Gran Canaria vs Lanzarote – Which Canary Island Is Best?

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Both Gran Canaria and Lanzarote are popular destinations within the Canary Islands, each offering its own distinct atmosphere and unique charm. So, depending on what you’re looking to get from your holiday, you may find that one of these incredible islands is better suited to you than the other.

Both Gran Canaria and Lanzarote are situated in the Canary Islands and benefit from near year-round sunshine. However, having been to both destinations multiple times we typically find that Lanzarote is better for families, while Gran Canaria boasts a livelier nightlife and digital nomad scene.

We’ve also found that Lanzarote boasts significantly more self-catering apartment complexes, when compared to Gran Canaria, especially in the region of Puerto Del Carmen. This makes Lanzarote an ideal choice if you’re travelling on a budget or are looking to explore multiple food options during your trip.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is known as a “miniature continent” due to its diverse landscapes. From stunning beaches to charming villages, and green valleys to the arid desert land, this island has a lot to offer.

Accommodation

Gran Canaria benefits from a variety of accommodation options depending on your requirements. If you’re looking for luxury hotels and all-inclusive resorts then the Meloneras region just 10 minutes from Maspalomas is absolutely perfect.

We stayed in the five-star Lopesan Baobab Resort here recently and had the most incredible time. However, being that Meloneras is predominantly resort-based, you’ll find that the nightlife scene is significantly more limited when compared to the likes of Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas.

Meloneras in Gran Canaria is incredibly similar to Playa Blanca in Lanzarote in terms of the luxury resort-style accommodation offerings. However, the region of Playa Blanca is larger and subsequently, there are more accommodation options to choose from, and simply more going on in this area regarding beach bars, restaurants and attractions.

Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas are two of the most popular areas for tourists within Gran Canaria and offer a wide range of budget-friendly self-catering apartments and hotels for you to choose from. However, you’ll struggle to find luxury accommodations and large-scale resorts in this area.

Finally, we have the region of Puerto Rico which is under constant development with new shopping centres, restaurants and hotels. At this time you’ll find that the accommodation options here are similar to Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas in that it’s a lot of self-catering apartments and mid-range hotels. However, we expect to see more luxury resorts opening up here in the very near future.

Attractions

In our opinion, Gran Canaria is slightly more limited when it comes to tourist attractions when compared to Lanzarote. That being said, some of our favourite things to do on the island include;

  1. Maspalomas Dunes: These dramatic sand dunes border a stunning coastline and a lighthouse, offering a unique landscape.
  2. Buggy Tour: If you’re looking for some adrenaline-filled action during your trip to Gran Canaria then this is it!
  3. Palmitos Park: This family-friendly zoo and botanical garden with dolphin shows, birds of prey displays, and more.
  4. Roque Nublo: A volcanic rock formation that offers stunning views from the top.
  5. Snorkelling: Both Lanzarote and Gran Canaria are popular with snorkelling enthusiasts looking to see incredible marine life.

Dining

The dining experiences in Gran Canaria can be incredibly hit and miss depending on the region. In the capital city of Las Palmas, you’ll find some fantastic traditional Spanish restaurants in the form of both fast-food options (perfect for budget dining) and formal settings.

Alternatively, in Meloneras you’ll find a number of mid-range restaurants serving several cuisines designed to cater for tourists. However, the number of dining options here is limited when compared to other tourist regions of Gran Canaria given that most hotels here are luxury resorts offering half-board and all-inclusive options.

Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles have the largest range of dining options to choose from on the island given that these areas are the most popular with self-catering tourists. However, you’ll struggle to find the luxury and fine-dining experiences here that you would in Meloneras.

Finally in Puerto Rico, you’ll find a mix of casual English bars serving an English breakfast, pizzas, burgers etc. and more unique dining experiences – especially in the new outdoor shopping centre which is set back from the beach.

Nightlife

When it comes to the nightlife scene, Gran Canaria wins hands down! While the atmosphere here isn’t quite as wild as the likes of Magaluf and Ibiza, you’ll still find a number of bars and clubs here that are sure to guarantee a fantastic night out.

The Yumbo Center in Playa del Ingles is the LGBTQ+ centre and plays host to the annual Maspalomas Pride in May. Here you’ll find a number of fantastic show bars welcoming the LGBTQ+ community and allies for a fantastic night of entertainment.

Alternatively, down in Puerto Rico, you’ll find the majority of bars are located inside the commercial centre, set back from the beach. Although there isn’t the nightclub scene here like you’d find in Playa del Ingles.

Sporting fans. In Playa del Ingles you’ll find all major football matches shown in the Sahara Beach Bar next to the roundabout for the beach (there’s also a swimming pool here for the kids). Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, you’ll be spoilt for choice in venues within the commercial centre.

Family-Friendliness

We travelled to Lanzarote with our little boy when he was 4 months old, and Gran Canaria just days after his 1st birthday and found that Lanzarote edged in front in terms of family-friendly appeal when compared to Gran Canaria.

However, in both destinations, it really comes back to the area and the hotel in which you’re staying.

In Gran Canaria, we stayed in Meloneras at the five-star Lopesan Baobab Resort, bed and breakfast. Meloneras has a more laid-back, mature vibe to it when compared to other tourist areas of the island, and features several highly-rated resort complexes, (it’s also flat!).

As such, if your kids enjoy a kids club or you like a hotel with a spa or an entertainment programme then you’re likely going to find yourself staying in a hotel here. Alternatively, if you’re travelling with particularly small children, optimally heated swimming pools will also be most common in the hotels here.

