This post is written in collaboration with the Gran Canaria tourism board, but all opinions, recommendations and typos are, as always, my own.


With its varied climates and diverse ecosystems, Gran Canaria is bursting with natural wonder. Here’s how to enjoy the magnificent nature of Gran Canaria

Best known for their incredible beaches and year-round sunshine, Spain‘s Canary Islands are popular with sun seekers and beach bathers. 

While they surely do boast some of the best beaches in the entire world, though, the sandy stretches are only a part of what makes this Spanish archipelago so special. 

Beyond the beach, the Canary Islands are home to a wild mix of landscapes and microclimates, making them a truly special place to visit for any nature lover. 

Gran Canaria, the second largest of the Canaries, is a particularly diverse island. It’s also pretty unique in that around one third of the island is a Biosphere Reserve. 

Here’s why it’s the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and eco-conscious travellers



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Ecotourism in Gran Canaria 

Even as an experienced traveller, I try to visit every new destination with a completely open and curious mind. 

But I’ll admit that I was worried Gran Canaria would be nothing but beaches and resorts. Having been to several Spanish islands, including Tenerife, Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca, I worried there would be nothing unique or new to discover on Gran Canaria… and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

While there are plenty of sandy beaches and picture perfect hotels in Gran Canaria, I was amazed at just how much this underrated island has to offer outdoor lovers and adventurous travellers.

The only thing that surprised me more was that I hadn’t heard about it before!

If you love nature and care about travelling responsibly, there are a LOT of things to see and do on Gran Canaria

Although Gran Canaria’s epic landscapes are sometimes overshadowed by the better known landscapes of Tenerfie, they’re no less special. 

If anything, I’d say they’re more special – and the fact they’re less visited just makes them even more so. 

Plus, Gran Canaria is swarming with ecotourism opportunities, making it ideal for conscious travellers who want to visit landscapes that still feel relatively untouched. 


Hillsides in Gran Canaria

11 ways to enjoy nature in Gran Canaria

Whether you prefer active adventures such as challenging hikes and water sports, or would rather enjoy Gran Canaria’s nature at a more relaxed pace, it’s easy to fill a week or more. 

Here are some of the best things to do in Gran Canaria to make the most of its eclectic landscapes and unique ecosystems.


#1 Climb the Maspalomas dunes

No trip to Gran Canaria would be complete without visiting the island’s most famous sight: the Maspalomas Dunes. 

Protected as a nature reserve since 1987, this 404-hectare area is unmissable.  The dramatic dunes tower over the corner that joins Playa del Inglés and Playa de Maspalomas, two of the island’s most popular beaches. 

It’s only when you get close to the dunes – or on them! – that you appreciate just how big they truly are. There is a path that runs alongside the dunes or sand-only trails through the dunes marked by wooden posts.

Make sure you wear good shoes (not flip flops!), bring plenty of water and allow at least half a day to explore the dunes. 

(Also, be prepared to spot a few swimsuit-less sunbathers if you find yourself near the nudist beach!)


gran canaria dunes maspalomas nudist beach

#2 Spot unique birds

Gran Canaria may not be known for its wildlife, but it’s a unique place to visit for any wildlife lover.

Thanks to its Atlantic-based location, Gran Canaria is home to diverse range of birds in particular. Many of these are endemic to the Canary Islands, making it an exciting destination for bird watchers. 

The Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch, one of the most endangered bird species, can only be found in the highlands of Gran Canaria. 

Sadly, it’s not the only bird here that is highly endangered and close to extinction. If you’re lucky, you may also spot one of the last remaining Canarian ravens. 

At last count, there were only 12 breeding pairs remaining on Gran Canaria. It’s easiest to spot them around the western coast or 

If you want to increase your chances of seeing some of Gran Canaria’s rarest birds, it’s best to join a guided tour such as this one

Your local guide will know exactly where to go to increase the chance of a sighting and you’ll learn all about these birds from somebody who knows them well.


