A lovely European getaway and a lovely tropical getaway aren’t supposed to be interchangeable: you either visit one or the other, and both could mean a lovely vacation but for different reasons.
But the Canary Islands prove that visitors to this lush, warm location are still technically visiting a European nation – and therefore truly are able to enjoy the best of both worlds.
The Canary Islands are a group of small volcanic islands off the coast of Morocco in northwest Africa.
Although they’re officially a self-ruling country, the archipelago is officially under the control of Spain, which supplies defense and other services, as well as allows seats in the Spanish Parliament.
But the relationship has seemed to work well for most for the past 500 centuries or so. Today, the Canary Islands can be a lovely journey by themselves or part of an unforgettable trip through the different regions of Spain.
Be warned: residency here is easy to acquire, and more than one international tourist has declared, “We love it so much we’re moving here!” Continue to learn interesting details about activities and places to stay on a trip to the Canary Islands.
Why You Should Visit the Canary Islands in 2023
North Americans have the Hawaiian Islands or the Caribbean to escape to when seeking something warm and lush, but these areas aren’t as convenient of a journey for many Europeans to head that far west.
Interestingly, Americans and international travelers also like heading to the Canaries, which definitely have a laid-back vibe and international flair, but also still feel like part of Castille Spain in terms of the culture, language, the architecture and overall structure.
Spain calls them the ‘sunshine center of Europe,’ and visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and various aquatic activities. There’s also plenty of opportunities to explore northern Africa’s abundant natural resources.
The islands actually include five biospheres reserves designated by the United Nations, which are natural areas where development is highly restricted, and visitors can enjoy abundant flora and fauna.
This can present a great getaway and a way to refresh yourself and recharge your batteries in a pristine jungle setting with beautiful beaches right next door, plus deserts and mountain areas to explore.
In the cities, there’s a general sense of relaxation, and there are always cultural activities taking place, including festivals, competitions, and enjoyable nightlife.
The 4 Best Areas in the Canary Islands
There are eight islands of all sizes to choose from within the archipelago, and each one strives for its own uniqueness in terms of natural attractions and things to do.
Some areas are considered more interesting and culturally enriching than others, including:
- Tenerife. The largest of the Canary Islands in terms of population includes noteworthy religious festivals, cool restaurants and more.
- La Palma. A great emphasis on natural wonders includes a noteworthy observatory.
- El Hierro. Prized among divers and snorkelers, this place has plenty of above- and below-water attractions to enjoy.
- Fuerteventura. There’s all sorts of hikes, beaches, and deserts to enjoy on the second-largest island.
Where to Stay in the Canary Islands: 4 Best Areas
Each of the islands is worth checking out, which you can access by using the ferry service or local air service to reach multiple islands. Though there are similar features, each location tries to be distinct.
Lodging options range in quality from higher-end hotels to former homes that have been repackaged into independent beds-and-breakfasts. Guests also often receive access to meals or various sightseeing tours.
It is also a popular location for the beach and hiking crowd, so there are a variety of hostels and fitness centers on many of the islands, as well as access to supplies for outdoor recreation and outfitters.
Residents are generally friendly, but there is a slow pace of life, which may be challenging for people expecting more action and activity. There’s even a term for it: “the good Canary vibe.” They also speak Canary, a dialect of Spanish.
Travelers should also be advised that the Canary Islands aren’t necessarily unsafe as far as overall crime goes – standard tourism warnings apply to discourage risky behaviors like flaunting noticeable wealth, traveling solo, or straying from populated areas, especially at night.
But a larger safety concern is the climate itself: literally being on a volcanic island means there’s a higher possibility of earthquakes or even volcanic eruptions compared to other more landlocked countries.
But generally, seismic experts are good about posting warnings about potential instability in certain areas.
This was a concern, although not a strong concern, during my last trip there. It’s not unique – places in New Zealand are seismically active, as is the Yellowstone basin in the U.S.
But eruptions in 1999 and 2021 did do some damage that’s still being rebuilt. Again, people are ready for whatever and take things as they come: that’s the good Canary vibe in action again.
