The Canary that often gets overlooked in the rush to Tenerife is a fantastic and fascinating island with great beaches and a rugged, dramatic interior.
Drenched in ancient history and brilliant for water sports, waterparks and outdoor adventure, Gran Canaria works family holidays beautifully from every angle.
Direct flights from the UK to Las Palmas all year round with a flying time of fours hours and 45 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The annual Carnival of Las Palmas (February, March) is one of the biggest and most colourful Mardi Gras celebrations in Spain
Las Palmas is the largest city in the Canary Islands and co-capital of the archipelago with Tenerife’s Santa Cruz.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All singing, all dancing theme park with everything from kid’s shows and arcade games to white knuckle rides and diners. Holiday World
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
Medium size waterpark with a good range of chutes, slides, rivers, pools and plenty of cool shade in high summer. Aqualand
Billed as a waterpark, Lago Taurito’s all that but comes with mini-golf, restaurants, petting zoo and lots more besides. Lago Taurito
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.