#3 Marvel at the Gran Canaria dragon tree 

If you come across a funny looking tree while exploring Gran Canaria, there’s a good chance it’s a dragon tree. 

This unusual species isn’t entirely dissimilar to the quiver trees you might see in Namibia or a Joshua tree from Southern California. Like both of these, it kind of looks like it could be from another planet. 

Part of the wider dragon tree family, this rare species is native to Gran Canaria thanks to the island’s unique climate. It can be found mostly in the southwest of the island, from Barranco de Fataga to Barranco de la Aldea. 


Dragon tree in Galdar Gran Canaria Canary Islands Spain

#4 Visit Europe’s largest cactus park  

Dragon trees may be symbolic of the Canary Islands, but they aren’t the only plants that will impress you on Gran Canaria.

The island is also home to Europe’s largest collection of succulents. Visit Cactualdea, a park that is home to more than 1,000 species of cacti, to see an impressive range of plants. 

For a totally unique travel experience, the park recently opened up its on-site villa to visitors. Previously reserved for the family who founded the park, it is now possible to stay overnight inside the cactus park, enjoying views of the Inagua Mountain by day and clear views of the stars by night. 

Click here to check prices and availability.


#5 Hike to the best views

Gran Canaria is a hiker’s paradise, so make sure you pack a good hiking bag and a pair of hiking boots. 

There are countless hikes to enjoy on the island, many of which will challenge even the most serious hikers. 

For a truly rewarding ascent followed by some of the best views, head to the Valle de Agaete on the north-western side of Gran Canaria. 

There are several routes you can choose from depending on your experience and personal preferences, but the Los Berrazales – El Sao – El Hornillo route (information here) is one that regular hikers won’t want to miss.  


Gran Canaria, valley of Agaete

#6 Swim in volcanic pools 

While you’re in Agaete, don’t miss out on Las Salinas de Agaete. These three natural pools are connected by volcanic tunnels and provide a safe swimming spot that’s protected from the open sea.

Bring a snorkel an spot some of the fish enjoying this unique coastal area or stay above the water and enjoy the impressive landscapes all around you.


#7 Immerse yourself in pine forests

In addition to its dreamy beaches and volcanic terrains, Gran Canaria is also home to some impressive pine forest. I did tell you that it’s a diverse little island! 

Head to Llanos de la Pez for a nature-filled day that will show you a totally different side of Gran Canaria. Here, you can enjoy a peaceful picnic or head off on one of the many hiking trails.

While you’re here, make sure you don’t miss the famous Roque Nublo, a 67 metre high volcanic rock and the third highest point on the island. It’s a fairly short hike that’s suitable for most levels, but there are harder routes you can enjoy too.

If you want to stay overnight, there is a campground at Llanos de la Pez (with parking). Alternatively, you can book into a lodge or eco-house with a view. Check out this house for a private retreat or this hostel for a budget-friendly alternative with equally amazing surroundings.


a view of Roque Nublo monolith in Gran Canaria, Spain

#8 Discover the marine life

The waters of Gran Canaria aren’t just great for cooling off in the middle of the day – they’re also full of vibrant marine life.

Dolphins, pilot whales, sharks and turtles can all be spotted off of Gran Canaria’s coastline.

A short cruise such as this one will give you the best chance at spotting some of the species that inhabit the waters here.

Or, if you want to spot some of the local sharks, try snorkelling or diving instead. Gran Canaria is home to several species of shark, including one of the only substantial populations of angelsharks.


#9 See the untouched sides of Gran Canaria

Canyoning is one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria, and it’s also a great way to explore the more secluded points of natural beauty.

It’s not one for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be rewarded with charming waterfalls, isolated ravines and forests that can only be seen with the help of a harness.

Since you’ll need an expert guide and equipment, this is something that you definitely can’t do alone! But this tour includes pick-up, snacks and everything else you need to explore the island’s tightest spots.


