What are the best activities to try during Gran Canaria adventure sports holidays? All of them! Or at least as many as you can squeeze into your Canarian holiday to the island known as the ‘mini continent’.
The people of Gran Canaria know how good they’ve got it. But most visitors rarely venture farther than the beach, so they never find out…
Yet those who go looking for adventure sports in Gran Canaria quickly realize there’s as much action to be found in the interior, as there is on the coast.
And they return with stories of mist-shouldered mountains, caves and forests, and talk of chain-stretching cycling ascents… The diversity on the island is huge and Gran Canaria has been promoted as the ‘mini continent’ by the tourism board with good reason.
There are a variety of microclimates including an alpine north, an arid south, a fertile centre and a breezy, white sandy coastline. Sounds like the perfect ingredients for top quality Gran Canaria adventure sports holidays.
On my first drive from the airport, I was drawn to the mountains. Huge, irregular shapes with jagged ridges – a place that looks as if it’s been torn from the earth.
There are roads and trails crisscrossing the island that link together the mountain villages. Conditions can be everything from exceptionally hot to rather chilly in the mountains so be prepared for all eventualities.
From the coast, the interior looks a brutal and unforgiving place. Which is probably why cyclists like it so much… Pro teams are often seen training in the Canaries, which says it all, plus there are a range of competitions on the island.
There are climbs here that go all the way from the coast to almost 2,000m. Road cyclists love the sticky black tarmac and majestic vistas. What they won’t have to watch out for much is traffic: These roads are empty!
There are perhaps more surprises in store for riders who prefer it off-road. Imagine a cross between the Andes and the Grand Canyon, there’s even mountaintop pine forests. Pine forests on the Canary Islands? It could be southern Germany.
Gran Canaria has some of the best trails for mountain biking in the Canary Islands. There are routes up to 70 km long, and climbs of well over 1,000m, this is serious stuff but well worth the challenge.
The huge diversity gives visitors who are into trekking, hiking and walking plenty to experience. The popular feature is the Tejeda Caldera, a 20 km crater left 9 million years ago after a huge volcanic collapse. At this elevation you commonly get mist drifting around the crater, helping keep moisture levels high.
The Canary Islands are not all lunar landscapes, ringed with tourist hot-spots. From Cruz de Tejeda we found ourselves walking through forests, surrounded by poppies, thistles and all manner of vegetation. And there’s sheep!
On the rim, the mist lifted revealing views of lone volcanic monoliths and forested mountain sides falling to tiny mountain hamlets. There are lots of options for short walks, day long hikes and multi-day trekking in Gran Canaria.
There’s even a Gran Canaria Walking Festival in October each year to celebrate the island’s offerings. Enjoy guided walks in this rough and beautiful island as one of the best activities to try during Gran Canaria adventure sports holidays.
Want more of a challenge? Two-footed travellers can run a marathon instead! The Trans Gran Canaria Marathon offers five distances, 17, 30, 42, 65 or 128 kilometres. Think I will stick to the walking.
Whichever your sport, all routes, roads and tracks will lead to the sea. Almost circular, Gran Canaria is just 50 km across. I descended from above Artenara to Agaete on the west coast in a couple of hours.
The harbour at Agaete sits beneath towering cliffs, which drop away over 1000 metres to the Atlantic. And the water quality is incredible, making this perhaps the most impressive spot for swimming on the island.
Water sports in Gran Canaria are largely dictated by the shape of the island. Roughly circular with south/ south-westerly winds, conditions change dramatically depending on which coast you are on.
The north coast takes the full force of the Atlantic swells. Waves crash over its black rocks, filling seawater pools and provide plenty of opportunity for fun.
Las Palmas has become a popular surfing destination. You can fly there from the UK in a little over four hours. Prices often come in at under £50!
There’s surf schools all over the place and a huge bay for newbies to catch their first waves. There’s a reef just off the beach (Playa de Las Canteras) with world-class surfing within reach to the east at El Confital. Head out of town back toward Agaete for less popular breaks.
There are waves down south – just don’t expect pumping, surfer-spitting waves. Conditions are better suited for fun-level bodyboarding and playing around in.
The wind blows hard down and toward the east coast. So there you can try windsports during Gran Canaria adventure sports holidays.
Pozo Izquierdo has hosted the PWA World Championships with top quality conditions. And we watched kitesurfers launch with ease off San Agustin just a few kilometres south.
The wind drops a little as you round the coast at Pozo. But depending on which side of the coastal bays you’re on, you’ll still get plenty to play with. There were lots of kites in the sky at Maspalomas, with kitesurfers launching from the foot of the tourist town’s sand dunes.
Under the waves there’s no coral – but that doesn’t mean scuba diving in the Canary Islands isn’t interesting. Far from it! As it’s all volcanic rock, the backdrop is topologically varied and can be very interesting.
Dive schools in the south prefer to take boats out to dive sites. There is shore entry in several spots, but the coast can be jagged and not so easy to access.
The word-famous El Cabron and Aringa Marine Reserve are well worth exploring. Dive with red parrotfish, shoals of shimmering roncadores, colourful nudibranchs and even turtles.
Tourist will always be tourists, and most visit Gran Canaria for the sun and sea. But the best activities to try during Gran Canaria adventure sports holidays are flourishing.
These sports help more people to ‘get’ the island. There’s a huge amount that can be done here, and an interior that’s relatively undiscovered.
We also found a thriving sporting culture led by local groups and clubs. There are many people making the most of the island’s greatest and most influential asset – its weather!
Gran Canaria Natural Active is the organisation that promotes rural tourism and activities on Gran Canaria. It is a great source of information for visitors looking for a little more from the Mini Continent.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to the 11 best activities to try during Gran Canaria adventure sports holidays. Be sure to check out these Canary Islands discounts as you could save a packet on your next trip.