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Last updated on March 13, 2023 by Wandering our World

Spain is arguably the best destination for a warm and sunny vacation in Europe. However, it can be hard to decide exactly where to go, especially when it comes to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

After all, both archipelagos offer many similar attractions: picturesque landscapes, pristine beaches and warm, perfect weather. However they are, actually, very different.

For instance, the Balearics are famous for their nightlife, with islands such as Ibiza attracting world-renowned DJs. And even though you can still find quiet islands to explore, this archipelago is especially irresistible for party lovers and younger tourists. 

On the other hand, the Canaries tends to have a more relaxed atmosphere, perfect for a family trip. Nonetheless, you can still enjoy plenty of nightlife options in major resort towns there. 

But that’s just the beginning! Which is why right here we use our first-hand knowledge to show you which is better for beaches, families, food and more. Let’s get started!

CONTENTS:

  1. A Quick Overview
  2. Which Has Better Beaches?
  3. Which Has Better Nightlife?
  4. Where To Stay According To Your Budget
  5. Which Has Better Cuisine?
  6. Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
  7. Which Has Better Tourist Attractions & Activities?
  8. When’s The Best Time To Visit?
An infographic pitting the Canary Islands vs the Balearic Islands and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

A Quick Overview: Canary Islands vs Balearic Islands

Balearic Islands: A Quick Overview

The Balearic islands are nestled in the western Mediterranean sea, just off the eastern coast of Spain’s mainland. They comprise of four major islands: Ibiza, Menorca, Mallorca (also referred to as Majorca) and Formentera, with multiple smaller ones spread among them. 

Each island charms visitors in its own way. For instance, the largest island, Mallorca, offers phenomenal beaches and resorts; Menorca has a rich history, fascinating underwater scenery and pine forested landscapes; Formentera is famous for its powdery white beaches; and Ibiza is known for its electrifying nightlife. 

The Balearics are also famous for their beaches, ranging from tiny hidden bays to popular spots filled with lots of amenities. It’s also famous for its nightlife, attracting millions of party-seekers each year. 

Also, its proximity to the continent of Europe makes it a little more convenient compared to the Canary Islands.

For example, it will take you less than one hour to fly there from Barcelona and about 2 hours from the UK. That may also make the Balearics a better choice if you want to combine a trip there with a different European destination.

Cala Figuera, Mallorca, Spain, turqouise waters and boat
iStock.com/pixelliebe

Canary Islands: A Quick Overview

The Canaries are a volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, off Morocco’s coast and southwest of Spain.

The archipelago is made up of seven main islands, with four of them being tourist hubs: Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. The least touristy are La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Additionally, there are smaller islands that are rarely visited, including La Graciosa. 

The Canary Islands are famous for their family friendly resorts and fascinating landscape due to the volcanic nature of the islands. The most notable site is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mt. Teide – which also happens to be Spain’s highest peak. It is the ideal destination for outdoor adventures such as biking and hiking. 

The Canaries are also famous for their warm year-round weather and diverse cultures – we will have more on weather and culture later!

Las Teresitas Beach, a famous beach near Santa Cruz
iStock.com/DaLiu

Which Has Better Beaches?

One sure thing about both island groups is that they are a hub of great beaches.

You’ll find everything from busy resort-backed beaches to tiny secluded coves that you can have all to yourself!

However perhaps the main difference is the Balearic coastline is mainly lined with gold and white sandy beaches, while that of the Canaries has many black sand beaches because of the volcanic nature of the island group. That said, there are also a few golden beaches in the Canaries that are mainly manmade

Nevertheless, both archipelagos boast great beaches, some of which have earned Blue Flag recognition for their excellent water quality, superb security and fantastic accessibility.

So you can decide which island group is the better beach destination for you, we go through some of the best and most unique beaches in each destination next:

Cofete Beach on the Southern Tip of Fuerteventura during Sunset
iStock.com/Lukas Bischoff

Balearic Islands: The Beaches 

A major attraction in Mallorca is the 4-mile-long, white sand Playa de Alcúdia. It’s the longest beach in the Balearics and perfect for long evening walks.

It’s also packed with amenities, from high-end resorts, modest restaurants and bars to parasols, sunbeds, changing rooms and toilets. The beach tends to attract many vendors too, although they aren’t pushy.

But if it gets too busy for your liking there, consider strolling southwards to the calmer Playa de Muro, famous for its sand dunes, juniper bushes and pine trees.