Gran Canaria, Ravine Barrando del Anden, abandoned cave houses

#10 Stay in a cave house

There are a number of cave houses across Gran Canaria, some of which are still in use today.

Carved into the island’s ravines, it it thought that cave houses were the dwellings of Gran Canaria’s aboriginal people up to 2,500 years ago.

Today, many of these cave dwellings are still in use (although some have had hot showers added!). If you want a unique place to sleep while visiting the island, spend a night or two in a cave house.

This secluded Airbnb offers the full cave house experience in beautiful surroundings. Or, if you’d like a few more home comforts, this unique cave house promises the perfect balance of traditional and modern.


#11 Visit an aloe vera farm

Finca Canarias is an ecological aloe vera farm. It produces aloe-based cosmetics that are 100% organic and completely cruelty-free.

There are three Finca Canarias farms on Gran Canara spread between San Augustín, Telde and La Oliva. All of them free guided tours in multiple languages, where you can learn more about how the aloe is grown and cultivated.

There’s also a shop where you can also buy souvenirs that are environmentally friendly, ethically sound and great for your skin.


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The best areas in Gran Canaria for nature lovers

Although it’s a relatively small island, Gran Canaria has a whole lot to offer.

It’s fairly easy to get around by bus or car (see below), but you’ll want to choose where you stay carefully in order to maximise your time.

seaside palm beach hotel maspalomas
Seaside Palm Beach is surrounded by greenery – and the famous Maspalomas dunes!

Maspalomas

Maspalomas is one of the most popular areas on the island, but don’t let that put you off.

As well as having some of the best beaches on Gran Canaria, it’s also home to the famous Maspalomas Dunes and the neighbouring lagoon, which attracts some interesting wildlife.

Given its range of restaurants, resorts and beaches, Maspalomas is a great place to stay if you want to return to somewhere a little livelier after a day spent surrounded by nature.

Where to stay:


Tejeda

If you want to fully immerse yourself in Gran Canaria’s nature, it’s hard to beat Tejeda. While I recommend visiting this area on a day trip (or two!) if you stay elsewhere, it’s also an amazingly beautiful place to base yourself.

Right in the heart of Gran Canaria, this small village and its mountainous surroundings are far from the postcard-perfect beaches of the coast, but they’re no less stunning.

In fact, in Tejeda you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to scenery. With lush greenery, hidden waterfalls and views of Pico de las Nieves, it’s the perfect place to enjoy nature in Gran Canaria.

Where to stay

Fátaga

Based halfway between the pine forests and the beach, Fátaga is a small village full of white buildings.

As well as making for some dreamy photos, it’s the perfect place to base yourself if you want to enjoy some of Gran Canaria’s many hikes.

Where to stay

  • EcoTara is an eco villa and retreat centre that offers exactly what you’d expect: a peaceful getaway in the Gran Canarian countryside. With a focus on sustainable living, EcoTara is part of an organic farms and also offers free yoga classes to guests. Click here to check availability.

las palmas segway tour gran canaria

Getting around Gran Canaria

Wherever you end up staying in Gran Canaria, it’s not (too) hard to get around.

The blue ‘Global’ buses cover an island-wide network including both resorts and rural areas. You can see a full timetable and route map here.

Alternatively, it’s fairly easy to drive around if you decide to hire a car.

Locally, there are lots of great ways to explore nearby areas. Hiking is one of the best ways to explore the countryside and immerse yourself in nature in Gran Canaria, but there’s also plenty to explore in and around the cities.

Segway tours, (electric) bike hire and e-scooters all offer eco-friendly ways to venture a little further if you choose to stay in Las Palmas, Maspalomas or any of the other more built-up areas on Gran Canaria.



Alajode UK travel blog and vlog by a female digital nomad
Jodie Marie Dewberry

Jodie has been travelling the world full time since 2017, sharing the most unique places in the world along with tips for living as a digital nomad. She is a passionate wildlife photographer and has worked with a number of prominent travel brands, including airlines, tourism boards, hotels and tour operators.

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