The Canary Islands: How to have fun in paradise

Only 100 kilometres from the African coast lie the Canary Islands, that await our visit to offer us their privileged climate and an endless offer of leisure, culture, sports activities and conferences.  A land full of contrasts and a meeting place for different cultures which awaits us with open arms.

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Indeed, the subtropical ocean climate is one of the greatest attractions of the region. With average annual temperatures of 20º C, these conditions provide the islands with an enviable richness in both biology and scenery.

The seven islands of the archipelago are of volcanic origin and each of them has its own very pronounced personality. Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro are united by common richness but each hold some surprises that perhaps we didn’t expect.

Gran Canaria

We don’t say that Gran Canaria is a miniature continent just because we love this kind of poetic license but because it’s really known by this name. And rightly so, because the main characteristic is the diversity of the different types of countryside, which include peculiar characteristics from many places all over the world.

The mild climate is another distinctive feature, as it is for the other islands of the archipelago. The beaches are beautiful and offer exotic details which remind us that we are far away from European sobriety, geologically speaking. Beaches are wide and of fine and yellow sand with huge dunes, like the well known beaches Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés.

Las Canteras beach is the crown jewel of the Gran Canarian capital, as its biggest lung and leisure space. The golden sand beach with quiet water is sheltered by a natural barrier. Located in the city, it offers all types of services: police, lifeguards, spas, hammocks, promenade, cafés and restaurants, showers, toilets, very well comunicated and with good accomodations.

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Also very attractive for families is Puerto Rico Beach with its tranquil water due to the protection of the marina. You can reach this very well-equipped beach, with  parking area, with a guagua.

The natural pools are the best places to have a lot of fun and to safely splash around with our kids. The Salinas are situated at the mouth of the Barranco de Agaeteriver, where we find a beach of stones. Three natural pools connected to each other by canalsare located in this area, which give the bathers the possibility of swimming from one to the other. El Charco de San Lorenzo and Los Charcones also boast natural pools which are a guarantee for a very enjoyable day.

Its natural spaces are very valuable, which is the reason why 43% of the territory is protected by the natural spaces law, worthy of the denomination of world biosphere reserve by UNESCO. It’s really no wonder. One moment we are surrounded by wonderful palms and the next we are looking over spectacular landscapes that spread beneath our feet. Or we are walking through a dense canary pine wood, an endemic tree of the Canary Islands, and suddenly we are standing at the border of an almost extraterrestrial landscape, which looks like a widely spread robe made of black volcanic rock.

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If you like hiking then you should use the recovered old paths which were used to move livestock and which are part of the historic and cultural heritage of the island.

Tenerife

A sea full of options is what we find on Tenerife. It’s a place where you can enjoy a wide variety of beaches with sand of all colours, the benefit of the sun and the immense coastline.

Las Teresitas is the most popular beach of the capital of Tenerife. It’s ideal for a nice family day since the yellow sand is very fine and it’s protected from the waves and the currents by a seawall. The beach is equipped with toilets, parking area, showers and hammocks. Also the Red Cross and the police have booths here.

Las Vistas, situated between the two tourist towns of Los Cristianos and Las Américas, is one of the biggest and lively beaches of the south of Tenerife. The water is calm, the sand is fine and yellow, because it comes from the seabed, and it has a complete range of services.

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The beach is of fine, sand and calm water. La Arena is situated in Puerto Santiago beside a small tourist enclave that has very good equipment and services.

The town Garachico in the north compliments Tenerife’s offering of patrimonial attractions with an original spa area consisting of several natural pools, which are the capricious result of magma contacting with the seawater after the eruption of the volcano Trevejo in 1706. This place is called El Caletón and lies in front of the Avenida Marítima. There you can take a refreshing swim in an exceptional environment, but you must pay attention to the sea conditions, because there are often very strong waves.

Since we are armed with towels and sunscreen we shouldn’t miss a visit to the natural pools of Tenerife. Bajamar is one of the most well known and one of its two conditioned pools is especially for small children. Also the Complejo Costa Martiánez has a pool for small children. The Parque Marítimo César Manrique in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the largest leisure complex covering about 22.000 square meters with a range of pools, some of them for kids.

From the magic of the sea and the pools we turn to the most formidable elevations. We have to remind our kids that the Teide is the highest peak in Spain at 3.718 meters. It is only one of the many natural treasures we will see in Tenerife and which was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Let’s talk about San Cristóbal de La Laguna and about the park Parque Nacional de Las Cañadas of the Teide. The former stands out because it’s the first example of a town that is not fortified and the second is a volcanic landscape that stands out for its richness and diversity.