To experience the famous fun Ibiza atmosphere, visit Cala Benirrás, a hippy beach infamous for breathtaking sunsets and drumming performances that go on until late into the night. 

There, you can expect drummers, dancers, fire-eaters, guitarists and curious crowds throughout summer as well as some drumming nights and that classic Ibiza party vibe at the weekends. 

Still on Ibiza, the unspoiled Cala Llentrisca, on the south coast, offers a serene environment that’s excellent for lazing the day away. Just remember to bring supplies because the beach is quite secluded and lacks amenities.

Away from busy Ibiza, you can take a day trip to the island of Formentera and bask in the pristine lagoons of Ses Illetes. Alternatively, enjoy the beautiful waters of the gorgeous Cala Mitjana on Menorca.

Ibiza is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the east coast of Spain. It is the third largest of the Balearic Islands.
iStock.com/pkazmierczak

Canary Islands: The Beaches

Tenerife is famous for its black sandy beaches and mega-beach resorts that are perfect for family-friendly package holidays.

But for a little bit of a different experience, head down to the wild stretch of El Medano. There, you’ll find picturesque rocks and sand dunes that shine red as the sun sets.

Just remember to bring your windbreaker, as this beach is among the best kitesurfing and windsurfing spots in the world – which are activities that the Canaries are famous for.

In Fuerteventura, visit Corralejo Beach at the Parque Natural de Corralejo to witness 7 miles of sand dunes – the largest in the Canaries. This miniature version of the Sahara is also another haven for both water and kitesurfers.

And on Lanzarote, Papagayo Beach is a must-visit. You’ll love the lunar landscape and crystal blue waters there, which are great for snorkeling and swimming since they are shielded from heavy winds by rocky capes. 

Looking for quieter time? Move north to the wild Famara Beach. The setting is striking, with about 3 miles of golden sand and enormous Famara cliffs. And when there are no tides, the shallow water pools form spectacular mirror-like surfaces that extend as far as one can see.

And that’s something the Canary Islands can claim over the Balearic Islands – the beaches in the Canaries are often wild, rugged, exceptionally unique, and arguably far more photogenic.

Black sand beach from above
iStock.com/photomaru

Which Has The Better Nightlife?

When it comes to nightlife, the Balearics win hands down, mainly thanks to Ibiza – a party mecca for young Europeans.

Its nightlife scene is an attraction in its own right, drawing celebrities, hippies and plenty of fun-loving travelers. Ibiza is a pleasure-seekers dream, with non-stop partying, world-class nightclubs and DJs throughout summer. 

In contrast, the Canaries are much quieter when night falls. You’ll still find several places on the islands that are bustling with nightlife, but nothing quite on the scale of Ibiza.

We look at the nightlife in more detail below.

Multiracial friends having fun dancing together outdoor at beach party - Soft focus on left girl face
iStock.com/DisobeyArt

Balearic Islands: The Nightlife

Pacha is one legendary club in Ibiza you must visit. It’s been a must-visit spot since the 1970s, and to this day you can still interact with celebrities in the VIP area or lose yourself on the dance floor all night.

But you don’t have to just party in big clubs to enjoy the island’s famous nightlife. The party atmosphere spills onto the busy streets and only ramps up as the sun sets. 

So take a front-row seat and feast your eyes on the endless parades of dancers, stilt walkers, partygoers, and club promoters in outrageous outfits that you’ll find on the most happening streets. The streets around Sa Penya and La Marina offer you the best experience of these events. 

And on that note, the famous Sunset Strip in San Antonio should also be part of your experience in Ibiza. Café Mambo, in particular, has attracted crowds for over 25 years with its cool sunset music, DJs and daiquiris. There you can find many big name DJs taking over the decks.

You can also bar hop, explore the hippy stands and the gay-friendly Calle de la Virgen for eccentric boutiques and bars with chill music.

Majorca, too, has a couple of mega clubs well worth checking out. Its nightlife scene ranges from chilled out in Palma to wild in Magaluf – where you can enjoy cheap drinks and dance till the sun comes up! Some resorts also have their own club to enjoy. 

And when in Menorca, visit Mahon and Ciutadella for grat entertainment spots. Although in general this island’s nightlife is pretty quiet.

dj decks on the beach with people in the background
iStock.com/DisobeyArt

Canary Islands: The Nightlife

Although relatively laid back and seen as a mainly family-friendly destination, the Canaries also offer a wide variety of nightlife spots. 

