Family holidays to Gran Canaria

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The Canary Island that often gets overlooked in the rush for family holidays in Tenerife, Gran Canaria is fascinating. As well as big, sandy and sunny beaches, it’s home to the legendary Maspalomas Dunes. The dramatic interior, often described as a ‘continent in miniature’, is a natural playground for family activity holidays. And if all that isn’t exciting enough, Gran Canaria also has water sports, waterparks and a fun island capital as back up.

Why go on holiday to Gran Canaria

  • Direct flights

    Direct flights from the UK to Las Palmas all year round with a flying time of fours hours and 45 minutes.

  • A UNESCO Biosphere

    One third of Gran Canaria is as UNESCO Biosphere and the island has 32 protected areas including: Nublio Rural Park, Doramas Jungle, Azuaje Ravine and Tamadaba.

  • Popularity

    Gran Canaria is the second most populated in the Canary Island archipelago, which is part of Spain but geographically defined as African – 150km off the west coast of Africa and over 1500km from the south of Spain.

  • Warm climate

    The popular south of the island has a warm, dry climate and temperatures of between 27 and 32˚ in July and August dropping to 22˚ in January and February.

  • Las Dunas de Maspalomas

    404ha Las Dunas de Maspalomas on the south coast of Gran Canaria have been a nature reserve since 1897 and were finalists in the 12 Treasures of Spain list alongside the Sierra Nevada, Picas de Europa and Cabrera.

  • Carnival of Las Palmas

    The annual Carnival of Las Palmas (February, March) is one of the biggest and most colourful Mardi Gras celebrations in Spain

  • Las Palmas

    Las Palmas is the largest city in the Canary Islands and co-capital of the archipelago with Tenerife’s Santa Cruz.

Where to go and stay in Gran Canaria


The very southern tip of Gran Canaria’s defined by the huge swathe of golden Las Dunas de Maspalomas. This phenomena lends it name to one of the island’s best known towns and its stately 55m high 19th century lighthouse. South of the sand, there’s plenty of sea on this sunny coast and several big, beautiful beaches. Head in the other direction and you have lively resorts, big hotels, holiday villages and all the attractions that make Maspalomas so enduringly popular.

  • Wide choice of hotels and villas at San Agustin, Playa del Ingles, Costa Meloneras and Sonneland.
  • Don’t miss: Maspalomas Lighthouse; Holiday World; Palmitos Park; Maspalomas Botanical Gardens; Meloneras Promenade; Maspalomas weekend markets.
  • Playa del Ingles is one of the best island beaches for water sports. It also has zoned play areas for younger children.
  • Maspalomas is busy and touristy in high season. Most late night clubs and bars are centred around the town’s Yumbo Centrum and Casino Gran Canaria.
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Puerto de Mogán

This pretty, typically Spanish harbour town is only 30 minutes drive west of Maspalomas but couldn’t be more different from its big, busy neighbour. Here you’ll find narrow streets lined with colourful houses, shady trees and lush planting. Very little’s been disturbed by new build and even the shops sell local artisan crafts instead of tourist tat.

  • The harbour has several excellent seafood restaurants, pretty cafés and local bars.
  • Good for dolphin cruises, fishing charters and the Canary Island favourite ‘yellow submarine’.
  • Best for self-catering apartments and smaller resort hotels stretching east along the coast towards Puerto Rico.
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Puerto Rico

A custom built resort with a fabulous cliff-ringed setting, wide open sea views and two gorgeous public beaches awash with water sports and kid’s activities. Puerto Rico’s popular with families and what it lacks in traditional charm it more than makes up for in energetic atmosphere, high summer temperatures and general all-round good fun.

  • Excellent resort for families with everything from five star and boutique hotels to good value all-inclusive resorts and self-catering apartments.
  • Amadores Beach is man-made and the crushed coral sand contrasted with the green-blue sea is about as close to Caribbean as you get in the Canaries.
  • Puerto Rico Beach is about half the size of Amadores and mainly used for sunbathing.
  • Dolphin cruises, glass bottom boat tours, fishing, sailing and diving charters all sail from Puerto Rico harbour.
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Playa Taurito

Just 20 minutes east of Puerto de Mogán this relatively small resort sits round a small bay of volcanic sand. Sheltered and peaceful but with a great waterpark and plenty of space on the beach, Playa Taurito works well for complete escapism.

