Gran Canaria is known as the 'miniature continent' due to the variety of its terrain, and its beaches stick with this theme. From dark volcanic sand to rolling white dunes blown in from the Sahara desert, Gran Canaria offers a range of things to see and feel between your toes. Whether you want a quiet place to read a book, or to do some people watching, you can find your ideal spot on the island. Here are some of the highlights of Gran Canaria's famous beaches.
While perhaps not as popular a destination as the nearby Playa del Ingles, the town of Maspalomas is home to Gran Canaria's most renowned stretch of beach – the Maspalomas dunes. This landmark is something special, with large dunes straight from the desert and stretching for miles.
The town of Maspalomas itself is an upmarket resort that's home to stunning restaurants and designer shops. The beach itself is in easy reach from any of the resorts on the eastern side of the south coast. Wherever you happen to stay on Gran Canaria, a day on these dunes should be on your to-do list.
Translated literally as 'Englishman's beach', don't be fooled into thinking this beach is all about getting sunburn! The stretch of beach on this resort boasts bright, clear blue waters and expansive pale, soft sand. There's a reason why this is one of the most visited coast lines in Europe.
Staying in Playa del Ingles means you're likely to have late nights out, and the beach is perfect for a siesta, and for a wake-me-up swim. Just don't fall asleep without a parasol!
If you're looking for a quieter spot away from the bustle of the tourist hotspots, Playa de San Agustin is a great choice. Smaller and more relaxed than its neighbours Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas, here you'll be able to find the ideal spot to read or take a siesta. Being gently sloped and well protected against the waves, this beach is also an excellent spot for snorkelling and scuba diving.
This chic, upmarket resort on the south coast is home to another excellent beach. People come from all over the island to visit this tranquil stretch of sand, which just happens to be an excellent spot for swimming. Further inland you'll find the resort of Meloneras itself, known for its atmosphere of luxury and sophistication. And, as with all the beaches on this part of the island, it's never difficult to get from one to the other – if it's too far on foot then a short taxi ride will get you there.
The dunes of Maspalomas are perhaps the most iconic of the island's beaches, and the resorts that surround them are the most popular on the island. Go north and you'll find rocky coves and sheer cliffs leading to the sea – more difficult to access perhaps, but a brave walk among volcanic rocks will be well worth it.
Playa de Amadores is a man-made beach – but don't let this put you off. Being located on the southwestern side of the island means that it's sheltered from the North Atlantic currents. The long, breakwaters make sure that swimmers are protected from waves, making this an excellent choice for families with young children. Its lovely white sand reflects the sunlight, so make sure you're well protected. As with many Canarian beaches, Playa de Amadores also has a long and attractive promenade, which makes for an excellent meeting place for family and friends.
Similar to Playa de Amadores, but larger, is this stunning beach in the town of Puerto Rico. It was the first artificial beach in Gran Canaria and is an extremely popular one with British tourists. Playa de Puerto Rico is well protected from the waves and currents of the Atlantic Ocean, making it a very safe and attractive option for families.
The large marina next to the beach means that, aside from lounging in the sun, there are lots of activities on offer, including the option to try your hand at sailing.
Sometimes a windy beach isn't an annoyance, but an opportunity. Pozo Izquierdo is one the windiest beaches in Gran Canaria, and it also happens to be one of the most famous spots in the world for windsurfing. It offers an excellent opportunity for family days out – the training schools are willing to take on people of any ability.
The largest and most famous of the four beaches in Las Palmas, Las Canteras is a Blue Flag beach. The beautiful golden sand and the volcanic reef that protects swimmers from waves make this beach a firm favourite. Known as one of the best city beaches in the world, if you're spending some time in the capital and feel like a swim, then this is the place to be. Be sure to check for the flags before you take a dip – green means go ahead, yellow means be careful, red means no swimming allowed!
Just next to Las Canteras is El Confital, another beach that offers something a bit different. It's an all-important water sports zone as well as a world famous surfing spot. El Confital is rockier and more rugged than you might expect, but the promenade makes for an excellent walk and there'll be opportunities for activities that aren't available in other places. Just make sure you use the proper paths to get to the water.