Playa de Las Américas, Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos are your to-go places for a night out in Tenerife. You’ll enjoy a wide array of family-friendly entertainment venues, cheap nightclubs, cocktail lounges, wine bars, and more there.

For more variety when it comes to nightlife options, consider visiting Gran Canaria. Playa del Inglés is a LGBTQ friendly spot where you’ll find bars, drag queen shows, Gay Pride functions and lots more.

The Yumbo Center is another area to visit while in Gran Canaria. This place has over 200 entertainment spots so you’ll definitely require more than a night to explore all of them! 

And if in Lanzarote, Puerto del Carmen is where most night entertainment occurs. When there, consider visiting the Avenida de Las Playas strip for all kinds of nightlife options – from quiet bars to wild nightclubs. 

Corralejo is where the majority of Fuerteventura’s nightlife action happens. And even though the party atmosphere is not as lively as in Tenerife or Gran Canaria, the numerous bars lined along the coast and near the harbour are great places to enjoy your night.

selection of colorful cocktails
iStock.com/ViewApart

Where To Stay According To Your Budget

Canary Islands

Budget: For an excellent family choice, the Relaxia Lanzasur Club – Aqualava Water Park should definitely be checked out. There’s a clue in the name as to why this is a winner with families. If you book at their all-inclusive rate, you will get unlimited access to the Aqualava Water Park!

There’s a bar with live entertainment, and an on-site supermarket, and the gym and four pools ensure there’s always something to do. See rates and photos here.

Luxury: One of Tenerife’s top luxury options is The Hard Rock Hotel. This luxurious beachfront hotel set in the tranquil residential area of Costa Adeje features three swimming pools, a saltwater lagoon, and free WiFi throughout.

There’s a spa, a fitness center, and a Hard Rock shop, in addition to several dining and entertainment options, a miniclub for children and teenagers, and a beach club – it has everything! See rates and photos here.

Hotel resort with sunchairs
iStock.com/TPopova

Balearic Islands

Budget: With gorgeous sea views, stylish suites, and a pretty outdoor pool and terrace area, Sol Bahia Ibiza Suites probably has the best price/quality ratio on Ibiza. It’s little surprise then that it’s often booked up. See photos and rates!

Luxury: The adults-only Melbeach Hotel & Spa is a great luxury option in Mallorca (but without a huge price tag) which has one of the most beautiful swimming pool views in Spain! Sat right beside the beach, with gorgeous sea views, expect to be taking photos every day when staying here. See photos and rates!

view of some beds in a beach club in a white sand beach in Ibiza, Spain
iStock.com/nito100

Which Has Better Cuisine?

Exploring the cuisine of a destination is an essential part of any vacation. It’s also a great way to gain insight into the culture and way of life there. 

Besides the typical Spanish cuisine you’ll find across Spain, these two archipelagos have their own local delicacies. Both of which are delicious, with some similar aspects.

But because of the historical associations with Africa, Spain and Latin America, Canarian dishes have borrowed elements from these cultures. Which may make it the better destination for foodies. Plus islands like Lanzarote are home to vineyards and produce their own wine.

We look at the food and drink in both destinations in more detail below.

Typical vineyard in the La Geria region on the island Lanzarote protecting the grapevines against the heavy winds by building walls out of lava stones. In the background the volcanoes of Timanfaya NP.
iStock.com/aprott

Canary Islands: The Food

Three words can describe traditional Canarian cuisine: fresh, simple and delicious. Typical Canarian dishes feature grilled meat, soups, stews and vegetables.

The subtropical climate and volcanic soils there allow the production of a wide selection of foods, including vegetables, grains, herbs and spices. They also grow a rare variety of potatoes called Papas Arrugadas, which you must try.

These potatoes are smaller, wrinkled and have a unique taste. They are served boiled with skin-on, salted and generously spiced up with mojo picon – a traditional spicy sauce. Papas arrugadas is usually eaten as a snack and washed down with a cold glass of wine or beer. 

Another Canarian dish you must dig into is Ropa Vieja which interestingly means ‘old clothes.’ But worry not; no rags are added to this delicacy! It’s simply a hearty stew prepared with meat, vegetables and, you’ve guessed it right, potatoes. 