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Las Palmas

Set between two stunning urban beaches, Las Canteras and Las Alcaraveneras, at first glance Las Palmas looks like a typical island city with nothing to do but entertain troupes of tourists. Look closer and you’ll discover it’s a lot more interesting and historic that it seems.

  • Spend an afternoon (or more) exploring Vegueda. It’s Las Palmas’ historic quarter and the fine architecture dates back mainly to the 16th and 17th There are several museums and impressive Santo Ana Cathedral is in this district too.
  • Triano is a livelier side of Las Palmas’ history and where to find less imposing buildings but a more colourful atmosphere. Good for quaint shops, cute old fashioned cafés and broad, pedestrianised streets for strolling.
  • Shopping, eating, hanging out and people watching is what Santa Catalina was made for. It’s the district of big malls, department stores, Spanish designer brands and palm tree lined boulevards.
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What do and see with kids in Gran Canaria

  • Holiday World, Maspalomas

    All singing, all dancing theme park with everything from kid’s shows and arcade games to white knuckle rides and diners. Holiday World

  • Palmitos Park, Maspalomas

    Set in rugged, mountainous landscape just a short drive from the coast this animal and marine park is well managed and good fun for kids. Palmitos Park

  • Aqualand, Maspalomas

    Medium size waterpark with a good range of chutes, slides, rivers, pools and plenty of cool shade in high summer. Aqualand

  • Lago Taurito Waterpark

    Billed as a waterpark, Lago Taurito’s all that but comes with mini-golf, restaurants, petting zoo and lots more besides. Lago Taurito

  • Canario Museum, Las Palmas

    A large and important collection of Guanche artefacts dating back to 500BC give a unique insight into the life and culture of Gran Canaria’s indigenous people. Canario Museum

  • Mountain Bike Tours

    Escape from the beach and explore the interior of this remarkable and bio-diverse island with a local guide and leg power. From age 12 for road bikes and 16 for mountain bikes. Gran Canaria Mountain Bike Tours

  • Dolphin Cruises, Puerto Rico

    There are 75 species of dolphin swimming the world’s oceans and 29 of them have been spotted off the coast of Gran Canaria. Dolphin Cruises

  • Hiking Gran Canaria

    Gran Canaria’s generally referred to as ‘a continent in miniature’. Spend time hiking in the mountains, along clifftops, over ravines, across desert dunes and into lush, green valleys and you’ll see why. Walk In Gran Canaria guided treks.

  • Surfing and paddle boarding, Las Palmas

    Over five and able to stand up? Paddle board and surfing lessons on gorgeous Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas are brilliant adventures for kids. Paddle Boarding

  • Camel Trekking, Las Dunas de Maspalomas

    Rolling sand dunes, palm tree plantations and lakes filled with birds? The only way to really get into the spirit of astonishing Las Dunas de Maspalomas is on a camel. Camel Trekking

Educational value for kids

  • Gran Canaria’s wild and rugged landscape is amazingly diverse and surprisingly easy to explore with kids.
  • Visit Telde, the oldest city in Gran Canaria and the island’s original capital.
  • Spend a day in the northern town of Arucas, it was one of the ten 15th century kingdoms of Gran Canaria and at the heart of the original Guanche settlements.
  • There are over 20 different museums in Gran Canaria including the Atlantic Modern Art Museum and the Columbus House Museum in Las Palmas.
  • Cueva Pintada in Gàldar is the finest example of an ancient Guanche painted cave and one Gran Canaria’s must-sees – younger kids love the stories.
  • Catch the Yellow Submarine in Puerto de Mogàn and see Gran Canaria’s underwater world without getting wet.
  • Deep sea fishing off the south coast of Gran Canaria is a thrilling experience for older kids and teenagers. Best time is May to September and there are catch and release charters.

Getting about Gran Canaria with kids

Gran Canaria isn’t huge but it’s a complex island and well worth exploring. Public transport is good between resorts along the south coast and from Las Palmas in the north. But, unless you really don’t want to drive, hire a car. It’s by far the easiest way to get about with kids and gives you the freedom to delve right into fascinating Gran Canaria.

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