With a mild, pleasant climate throughout the year, landscapes made up of coastline, mountains and deserts providing startling surprises every step along the way, and endless adventures around every corner… All this and more is what Gran Canaria has in store for families, a holiday destination which has so much more than meets the eye, and which is undoubtedly becoming a favourite for families with children.
The whole world in one island
If there is any one thing that stands out about Gran Canaria it is the diversity of its landscapes, as amazingly we come across coastlines, deserts and mountains all in a confined area. It is no surprise then that one of the ways of describing it is “miniature continent”. This variety of landscapes and its wealth of natural surroundings in terms of its flora and fauna has led to Unesco declaring some 43% of Gran Canaria’s territory as a Grand Biosphere Reserve.
The beaches of Gran Canaria are famous the world over, but families with small children may prefer those that are sheltered and safe for bathing, and there are plenty to choose from here. These beaches are equipped to make things that much easier, from games for children, toilets, sunshades… The sand is also very clean and the water is crystal clear, ideal for a splash in the sea.
If we are looking for thrills and spills and our children are a little older, there is a superb range of aquatic leisure facilities around these beaches. These include sailing, deep sea fishing, windsurfing, snorkelling and sports fishing… all of which are done under the supervision of the most competent professionals who will make sure our only concerns are to have a great time.
So how can we choose from so many beaches? Luckily, each one has something that makes it special, so all we need to do is think about what we fancy doing the most at any one time. For instance, if we are looking for some peace and quiet we should make our way to the virgin beach of Güigüi, while if we are looking for something more lively, then we should go along to Las Canteras beach. If we want some amazing sand dunes like we would find in the desert, then we need to go down to Maspalomas Beach.
But Gran Canaria is not just about its coasts. We can delve deep into its interior, thanks to the many hiking paths that abound all over and which reveal a wonderful world of indigenous flora as we enjoy a lovely walk with our family. We can also take our bikes around these footpaths.
In search of delphins
Both kids and grown ups love to see dolphins jumping and playing in the water. In Gran Canaria we have the chance to view them, not from an aquarium but in their natural habitat, as this area is one of the finest around to go dolphin watching. The south of the island especially is one of the dolphins’ preferred places for swimming around in.
There are boats that sail around these places that are ideal for dolphin spotting. These all meet with the strictest security measures, and we are accompanied by experts who keep us up to date on everything that is going on. Our kids will have a great time when they see the dolphins jumping and swimming around the boat, as they are not shy of coming up close.
This trip lasts around two hours, and will keep us excited all the way through, especially as the experts, thanks to their binoculars, look out for signs that tell us the dolphins are nearby. Let’s see who spots one first!
Learning while having fun
We can start off by talking about the Jardín Canario, a wonderful natural treasure in the shape of a botanical and zoological park comprising many different species. In the town of Gáldar we must go to the Painted Cave Archaeological Park and Museum where we will learn all about the guanches, the first ever inhabitants on the Canary Islands.
There is another place that will fascínate the kids, and that is the Columbus House Museum. They will learn a whole lot about the discovery of America as we make our way around the building, and marvel at the objects that are on display there, while we learn who Columbus was and the importance of the great voyage he undertook.
If our children are really interested in the aboriginal origins of Gran Canaria, then we need to go along to the Canary Museum. And watch out! We mustn’t forget to visit the Science Museum where we will see over 20 interactive areas, where we are treated to some of the greatest inventions of mankind. What’s the best thing about this place? It’s slogan: “Not allowed to not touch”. Just imagine how the kids’ eyes will light up when we tell them…
Gran Canaria is not just about museums though, there are also other interesting outdoor places in which to discover the island’s flora and fauna in its natural habitat. The most recommended spots are the Maspalomas Pond, which we can visit if we are near the beach with the same name, as it is right next to it, plus the Osorio Estate in Teror, Tirma up on the summit, and Pinar de Tamadaba.
Theme parks, a world apart
There are a wide range of different them parks in Gran Canaria for us to go along and see something new. One of the most curious of these is the Crocodrile Park in Agüimes, which specializes in alligators and crocodiles, along with other types of reptiles rescued from their owners who can no longer look after them. We can see them all here, feed them, and even interact with them.
Palmitos Park in San Bartolomé de Tirajana is an exotic garden which combines birds and orchids. Here we can see them flying around at close quarters, and see the behaviour of some of the most fascinating birds that exist, as well as hundreds of butterflies fluttering freely around. Cactualdea in San Nicolás de Tolentino is a botanical garden dedicated to all kinds of cactus, palm trees and tropical plants.
We will also have a great time at the Aqualand Maspalomas Aquatic Park. Here there is fun for everyone on all the different water rides while also having the chance to swim among sealions and play alongside them, as we discover both their sadness and their intelligence, before carrying on swimming at the huge wave pool. The little ones amongst us can go along to the Mini Club, where there are slides, pools and other attractions that are especially set aside for them in a safe environment. The kids can play around happily here while we relax in the Solarium.
At the Holiday World Maspalomas Theme Park we have all kinds of fun activities at our fingertips: from a Formula 1 driving simulator to pony rides, plus a family aquatic park, a pirates’ ship, a big wheel and plenty of other activities which will provide great thrills.
And for the more adventurous children, we should go to Sioux City at San Bartolomé de Tirajana, an area that recreates a town in the United States with its houses, church, ranch, bank and saloon… the scene for Wild West battles. The kids will love watching the cowboys passing through and challenging others to a duel in the middle of the street.
For some truly massive fun, the Angry Birds Activity Park is a theme park inspired by the famous mobile game app. The quality of the entertainment around here is unbeatable and the kids will have a great time as they meet their favourite characters and burn all their energy on different rides: swimming pools with balls, balancing games, a huge swing, trampolines, zip-wires, indoor rock climbing, and much more.
If our kids are looking for yet more excitement, we can take them along to Hangar 37, where they can take part in a real-life pitch battle with suitably-adapted replicas of light weapons they use to try to wipe out the opposing team. They learn to work alongside eachother, create strategies and overcome situations, showing how brave they are.
How about going on a safari on a donkey? At Las Tirajanas Donkey Safari there are over 40 donkeys ready to take us for a ride around the local natural surroundings. At the farm we can interact with other animals including ostriches and peacocks, and see all the fruit trees at this country location, a place where children will learn such a lot. Finally, thanks to Submarine Adventure we can enjoy an exciting underwater voyage on a real submarine, the Golden Shark. We will be treated to an unforgettable experience as we glide around the sea bed and check out the wildlife that lives there, as well as old shipwrecks and other boat remains. The conditions inside the submarine are perfectly regulated so that we will not notice any change in pressure as we descend, making us feel at ease throughout the trip.
One of the most spectacular places to visit with the kids in Gran Canaria has to be the new Poema de Mar Aquarium. It is the largest of its kind in Europe, with a huge theme park dedicated to a Biodiversity that is divided up into three separate areas: marine ecosystems on the water surface, marine ecosystems under water, and fresh water species. It features species from every continent, including ferns of all kinds, colourful coral reefs as well as palm trees and other trees that makes up the jungle that presents the rivers and lakes.
This aquarium doesn’t just allow us to see over 350 different species of fish, but other types too that are on display for the first time at this kind of venue. It is no surprise then that Poema de Mar is well on the way to becoming a leading light, not only in Gran Canaria but in the Canaries as a whole.