Although the island’s unique attraction is its golden sandy beaches, it also has natural volcanic rock pools and hidden coves, only accessible by boat or on foot. If you fancy a swim, here’s our list of the best beaches in Gran Canaria, Spain.
The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Spain, your essential guide for visiting Spain.
On the Western side of Maspalomas lighthouse, the newly developed stylish Meloneras stretches for 2 km and includes luxury 4 and 5 star hotels, a casino and a conference centre. The promenade is crammed with bars, cafés and restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world. It’s attractive, trendy and affluent.
There are two beaches to choose from at each end of the promenade – Maspalomas and the smaller Meloneras, each with long stretches of sand, perfect for taking a dip in the clear waters of the Atlantic. Discerning locals come here for the tranquillity, so you know it’s a great spot.
At night Meloneras comes into its own with a unique kind of nightlife, different to the main resorts. Chill out with a glass of wine while the sun goes down, or kick back and enjoy the live music playing in the background.
Tip: golfers will enjoy the beachfront’s 18 hole course but may get their balls wet.
Find more accommodation options to stay in Maspalomas and Meloneras
Further west, Anfi Beach, fringed with coconut palms, has 11,000 tons of fine white sand. Originally known as Playa de la Verga, this resort was built in the 1990s by a Bjørn Lyng, a Norwegian businessman. He wanted to recreate the look and feel of a Caribbean beach on Gran Canaria and he certainly achieved that.
It’s located in a protected lagoon, flanked on one side by a pier and on the other by a heart-shaped island and the marina. The waters are so calm that it’s safe for children, great for snorkelling and ideal for water sports. You can rent kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis and small boats or take a tour on a glass bottom ferry and discover the highlights of the area.
Thrill seekers can try parasailing to get an unforgettable aerial view of the resort or take a Fly board to be thrust into the air by a water jet and flip back into the sea. Check out our first-timer’s guide to the best Canary Islands for more activities in Gran Canaria.
Tip: Try Beach Club Maroa, on the island, for your evening cocktail, and enjoy the sunset.
Amadores Beach is one of the best beaches in Gran Canaria. The beach is located in a beautiful curved bay with turquoise sea and white sand, overlooked by stark cliffs. Created in 2002, this resort is a welcome respite from the busier Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria.
Since it’s situated in a cove, the waters are calm and well-protected from the rough waves of the Atlantic. This makes it an excellent place for swimming and paddling. The coral sand means people can lie on the beach all day without getting burned, although you still might want to hire a sun lounger.
There’s a ban on loud music and boisterous beach games and, since it’s almost a kilometre long, it never gets crowded. In 2004, Amadores was awarded the Blue Flag certification for the quality of its services.
Tip: take the 3 kilometre ocean front walk along the cliff between Amadores and Puerto Rico for stunning views.
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The most westerly resort on the southern coast, this coastal village lies at the mouth of a steep-sided valley, its charming white buildings contrasting with the mountain landscape behind.
As well as a fishing port and yacht marina, there’s a sandy beach, protected by the port and a breakwater. This makes it perfect for families, as the waters are calm, there are no stones and the sand is fine and golden.
It’s also great for snorkelling as the sea is shallow and clear. For larger marine life, go to the marina and head beneath the waves in a yellow submarine or take a whale-watching trip. Keen anglers can set out on deep-sea fishing expeditions.
Tip: explore the resort’s “Little Venice”, a scenic network of canals and bridges with colourful subtropical blossoms and blooms.
Find more accommodation options to stay in Puerto de Mogán
This is Gran Canarias’s Shangri La. The two beaches here on the west coast, dominated by high cliffs, are so remote they’re almost always deserted. The only way of getting there is on foot or by boat. It’s a tough two and a half hour hike from Tasartico, or persuade a fisherman to take you from Mogán or La Aldea.
Güi Güi Grande is the first you get to and is small, only 350 m long. It’s named after the size of the barranco or canyon, rather than the beach. Güi Güii Chico is just south of its little neighbour and is almost twice as big. You reach it by scrambling over the rocks but be careful as it gets cut off at high tide.