The lighter side of Canarian cuisine features Pollo al Salmorejo, a tasty marinated chicken dish prepared in white wine and seasoned with various herbs.

And if you visit during Christmas, you may encounter Baifo – a marinated goat meat delicacy steeped in sweet-smelling herbs. 

It’s also no surprise that seafood is popular; in particular Sancocho Canario is a famous delicacy you’ll enjoy. It is prepared with fresh, whole-cooked fish that’s spiced, salted and served with various dishes, including papas arrugadas and gofio

Sea food in restaurant in Fuerteventura
iStock.com/oliwiaziolkowska

Balearic Islands: The Food

Traditional Balearic cuisine is considered part of the more extensive Catalan cuisine. This is because the islanders share numerous foods and ingredients with the Catalonian community. Their dishes tend to be rich in cereals, vegetables and legumes, and are notably low in fats. 

Seafood, particularly spiny lobster and pork, are also prevalent in the Balearics. 

You should try pa’amb oli when you visit Majorca. This is a type of bread that’s smothered with ramallet tomatoes, oil and garlic. Or ensaïmada, a spiral-shaped sweet pastry with icing sugar on top. It goes wonderfully with hot chocolate or milk coffee. 

For a delicious main meal, dig into fideuà. It is Balearic-style paella cooked with noodles instead of rice. But before that, experience the true Menorcan luxury with calderata de langosta (lobster stew) as a starter. 

Coca de verduras is another popular traditional delicacy you’ll enjoy. It is a delicious pastry, much like Italian pizza, found in almost all bakeries. It’s crusty with a thin base and garnished with a mixture of delicious vegetables. 

And as Spain is famous for producing a wide variety of tasty sausages, you must try one particular sausage from Mallorca. Sobrassada is made from the minced loins of black Balearic Pig combined with paprika, black pepper and salt. You can have it raw or cooked, sweet or spicy. 

antipasti, cheese, charcuterie, snacks and wine
iStock.com/netrun78

Which Is Better For A Family Trip?

Both archipelagos offer fantastic getaways for families. However we think the Canary Islands are more suited for a holiday with kids due to their more relaxed vibe and great kid-friendly resorts. 

Lanzarote is arguably the best Canary island for a family holiday since it’s small enough for kids to explore without being too demanding or tiring. It also has plenty to do too – stunning scenery, water parks, beautiful national parks, family-friendly restaurants, easy hikes and sandy beaches. 

In particular, Costa Teguise has been a favorite destination for many families on this island. It offers plenty of activities, water parks and secured bays with shallow waters for kids to enjoy. 

Tenerife is also a great family destination. In particular Costa Adeje has the best water parks in the Canaries and plenty of fun activities for families.

children enjoying a waterpark slide
iStock.com/kisgorcs

For a family vacation in the Balearics, Menorca may offer you the best experience as it is quieter and less commercialized compared to the nearby islands.

It’s also largely unspoiled with stunning landscapes and clear, shallow waters, while also loaded with kid-friendly activities. 

The east coast of Ibiza also has tranquil regions that are perfect for families. These regions include Cala Llong, Santa Eularia and Cala Tarida.

You’ll also find plenty of places to visit and activities to do with your little ones in Majorca. But ultimately the Canary Islands have been a popular family destination for decades for good reason.

A family walks hand in hand down a tropical paradise beach during sunset
iStock.com/SHansche

Which Has Better Tourist Attractions & Activities?

Overall, both destinations have a great selection of attractions and fun activities to occupy your days.

And besides the cuisine, beaches, water parks and resorts, there is much more to explore on these islands.

Below we have a look at some of the unique activities in both the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands so you can work out which may suit your holiday preferences most.

Female traveler in Teide park
iStock.com/RossHelen

Canary Islands: Top Attractions & Activities

In Tenerife, you can visit Teide National Park (photo above), home to incredible hikes and the third largest volcanic mountain in the world, Mount Teide.

Exploring inside its humongous crater is a highlight in itself. The crater floor is about 12 miles in diameter, with walls up to 460 meters. Driving around the volcano is almost like taking a trip to the earth’s core. 

But before that, why not get a bird’s eye view of this beautiful island as soon as you arrive? At over 900 feet above the Orotava Valley, Humboldt Viewpoint gives you a general view of Tenerife, including its several towns, mountains, lush vegetation and the sea beyond. 

