A baked archipelago of volcanic islands off the coast of Morocco and nourished by the sandstorms that sweep off the Sahara desert, the Canary Islands are a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast looking for sun, stoke and endless adventure.
A collection of rugged tectonic islets bathed in black sand, each island has forged a unique identity centred around breathtaking sports. Colonised by a growing population of action sports pioneers, we take a look at the Canaries’ top 10 sports and where to try them…
One of Europe’s most popular winter surf destinations, the Spanish islands are perfect for beginners and green wave surfers alike thanks to the wide selection of surf spots and different breaks. A collection of 7 islands renowned for their warm hospitality, affordable accommodation and cheap flights only 5 hours from home – thanks to the number of budget airlines, you can even take your own board. Celebrated for its endless coastlines of deserted volcanic sand and the sheer number of surfable beaches , lineups and crowded waves are rare. For beginners, head to Fuerteventura (mainly Corralejo) for easy beach breaks and friendly locals – watch out for reefs and rocky pointbreaks, oh and sea urchins (booties recommended!). In Grand Canaria, head to Maspalomas beach for long beach breaks and waist-height whitewater – or hire a car and travel across Caleta de Famara, Arietta, El Muelle and El Quemao for a taste of the region’s protected surf spots.
Kitesurf & Windsurf
Popular for its year-round sunshine and temperatures that rarely dip below 20°c, the Canaries is also a mecca for sail & kite based activities thanks to its strong trade winds and powerful wind speeds. For learners who want to try Kitesurfing or Windsurfing for the first time, try the sandy beaches of Fuerteventura (Morro Jable) whilst experienced riders looking for serious air time can catch the right conditions in Tenerife (El Médano, Costa Adeje), Grande Canaria and Las Palmas. Kitesurfing and Windsurfing lessons are available throughout the year – making it the perfect sport to try, even if you’ve only come for a little winter sun!
If you’re looking to leave terra firma for a bit, why not try a tandem paragliding experience along the coastline. Thanks to the archipelago’s long shores, wherever you take off from, you’re sure to get amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and right out to sea – circling dormant volcanoes and enjoying a bird’s eye view of the 7 islands. Set off from popular locations like Teide Nature Reserve in Tenerife where you travel up to the launch site via a cable car for stunning views of the Sahara sands that give the landscape its signature ochre colour.
Scuba diving & freediving
With 20°c sea temperatures all year round, it’s no surprise that the Canaries are popular with scuba and free divers. With 7 main islands and 6 smaller islets, there’s a marine location to please even the most experienced diver. Renowned for its rich & diverse marine life, Grand Canaria, Fuerteventura, El Hierro, Lanzarote and Tenerife are rated as some of the most amazing spots to swim with ocean giants and discover the beauty of macro diving. Catch up with migrating manta rays in Tenerife or play hide and seek with the region’s curious sea turtles!
An all-action outdoor sport made possible by the island’s fiery past, canyoning is a great way of combining caving, hiking, mountaineering and swimming. Follow exciting nature trails through dense forest, whitewater rapids and cliffs as you trace the water from source to sea. Tenerife is the top spot when it comes to canyoning, with Badajoz, des Cascades, de Los Carrizales and Barranco de Los Arcos popular with adventure nomads thanks to the challanging terrain, 600m drops and exciting routes that explore the island’s tectonic diversity.
Explore the Iron Road with vertical challenges along some of the Canaries most daring Via Ferrata courses. Conquer some of the island’s most difficult rock faces using this ancient system of steel rods buried into the cliff face (that helps to add some support and safety to your climb). Ideal for anyone new to traditional sports climbing, Via Ferrata de Grande Canaria offers an accessible and easy route for first timers whilst Primera Luna (near Maspalomas) has a volcanic 2,6 km route renowned as the best in the region. If cliff faces and volcanoes aren’t your thing, why not head to du Forestal Park Tenerife for a treetop canopy tour with 11 zip lines – the longest being 230m!
Perfectly adapted to off-road biking, the steep volcanic valleys and mountain ranges of the Canary Islands were made for mountain biking! The best spot for MTB is La Palma, with its rocky outcrops and thick undergrowth, travelling through the Caldera de Taburiente National Park is a downhill experience you’ll never forget. Push your limits and try an extreme singletrack route in Fuencaliente that was created by volcanic eruptions that define its unique undulating landscape.
Explore the piercing blue waters of the Canary Islands with touring kayak excursions along the coast. From Gran Tarajal in Fuerteventura to Maspalomas, the opportunities are endless… An easy and relaxing day trip that connects with the raw and untamed beauty of the islands, discover the secret caves on La Palma island with beach trips to El Remo near Fuencaliente. For the nature lover, paddle with pods of dolphins in south-east Tenerife near Los Cristianos
When it comes to exploring the Spanish islands – we’re only getting started! Don’t forget about bungee jumping, jet skiing and trekking to name but a few – it’s safe to say, the Canaries islands might seem small but it’s got a massive action sports scene, why not find out for yourself?
Photo: Mario Eder / Nova