Family Holiday in the Canary Islands - Spain
As a huge fan of islands who has visited Hawaii, Fiji, the islands of Thailand and the Caribbeans, I decided it was time to explore another set of islands that are great to visit during the winter for people living in the northern hemisphere.
I decided to visit the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands belong to Spain, but are geographically located closer to Morocco.
They are an excellent destination for any time of the year. In the winter, the maximum temperature is between 20-25 degrees Celsius, and in the summer it does not go above 30 degrees. Most of the islands – especially their south sides – are blue-skied and sunny. In short, perfect weather!
The atmosphere of the islands is also wonderful and traquil. The locals are friendly, most speak at least some English, and most of the tourists are Europeans (English, Scandinavian, Icelandic, etc) escaping from the winter cold.
Anyone could enjoy a visit to the Canary Islands. There is something for everyone: People who love relaxing, fancy hotels, charming swimming pools, beautiful beaches, and water sports; people who love nature, hiking and biking; people who like old towns and markets; and even people who like big cities and shopping. The connoisseurs among you will also enjoy every minute. The islands are full of restaurants serving typical local food, sea food, and tapas. There are plenty of coffee shops, and meals in most hotels are also very high quality.
islands feature varied plant life, including cacti on
the one hand and tropical rainforests on the other. Some
of the plants are unique to the islands, such as the
interesting Dragon Tree.
The Canary Islands are made up of seven main islands, connected by airports and ferries. Some are quite small and a day trip is enough to see them, but some are big enough to require several days to see the best they have to offer. I chose to focus on the two largest and most well-known of the islands: Gran Canaria and Tenerife, which are both particularly suitable for a family vacation.
You can travel between the two islands by ferry (which can take your rented car between the islands as well) or by flight – a short (30 minutes) and inexpensive one. The ferry trip between Gran Canaria and Tenerife takes 45 minutes in the fast ferry and two hours in the slower, inexpensive one.
In Gran Canaria I recommend staying in the south of the island, where the weather is sunny and pleasant and where there is a variety of family lodging options.
There are beautiful resorts with pools, beaches, water parks, gym facilities, and plenty of activities for children and adults alike; less extravagant hotels at great prices; and a wide selection of apartment hotels. It's important to note that many three-star or three-and-a-half-star hotels in the Canary Islands would receive a much higher rating were they in many other countries (due to lower taxation, many hotels prefer to keep a lower rating than their hotels actually deserve).
The best resort area for families is Taurito, where, besides a beautiful beach, there are plenty of family attractions. A highly recommended all-inclusive hotel chain is Paradise Hotels and Resorts, which has three lovely resorts in Taurito with a joint water park. The one most suitable for families is Hotel Paradise Lago Taurito.
south has plenty of options for active vacationing and
water sports including parasailing, banana boats, water
scooters, kayaks, pedal boats with slides in them, and
more. You can also go biking, horse riding, and even
It is worth noting that lodging, food, and even shopping in the Canary Islands are relatively cheap compared to Europe. This is mostly thanks to low sales taxes on the islands. It is also handy to know that entry to all beaches on all of the islands is free, including entry to beaches right next to the most luxurious hotels. Entry to national parks is free as well.
Thanks to the relatively small size of the islands, they are an ideal destination for 'star trips'. You can spend several days in the south side of the island and include some day trips to other parts of the island, with no car trip taking over an hour and a half.
Las Palmas city
In Gran Canaria, a car trip from the resorts in the
south to the capital, Las Palmas, takes 40-60 minutes.
The drive from the resorts in the south to the mountains
in the east and north of the island is just over an
Las Palmas is a bustling, lively city which requires a full day to see. It has a long promenade along the beach called Las Canteras Ave which is full of restaurants, coffee shops and souvenir shops, and has a beautiful view of the sea. Not far is a big and busy shopping mall called Las Arenas. Nearby are many pedestrian malls full of brand-name stores and a branch of the famous department store, El Corte Ingles.
