Free Things to Do on Gran Canaria
Visit the Canary Gardens
Just outside Las Palmas city in the town of Tafira is the Jardin Canario Viera y Clavijo, or the Canary Gardens for short. It’s a huge botanical garden (the biggest in Europe) with lawns, lakes, palm trees, forests cliff paths and all the weird and wonderful plants that grow on the island. Best of all, it is open every day and it is completely free. To catch the gardens at their very best, go in April and May when everything is flowering.
Be a Beach Bum
There are dozens of beaches on the island, from the huge Saharan sand dunes of Maspalomas beach to tiny little patches of sand and pebbles at the end of remote valleys. Best of all, all beaches on the island are public and free to use.
For those armed with a bus timetable and a decent map Gran Canaria is an excellent place to explore on foot. There are official paths called Caminos Reales between most of the hill towns and many of the valleys or Barrancos are walkable. Take water and a hat, especially in the summer! You can walk across the whole island in about three days.
The waters around Gran Canaria contain a unique mixture of tropical and Mediterranean fish including damsel fish and brightly colored wrasse. There are great snorkeling spots close to most of the main beaches, especially if you head over to the rocky areas. Las Canteras beach in the capital city is a nature reserve teeming with fish and octopus. If you are there early in the morning, look out for the old ladies feeding the fish with bread. Thousands of mullet and bream appear every day and are tame enough to swim with.
Vegueta is the original Spanish settlement on the island and is choc-a-bloc with pretty old buildings and traditional, wooden Canarian balconies. The cathedral is a fascinating hotchpotch of styles because it was build over a couple of hundred years. You can even get up onto the roof for a bird’s eye view of the city. The house where Christopher Columbus is said to have lived while on the island is now a free museum with some nice art and displays. Over the main road the old city continues into Triana with more old buildings and cobbled side streets with plenty of bars and cafes.
Image: © 2010 Alex Bramwell