The diversity is precisely one of the distinctive features of Tenerife: from the green color of the laurel woods, the vineyards and the extensive banana plantations to the beaches with black and yellow sand and the enigmatic and wild landscapes around the different vulcanos which are distributed along its geography.

La Palma

When somebody talks about La Palma we first think of the clear and starry sky. This image corresponds to reality, because this sky is famous for its clarity, which is the reason why the observatory of Roque de Los Muchachos became a global benchmark for astrophysics, thanks of the installation of the Gran Telescopio de Canarias, situated at the highest point of La Palma.

The Isla Bonita, another name for La Palma, has many other attractions. Beautiful landscapes, Woods, springs and beaches shape a mosaic with a little touch of Paradise. Its treasures are well known. The island was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO thanks to such beautifull landsapes like the forest of El Canal y Los Tiles and the Caldera de Taburiente national park.

That much beauty deserves more than just contemplation. Fun is assured when we enter these natural paradises and take some of the many trails. The by springs dotted forest takes us to another era. Not only because of the remoteness of the urban centers, but because of the flora that is the same that existed here during the age of the dinosaurs. What a luxury.

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La Palma offers us crowded beaches with very good infrastructure for leisure and unspoiled beaches where you can simply enjoy sun and tranquility. Even though the sun and the beaches are not the main tourist attraction of La Palma, it nonetheless has beaches that stand out for their cleanliness and purity, and impressive landscapes, like its steep cliffs.

Timespent in the natural pools will be unforgettable. El Charco Azul is a grouping that lies in the northeast of the island. It has a large pool, a pool for kids and a pond named Charco de la Damas, with areas for sunbathing. The Piscinas de la Fajana is a grouping of three pools: a large one, a medium one and a third one for kids. They are all suitable for bathing. 

Lanzarote

Lanzarote is a unique experience for the senses, especially for sight and hearing, which capture the impossible shapes of the landscape and a silence that fills one with peace. As a biosphere reserve, the island also has a marine reserve, a national park and 12 protected natural areas. That’s really an incredible treasure for anyone who likes to truly enjoy the nature, the sun and the fresh sea air.

On the island of volcanos, like nowhere else, we will see just how much the volcanic origin of a territory can influence the life of its population. In a beautiful agricultural landscape we will see the rural population of Lanzarote who joined forces with nature to survive. They invented a singular cultivation that allows them obtain excellent fruits from apparently infertile earth, where the crop grows below a black mantle of volcanic sand. And if you are the type of person who is concerned about the environment, you are in the right place, because the island was declared by the World Organisation for Tourism to be one of the universal models for sustainable development, thanks to the artist César Manrique, whose untirable defense of natural environments still is alive in many places.

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Rabbit island offers quiet beaches and strong waves, which are ideal for surfing, windsurfing, diving and fishing.

Playa Blanca is situated in the town of Yaiza and offers fine, yellow sand beaches and quiet water. There are many restaurants with terraces facing the sea along its promenade and beachside services such as showers, as well as hammock and parasol rentals.

La Ensenada de Las Caletas in Teguise lies in a semiurban area and is very popular for its tranquil water which is ideal for a visit with the family. Playa Grande, situated in Puerto del Carmen, also promises an enjoyable day with the family, because it has all the necessary services to relax.

A great swim is in store for us in Lanzarote’s natural pools. Los Caletones in the northern village Órzola are formed by the seawater that flows between the rocks and form little coves with shallow water. It’s a peaceful area for a visit with the family.

At Punta Mujeres, in the town of Haría, we will find pools formed by lava in a peaceful environment with good access and ideal for a visit with kids.

Fuerteventura

Expansive and unspoiled white sand beaches, along the ocean shore, with calm and transparent waters that invite you to relax. You won’t find a better place to glide with a board over the turquoise sea and take advantage of the wind.

But if you are looking for even more tranquility then you should visit Los Charcos in Cotillo. It’s in the north of the island and there you can enjoy small, white sand beaches where the volcanic rock forms natural lagoons. The calmness of the water makes these beaches an ideal place for the whole family. And in the vicinity, several restaurants offer tasty dishes to hungry bathers.

You also take a short trip to Isla de Lobos to visit Playa del Puertitobeach. The boat trip to the island is short and the kids will enjoy it. Once you arrive, they will have a lot fun in the natural pools, boasting different shades of blue, inviting you to a swim.

