Forget what you think you know about holidays in the Canary Islands; this North Atlantic archipelago of rugged volcanic rock, epic sandy beaches and buzzing coastal towns is unique amongst holiday destinations. Combining understated natural beauty with some of the best nightlife and opportunities to let your hair down on the planet, the Canary Islands are a truly diverse and magical place.
Imagine winding your way up through first the forests and later the sheer snow covered rock faces of Pico Del Teide, taking a cable car to the summit and later enjoying a fresh fish supper down at the balmy Los Gigantes harbour. That’s Tenerife for you. Picture windsurfing amongst the energetic Atlantic Ocean waters off Playa de Sotavento de Jandia and sunbathing on deserted white sands. It’s all part of the Fuerteventura experience.
Families, friends, couples and solo travelers alike will find plenty to get excited about on holiday in the Canary Islands, a hidden, remote yet wholly accessible territory of Spain.
Top resorts in Canary Islands
Puerto de la Cruz
Caleta de Fuste
Top hotels in Canary Islands
Alborada Beach Club
Costa del Silencio, Tenerife
Playa de las Americas, Tenerife
Gran Castillo Tagoro Family & Fun
Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
Castillo Beach Park
Costa Caleta, Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura Beach Club
Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura
Costa Teguise, Lanzarote
Blue Sea Costa Teguise Gardens
Costa Teguise, Lanzarote
DC Xibana Park
Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife
As the days grow shorter, who doesn’t start dreaming of a winter break in the sunshine? Either a short flight somewhere warm and sunny for a weekend escape, or perhaps somewhere further afield with gorgeous tropical beaches on which to soak up the…
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Spanish
- Time Zone: GMT +0
- Average flight time: 4h 30m
Sometimes the touristy bits just won’t do and once you have visited them all, you want to keep exploring more. After you’ve spent the better part of the day on the beach, it’s time to discover the hidden gems – local bits hidden within popular travel…
When to go
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Encompassing four closely connected yet hugely unique main islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote), the Canaries possess a rich pool of attractions that are sure to whet a wide range of appetites. Tenerife’s Parque Nacional del Teide is undeniably the most striking of attractions here, a vast expanse of volcanic mountain, forest and semi-desert. A cable car takes visitors from base to summit, hurtling up 1200m in under 10 minutes. The views from the top, of the volcanic valley below and distant islands beyond, are breathtaking.
On the same island, two hugely contrasting attractions sit on opposite sides of it. Santa Cruz, the capital, lies at the northeastern end. Here, amongst the bustling port, lies the Auditoria de Tenerife, a Moorish homage to the Sydney Opera House hosting its own eclectic calendar of live performance, hugging the deep blue Atlantic. It’s a huge hit with visitors and rightly so. And then for something a little different in the southwest, courtesy of Siam Park, an oriental-themed water park. Enjoy this oasis of water fountains, slides, pools and beaches, a great place to visit for a family holiday in the Canaries to remember.
Across on Gran Canaria you’ll find one of the world’s most incredible ‘city beaches’, Playa de las Canteras. Here you can snorkel in the turquoise waters, stroll and dine along the promenade and even go for a surf. It’s a stretch of golden sand that you won’t want to leave.
Wine and Dine
On account of its oceanic location once again, the Canary Islands prides itself on the quality of its seafood-oriented dining options, washed down of course with cold Spanish beers, full bodied wines and otherworldly liquors. We’re talking about tender and smoky fried squid, slow cooked stews and chargrilled vegetables, crisp lagers and enchanting guitar music enjoyed by a beach, on the harbour or in a town square.
There’s the old Vegueta district of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where the intriguingly named Cervecería y Pico Te lo Dije Pérez serves up over 100 different beers and simply presented tapas such as Spanish omelette with aioli. At the other end of the spectrum lies Bodegas Rubicon on Lanzarote, a restaurant housed in a winery overlooking the mountainous Timanfaya national park. There’s even a Michelin starred restaurant or two should you really want to push the boat out, with Tenerife leading the way. Try El Rincon de Juan Carlos in Los Gigantes for Michelin-rated food at reasonable prices.
There’s so much to keep the whole family entertained here on holiday in the Canary Islands. What could be more fun for young children than building volcanic sand castles one day and hurtling down one of Europe’s largest water slides the next? Turquoise waters and mystical landscapes will appeal to the little explorers amongst the family, whilst an abundance of child friendly beachside resorts are great places to make friends and play in the year-round sunshine.