With the formal name of Santa Cruz de Tenrife, the island offers a nice blend of a tropical city and a more rural zone. The city is downright cosmopolitan in terms of cafes, restaurants, old hotels and more.
It has the largest population and also the tallest point on Spanish soil, at Teide Peak, which is 3,718 meters. It’s part of a group of small volcanoes around the larger caldera.
Tourists can visit Tiede National Park to see the volcanoes and great views. As the largest city, it has the most history, starting with the Gaunche aboriginal group, and then everyone from the Moors to Christopher Columbus passing through.
This particular island is also especially popular with British expatriates.
The city is also known for massive religious festivals throughout the year that include parades, carnivals, fire festivals, boat processions, and fireworks. Some have been celebrated for more than 300 years.
Things to Do
- Playa de Americas. This is a resort area as well as the area’s most prominent beach. It includes nightclubs, shops, and stages to watch flamenco dancing. There’s pretty much parties around the clock, nicely balanced by times to take it easy down by the water on the amazing golden sand.
- Siam Park. Though beaches are fun, something you want a little more action, especially with kids around. That’s the purpose of this water park which claims to be the largest in Europe. It includes 15 slides, including one for small children. It also includes a 3m tall wave pool where you can practice your surfing. There are also cabanas for rent.
- Museum of Nature and Man. More than 4,000 items tell the story of the islands and why they’re so special. Visitors can see tools, animal skins, nautical exhibits, and learn about different industries and local plants.
Where to Eat
- Bocaditos & Mar. Enjoy all sorts of meat and seafood dishes, plus Spanish items like paella and some Italian pasta. The restaurant has an open-air terrace which is great for watching the water while eating.
- Meson Asador Casa Rodrigo. Diners can learn how special Canary Island cuisine is. It’s pretty much Spanish style but with other good local things thrown in, such as rabbit, Canary Island potatoes, and various stews.
- Bodegon Yumar. Another local delicacy is cochino negro, which is a native dark-skinned wild pig. This restaurant specializes in cooking it in different ways, as well as other tasty grilled meat dishes.
Where to Stay
- Tenrife Hostel. Visitors can enjoy 4-bed and 8-bed dormitory style rooms, as well as a private guest house. The location is near Caleta de Negros Beach and several museums and galleries. It includes access to a sun terrace, a kitchenette, a dishwasher and microwave.
- Wanderlust Hotel. Groups and larger parties may enjoy this assortment twin rooms and four-person rooms. Some rooms also have balconies. Guests can access a shared lounge and shared kitchen, and it’s near main tourism areas such as the military history museum.
- Silken Atlandtida Santa Cruz. This location is near the financial district. Guests will enjoy a fitness center that includes two hot tubs, two saunas, and a sun terrace. Rooms have hydromassage shows. There’s also a rooftop terrace and a restaurant that serves Mediterranean fare plus some Canary local delicacies and fine wines.
- Hotel Colon Rambla. This elegant hotel includes a restaurant, bar, outdoor pool, terrace and garden area. Meeting rooms are available. The location is near Patos Square, Garcia Sanabria Park, and other attractions.
- Hotel Aburiente SC Tenerife. Visitors can check a fitness center, lounge, and two restaurants. Bicycle storage is available. It’s near Garcia Sanabria Park and about 15 minutes from the beach.
- Hotel Escuela. The elegant hotel is just over a mile to a main beach. There’s an award-winning gastrobar that serves a variety of exotic items. The facility includes terrace access, an outdoor pool, and plenty of natural light.
2. La Palma
Of all the islands in the Canaries, some say La Palma is especially geographically diverse. There are forests, black sand beaches, jungles, mountains and more. It has acquired the nickname, La Isla Bonita, which means the beautiful island.
Interesting side note: La Palma is not considered the wonderful tropical destination that Madonna once sung about: the general consensus is that the Isla Bonita she was referring to was either a place she once loved in Belize, or inspired by the freeway sign to San Pedro, a suburb in Los Angeles.)