But Fuerteventura, the oldest of the islands of the archipelago and the second in length, is much more than just sun and sand.

You can enjoy surprising landscapes like the extensive plains which are a product of the years of erosion that contrast with the volcanos and layers of lava, or the impressive dunes from where you can perceive, only a few kilometers away, an uninhabited and unspoiled islet, which is catalogued as a Special Protection Area for birds, in accordance with European regulations.

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The Corralejo sand dunes are one of the most appreciated spots, built up through the accumulation of calcareous sand proceeding from the marine remains, which get dragged to the coast by the sea. The island was known formerly as Planaría and is surrounded by kilometers of fantastic beaches with white sand and turquoise water, perfect to spend a day with the family under the sun. If you are looking for more activities, then you are in the right place because the island is a Paradise for practicing sport, especially water sports. In fact, every year one of the competitions of the Windsurf and Kiteboard Worldcup is held on the beaches of Jandia.

The Jandía peninsula is located on the south of the island, where the Pared Isthmus separates the two coasts of the narrowest point of Fuerteventura. In this little corner of the world is one of the most appreciated assets of Fuerteventura: the world renowned beaches of Jandía. All through this nature park are tranquil beaches with crystal clear water, hidden little coves, kilometers of sand and the wild ocean. There are definitely beaches for all tastes. The natural and the scenic value are the reason why UNESCO declared this island to be a biosphere reserve.

El Hierro

If Hierro is known for something, it is for its crystal clear water that attracts divers, who come from all over the world to photograph one of the most beautiful seabeds on the planet.

If you want to relax and rest with the family you can visit La Restinga, a black sand beach. The water is calm with no waves or currents and there are hotels and restaurants in the area.

The Island offers so many wonders that it was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO and 60% of the territory is considered protected area.

When we leave we take unforgettable memories of volcanos and lava fields, fertile valleys, impressive cliffs with heights of up to 1.000m, dense forests of plant species that have survived on the island since prehistoric times, millennial tres, twisted by the wind, and reptiles that were supposed to be extinct.

El Hierro has embarked on an ambitious project that will enable the island, over the coming years, to become energy self-sufficient using renewable energy sources. This would make El Hierro the first 100% renewable energy island in the world.

La Gomera

La Gomera is waiting for us to discover the enormous treasure that is a national park and world heritage: the Parque Nacional de Garajonay. It`s a dense forest that is very rich in a floristic sense and with a phantasmagoric appearance. You will find many species that are already extinct in the rest of the world and gentle springs. It’s definitely a place for the hiking lovers, who will be surprised by the rough terrain with deep precipices that fall into the sea.

The spectacular beauty of the laurel forest is another of the main hallmarks of La Gomera. Its singular terrain caused the developement of the typical whistle of Gomera, a language that is used for communication over long distances and that has been used for centuries.

If you want to spend some time at a beach you can visit the La Caleta beach with black sand and very good conditions for taking a relaxing swim. The water is fairly calm as the beach lies protected from currents in a cove. Also, all services are available.

La Calera beach in the Gran Rey valley and La Cueva beach in San Sebastian de La Gomera are perfect for a visit with the kids, both for the quality and the tranquility of the water, and the easy access.

Also in the Gran Rey valley is the Charco del Conde, a place of scientific interest and that forms a little bay that is perfect for the kids to have their first contact with the sea. We don’t have to leave the place to enjoy fantastic natural pools. On Gomera there are plenty of them and we won’t have any difficulties finding them. Also very entertaining are the cetaceans sightings that Océano Gomera offers (www.oceano-gomera.com). Not only will we see dolphins and whales, but also the biologists will us tell everything about these impressive animals. A similar experience can be enjoyed with Excursiones Tina (www.excursiones-tina.com) that offers a tranquil outing to discover La Gomera.

Families are welcome

The restaurants offer kid-friendly dishes and menus and child seats, family rooms or interconnected rooms, bottle warmers and microwaves in the hotels, special activities for kids and available goods like books, toys, games or DVDs. The Family Welcome stamp certifies the global offer of tourist services, especially in the hotel and the restaurant trades and the offer of the municipalities. The valuable services and resources are the following: destinations, beaches, natural parks and cultural heritage, restaurants, touristic activities and accommodation. Families can be assured that travel is to a destination that is prepared to satisfy their special needs.

