Holiday Guide for Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is famous as a beach destination, and rightly so. The island benefits from a great climate as well as some brilliant beaches.

Playa del Ingles is the most famous beach on the island, and probably in the whole Canaries. The golden-sand beach stretches for nearly 3kms, and is lined with bars, restaurants, hotels and shops. Although it boasts all the facilities you could need, the drawback is the large crowds you get especially in summer. Visitors can enjoy a whole range of water sports, including jet-skiing, sailing, windsurfing and water skiing.

Just down the coast one can find the stunning sand dunes of Maspalomas. The white sand stretches for six kilometers, and the beach is divided into different areas: some of the beach is popular with nudists, another part designated for families and another popular with the gay community.

The resort of Puerto Rico lies further along the coast to the west and is traditionally a favourite for British families. As the crescent shaped beach has been partly man made with sand imported from the Sahara it makes a great beach to take young children, although it can get very crowded. In Puerto Rico, youâll find a myriad of entertainment: thereâs a water park, a golf course, all the water sports, deep-sea fishing trips, dolphin cruises and much more.

If you want your beach a bit quieter, but cant do without all the amenities then Playa de los Amadores (Lovers Beach) is a good option as radios and ball games are banned.

Playa de las Canteras in the north is another popular beach. The beach is a 3km cove of

golden sand and the natural reef provides perfect waters for swimming.

For those looking to escape the concrete jungle of the busier resorts, a trip to the fishing village of Puerto Morgan might be an idea. Traffic is banned in the village and an absence of high rise hotels. There is a good beach that is protected and safe for swimming.

If you want to try your hand at windsurfing, there are a number of good beaches. The east coast is the best spot, with Pozo Izquierdo receiving ideal conditions for the sport.

There are a number places to rent the boards and take lessons.

For surfing, there are also some good spots. La Cicer just down from Playa de las Canteras often gets some great surfing conditions. Or check out El Alitalla just north of Las Palmas.

Scuba Diving, too, is popular on the island. There are some good dive sites on the island such as Puerto Morgan, Pasito Blanco Reef and El Carbon Marine Reserve. There are also some wreck sites: the El Pajar Wreck and a few around Las Palmas.

Families (or perhaps more accurately kids!) will be excited by Gran Canariaâs three water parks. The biggest on the island is Aquasur, near Maspalomas: itâs open year round and boasts 130,000 square metres of entertainment, including 33 slides and 13 water rides. Also in Maspalomas is the Ocean Park, which is a little smaller but still boasts enough pools, rides and restaurants to keep visitors busy all day long. The third park is Aqua Park at Puerto Rico which boasts the islandâs fastest and longest water slide.

There are also some other parks to entertain the family:

Palmitos Park is very popular; set in jungle gardens it houses over 200 species of bird as well as an aquarium, butterfly house, cactus garden and âGibbon Islandâ.

Cocodrilo Park boasts over 300 crocodiles as well as a variety of birds, monkeys and tropical fish.

Holiday World is an amusement park with a rollercoaster and 27m high Ferris wheel, as well as shooting stalls, laserdome and amusement arcades.

Sioux City recreates the Wild West and was originally built to film a Western movie.

To learn a bit about the history of the islandâs first inhabitants, visitors might want to check out Mundo Aborigen, where there is a reconstruction of life in an ancient Canary village and loads of displays and information of the Guanche people and their customs.

If you fancy learning a bit more about the island there are a number of good museums to be visited. The Museo Canario in Las Palmas houses the Canary Islandsâ largest collection of pre-Hispanic dating from the very first inhabitants more tan 2500 years ago up until the Spanish conquest of the islands in the 15th Century.

The Museo de Historia de Aguimes tells the history of the island over the last five centuries, since the Spanish arrived.

The Casa Museo de Colon is also in Las Palmas and allows visitors a look at the house of the islands first Governors, the place where Columbus stayed before his voyage to the new world. The museum display includes contains artifacts from Columbusâ voyages including navigation instruments, nautical maps and charts, and a replica of a cabin of his ship âLa Niñaâ.

Besides its museums, Las Palmas holds a number of other attractions. The Santa Ana Cathedral is a twin towered catholic church built by the Spanish in the 1500s. Itâs found in the district of Vegueta, along with some other old and beautiful architecture.

Go to the district of Triana for some great shopping. The cityâs Puerto de la Luz is one of Europeâs most important harbours as well as the setting off point for many trans-Atlantic regattas.

The village of Teror makes a great day trip, especially on Sundays when the fantastic local market is on. The town is nicknamed the âcity with the balconiesâ for its traditional Canarian houses with lovely carved wooden balconies. The beautiful Basilica de Nuestra Senïora del Pino lies in the centre. Teror is 20kms from Las Palmas and is reached by a scenic road that snakes through eucalyptus covered mountains.

There are ferry services from Gran Canaria to other islands in the region. To Tenerife will take you 1 hour on the jetfoil service or you can reach Fuerte Ventura in 1 hour 20minutes.

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