Others call La Palma La Isla Verde, or the Green Island, because of the dense foliage. The island is still recovering from a volcanic eruption at the end of 2021.
In an 85-day period, some cities were damaged and there was also a lot of ash dumped all around.
This didn’t result in loss of life, but destroyed many homes and a banana plantation, as well as altered the terrain once the lava hardened. It added to the black sand and even created new undersea formations worth checking out while diving, including caves.
Things to Do
- The Observatory. There’s an array of more than 20 telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos, including the largest optical-infrared telescopes in the world. Visitors can see some of greatest views of space, and it’s all free! Online reservations are required each week to secure your spot for a guided tour. International research takes place in an impressive solar array, including studies of high-energy gamma rays and other cosmic phenomena.
- Caldera de Tabruinete National Park. The observatory is only part of the interesting features found in this national park. Visitors can hike all around the caldera area, including some great trails and hiking to amazing viewpoints such as Las Angustias Gorge.
- Las Salinas. Various salt formations over the centuries, including activity from birds, water, and wind have created amazing natural designs and colors, including white, black, and pink. You can also see older and newer methods for extracting this mineral.
Where to Eat
- Chipi-Chipi. The title is the perfect play on words for tasty Canarian cuisine, including local barbecued meats and cheeses. The bright location also includes an impressive garden where fresh herbs are harvested for the meals.
- Enriclai. Lots of meat and lots of fish are promised and delivered at this location, which prides itself on locally-caught seafood, including tuna. Some guests also describe the place as the opposite of pretentious, whatever that is.
- La Casa del Volcan. This restaurant is actually part of a hotel and shop carved out of rock. The owners have created all sorts of original dishes and wines, plus delightful homemade grape jam. It’s also believed to be a great spot to view the stars at night, especially while dining on the outdoor terrace.
Where to Stay
- Hotel Bubango. This hostel in the San Andres y Sauces area offers a wide range of room styles, from singles to doubles to six-person dormitories. City-view rooms include teapots and coffee machines and there’s also a shared kitchen. The location offers easy access to places to visit in the community including bike paths.
- HosteLit. A fairly new concept in hostel experiences includes small shared bed areas, plus shared bathrooms and a shared kitchen. It’s a 2-minute walk to two beautiful beaches, and concierge service can also arrange other activities and car rental.
- Aparmentos La Caleta. Located in the Los Cancajos resort area, guests will find fine rooms and an outdoor pool at this group of vacation apartments. The rooms offer ocean views from balconies. There’s also a garden, solarium, and mini-golf area. Private rooms are cleaned three times a week.
- Casa Clasica. This vacation home in Santa Cruz de la Palma offers three-bedroom apartments. The owners focus on sustainability and environmental-friendliness. Guests receive continental breakfast and access to a patio and a complete kitchen. A shuttle to the nearby airport is provided.
- Anamcara Suites. Visitors to the Las Indias area of the island will enjoy this condo/hotel with amazing views and an outdoor pool. There’s a kitchen where guests can prepare their own meals or bring in a guest chef. A continental breakfast or full English/Irish breakfast is provided each morning. It’s about 2 miles from Puntlarga Beach, one of the more impressive ones.
- La Hacienda. This guest chalet in the El Paso area of the island has impressive views of the mountains, a spacious living room, a scenic garden, and a private patio. Guests can use a kitchen or barbecue facilities. There’s also a private open-air bathtub which can be a wonderful way to start or end the day. Bikes can be rented.
3. El Hierro
Words like “Rugged” and “Underexplored” have been used to describe this second-smallest island, and they can both be seen as complimentary. Basically, it means it’s as beautiful, maybe more so, than some of the other islands, and also doesn’t attract as much attention.
This means fewer people and more of an isolated experience for visitors excited to experience the wonders of nature available here, including solitary pursuits like hiking and fishing.
There are plenty of hiking trails up and down the hills that provide unforgettable views of the water, other islands, and various colorful terrain.
In the cities, you’ll find all sorts of shopping options, from fresh food to sporting goods. There are also a series of caves and volcano tubes under the entire island.
