Best Things To Do in Canary Islands
One of the best things to do on the Canary Islands is relax on the beach. Some of the most popular places to do so are Gran Canaria's Playa de las Canteras and Playa de Maspalomas, and Tenerife's Playa de Las Teresitas. But there's more to do here than lounge oceanside: Take time to visit a national park or two — there are four spread across the archipelago. You should also save some space in your travel itinerary to explore the charms of city life on the Canaries, especially in Gran Canaria's Las Palmas and Tenerife's Santa Cruz.
Updated September 14, 2015
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Las Palmas is a popular place to base a Canary Islands vacation. Not only is it the Canaries' largest city, it's also got a number of world-class attractions. Its beach — the 2½-mile Playa de las Canteras — is an attractive urban shoreline. Guarded by a barrier reef, the waters are gentle and suitable for travelers of all ages. And the promenade that backs the beach is a spectacular place for a sunset stroll.
When it comes to shopping, you'll want to wander down Calle Triana as well as the streets right around it. Along with well-known fashion brands like Zara and H&M, there are Spanish chains and local boutiques. Meanwhile, recent visitors say that come evening, the atmosphere is like no other, as the street comes to life with people. You'll find this street about 3 miles south of Playa de las Canteras.
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Playa de Maspalomas is one of Gran Canaria's most popular beaches. It's especially known for its impressive sand dunes and its old lighthouse, which first shined in 1890. The beach is also backed by a host of hotels and restaurants, and many find the area a good place to base a Canary Island vacation.
One TripAdvisor user, who called the Playa de Maspalomas "fabulous," also offered a word of warning: "If you don't like nudity, […] don't walk too far along the beach." There is indeed a clothing-free section of shoreline, between beach bars 3 and 4 from the lighthouse, as well as beach bars 5 and 6 from Playa del Inglés.
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The Parque Nacional del Teide covers nearly 75 square miles in central Tenerife. This national park contains the towering Teide volcano, which is currently dormant. Rising 12,198 feet into the sky, Tiede constitutes Spain's tallest peak; it's also the world's third-largest volcano. The rest of the park is not to be missed either. Many visitors describe it as having an "otherworldly" or "lunar" landscape, with its weird-looking rock formations and multicolored lava deposits. The best way to see these volcanic remains is by walking, and there are more than 20 trails you can choose from.
One TripAdvisor user highly recommends bringing your own vehicle, saying: "Without your own transport […] it will be difficult to enjoy most of the wonderful lunar scenery of the park."
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Roque Nublo, which is translated as "Clouded Rock," is a rock formation rising more than 250 feet into the sky on Gran Canaria. The rocks are popular among tourists because they're easily traversed — a short hike (roughly an hour) from La Goleta car park will get you to the top. Also, the views from Roque Nublo are spectacular: On a clear day, you can see across the horizon to Tenerife's Mount Teide.
Recent visitors recommend getting to Roque Nublo early to ensure you get a parking spot: The area gets crowded, especially on nice days.
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The Caldera de Taburiente National Park is a huge crater surrounded by volcanic peaks lined with streams and waterfalls and peppered with pine groves. One of the most popular ways to experience the park is to hike one of its many trails, though you can also just drive up one its peaks like El Roque de los Muchachos. Either way, you should make a stop at the El Paso Visitors Center to plan out your trip.
One TripAdvisor user was adamant in her recommendation of this national park: "The scenery is awe-inspiring, nature at its finest. Words cannot do it justice, pictures cannot do it justice. You have to see it for yourself."
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Located on the western coast of Lanzarote, Timanfaya National Park looks like the cratered surface of the moon, leading many visitors to describe it as "extraterrestrial." Visitors will also be impressed by the talent shows that the geothermal environment provides. Just a few meters below the earth's surface, the temperatures of the sizzling ground range from 750 to 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit. To display the earth's great heat, park guides will throw water down holes into the ground to create a violent steam geyser. When they toss dry brush, they immediately flame with fire. Because of this volatile environment, you won't be able to traverse the park on your own. The park offers two walking tours, a coach tour and even a camel tour. And many visitors opt to participate in an independent bus tour of the park.
One TripAdvisor user recommends touring the park via coach, saying: "You get a complete tour through the park that you would miss by car, as they are not allowed to travel through the park."
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Santa Cruz de Tenerife is not a tourist town — citizens live and work here, and it may be a bit harder to find English speakers here than in the island's southwest resorts. That said, a visit to Santa Cruz de Tenerife a great way to experience authentic island life. And there are some interesting things to do as well.
Head to the Canaries' biggest public square — Plaza de España — to people-watch, view the enormous artificial lake and see the sailboat design of the Auditorio de Tenerife. (By the way, this auditorium is a great place to view an opera, concert or other performance.) For a culture fix, travelers can also check out some of the museums, including the contemporary art housed in the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes. The gallery is located in downtown Santa Cruz on Avenue de San Sebastian.
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Valle Gran Rey (Great King Valley) is a valley located on La Gomera's southwest coast. Exploring on foot is one of the main things to do here, and there are scenic paths that crisscross the valley's small villages and banana plantations. As travelers journey eastward toward the coast, they'll find the port beach, which features calm, safe waters for swimming. More experienced swimmers can head to La Playa's pebble beach, just north of the port beach. La Playa also contains beachfront hotels, a small promenade and a handful of terrace cafes.
One TripAdvisor user said Valle Gran Rey feels like it's almost untouched by tourism, recommending visitors "hang out at the plaza at night with the hippies, enjoy the music and fire shows, and just chill and enjoy the simple pleasures in life."
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