You’re rewarded with a refreshing swim in cool crystal clear waters, surrounded by pristine water, and some of the best sunsets in Gran Canaria, The beaches are at their sandiest during the summer months as in winter they can disappear completely.
Tip: take plenty of walker and snacks as you’re unlikely to find any supplies here.
North of Güi, and far more accessible is the tiny fishing village of Puerto de Las Nieves, a cluster of attractive blue and white Canarian houses. From the harbour, the Paseo de los Poetas, lined with restaurants, craft shops and galleries, leads along the shore, to the natural pools of Las Salinas.
For centuries, they were used to harvest salt, but now make the perfect bathing spot. Swimmers are protected from the crashing waves by rock barriers and it’s an exhilarating experience as the sea water rushes in. The three pools are connected by volcanic tubes and there are flat areas for sunbathing. The lush green pine forest mountainside makes for an attractive backdrop.
After your swim, visit the nearby Maipés Archaeological Park is situated on a great lava flow at the foot of the Pinar de Tamadaba. This is where the Guanches, Gran Canaria’s original inhabitants, choose to honour their dead. There are over 700 tombs of various types and sizes, including huge burial mounds constructed with volcanic stones, dating from around 1300 years ago.
Tip: try the local speciality – caldo de pescado, a delicious fish soup.
Find accommodation options to stay in Puerto de Las Nieves
The capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is home to Las Canteras, one of the best urban beaches in Gran Canaria and Europe in general. It stretches for almost 4km and starts in the north at La Puntilla, the golden sand fringed with coconut palms and fishing boats. At La Cicer, the southern end, surfers ride the crashing breakers in a haze of sea mist.
In between, a natural offshore lava reef acts as a wave break, calming the waters and protecting the marine life that makes Las Canteras a top snorkelling spot. It’s a good place for families as children can bathe in the shallows, overseen by lifeguards, while parents take the sun from their hammocks. The more sportive can enjoy a variety of beach games including volleyball and football.
Alongside, the lively Paseo de las Canteras promenade has amenities including showers and spas. It’s also packed with shops, open-air restaurants, snack bars and ice cream parlours. Sit and enjoy some tapas, people watch over a cool drink and be amused by the street entertainers.
Tip: Watch locals jump into the sea from the rock, Peña La Vieja, and dare to try it yourself.
Although it’s renowned for sun and sand, Gran Canaria offers great walking opportunities. Explore our guide to the rugged heart of Gran Canaria on foot.
Find more accommodation options to stay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
San Agustín, the first resort you reach on the Gran Canaria motorway, caters mainly for retired couples and families with young children, although it is also extremely popular with windsurfers.
You can walk along the promenade to Playa del Inglés, a far louder and more robust resort. The name means English Beach, but it attracts numerous German visitors as well. This is a sprawling sun, sea and sand resort of high-rise hotels, shopping malls, amusement arcades and fast-food restaurants. The nightlife at the numerous discos, bars and clubs can be hectic.
Do you want to explore the highlights of Spain while staying in nature at the same time? Look no further. Start your tailor-made Spanish adventure in Barcelona before heading off to the mountains - drive your rental car to Andorra and further on to Basque Country. Decide between driving yourself or guided tours.
Puerto Rico is the major resort on this coast. Conceived in the 1970s, it has been somewhat overdeveloped, with a wall of apartment blocks rising to the top of the hills, like tiers of seats in a giant amphitheatre. Its pretty, sheltered beach is clean and is one of the best beaches in Gran Canaria for families but can become unbearably crowded.
The Puerto Deportivo (or leisure harbour) caters for fishing and water-sports enthusiasts and for those who just like being on the water. There are diving schools and sailing schools, deep-sea fishing trips, ‘dolphin search’ trips in glass-bottomed catamarans, as well as simple pleasure trips that run up and down the coast.
For more spectacular Spanish beach destinations, read our guide to the best beaches in Spain.
Ready for a trip to Gran Canaria? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to Spain.
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This article was written in partnership with Visit Gran Canaria.
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Rupert Parker has been exploring the Canaries for the last thirty years and has hiked the length and breadth of every single island.