Certain ones are recommended for tourists and include guides – others can be dangerous due to limited air and natural gases. The lack of large cities also mean the stars are brighter at night, and there’s also plenty of places for stargazing.
What to do
- Natural pools. There’s plenty of beachfront to swim in, but there is also a series of naturally-formed outdoor pools found at Charco Azul, La Maceta, or Tamaduste. These can be a fun destination during a hike and a nice mellow alternative to the crashing ocean.
- Ecomuseum of Guinea. Learn about the early inhabitants of the island, the Bimbaches. Visitors can see some of their preserved household goods and where they used to live in the Valley del Golfo. Some built straw houses and farmed in the valley, while others lived in caves and volcanic tubes.
- Farmers Market. Guests and locals converge regularly for the Frontera market in Tigaday or the Mercadillo in Valverde. Both include fresh fruit, fish, and locally-made handicrafts. The Frontera has been in operation since 2004 and permanent stands were built in 2011. There’s also occasional entertainment like musicians and puppets.
- Volcanological Interpretation Center. If you’re curious about the natural process that make the islands and are still making them, you’ll enjoy this facility that offers the info. Visitors can check out a presence detector and see an interactive wall of landscapes. There’s also an opportunity to watch a simulation of a typical underwater eruption.
- Guinea Tube. This 90-meter section of volcano tube is a good way to experience the natural wonder of these structures. A guided tour provides useful information.
Where to Eat
- Volcan del Hierro. This Frontera location specializes in meats and fresh fish. The menu includes all sorts of elegant red tuna options, as well as grill options that include a platter of shellfish. Lobster soup is popular, as is the fried moray eel.
- Mirador de la Pena. The style of this restaurant is herreno, which focuses on ingredients from the island, including potatoes, cheese, pineapple, and meats like rabbit, fish, and seafood. This building designed by local architect Cesar Manrique, and emphasizes large windows and plants.
- Gauchinche Aguadara. A guachinche is a type of restaurant, usually in smaller villages, which features home-style Canarian entrees and local wines blended with Spanish-style meals like tapas. This one focuses on grilled fish and grilled steaks plus vegetarian options. Menu specialties include palm homey, goat stew, and El Hierro cheese.
- Restaurant Puntagrande. The Puntagrande Hotel, a boutique hotel, features a fine dining restaurant that offers indoor and outdoor seating. It’s an optimal place to watch the sunset while dining on fresh seafood dishes that rotate seasonally. A variety of local wine and liqueurs are available. Part of the appeal of the hotel, including the restaurant, is that it’s 18-plus, which creates a peaceful, quiet, and romantic atmosphere intended for grown-ups. It’s also closing in January 2024, which could encourage visitors to check it out before then.
Where to Stay
- La Montana 2. This 1-bedroom apartment is near prominent local beaches like Playa del Verodal. Guests are able to utilize a full kitchen and a private entrance. They also can enjoy the garden area.
- Pension Casa Trudo. Found in the Frontera area, this guest house provides a good setting to reach area attractions including cycling and shopping. There’s a garden and courtyard area, and great views of the water and mountains.
- Lua Hotel Boutique. Some double rooms include balconies. This location is near the Playa de Las Calcosas and easy to reach areas for hiking, diving, and snorkeling. Room service is provided as well as concierge service.
- Apartamentos Los Verodes. This group of apartments in the mountain area of the island includes kitchens in each room, plus a shared terrace and barbecue area, and a free laundry room and mini golf course. Meal delivery can be arranged from a nearby restaurant. There’s also bike rental and bike storage available.
- Geko Hotels. The Los Llanillos area provides amazing views of local beaches and mountains and is near Playa del Verodal. The soundproof rooms include access to a terrace, plus coffee machines in each room.
- La Cuardra de Juan. This elegant holiday home is in a remote area where privacy is guaranteed. It’s also positioned high enough so guests can see the sunrise and sunsets from opposite windows. It’s on the way to the Observatory. Guests will be able to make use of a kitchen as well as two bedrooms and a garden area. Bicycle trails are nearby.