A short drive away, not far from the harbor, is the old city of Triana. It has a food market, typical Canarian houses with charming balconies, shops, and Colombus' House – Casa de Colon – now a museum about the travels of the Spanish explorer who stopped at the islands to repair his ships. Some say he had a secret romance with the wife of the governor of the island La Gomera. Columbus is very popular in the Canary Islands. There are streets named after him and many places connected to him: The church he attended, the tower he used to frequent with his lover, his house, etc. In the museum there are also paintings and sculptures from his time and before his time, as well as parrots that walk around freely in the beautiful inner courtyard of the house.
short walk from Casa de Colon through a pretty street
leads to the government building, which faces a big
I also recommend visiting the "Canary Village" where there are typical Canary houses, as well as the nearby botanical gardens. Wrap up the trip with a visit to the nearby sports harbor, full of yachts and coffee houses overlooking the water.
Exploring the island
You would do well to dedicate another full day to the towns and villages in the mountains in the north and centre of the island. The town nearest to the south is Aguimes, located in the east of the island. It has a beautiful square full of statues and greenery and lovely brick houses. It is fun to walk through its streets and alleys, discover more statues of donkeys and camels and people, and visit the visitor centre, which has a small museum that explains the history of the place and even has a couple of mummies of the aboriginals of the islands.
Not far from there you can visit caves where the aboriginals used to live hundreds of years ago and today, after some renovation, serve as houses.
In the town of Arucas stands the island's big rum factory, where you can take a tour to learn about the rum-making process and see the machines that fill and package the bottles at work. Adults can also visit the tasting room and try various flavours of the local rum for free. The factory's shop is very cheap! All visitors leave happy and giddy…
The town Firgas features a big, beautiful artificial waterfall surrounded by the emblems of the various counties of Gran Canaria and beautifully painted benches. There are also large three-dimensional maps of the seven Canary Islands a little further up the same street.
Another lovely village up in the
mountains with a name that may seem unwelcoming to
English-speaking tourists is Teror, known for its
colourful marketplace and its narrow alleyways. From
there you can go on to the highest point of the island,
Cruz de Tejeda, which overlooks the entire island. On
clear days you can even see some of the neighbouring
islands in the horizon. You can go on guided jeep tours
in the mountains, ATV tours and even donkey-riding
You should dedicate the rest of the days of your trip to the south side of the island, where there are many lively towns with beautiful beaches and myriad options for activities. Don't miss out on the dunes of Maspalomas: enormous, sprawling sand dunes that go all the way to the shoreline which you can climb, sit on and slide down.
The loveliest town in the south is Mogan, nicknamed "the Venice of the Canaries" because of all of its canals. It has a fishing harbor, a beautiful beach, and plenty of souvenir shops, restaurants and coffee shops. The houses are very cute and built in the same style. There is a popular market which is on every Friday.
You can get to Mogan by car on a winding scenic route or via the sea on a sort of aquatic bus that travels between several holiday towns in the southwest side of the island. Another great way to see the towns of the south is by sailing in a yacht or catamaran along the picturesque shores. You can watch jumping fish and wild dolphins, As well as stop for a swim in the clear, quiet waters of the sea not far from the shore. Something kids especially will enjoy is a 'pirate ship' cruise which includes activities and adventures.
The island has plenty of golf and mini-golf courses, a karting track, a zoo, a crocodile park, an aquatic animal park and a water park. However, if you are looking for the best zoos and parks you should visit the neighboring island to the west, Tenerife, which has the biggest and best zoos and parks of all the islands.
You can go on a day drip to the neighboring island to the east, Fuerteventura, known for its wonderful beaches (which are considered to be the best beaches in the islands) and its market. Faro de Jardia lighthouse is also worth visiting, as well as a local farm called Gran Tarajal, which produces cheese. The ferry ride takes less than an hour each way.
Reccommended Hotels in Canary Islands
In Gran canaria Island
At the south, in MASPALOMAS:
Villa Lovisi - at 4 star hotel level, small pool, kitchenet, free internet and parking.
In Taurito Beach:
Hotel Paradise Lago Taurito - 3 star Hotel
Good Hotels Chain called H10 have hotels around the islands:
4 star hotel. Located 200m from Playa Blanca beach.
3 star hotel. Located in Costa Teguise.
