Interested in Canary Islands adventure holidays? This island by island guide to activities in the Canaries will help you decide which island to visit. WARNING: after reading you’ll probably want to visit all seven!
The Canary Islands are one of the most popular holiday destinations for Europeans. Located in the Atlantic, 100 km off the coast of Africa, geographically they are not in Europe. But as part of Spain they are considered European.
With year round good weather just a four hour flight away, it’s easy to see why they are so popular. Each of the seven major islands has its own identity providing more variety than you’d expect.
With a perfect combination of sea, sun, sand and mountainous interiors, activities in the Canaries offer plenty to get excited about. In fact, Canary Islands adventure holidays are growing ever more popular.
But which island do you choose? Which is best for partying? Where is best for kitesurfers? What Island has the underwater life to keep scuba divers returning?
Find out in our island by island guide to activities in the Canary Islands:
The furthest east and north of the islands, Lanzarote features 12 natural protected areas, a national park and a biosphere reserve. So top eco-credentials for those that like to get down with nature.
As with the other islands, Lanzarote was formed from dramatic volcanic activity. However, recent eruptions in the 1700 and 1800s have left a very rugged interior.
Much of the island, and in particular the Montañas del Fuego (Mountains of Fire), have an otherworldly quality. The vast fields of jagged rock make a lot of the island fairly inaccessible. But very photogenic!
There is greenery in the north and east of the island where you’ll find some good mountain biking. Road cycling is very popular here with lots of training camps and interesting rides on quiet roads.
While many of the Canary Islands have black sand beaches the majority of those on Lanzarote are golden. This makes beach holidays and watersports extra special.
And Lanzarote is probably the best place in the Canaries for surfing. Check out our guide to Lanzarote surfing holidays for more info on the world class surf breaks. To give you an idea of its pedigree La Santa often features on the WSL World Tour.
Top year-round conditions keep other water sports fans happy too. Kitesurfing, windsurfing and sailing are best on the windier north coast. As a result, paragliding is also popular, particularly around Famara.
Because the conditions are calmer on the south coast it’s good for kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving. There are wrecks, reefs, caves and interesting topography to explore.
Canary Islands adventure holidays are commonly booked for beach based activities. But if time on the water is your priority, Fuerteventura is the island for you.
Again its north coast is blessed with great wind – the clue is in the name! This makes Fuerteventura one of the best places for kitesurfing and windsurfing in Europe.
Kitesurfing at Flag Beach next to Corralejo in the north is incredible as is Sotavento in the south. Cotillo on the west coast is good for surfing, or wave riding kite and windsurfers.
As the island narrows at Costa Calma in the south, the real beaches begin. From here to Morro Jable you’ll find vast swathes of sand, great views to Gran Canaria, and the occasional nudist… Among the sands you can find tranquillity rarely found on beach holidays.
The interior of the island has plenty of hiking routes. Most are rough but rewarding. They often end at a beach!
Notably greener and rounder than Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Gran Canaria has an interesting mix of urban and rural populations. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is a major port and airport and is the Capital of the Canaries – shared with Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The population is over 370,000, so it’s a proper city, but a short drive takes you to lush and fertile ravines. At just 50 km across, all areas of Gran Canaria are within easy reach wherever you are based.
You can enjoy tourist-sand beaches and lively nightlife in Puerto Rico and Playa del Ingles. At Puerto de Mogan you’ll find rugged sea walls and some excellent bouldering. And at Maspalomas you can try sandboarding on the Sahara-style dunes.
Gran Canaria is home to a UNESCO recognised biosphere complete with Canadian Pine forests. There’s even a Gran Canaria walking festival that takes place every autumn. Making Gran Canaria is the pick of the Islands for hiking during Canary Islands adventure holidays.
The mountainous interior serves up great mountain biking with the highpoint at Pico de las Nieves just under 2,000m. Road cycling is also popular, but the roads are busier than Lanzarote.
As with all the Canaries water sports are big. You can kayak or kiteboard, sail or surf, windsurf or wakeboard in many spots. Conditions are perhaps not as epic as other islands, but they are still good.