This large island offers a blend of natural attractions to check out as well as all sorts of interesting city attractions like museums, galleries, and boutiques.
The area has been a stable source of agriculture for the rest of the islands, supplying items like tomatoes and bananas.
It provides a warm breeze, which makes activities like windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing, and beachcombing extra appealing. Hiking areas are prominent, from flat beaches to mountain slopes. It’s also considered an ideal spot for surfing and diving.
Although the nightlife on the island is impressive, including a brand of tequila named after the town of Corralejo, there are laws against public consumption of liquor as well as underage drinking.
Things to Do
- Oasis Park. Visitors will be able to see a blend of exotic flora and fauna at this preserve, including snakes, parrots, and lemurs. Guests can enjoy camel rides. It’s also adjacent to Jardin Botanico, where there are plants like cacti or aloe.
- El Cotillo. This city on the coast is more than 300 years old, and visitors can enjoy exploring the mostly-intact colonial town. Unlike some of the other islands, its remote, defensible location made it harder for pirates to sail in to pillage.
- Beach Cemetery. One of the more unique resting places for the dead is the Cofete Marine Cemetery located in Jandia National Park. Remains have been buried amid the sand and stones since the 19th century. Visitors can see a variety of memorial plaques or funerary objects.
- Archeological Museum. The island’s first museum in the city of Betancuria offers information about the area’s history, including the native Mahos people. The museum also lets people see current excavations of homes going back centuries. The city is also historic and named after a Norman explorer in the early 1400s.
- Isle of Lobos. Take a ferry to this small island and national park for even more impressive scenery. This is a good spot to see sea lions and seals while enjoying white sand and clear water.
Where to Eat
- The Ugly Duckling. This small, cozy restaurant offers local dishes as well as Scandinavian fare. There’s a different Danish dish each day.
- La Villa. A Mediterranean menu features Italian and French goodies but with healthy, affordable ingredients.
- El Moral. One of the advantages of this restaurant near Corralejo is that the owners provide half-size portions, which encourage diners to order more items and share dishes with each other. This makes it easy to try a larger sampling of local meats, fruits, and vegetables, as well as the chef’s recommendations for a particular evening.
Where to Stay
- Blue Wave House. This double-room apartment complex in the La Olivia area offers kitchens in each room, dining areas, fireplaces and ovens. There’s also a private pool and terrace.
- Casa Natura Ainhoa. The adults-only apartment includes a garden, outdoor pool, and barbecue area. There’s also a fitness area and easy access to bars and activities in the area.
- Fuerteventura Princess. This beachfront location at this four-star hotel includes pools, a tennis court, and other enjoyable amenities such as nightly entertainment and a restaurant that features an international buffet. . There’s also a sauna, fitness area, and kids area with a playground.
- Shambhala Fuerteventura. This apartment blends access and quality, including a pool with a bar, a kitchen, and access to a coffee shop. Fresh fruit is provided each morning.
- Pierre & Vacances Club Origo Mare. This island resort offers plenty of fun for families, including mini golf, entertainment, and various activities. There’s also an 18-plus area with a pool and waterpark. Guests stay in villas with a variety of amenities and access to many services.
- LaBranda Golden Beach. The Costa de Calma area is remote but still accessible to the island’s services, providing a refreshing opportunity to disconnect. Guests can access a restaurant, buffet, pool, and access to the water. There’s an on-site wellness spa, and the hotel concierge can arrange all sorts of excursions, from bike rental to camel rides.
So, Where Should You Stay in the Canary Islands?
|🥂 Best Area for Nightlife||Tenerife|
|🔭 Best Area for Stargazing||La Palma|
|🥾 Best Area for Hiking||El Hierro|
|🏄♀️ Best Surfing||Fuerteventura|
The good thing about these islands is that there’s a good vibe everywhere you go, although each island offers its own distinct pleasures and attractions.
So, with so much to see and do, and a very safe environment, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that the Canary Islands have to offer. Happy travels!