When traveling to Gran Canaria, many people spend most of their time in either Las Palmas or Maspalomas, the largest cities on the island. The vibrant town of Maspalomas is a favorite among tourists as it offers plenty of cultural and entertaining attractions as well as a decent nightlife and white sandy beaches. However, the real beauty of Gran Canaria can only be seen by exploring the area around Maspalomas, where you’ll find idyllic fishing towns, a stunning mountain landscape, and beautiful nature gems. If you want to experience the diversity Gran Canaria has to offer, head out of the city and into the countryside on various day trips.
In September and October 2018, I had the chance to spend some time in Gran Canaria while on a dive and hike trip. In this post, I´m sharing with you 12 awesome day trips from Maspalomas. Some of these destinations are popular locations. However, some of the ideas below are also off the beaten path and will hopefully make your whole trip unique and memorable.
San Augustin Beach
The easiest day trip from Maspalomas is taking a walk along the seaside promenade until you reach San Augustin Beach. On the way, you will pass the famous Playa del Ingles as well as Playa de las Burras. San Augustin Beach is a black sand beach with significantly fewer tourists than Playa del Ingles and a great place to spend a few relaxing hours sunbathing or swimming in the shallow waters. The seaside promenade offers cozy beach bars, ice cream shops, and some decent seafood restaurants. As the sun is boiling during the daytime, I recommend bringing some water and sun protection if you plan on strolling along the seafront for a few hours.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is not only the island capital but also a multi-cultural metropolis with a population of 400.000. The city feels a lot more industrial than the small mountain towns, of course. Nevertheless, it offers a gorgeous old town with traditional colonial buildings, which can be easily explored on a walking tour through the district of Vegueta. One of the highlights among both locals and tourists is also Playa de las Canteras, a 3 km stretch of sand along with a lovely seaside promenade free from traffic. On top of that, the restaurant and nightlife scene in Las Palmas is diverse and offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy an entertaining night.
Often overlooked by tourists, the small mountain town of Agüimes has become one of my favorite towns in Gran Canaria. It has a very well-preserved old town dominated by two tall towers that belong to the church Parroquia de San Sebastián at Plaza del Rosario. The city center has been a protected historic area for more than 30 years. Just stroll through the narrow lanes and take a look at all those colorful and very traditional Canarian buildings, which give the town a charming and somewhat timeless character. Walking through the town center, you will probably come by various sculptures, such as a donkey, camel, and musician.
Barranco De Las Vacas
Located only a few kilometers from Agüimes is the hidden canyon Barraco de las Vacas aka. Toba de Colores. After a good 15 minutes trek through a parched riverbed, you will reach the ravine with flowing curves of reddish stone, very similar to Antelope Canyon in the United States. This spot is a real nature gem and offers great photo opportunities. There is no road sign nor a proper parking area, so it’ll be best to use Google Maps to navigate to it and find parking somewhere along the curvy road.
This spot is also one of my ultimate travel highlights in Gran Canaria.
Presa De Las Ninas
This beautiful blue lake surrounded by differently colored meadows, pine trees, and a few local goats is located in the middle of Gran Canaria’s mountains. The road leading to this gem is definitely not for the faint-hearted, though the drive is absolutely worth the effort. Presa de las Ninas is tranquil and peaceful. It can be best explored while trekking around the lake. Also, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic or barbeque – some people even come here for camping.
Roque Nublo & Roque Bentayga
Both Roque Nublo and Roque Bentyaga are among Gran Canaria’s greatest natural wonders. Roque Nublo is the island’s icon and an 80m-high monolith. Hiking from the roadside takes around half an hour. Roque Nublo is typically en route when booking a day trip from your hotel. Roque Bentayga, on the other hand, is a lot more remote and less touristy. There’s a signposted trail leading to Roque Bentayga, though you definitely need a car to get there.
This gorgeous mountain village is situated pretty much in the center of Gran Canaria and can only be reached on steep, winding roads. Not only is Tejeda a hub for all kinds of almondy things (almond chocolate, almond trees, almond desserts) but it also serves as a gateway for various hikes. The village is located between Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga and offers amazing views, especially if you make your way to Cruz de Tejeda, which is only a few minutes from the village itself and marks the exact center of the island.
Puerto de la Aldea, located in the province of Los Caserones, has a black pebbly beach, small harbor, and some seafood restaurants. This fishing village is very quiet during the week and mainly serves as a gateway for both hiking and diving. On the weekend, locals come here to enjoy a picnic on the beach and a few relaxing hours with their families. From up the hill opposite the tourist information center, you will have a panoramic view of Los Caserones. Several hiking trails start here – you’ll find all kinds of information about the hikes inside the tourist information center as well as on a map in front of the building.
This town in the north-east of Gran Canaria and only 1 km from Puerto de las Nieves is well worth a visit. Agaete’s main street is lined with typical Canarian houses and passes by the beautiful church in the city center. I recommend visiting the botanical gardens, which is only 1,50 € admission and a gorgeous oasis in the middle of this town. Also, Paula, who works there, is one of the friendliest and most helpful people on the island and will make sure you’ll get all the information you need on Agaete and the nearby Puerto de las Nieves.
Parque Naturale Tamadaba & Mirador Del Balcon
Misty mountains, small bays, hidden beaches, and a rugged coastline is what you see when traveling along Gran Canaria’s west coast. There’s a very winding but scenic road along the beautiful west coast from Aldea de San Nicolas to Puerto de las Nieves. It offers breathtaking views, though consider popping an anti-vertigo pill before starting the drive. One of my favorite spots along the way is a viewing point called Mirador del Balcon, from where you have a perfect view of the cliffs and crashing waves. On a clear day, it is even possible to see Tenerife’s Mount Teide from here.
Mind you, there’s a vendor there selling drinks and snacks. It might seem tempting to grab a coffee while enjoying the marvelous view. However, that coffee is unbelievably expensive, and the vendor is incredibly good at convincing you to purchase some exotic fruits as well. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya… 😀
Puerto De Las Nieves
The coastal town Puerto de las Nieves is famous for its white and blue buildings that kind of look like transplanted from some Greek island. On the weekend, the town is frequented by local families who like relaxing on the black, pebbly beach and jumping into the water from the pier. At night, this place becomes a vibrant culinary gem with various restaurants offering all kinds of seafood dishes and Canarian specialties. If you like seafood, definitely have some in this place. Many restaurants also offer a three-course menu del dia at a very reasonable price.
Another way to spend the day outside Maspalomas is to go on a scuba diving adventure. Whether you’re already a certified diver or not, Gran Canaria has various decent dive sites around the island suitable for both experienced divers and novices. The dive sites in Gran Canaria are home to stingrays, moray eels, and all kinds of reef fish. Just inquire at one of the dive centers in Maspalomas (I may recommend Sun-Sub Diving Center in Maspalomas, which is also linked with San Augustin’s Diving Center Nautico).
Also, be sure to check out my ultimate 5 travel highlights in Gran Canaria – places you should definitely not miss when traveling to this beautiful Canary island.