 

Journey to the centre of the Earth

A visit to the caves is one of the more entertaining and educational activities we can undertake with our children. The magmatic nature of the Canary Islands helps to create a large number of them. The caves are well marked, so that if one employs basic safety precautions, they can be safely visited and enjoyed.

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Cueva del Viento en Tenerife: This cave is a volcanic pipe that is the biggest in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. It can be found in the municipality of Icod de los Vinos and its length is about 17 kilometers. The cave has three different levels of passages with many wonderful geomorphological phenomena. The cave is also a place that is rich in archaeological fossils of extinct animals from Canary prehistory.

www.cuevadelviento.net

Cueva de los Verdes en Lanzarote: This cave is part of a volcanic pipe that has a total length of seven kilometers down to the coast and it extends further beneath the sea, with a passage known as the Atlántida Tunnel. The origin of the cave was an eruption of the Corona volcano about 5.000 years ago. In the past the cave was used by the population to protect them against the attacks of the Berber. In 1964 illumination was installed to enable visits to the cave and there is also an auditorium.

www.centrosturisticos.com

Cueva del Llano en Fuerteventura: This cave is a volcanic pipe that was filled with sediment over the course of thousands of years. This left the cave rich in fossils and allows to us to understand the climate variations of Fuerteventura. There is a type of spider that lives here that became blind due to the darkness. It’s called the harvestman and its oddity is that it does not spin a web.

www.fuerteventuraoasispark.com

Very diverting trips

017_VCH025_FO_Canarias_OkThere’s nothing better for having fun with the family than an unforgettable trip on the back of an animal. It’s an excursion that enables us to view the beautiful landscape of the islands from a different perspective. A guided tour on a camel back is the perfect option, since the camels are fairly calm.

Dunas de Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

The company Camellos Safari offers the opportunity to enjoy a pleasant and slow-paced 30 to 35 minute camel ride in the famous Maspalomas Dunes. This tour offers views over the amazing desert landscape that extends over 400 hectares, that was declared Natural and Protected Area. Manolo, Pepe, Roberto, TT, Macho, Daniel and Sofia are only a few of the 35 dromedaries that take us, together with the Canary guides, through this beautiful scenery. In 2004 the excursions with camels were declared cultural heritage of the municipality by the town council of San Bartolomé de Tirajana.

www.camellosafari.com

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, Lanzarote

We can get to know the Timanfaya National Park from the back of a camel and enjoy an entertaining but safe ride along the route that leads through the National Park on a trail transited only by these special animals. The trip takes about 25 minutes.

You cannot travel this route with any other vehicle. Thanks to the dromedaries we can reach incredible and wonderful places which are incredibly well preserved.

www.lanzarote.com/es/excursiones/sur-corto

 

Fuerteventura

In Fuerteventura we can enjoy the beautiful landscapes, such as those in the Oasis Park Botanical Garden, or the beaches on the south of the island, from the back of a camel.

It is a wonderful, colourful trip and while the caravan ascends the mountain the gentle breeze makes this experience unforgettable.

http://www.fuerteventuraoasispark.com/es/main.html

 

La Palma

Here you can enjoy the amazing landscapes created by the San Antonio volcano on camel back. You will find them at the beginning of the Access to the volcano.

Burro Parque, La Gomera

The Burro Parque La Gomerais is situated in an open area surrounded by nature. The main objective of this park is the preservation and the breeding of the different breeds of donkeys. The offer includes two types of excursions, by donkey or by horse.

Dormant volcanos

On the Canary Islands the earth is alive. Nature and volcano enthusiasts will find many reasons to be astonished, either in the Timanfaya National Park on Lanzarote, in the Teide National Park on Tenerife or on El Hierro. By the way, don’t miss the cable car in Teide. (http://www.telefericoteide.com)

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya. In this National Park you can observe the high temperature of the earth, which is about 600Cº at a depth of less than 10 meters. It’s really interesting to see how the water flows into the geyser and spills out as steam. Even more entertaining is the delicious meat cooked with the heat released by the earth.

http://www.centrosturisticos.com/centros/CENTROS/published_es/DEFAULT/timanfaya.html

Parque Nacional del Teide. This is the Canary Islands’ biggest and oldest national park. The peak of the Teide, at 3.718 meters, is the highest of the island and the highest in Spain. The rich biodiversity of the flora and fauna, with its endemic species, stands out wherever the walls and the cavities of Las Cañadas help to preserve them. Our children will undoubtedly have a lot fun going up to the peak with the cable car and we will enjoy impressive views and the aroma of fumaroles of sulfur.