2 Hotels that located in the promende of Playa de Las Americas:
4 star hotel. Located at Costa Adeje
Tenerife is the island most suitable for those seeking active vacationing, nature hikes, and family parks; less so for those looking for the best beaches. There are plenty of beaches on the island, of course, but most of them are not as good as those of Gran Canaria and have grey or black (volcanic) sand, unlike the golden sands of Gran Canaria's beaches (with the exception of a few beaches whose sands have been imported from elsewhere). Here, too, are many resorts and hotels of every shape and size. An excellent chain of hotels with many hotels and resorts all over the islands, including several in Tenerife, is H10.
Like in Gran Canaria, in Tenerife the south side of the island is sunnier and warmer than the north side and most of the hotels and resorts are there, including the newest and most beautiful ones. Lodging prices in the north side of the island are generally cheaper and the hotels are older, but most are still excellent quality hotels. Tenerife has two airports; one in the north and one in the south. Both airports have flights from various destinations in Europe as well as the neighboring islands.
The best family attractions in Tenerife are Loro Park, a beautiful, well cared for park which is a combination of a zoo, botanical gardens, and Sea World-style animal shows. There are aquatic animal shows – dolphins, sea lions and killer whales – as well as bird shows, an IMAX film, an aquarium with a walk-in "shark tunnel" and plenty of colourful fish, a great penguin house, crocodiles, and plenty of other animals, including gorillas, tigers, and lots of birds. The park has several good restaurants and shops. You can take a guided tour through it for an additional fee.
The park is located in the town of Puerto de la Cruz in the north side of the island, known for its fishing harbor, its seaside promenade, its black beaches and the collection of excellent swimming pools between the beaches. The town has a variety of restaurants and shops. I recommend spending a full day in the park and town altogether.
In the south side of the island is the popular Playa Las Americas, a lively area full of pedestrian malls, shopping centres, restaurants, beaches and hotels (including some great apartment hotels). Close to it is the best and biggest water park in the Canaries and in Europe in general, Siam Park. It is modeled to look like a Thai village and has plenty of fantastic water slides, a big wave pool, a tubing river, and a great water playground for younger children. The park is suitable for all ages and all levels of bravery. Here too there are several places to eat, including – of course – a Thai restaurant. I recommend spending another full day in this park and Playa Las Americas.
National park of Teide
For those who love nature, the highlight of a visit to Tenerife is, without a doubt, the National park of Teide. It is located in the centre of the island and named for the tallest peak on the island. The road to the park is beautiful and scenic, passing by towns and villages in the mountains. The park has hiking trails of varying difficulty, impressive viewpoints, and a visitor centre with a small museum where you can watch an interesting film about the park.
Entry to the park, like all national parks on the islands, is free of charge. I recommend returning to the south side of the island by a northwestern road and stopping at a viewpoint to see the cliffs of Los Gigantes.
Natural park Monte de Las Mercedes
Another lovely natural park is Monte de Las Mercedes, located in the northeast of the island. It offers beautiful hiking trails and many viewpoints. I suggest combining a visit to this park with a visit to the old capital of La Laguna.
A visit to island of La Gomera
A visit to the small island of La Gomera makes for a wonderful day trip from Tenerife. A 40-50 minute ferry ride from Los Christianos harbor in the south of Tenerife will get you there. The island has a national park called Garajonai with a beautiful rainforest and plenty of hiking trails running through it. Half of the island, including its tiny capital of San Sebastian, is mostly desert with a view of cliffs and cacti, while the other half is green and tropical. The island is full of beautiful viewpoints. An especially great one is La Degollada de Peraza. The island is famous for its old whistling language, which was a way of communicating over long distances in the island for many generations that has been preserved until today. It is nice to visit the villages of Agulo and Rosas and eat at a local restaurant where the whistle language will be demonstrated to you. The best way to see the island is on a guided tour that starts in Tenerife and includes the ferry ride and all of the popular destinations of the island.
Tenerife also offers yacht cruises,
bike tours, jeep tours, ATV tours, and Segway tours.
An excellent and reliable travel agency in the Canary Islands with branches in most of the islands is Tamadaba Tours.
Phone number: 34-928147031
Through them you can order lodging of every kind at great prices, as well as domestic flights, ferries, local tours (both private and group tours), car rental, and more.
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