Canary Islands Travel Guide

Spain  #2 in Best Beaches in Spain

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Canary Islands Area Map


The Canary Islands archipelago is a string of seven islands, closer to Morocco than to their mother country Spain. The islands are home to more than 2 million people, and their main trade is tourism.

Tenerife is the largest island in the Canaries at almost 800 square miles. And it's also one of the most-visited with about 10 million travelers stopping here every year. The island's Mount Teide dominates the skyline, towering above the banana plantations, vineyards and beaches, as well as its primary city, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Located in the northeast part of the island, Santa Cruz offers visitors a taste of authentic Canary life. When it comes to hotels, you'll find that the north-central coast of Puerto de la Cruz and the southwestern coast of Costa Adeje are popular places to book.

The fourth largest island in the Canaries, Lanzarote is a little more than 300 square miles in area and is another very popular place to base a vacation. Beaches and resorts ring the island, but Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca on the southern and southeastern coasts are two of the most popular areas to stay. If visitors want to branch out from sunbathing, they can head to Timanfaya National Park, which is located on a large swath of land in southwest Lanzarote. Everything from camel rides to geothermal nature shows await.

Fuerteventura is the island closest to the coast of Africa. It's a major destination for water sports enthusiasts because of the surrounding ocean's big waves for surfers and strong winds for windsurfers. Professional surfers flock to beaches like Playa Morro and Playa Cotillo. Some of the most popular hotels cluster around the northern Corralejo region and the southern Playa de Jandia.

Visitors looking to party will want to base their Canary Islands vacation here. Gran Canaria's northern section — specifically around the beaches Playa Del Inglés and Maspalomas — is packed with bars and nightclubs. But Gran Canaria's landscape is a major draw as well. Near the center of the island, the Roque Nublo rock formation gives travelers a taste of the island's almost extraterrestrial-looking scenery. As for lodging, visitors will find that many resorts and hotels around the southern Playa Del Ingles, Puerto Rico and Maspalomas beaches. Still, visitors might want to book near the northern Las Palmas city, to be near its urban beach, shopping and restaurants.

La Gomera is one of the smaller and lesser-developed islands in the Canaries. It actually stretches only 15 miles across. Still, the island's small size and the fact that it's been relatively untouched by mass tourism makes for a charming atmosphere. La Gomera's southern Playa Santiago is a gravel beach, pleasantly backed by a few mom-and-pop restaurants and a small cluster of hotels. And its southwestern Valle Gran Rey features black-sand beaches and some scenic trails ideal for long walks, as well as some nice accommodations that get good ratings from recent travelers. 

La Palma doesn't have to rely on tourism as a major source of income since the island does so well agriculturally. But that's not to say that it doesn't offer tourists loads of attractions and accommodations. Little La Palma — the archipelago's third-smallest island — does contain some must-sees for travelers. Its central Caldera de Taburiente National Park with its towering volcanic peaks is requisite, as is its eastern town Santa Cruz de la Palma with its quaint, 16th century streets.

This is the Canaries' smallest island, measuring a little more than 100 square miles. It's not heavily frequented by tourists, except those looking to escape the throngs in Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Still, the island boasts some good scuba diving — especially off its southern tip of La Restinga. You can stay overnight on El Hierro, but there are only a few small hotels to choose from.

Sunburn is the most likely risk you'll encounter when traveling to the Canaries. Make sure to slather on the sunscreen and hydrate with water, whether you're at the beach or in a national park. You should also guard yourself against the possibility of petty theft, especially in popular tourist areas, by concealing your valuables on your person or even storing them in a hotel safe. Do not bring any valuables to the beach, or if you do, make sure someone is attending them at all times.

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