Lanzarote is home to two amazingly quirky and cool family retreats in Finco de Arrieta and Finca Malvasia with its whitewashed cottages, tropical gardens and vineyard surroundings. There are plenty of fun pitch and putt golf courses on Tenerife including Centro Golf Los Palos, somewhere the whole family can practice their swing and enjoy great views of the mountains and sea beyond.
Action and Adventure
Rugged coastlines lend themselves to the edgier side of the watersports spectrum. Thrill seekers flock to the Canaries for world-class windsurfing, paragliding, scuba diving and snorkelling. The noticeably tropical Lanzarote is home to coral reefs nestled beneath the surface of the deep green waters, a great place to gaze down at teeming marine life. Inland, Timanfaya National Park lays claim to extraordinary volcanic landscapes just waiting to be hiked across, whilst certain areas of Tenerife are home to deserts and camels that are all too happy to ferry explorers across the baked golden sands. Leave the beaches of Fuerteventura behind and hop onto a quad bike to navigate over the unique lunar landscape, all under the watchful eye of an expert guide.
The Canary Islands is a great place for an adventure holiday, whether your preference lies with land or sea.
Life's a Beach
Being surrounded on all sides by the vast expanse of the Atlantic, much of life on a Canary Islands holiday revolves around the beach. Tenerife is unique for its rich and dark volcanic sands that tempt visitors down for a sunbathe and swim with a difference.
An island that’s home to more goats than people, Fuerteventura is the perfect place to truly get away from it all. Corralejo beach, at 10km in length, is the ideal spot to wind down and enjoy sweeping views of the ocean. It’s flanked by a nature reserve of sand dunes and sea birds and makes for the perfect place to let it all float away.
Tenerife’s El Bollulo, tucked away in the north near Puerto de la Cruz, is the darkest and most volcanic beach of them all, a remote shack bar nestled into the rocks inviting visitors to enjoy a beer and spot of fresh seafood over an incredibly picturesque sunset. And finally check out Lanzarote’s mountain-encompassed Famara beach if you enjoy paragliding and windsurfing, this vast expanse of sand being popular with the more adventurous traveller.
If the picture painted so far of a Canary Islands holiday sounds a little sedate for you, fear not, for these lands are renowned for seriously good fun after dark. Playa de las Americas is undoubtedly the hub of Canarian nightlife, a place where familiar songs boom out of bass heavy sound systems. Famous DJs frequent Tramps nightclub here. Off the beaten track lies La Laguna, home to the island’s university. Here you can see live music, drink in atmospheric local squares and escape the tourist trail.
Elsewhere amongst the islands you can enjoy a live show, dinner and drinks all at once at Garbo’s on Gran Canaria. They call it ‘Broadway in the middle of the Atlantic’ and you’ll soon see why. Pacha Gran Canaria takes the famed Iberian nightclub and recreates it in the Canaries, so you can be sure of cutting edge dance music on a nightly basis. And for that truly local feel it has to be Neon Dancing, a 30-year-old club that specialises in traditional Latin flavours.
Which island you choose for your romantic escape depends entirely on what you enjoy doing. Should you want to let your hair down and hit up the town together then the south of Tenerife will do very nicely. However, for something a little different the small island of La Palma comes highly recommended for a trip in January or February. It’s at this time you’ll find almond blossom in full bloom and be able to undertake peaceful walks through dense forests and dramatic volcanic landscapes, completely separated from civilisation. It’s the ultimate loved up getaway spot.
Secluded beaches exist in abundance across the islands and what could be more romantic than enjoying a fresh fish supper over a glass or two of wine at sunset whilst gazing out to sea? A collection of national parks, mountains and UNESCO heritage sites take up the vast majority of forest-covered La Gomera, Tenerife’s smaller neighbour. It’s a great place to jump in a jeep and go for a drive, taking it all in together.
Whilst displaying traditional Spanish heritage with pride, the Canary Islands have an undeniable North African flavour about them, due to the proximity to Morocco. The language here is influenced not only by Spain, but also by the Caribbean and South America. It makes for a fascinating melting pot, evidenced in unique, rhythmic music spilling out of local village bars, local delicacies made with typical African ingredients, and the environmental architecture of Cesar Manrique. The Canary Islands are a fascinating place of tradition, gastronomy and the arts, an intriguing culture waiting to be unearthed by first time visitors.