On this page I try to introduce the best places to stay in Gran Canaria and explain some of the strengths, weaknesses and other specifics of the popular resorts and towns. It always depends on who you are and what you expect from your holiday. Want mainly a big beach? A wide selection of restaurants and attractions? Water parks and theme parks for the kids? Nightlife? Or looking for peace and a bit of local charm rather than mass tourism kind of place? We’ll get to all that.
Where the Popular Places Are
Gran Canaria is quite big (45km in diameter), but the resorts actually occupy only a small part of its coastline in the south. The airport is in the east, so for virtually all resorts you go from the airport to the west – the distance is from 15km to 55km and all of that is on a motorway, so it’s always fast and shouldn’t be that important as a selection criterion.
Let’s look at main areas and resorts, from east to west.
East (Best for Surfers)
Pozo Izquierdo (15km from airport) – Best place for windsurfing / surfing. Otherwise not that interesting, small, isolated and very windy.
Bahia Feliz (24km) – Second best for surfing, still windy, but compared to the above it’s much closer to the main resorts (below). If you are a surfer, but your holiday should also be about other things besides surfing (or you come with other people who don’t surf), this may be a good place.
Centre (Most Popular, Best for Most)
Now we’re getting to the central area (27-38km from airport), which includes San Agustin, Playa del Ingles, Maspalomas and Meloneras. These are the biggest and most popular resorts, and for a reason. For most people I would say these are the best area to stay in Gran Canaria. They have by far the best (biggest) beaches, most restaurants and shops, water parks, theme parks, excursions and best transport connections to all other parts of the island, best nightlife (but quieter and family-friendly places too – see below). Furthermore, unlike the hilly towns which follow beyond this point, they are flatter (except a few places), so easier to get around if you are older or have disabilities.
The only kinds of visitors this area is NOT suitable for is those looking for something very quiet, alternative, away from the mass tourist action, or something with very local feel. Otherwise for the typical beach holiday (whether you are young, old, with kids, couple, single, group), best place in Gran Canaria is one of these four towns.
They are four resorts, but it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins. There is beach and seaside promenade almost all the way along the coast from San Agustin to Meloneras, and when walking on any part of it you never feel being out of town. That said, there are some differences between the individual places which may help you decide which is best for you.
San Agustin is the easternmost and smallest of the four. If you want to be in the central area, but not too central (concerned about the place being too busy or too loud), it can be a good compromise. It takes just 20-30 minutes’ walk along the beach or a short taxi ride to get to the nightlife and attractions of neighbouring Playa del Ingles, but if you don’t like it, you can spend all the week in San Agustin and never notice the other again.
Playa del Ingles is the biggest resort with the busiest nightlife. It is also known for its gay scene, but big enough to avoid it if you want. The best part is the beach, biggest and most famous in Gran Canaria. It starts here and continues for 5km to Maspalomas. Its first half is oriented to the east, so in the morning it becomes sunny and warm fast; the Maspalomas section is south-facing. Between the beach and the town there is a large area (over 1km wide at one point) with big sand dunes, known as Dunas de Maspalomas. Best beach in GC.
Maspalomas is adjacent to Playa del Ingles in the west (really no clear border here). It is also big and busy, but generally more focused on families or mature visitors. It fells very relaxed and has plenty of attractions and things to do, many of them targeted at kids. There is a golf course, several minigolf sites, aquapark, kart racing course (slightly out of town), to list just a few.
Meloneras is again much smaller, a bit upscale, and it is basically just a western end of Maspalomas, behind the lighthouse. It has a nice long beach, although narrower than the big one in Maspalomas + Playa del Ingles. This is a good place for couples or mature visitors who wish to stay in a nice area a bit outside the main centre, but still close enough to walk there whenever you want. Greater share of higher end hotels. There is another golf course on the western end of Meloneras.
Note that some areas and some hotels or villas are advertised at being in Maspalomas or Playa del Ingles, but they are actually very far from the sea (if you mind). This includes particularly the areas of Tablero de Maspalomas (above the motorway) and San Fernando. Make sure to check the location before you book.
Search hotels and places to stay:
- San Agustin (a bit quieter)
- Playa del Ingles (nightlife)
- Maspalomas (families, most attractions)
- Meloneras (a bit quieter, a bit upscale)
West (Hilly, Diverse, Quieter)
The resorts to the west include the following: Arguineguin, Puerto Rico, Tauro, Taurito and Puerto de Mogan.
Compared to the central resorts, the main thing I consider a weakness of all these is relatively small size of the beaches compared to the number of people / accommodation capacities. This is because this section of the coast is more rocky and hilly, leaving less space for beaches. Also, in some of these resorts, if your hotel is a bit higher up the hill, be prepared for a lot of climbing / stairs. In sum, if beach is the central part of your holiday, I wouldn’t choose any of these. Converesely, if you tend to spend your holiday mostly by the pool in your hotel complex, there are certainly some good places to stay in these towns.
If you don’t like the central area because it feels too touristy and lacking local Canary charm, then you should look at Arguineguin, a local fishing village (very small and unimpressive beach though) and particularly Puerto de Mogan, which is nicknamed Little Venice due to its canals and lovely marina – it is the main hub for dolphin watching cruises and overall a popular resort mainly with mature couples.
Other Parts of Gran Canaria
It is not just the south – you can find (often empty) beaches along the entire coast of Gran Canaria. Outside the south coast they just don’t come with the tourist services like hotels, shops, or restaurants, therefore it’s better to stay in the tourist towns and visit the remote places by car if you want a beach just for yourself.
Las Palmas, North and East
We should also mention the capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which is actually a fairly big city (some 400,000 inhabitants – 9th biggest in Spain), but has nice and long beaches. If you have time, you may want to visit it as a day trip, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a place where you should spend your entire holiday. It is situated in the north-east of the island.
The north and east coasts are where the locals live normal lives. Some parts are quite industrial (although it is island paradise, people still need to produce things and not everyone makes a living in the tourism industry). There are very few hotels or tourist services in this part of Gran Canaria, except in Las Palmas.
Best Places to Stay for Hiking
If you are coming mainly to enjoy Gran Canaria’s wonderful hiking trails, there are several towns and villages in the inlands which you may want to consider – like Tejeda, Cruz de Tejeda, Artenara or San Bartolome de Tirajana. However, the most popular trails (or their best parts) almost never start directly in the towns or villages and although there is a good network of public buses in Gran Canaria, the services are less frequent in the inlands and you will almost certainly need to rent a car to get anywhere.
With that, you might as well stay on the coast, where you can jump in the sea in the morning or evening as a bonus, you have all the convenience and also much better transportation options.
I will again mention the central area around Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles, which is a great base for exploring the inlands, as the main road to San Bartolome (GC-60) starts here. It is only 38km from Maspalomas to Roque Nublo, although very slow and curvy 38km (expect average speed around 40km/h).
Alternatively, Puerto de Mogan might be a good base for exploring the west coast and Tamadaba national park, although the drive will be a bit longer in this case. Another option here is Agaete on the northern end of the west coast, not really a tourist resort but the place with some of the best sunsets in Gran Canaria (I recommend to visit it as a day trip and wait for sunset, to see the sun illuminating the scenic west coast).