 

Remains on La Gomera

On La Gomera remains exist from volcanic activity. The last eruption occured about two million years ago. It’s very interesting to have a look at Los Órganos, a sample of colonnades which were shaped through the slow cooling of the lava in the old crater. Los Roques also very interesting. It’s a natural monument of great scientific interest, thanks to the singularity of several elements of important scenic value.

A Jurassic jungle

To go on a safari in the jungle, it’s not necessary to travel to a remote continent. On the Canary Islands we can enter the laurel forests, a type of flora that has been living on our land since the times of the dinosaurs. We make our way through the dense laurel forests, which grow very well here due to the mild temperatures and the stable levels of humidity. This type of forest can be found on almost all of these islands.

Bosque de Los Tilos: This forest is situated in the municipality of San Andrés y Sauces on La Palma. It’s one of the most important natural spaces of the archipelago. In this forest we can see many different species, such as ferns, lime trees, laurel trees, arbutus, persea indica, beeches, heather… Another natural space with similar characteristics is the gorge Cubo de la Galga situated on the northwest of La Palma.

Fuente de Mencafete: Fuente de Mencafete is situated in the municipality of Frontera, in El Hierro. The high biodiversity of Monteverde establishes that one of the major accumulations of species of El Hierro is right here, including some endangered species of flora and fauna. There is a good representation of species like laurel, heather and stone plants.

Bosque de El Cedro: This laurel forest lies in the Parque Nacional de Garajonay on La Gomera. It is one of the largest woodlands of the Canary Islands. One of the advantages of this forest is the creek where water flows year-round. The forest was declared world heritage by UNESCO in 1986 because it is the most well-preserved laurel forest of the archipelago. It boasts species such as beeches, heather, laurel, mosses and lichens, ferns… And rising 30 meters high is the tallest tree of all, the king of the forest, the persea indica. The forest is perfectly conditioned for visits and for enjoying the landscapes.

Las Mercedes: This place is situated between the municipalities of Sante Cruz de Tenerife and San Cristóbal de Laguna, in the Parque Rural Anaga. It’s one of the most densely grown forests of the island and from the Peak of the Pico del Inglés at a height of 1.000 meters we can enjoy wonderful views.

Don’t miss the Sendero de los Sentidos. This trial is abrupt with exceptional natural and cultural values. The landscapes are harmonious and beautiful. It is a nice trail for the whole family giving us the opportunity to become one with nature and enjoy surprising views from the Llano de los Loros lookout point.

 Tilos de Moya: This is the most important representative of the laurel forests of Gran Canaria, also called the Selva de Doramas. Today it’s protected by the special nature reserve. Taking a walk through this scenery we can enjoy the greenest nature of the island.

 

Water Parks

Let’s face it. When we travel with kids, we look for moments and places where they can use up all their energy and really have fun, so that then afterwards we can have some tranquility. The water parks always help to fulfill this desire and for sure that the kids will have a lot fun. There are several water parks on the Canary Islands, where all the family can spend an entertaining day. All of them have special areas for the little kids monitored by lifeguards, rest areas, eating, toilets, changing rooms… 

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Parque Acuático Baku Water Park: This water park is situated on the north of Fuerteventura with attractions for all ages. It also offers many services including a sand solarium, restaurants, medical services and crazy golf and on Mondays and Fridays you can visit a handicraft market.

www.bakufuerteventura.com

Aqualand Maspalomas: At Maspalomas, on the south of Gran Canaria, you will spend an incredibly fun day, any day of the week. You can enjoy all the services and amenities the water park offers. The temperature is very good all year long and the park often has new attractions to avoid getting bored.

www.aqualand.es

AquaPark Lanzarote: This water park is located in the central area of Lanzarote at the Costa Teguise. Some of its installations are thrilling, even for the boldest. Some other attractions are calmer for seniors and others are entertaining for kids. In this park you also can practice paintball.

www.aquaparklanzarote.com

Aqualand de Costa Adeja: In Tenerife we find this water park that offers a multitude of aquatic attractions and pools. The dolphinarium offers shows throughout the day so that we can enjoy these amusing animals with our children.

www.aqualand.es/tenrife

Siam Park: This water park is located on Tenerife and is the biggest theme park of aquatic attractions in Europe. The world’s biggest wave pool is very fun and you even can practice surfing here. Besides the multitude of new attractions, the atmosphere of the park makes us forget time and everything else.

www.siampark.net

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