The island of Gran Canaria has more than enough reasons to be chosen as a holiday destination by families with children: sun, beach and nature are the best known attractions, but there is also an important cultural heritage, a delicious cuisine and the opportunity to take part in all sorts of sporting pursuits, both in the interior and on the water. Added to this is a mild climate that is unique in Europe and which accompanies the relaxing and fun environment offered to us by Gran Canaria.
The miniature continent
This is the name Gran Canaria is famous for, thanks to its geographical peculiarities and the diversity of its terrain and landscapes, all of which lead to the existence of micro-climates. 42% of the island’s territory is under the protection of UNESCO, since it was declared a Biosphere Reserve back in 2005, in recognition of its conservation work and its wide variety of animal and plant species.
One of the best ways to discover this diversity, and to let ourselves be bamboozled by the magic of its landscapes, is to go along to any one of the 31 panoramic viewpoints distributed around the island and which can be reached through hiking footpaths and mountain bike routes.
The best beaches
In Gran Canaria we are blessed with no more and no less than 60 kilometres of beaches spread out along our 230 kilometres of coastline. Sixteen of these beaches have earned the right to fly the Blue Flag from the European Foundation of Environmental Education, which not only indicates the excellent quality of their waters but also the ideal conditions they offer for water sports, and of course, for bathing.
Other places to boast blue flags are the sports marinas at Pasito Blanco and Mogán. The Maspalomas Sand Dunes Natural Reserve Visitor Centre boasts the European Blue Centre accolade, while the footpaths of Confital Bay and Las Canteras Beach hold the Blue Pathway award.
Leisure and culture for everyone
Alongside its beaches and outdoor sports facilities, Gran Canaria offers us the opportunity to dedicate time to different kinds of cultural leisure activities that cater perfectly for families. These places include the Atlantic Modern Art Centre (CAAM), the Canary Museum, the Columbus Museum, the León y Castillo Museum, the Tomás Morales House Museum, the Benito Pérez House Museum and the Elder Science and Technology Museum. It is also possible to attend all kinds of events, such as the Canary Jazz & Heineken Festival and the Canary Music Festival.
One excursion we highly recommend is a visit to the Painted Cave Museum in Gáldar, the largest pre-Hispanic cultural and artistic settlement in the Canary Islands. This cave features wall paintings on its inside, which along with other vestiges, give us an insight into what life was like for the island’s early inhabitants.
We mustn’t forget to mention the district of Vegueta, the cultural hub of the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the place where we can visit the Columbus Museum. There, as well as learning about the life and feats of this famous sailor, we will discover objects related to what was called the New World, that is to say, the American continent.
Every Sunday we have the chance to visit a little open air market which exhibits arts and crafts in Gran Canaria, especially traditional basketmaking. We can also sample sweet potato jam or sweet bread rolls which are made on site right before our eyes.
If there is a fun way for families to spend their time in Gran Canaria, that is for them to go on an excursion together and create new memories that will linger forever. Going to zoos, playing in water parks, walking around botanical gardens or going on camel rides or boat trips to watch cetaceans are just some of the options we can choose from to spend some fun times with our little ones.
Indeed, the latter activity is one of the most entertaining ones for children. At the south of the island we can board a boat which will take us around the areas frequented by dolphins and enable us to see them in their natural habitat. We will be ably accompanied by experts who will be telling us what is going on at all times, while our children will love watching the dolphins swimming and leaping about around the boat.
One the finest family days out is a visit to the Poema de Mar Aquarium, a huge leisure complex split into three areas holding up to 350 different species of animals.
A chance to play sport
Gran Canaria’s climate, orography and landscapes permit visitors to take part in a wide range of sporting pursuits the length and breadth of the island. We don’t need to have any great sporting prowess or even be that experienced; we will always find monitors and professionals who are on hand to help us along and show us how to cope while we are learning.
On the coast we can go sports fishing, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and jet-skiing, among other pursuits. Besides this, the island boasts some stunning seabeds that are an open invitation for diving, even if we have never done it before. It is well worth plunging into the depths to discover the fine array of fish and plant species that occupy the ocean’s floor.
If we wish to leave the water for a while, the mountains and ravines of Gran Canaria constitute an immense open air gym that is ideal for families to engage in sport in the great outdoors. Indeed, many elite sportsmen and women choose Gran Canaria as a training base, as our fine climate allows them to do their sport all through the year in natural surroundings.
The landscapes of Gran Canaria enable us to enjoy many activities, such as hiking, mountain biking and even climbing if we are bold enough and our kids are a little bit older.
When night falls, the fun and magic continues in Gran Canaria. The island has been declared a Starlight Tourist Destination by UNESCO. Astrotourism is the latest leisure option in Gran Canaria, as it enables visitors to discover and enjoy the night skies, something which involves the fight against light contamination, to be able to see the stars with no problem.
The Canary Islands is one of the few locations in the world, alongside Hawaii, New Zealand and Chile, to have been considered by UNESCO as a window to the sky for the quality and clarity that exists for star gazing, something that is not currently that easy due to bright lights at night in cities. For this reason, if we are visiting Gran Canaria, we should make the most of the opportunity of observing the stars in the same way the aborigines once did.
Tasting Gran Canaria
The main attraction of the island’s gastronomy is based on its fresh local products. Of course, we mustn’t miss the chance to sample some papas arrugadas potatoes with sweet or spicy mojo sauce, or sancocho stews and broths of truly intense and special flavours. This fine food can be accompanied by local wines of Denomination of Origin, not forgetting some delicious locally made cheeses and desserts.
But that’s not all. We can also try some locally grown coffee, produced in the Valley of Agaete, one of the few plantations to exist in Europe. We can go along to the bodega at Arehucas Rum, one of the oldest of its kind on the continent. Besides this, if we wish to get our strength back at restaurants located along the coast, we will be able to sample some of the finest fresh fish in the Atlantic.
Finally, Gran Canaria’s wonderful climate allows for the farming of foods including the famous Canary tomato, apples, tropical fruits, olives, sweet bananas and oranges.
In Gran Canaria there exists a constant awareness for change, improvement and adapting to the needs of holiday makers who come to the island, while at the same time incorporating the latest technological and design trends. One of the most historic hotels in Gran Canaria is the Hotel Santa Catalina, which has been open since 1890.
In Arucas the Hotel Emblemático recently opened its doors. It occupies a building situated at the heart of the town centre which is over a hundred years old. It is an establishment that caters for families, as they provide cots for babies, children’s videos in the rooms and there are also parks nearby for a pleasant stroll without having to stray too far. Its wonderful customer service will make us feel right at home.
The Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Gran Canaria Mogán is another of those hotels which will make us feel really comfortable with our children around, as there are clubs on hand with fun activities for them to enjoy, where they will also be able to meet children of their own age, while we can sit back and relax. This is a 5-star establishment, featuring 342 rooms and 80 suites with private balconies for enjoying the gentle sea breezes.
However, Gran Canaria is not just about hotels. We might opt instead for a rural holiday let, a bungalow or an apartment in case we decide to roam around the island a little more independently.