You can also go sightseeing in the seaside capital city of Santa Cruz. While there, be sure to visit the Museum of Man and Nature to see the fantastic mummy exhibit. The historic city of La Laguna in San Cristóbal also has interesting sights worth seeing. 

Maspalomas Beach is one of Gran Canaria’s points of interest, and walking along its amazing dunes is a must. Afterward, unwind at the shore, then take a romantic evening walk as you marvel at the sunset. 

You can also go hiking inside Nublo Rural Park to see Roque Nublo, one of the great symbols of Gran Canaria. Or, embark on a whale-watching excursion on the southwest part of the island. 

In Lanzarote, consider going on a wine-tasting escapade in La Geria Valley if you are a wine enthusiast. The area is home to numerous vineyards and wineries. 

Visiting the enormous Jameos del Agua cave is another highlight of this island. This beautiful underground location houses a lagoon with unique species of marine life, a restaurant, and even an auditorium where live music and events are held. You’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime experience there!

On top of that, there’s plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities throughout the Canaries, surfing in the likes of Fuerteventura, culture to discover in the smaller islands like La Gomera and El Hierro, as well as shopping, museums, kids clubs and more!

female surfer at Furteventura
iStock.com/Simeon Tognon

Balearic Islands: Top Attractions & Activities

Majorca’s historic towns and attractive villages are among the top points of interest on the islands. They are packed with exciting attractions such as medieval churches, museums, and ancient castles alongside stunning nature. 

Visit the magnificent Gothic Cathedral, La Seo, at the seaside capital, then lounge by the sea at one of its pristine beaches. 

You can also take a walk through the well-preserved, walled, old town of Alcúdia and be amazed by the historical monuments, traditional festivals and delectable cuisines.

Or, explore the medieval hilltop village of Valldemossa, including its 14th-century Carthusian monastery. 

Ibiza also offers you several attractions besides the nightlife. Consider exploring the island’s coastline on foot and the countryside on a Vespa scooter so you can explore the best coves, ancient shrines, sleeping villages, lush vegetation, wildlife and much more. 

You can also go on a gourmet tour in Ibiza town with an expert and taste the local foods, including wines, beers, pastries, tapas and Iberico ham. 

In Menorca, enjoy an evening at the most incredible cave bar, Cova d’En Xoroi, as you take in the stunning sunset and sea views. Or visit the capital Mahon and marvel at the cathedrals, squares, pastel alleys, and food markets, among other attractions.

Cathedral La Seu at sunet time, Palma de Mallorca islands, Spain
iStock.com/Balate Dorin

When’s The Best Time To Visit?

Whether you’re looking to lounge on Balearic beaches or kitesurf in the Canaries, you can never really go wrong with a summer vacation in Spain.

Both destinations enjoy warm weather from May to September. But during winter, the Canaries are your best bet for sunny weather.

There, you can swim, bask and even get a tan during the winter months, which is not typical of Europe at that time.

In fact, this archipelago is widely referred to as ‘the islands of eternal spring,’ and with over 3,000 sunlight hours a year, the Canary islands are the sunniest place in the whole of Europe. 

We’d recommend Tenerife and Gran Canaria if you choose to enjoy a winter vacation in the Canaries. This is because they are the hottest islands during that season. 

In contrast, the winter temperatures in the Balearic Islands can get pretty chilly.

And for the best combination of price and weather, consider visiting both sets of islands between March and May, as well as September and November. These are the so-called shoulder seasons when the rates are low and the weather still tends to be favorable. You’ll also enjoy sightseeing with fewer crowds during this period.

Golden beautiful beach Las Teresitas - Tenerife island
iStock.com/Freeartist

Canary Islands vs Balearics Islands: Which Is The Better Choice?

As you’ve seen, both sets of islands will offer you great holiday experiences regarding beaches, food, family-friendly activities and attractions. So, your choice will depend on your personal preferences.

For Instance, a trip to the Balearics will be perfect if you’re looking for lively nightlife. The Canaries, on the other hand, may be the best option for relaxing and unwinding with your family. 

And if you want to escape the cold winter then the Canary Islands are the perfect destination, while the Balearic Islands may be better for the summer holidays. 

Regarding convenience, the Balearics are the better choice. It’s easier to combine a vacation in the Balearics with another European destination, thanks to its proximity to the continent.

All in all, whichever destination you choose, we’re sure you’re going to have a great time. Safe travels!

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  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.