work of art. Other religious buildings in Betancuria are the Hermitage of San Diego and the Convent Church.
Experience the Santa Cruz Carnival
This is one of the biggest festival events on the islands, taking place each year in Tenerife. Every February, the carnival attracts visitors from across the globe! It’s considered to be the second most popular and internationally known carnival in the world (second only to the carnival held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Hundreds of groups get involved in the event – including murgas, comparsas, rondallas and other musical groups – and there are celebrations on the streets of Santa Cruz.
Book a Fishing Trip
Want to try your hand at one of the biggest traditions of the islands? Fishing is a lot of fun in groups and very rewarding. If you love the ocean and like the idea of catching your own fish dinner, look into the fishing charters that set off daily. Skippered boats allow visitors to experience big game fishing safely and conveniently, and you’ll find great catches in Canarian waters. Including Blue Marlin, Bluefin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Albacore, Yellowfin, Spearfish and White Marlin.
Try the Local Seafood
Naturally, the islands are a great place for tasting fresh seafood. From the must-try and seriously tasty dish of Vieja (parrotfish) to the indulgent street food bites of Chipirones (small squid), there’s so much to indulge in. Salted sea bass is also an authentic local favourite, plus garlic flavoured limpets, barbecued sardines, and octopus salads are popular too.
Play Golf by the Coast
The Canary Islands are a fantastic destination for golf lovers and many of the courses boast spectacular views of the Atlantic. The top 10 golf courses are Abama in Tenerife, Golf del Sur in Tenerife, Anfi Tauro in Gran Canaria, Tecina in La Gomera, El Cortijo Club de Campo in Gran Canaria, Maspalomas in Gran Canaria, Las Americas in Tenerife, Salobre in Gran Canaria, Buenavista in Tenerife, and Golf Costa Adeje in Tenerife.
Dolphin and Whale Watching
As well as fishing, boat trips will allow you the rare chance to spot beautiful sea creatures such as dolphins and whales. Different species can be seen all year round and you won’t have to go too far from the coast to spot dolphins, Finback Whales, Pilot Whales and Sperm Whales. This is a great activity for all ages.
Enjoy the Glamorous Nightlife
The main islands have been popular tourist destinations for many years, and have developed some of the best nightlife scenes in the world. The three best islands for hitting the town and enjoying a party atmosphere after sundown are Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife. Gran Canaria has something for everyone, from trendy bars to beaches lined with big nightclubs. Lanzarote boasts a choice of bars and clubs at both Puerto Del Carmen and Playa Blanca, and is also known for its many British pubs for those in search of a good pint. And Tenerife is great for all ages, with beach clubs and big super clubs.
Shop for Souvenirs at Canarian Markets
Shopping at the local markets is not only fantastic for picking up souvenirs to remember your trip by and to get gifts for loved ones back home, but it’s also a great way to rub shoulders with the locals and support local arts and crafts. Each of the seven islands has its own markets, all boasting their own unique charm. We particularly love browsing at Gran Canaria’s Teror Street Market, Lanzarote’s Teguise Street Market and Fuerteventura’s La Oliva Traditional Street Market.
Swim in a Natural Pool
There are fewer things in life more exciting than reconnecting with nature, and the Canaries allow you to do just that. There are many natural pools in the Canary Islands, which are wonderfully safe places to swim for all ages. These pools are not only strikingly beautiful, but they’re fantastic for cooling off or having a quick dip without heading out into the open sea. Steps, walkways and diving spots have been added to many of these pools to make them more accessible so they are suitable for children too. Be sure to check out Charco Azul when in La Palma, Charco del Viento when in Tenerife, Punta Mujeres when in Lanzarote, and La Maceta when in El Hierro.
Immerse Yourself in Canarian Coffee Culture
You won’t find a Starbucks on every corner anywhere in the Canary Islands. Independent coffee shops and local run cafes are still the venues of choice when it comes to meeting for a coffee and a chat. There’s also no such thing as a ‘coffee artiste’ in the Canaries because the drinks here are focused on flavour, not style. So do like the locals and try the local favourite, a Cortado or head to the Agaete coffee plantation to learn more about how it’s made.
If you’re interested in exploring the Canary Islands then make sure you organise your airport taxi transfer in advance.