Gran Canaria is one of the Spanish Canary Islands lying just 210 km off the coast of Africa and 1250 km away from mainland Spain. The volcanic terrain of the island isn’t particularly attractive yet the mild year round climate and excellent infrastructure has enabled a large scale tourism industry to thrive. The island’s most popular resorts are located along the south coast where there’s an enormous amount of accommodation built into the mountainsides with access to a number of golden, sandy beaches which use imported sand.
When to Visit Gran Canaria
The climate in Gran Canaria is what makes it one of Europe’s great all year round holiday destinations. Summer temperatures will generally be in the high 20’s but the sea breeze stops it being too oppresive and these months are very dry with little or no rainfall.
Its winters are very mild with temperatures seldom falling below 15ºC although you will find that from around November until April or May you’ll need some warm clothes for wearing in the evenings. The winter months are the wettest but bear in mind that it is all relative and in fact there are very few days of rainfall at any time of the year.
Map of Gran Canaria
Distances: To give you some idea of distances please note that from the airport on the east coast to the popular resort of Playa del Ingles is only 30km.
Gran Canaria Airport
Gran Canaria Airport lies on the east coast of the island of Gran Canaria some 25km from the main tourist resorts in the south of the island and 18km from the island’s capital of Las Palmas. It is often referred to as Las Palmas Airport and is the busiest of all the airports in the Canary Islands with over 10 million annual passengers.
With year round sun there are plenty budget airlines from northern Europe offering all year round flights to Gran Canaria as well as domestic flights operated by Spanish carriers. It is a modern airport with excellent facilities including ready access to numerous modes of transport to the capital and to the island’s main resorts.
Beware of Tour Operator Transfers
When you book a holiday package to Gran Canaria with one of the big tour companies they may well include airport transfers to your resort. This gives you the peace of mind that there’s a coach and travel representative waiting for you as you walk outside the airport which is a good feeling on arrival. The downside is that your resort might be one of the last stops. This was our experience last time we visited Gran Canaria as we were on a week’s package staying at Cordial Mogan Valle Apartments in Puerto Mogan. The 60km journey takes no more than 45 minutes by car but on the tour bus it took over 1½ hours because it made several stops first at a number of hotels in and around Puerto Rico. The return transfer was even worse as we were the first group to be collected at 8.30am and didn’t get to the airport until 11am as we sat waiting for passengers at far too many hotels en route to the airport. For future reference we’ll be either hiring a car at the airport or pre-booking a transfer to our resort.Spanish Fiestas
Costa Rica Airport Transfers
Private Transfers: If you’re keen to just get to your destination and aren’t particularly interested in taking a look around the island then your best option is to pre-book an airport transfer with a specialist transfer company. Rates tend to be a little cheaper than taxis and payment is made in advance.
Bus Transfers: Bus transport from the airport and all around the island is provided by Global. The two main services used by arrivals at the airport are as follows:
- Route 60: Airport – Las Palmas City
- Route 66: Airport – Faro de Maspalomas
For a full list of routes, times and fares check the Global Bus Website.
Taxi Services: Of course there are many taxis waiting at the official rank outside the arrivals area. Fares vary slightly according to pick-up time and precise location of your accommodation but to the main resorts you can expect to pay approximately:
- Puerto de Mogan – €90
- Puerto Rico – €70
- Playa del Ingles – €45
Airport Car Hire: Driving down to the resorts of the south coast is very straightforward and doing so gives you the flexibility of having your own transport during your stay and a ready made transfer back to the airport on the day you’re leaving. So if you plan to take a look around the island whilst you’re in Gran Canaria then it’s well worth looking into car hire from Las Palmas Airport.
Where to Stay in Gran Canaria
It is estimated that approximately 30% of all visitors to the Canary Islands find their way to the tourist resorts on the south coast of Gran Canaria. Sandy beaches run along this stretch of coastline with the best-known being the most well known being the dunes at Maspalomas which are part of the Gran Canaria Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which covers 43% of the land area of the central and south-western part of Gran Canaria.
This is Europe’s 2nd largest holiday resort after Benidorm and certainly the best known destination in Gran Canaria.
Continuing west we arrive at Puerto Rico which is Gran Canaria’s 2nd largest resort. With a good selection of accommodation, large beaches and easy access to the Angry Birds Activity Park it is a popular choice for family holidays.
Standing between Playa de Inglés and Puerto Rico is Meloneras which is home to some lovely accommodation and is considered the region’s upmarket resort
Heading still further west we come to the laid back town of Puerto Mogan which is a far cry from the island’s major resorts . Its old town is Pueblo Mogan lies 5km inland and is well worth a visit.
A personal favourite of mine for winter holidays is the charming resort of Puerto Mogan where a week in the sun proves to be a great way to recharge the batteries after enduring the northern European winter.Spanish Fiestas
Accommodation in Gran Canaria
Whilst package holiday hotels remain the main accommodation of choice for visitors to Gran Canaria there are plenty self-catering villas and apartments available in the islands main resorts as well as in quieter inland destinations.
Gran Canaria Excursions
Holidaymakers who are interested in seeing more of the island than their resort should rent a car at the airport and set aside some time for some half-day and full-day excursions around Gran Canaria.
Visit the Interior
The centre of the island has an alpine climate and stunning peaks of up to 6400 feet with fabulous picnic and viewing points from where Mount Teide in Tenerife is often visible on a clear day. Scattered around the mountains are small villages where local crafts are sold on street market stalls and restaurants offering all sorts of mouthwatering delights made from fish caught in the lakes and fruit and vegetables grown locally.
Visit the North Coast
The north and north western coast is very green with a series of mountainous cliffs breaking up only for small villages such as Arucas, well known for its honey rum factory, which is well worth a visit. On a more “sober” note, the neighbouring village of Firgas provides Gran Canaria and the other Canary Islands with their bottled water supplies. A little further along the coastline is the historic town of Galdar with its pre-historic painted caves, open for viewing to the public. In the far north west is the port of Agaete, famous for its fish restaurants and harbour from where you can catch the fast ferry over to Tenerife in only 50 minutes.
Visit the Capital
The city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is home to more than 380,000 people which represents half the population of Gran Canaria. It’s a busy cosmopolitan port, the seventh largest city in Spain, and the governing capital for Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
Las Palmas has several shopping areas such as Triana for boutiques and smaller shops, and Avenida Mesa y Lopez where you can lose yourself within some of the island’s and the UK’s leading department stores. There are numerous street cafes where you can relax with a drink and sample a varied selection of tapas dishes. For the sun worshippers there are four main beach areas, the largest being Las Canteras with its long sweeping promenade.