I’d also be happy to stay in the region of Puerto Rico with our son Oliver. Again, this region of Gran Canaria is relatively flat and has a lot more going on when compared to Meloneras. I’d also consider Maspalomas, however being set so far back from the beach, it wouldn’t be my first choice.

While you’ll find plenty of families in Playa del Ingles, it’s again not going to be my first choice in Gran Canaria when travelling as a family. Now that’s nothing against Playa del Ingles. My wife and I had our first holiday as a couple here back in 2014, and I recently stayed in this region during a solo trip to report on Maspalomas Pride.

Playa del Ingles is somewhere that as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel very safe and very comfortable. However, having since stayed in Meloneras and visited Puerto Rico, I just feel that those destinations are better suited to us as a family at this stage of our lives.

Lanzarote

Characterised by its incredible volcanic landscapes and beautiful beaches, the island of Lanzarote has been a popular haven for holidaymakers since the late 1970s and subsequently has a lot to offer those looking for a relaxing break in the sun.

Accommodation

Lanzarote boasts a variety of accommodation options depending on your requirements. If you’re looking for luxury hotels and all-inclusive resorts then the Playa Blanca region just 30 minutes from Arrecife airport is going to be where you’ll find the majority of your options.

We stayed in the five-star Dreams Lanzarote Playa Dorada Resort & Spa here recently and had the most incredible time. However, Playa Blanca is different to Puerto Del Carmen in the fact that it’s predominantly luxury resort and hotel-based, therefore the number of self-catering accommodations, restaurants and bars here is limited.

The first town in Lanzarote to be developed for tourists back in the 1970s was Puerto Del Carmen. Situated just a couple of miles south of the airport, you’ll find the majority of self-catering options here.

Puerto Del Carmen is a large town, and without having previously visited you could very easily end up in a quieter part far away from the best bars, restaurants, shops and beaches that this region has to offer.

In our opinion, you want to look at staying as close to Playa Grande Beach as possible. This is the most densely populated area of Puerto Del Carmen with restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines and bars for both drinking and entertainment.

Playa Grande Beach is also still well within walking distance of both the Old Town and even the airport if you fancy having an afternoon stroll to watch the planes take off and land.

The capital city of Lanzarote, Arrecife is popular with cruise passengers but not with overnight tourists. Instead, the final, and the smallest region that people look to stay in when visiting Lanzarote is Costa Teguise, which given its size has the least amount of accommodation options to choose from.

Attractions

The island of Lanzarote has a number of attractions and entertainment options, catering to all tastes and interests. Some of our favourite things to do here include;

  1. Timanfaya National Park: The spectacular volcanic landscape here covers a quarter of the island and was created over six years of near-continuous volcanic eruptions that took place between 1730 and 1736.
  2. Puerto Del Carmen Old Town: Puerto del Carmen was originally a small fishing village, and the old harbour is still a delightful place to visit, filled with local restaurants.
  3. Surfing: Lanzarote is the perfect place for outdoor watersports such as surfing and windsurfing.
  4. Rancho Texas Lanzarote Park: This animal park is complete with bird & sea lion shows, splash pads and pony rides is a huge hit with kids.
  5. Jardin de Cactus: The Cactus Garden as it’s known in English was the last intervention work César Manrique performed in Lanzarote.

Dining

Given that Puerto Del Carmen is the self-catering accommodation region of Lanzarote, you’ll find the largest number and biggest range of dining options available here.

From steakhouses and Italian to seafood and traditional Spanish restaurants, the main strip (Av. de las Playas between Hotel Fariones (towards the Old Town) and Lanzarote’s Grand Casino) and the Old Town have everything you could possibly desire.

The regions of Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca are significantly more resort based with holidaymakers booking half-board and all-inclusive packages when staying here. Subsequently, the range of restaurants available in these regions is more limited.

Nightlife

The nightlife in Lanzarote isn’t anywhere near as vibrant as in Gran Canaria. You’ll find the majority of bars located between restaurants along a 1.8km strip along the Av. de las Playas between Hotel Fariones (towards the Old Town) and Lanzarote’s Grand Casino.

Family-Friendliness

We travelled to Lanzarote when our son Oliver was just 4 months old. It was our first family holiday together (he’d just come off a feeding tube and we were so ready for the break!) and I was quick to realise why my parents brought myself and my brother back here time, and time again when we were kids.

Given that the nightlife scene isn’t quite as strong as in Gran Canaria, you’ll not find any region of the island to be bad for families, and instead, it’s really going to be more about what you’re looking for from a family holiday instead.

We booked to spend a week in an apartment in Puerto Del Carmen since it’s the area of Lanzarote that I knew best. There’s a wide range of self-catering apartments and hotels here, a long strip lined with stores and bars, numerous beaches and a lot of restaurants.

However, despite the apartment complex stating it had a heated swimming pool (verified with independent online reviews) that sadly wasn’t the case. There was also just one other family with kids here, so around the pool was near silence during the daytime and a baby’s cries, although rare, saw everyone get up and look around (we were in that new parent phase when you care what people think ha!)

In an effort to be able to go in the swimming pool with our little boy, and not feel quite so out of place with a child, we opted to move from Puerto Del Carmen to Playa Blanca and to the Dreams Resort and Spa. While it was a very, very unexpected expense. I’d dreamt about this first family holiday for more than a year and was damned if it was going to be as perfect as I could possibly make it.

Thankfully, it was the best decision we made. Playa Blanca is an expansive region and boasts an extensive number of family-friendly hotels and resorts for all budgets. Some of our favourites include;

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