Beneath the waves you are in for a treat with diving Gran Canaria one of the best activities in the Canaries. The word-famous El Cabron and Aringa Marine Reserve have varied marine life to enjoy.
Each of the islands have towns that like to party. That said Tenerife is the capital of Canarian nightlife. But while tourist package holidays are destined for the discos of Playa de las Americas, the largest of the Canary Islands has a lot more to offer.
Plenty of folk visit Tenerife for Canary Islands adventure holidays. Proving this party playground is as much about the great outdoors.
The island is dominated by the intimidating, sulphurous peak of Mount Teide. Which at 3,718m is the highest point in Spain. The summit is easily reached via a cable car and the views are stunning.
However, one of the best activities in the Canaries is to hike the Rambleta trail up Mount Teide. Starting from 2300m it takes around five hours to cross the Tiede NP to reach the top of the cable car.
The summit requires a permit and is 200m and another hour hike higher. The permit is free but needs to be booked in advance.
As unbelievable as it may sound there is often snow on top. Every couple of years the slopes of Teide get significant snowfall and it is possible to ski or snowboard on Tenerife.
To the north of Tenerife you’ll find the Anaga Rural Park and miles of hiking routes. There are also miles of mountain biking to explore with the best trails in the Canaries. Tenerife is also popular with road cyclists, with plenty of tough climbs.
Climbing in Tenerife is also one of the top activities in the Canaries. There is sport, trad, topo and bouldering to choose from spread across 16 sites. There are literally hundreds of documented climbs varying from beginner to expert.
Tenerife is home to many golf courses. Conditions are much warmer than in the UK, so if you need to buy some hot weather golf gear then click here for Callaway golf.
Finally the beach and water sports will always be part of Canary Islands adventure holidays in Tenerife. At El Medano you have some of the best kite and windsurfing conditions in the Canaries.
There is also a well established scuba diving scene, plenty of interesting kayaking, paddle boarding and a few surf spots. You can learn to sail, go whale watching, water-ski or wakeboard.
La Gomera is the second smallest island in the archipelago and a short hop from Tenerife. Ravines shaped by volcanic activity and by ingenious farming methods cover the island.
At its centre are dense forests and at its coast are black sand beaches. It’s a cocoon of calm, favoured by walkers, mountain bikers and golfers.
On the coast in Playa de Santiago there are boat trips and a chance to get in the water. There is good scuba diving, away from the hustle and bustle of busier islands.
Favoured by stargazers and sun-worshippers alike, La Palma is home Roque de los Muchachos Observatory. The 2.5km high mountains reach above the clouds and light pollution so it’s great for astronomers.
On foot or by bike, the route up the mountains from Mirca to Roque de los Muchachos will test heart, lungs and legs to their limit. There are beaches and bars aplenty to aid recovery, particularly in the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma.
Further south there are salt flats, secluded coastal villages and the windswept sides of the Fuencaliente volcanoes to explore. There are a few surf breaks and both kitesurfing and windsurfing are possible, but not as accessible as the other islands.
Smallest, furthest south and east, El Hierro is perhaps the least-well known of the Canary Islands – click here to learn more about it. There are no natural beaches to speak of, however it is a favourite for scuba divers.
Because of the volcanic legacy beneath the waves you’ll find reefs, boulder fields and step drop-offs. Dive the marine reserve at the Mar des Calmes for the calmest and warmest Canarian waters.
With 46 dive sites and a UNESCO World Biosphere status there is lots to see. Groupers, amberjacks, octopus, crustaceans, flatfish and seahorses are regularly spotted. With luck, you can also see devil rays, turtles, blue sharks, hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks and very rarely whale sharks.
Because mountains rise 300m straight from the ocean you’ll find some of Spain’s best paragliding. There are numerous launch sites with reliable thermals. El Valle de El Golfo is one of the most popular and provides amazing views of the Canarian archipelago.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to activities in the Canaries. If you are planning a trip check out our Canary Islands discounts as you could save a fortune.