This is a common question asked especially by those considering a visit to the Canary Islands in winter. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, because…
… the differences in climate or weather between different places on the same island can be much bigger than the differences between different islands. Often when driving through the amazing serpentines into a neighbouring valley you will find the weather completely different behind the next curve. This is also one reason why the landscapes and sceneries are so varied in the Canaries.
Therefore, if you are concerned about the weather not being warm enough or sunny enough when you visit, you should pay as much attention to your selection of place on a particular island as to selection of an island.
Beware of Average Temperature Data
Comparing average temperature data for individual islands which you will find on the internet won’t be of much help for deciding which island is hottest, because this data is mostly for the weather stations located at the airports. Therefore, it will only tell you which of the Canary Islands airports is the hottest, but the average temperature in the resort located just a few kilometres from the airport can be very different.
South-East vs. North-West Coasts
A good rule of thumb is that the south-east or south coasts of most islands tend to be warmer and tend to get more sunshine and less rain than the north or north-western coasts. This is due to the prevailing direction of wind in the Canaries, which is from west to east at most times. As most of the islands are quite mountainous, the flow of air is stopped by the mountains, often forming clouds (and sometimes rain) in the northern and western parts of an island. You can often see this from the air when approaching or departing – the south and east of the island is clear, while the north-west is covered by clouds.
This is probably most obvious in Tenerife, where the mountains are also highest. The resorts on Tenerife’s south coast, like Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas or Costa Adeje get more sunshine, less rain and can be (on average) several degrees warmer than the towns in the north, like Puerto de la Cruz. Similarly, in Gran Canaria the warmest and driest part is on the south coast, where the most popular resorts like Maspalomas or Playa del Ingles are located. On the contrary, the effect is much smaller on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, where the mountains are generally not high enough to stop the wind and to form the rain-generating clouds at most times. Therefore, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are drier than most of the other islands, but also considerably windier at times.
Wind Is as Important as Temperature
Wind is a factor which will greatly affect how warm or cold you will feel even with the same temperature. Fuerteventura is generally the windiest island, but you will find some very windy places on all the islands – a good indication of frequent and strong winds is that the particular town is popular for windsurfing or similar sports. For example, the towns of El Medano in Tenerife or Pozo Izquierdo in Gran Canaria are very sunny, dry and warm, but also very windy at most times, which is why they are so popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers.
Sometimes It’s Different
While the above is true most of the time, occasionally you can get virtually any weather anywhere – the place which has a warm and sunny reputation gets clouds while the cloudy one is clear and the windy one is calm. Moreover, when the direction of the wind is occasionally reversed from west-east to east-west, the south or east coasts can get a sandstorm from nearby Africa – much less a problem in the north-west.
It’s Generally Warm Enough Anywhere
The good news is that even when you are visiting the Canary Islands in November, December or January, you will find the weather to be warm enough during the day, usually like summer in western or central Europe. Translated to clothes talk, most people will find shorts, T-shirts or tank tops comfortable and more than sufficient during the day even in winter. It can get a bit chilly later in the evening in the winter months though and you may want to take a cardigan, regardless of which island or which resort you are visiting.
The differences in weather between different areas, while not zero, are generally so small that you will find other factors more important when choosing the best location for your holiday. No place is perfect for everyone. When choosing where to stay, first you need to know who you are (family with kids / older couple / group of friends…), what you are looking for (big beach / nightlife / tranquillity / walking…) and how you want to spend your holiday. Below you can find detailed guides explaining the pros and cons of different parts and different resorts on individual islands: