Last updated on March 13, 2023 by Wandering our World
Just off the north coast of Africa you will find the Canary Islands, a cluster of islands that are actually part of Spain’s territory. Temperatures are good year round in the Canaries, and it’s always warm ranging from 18°C to 24°C all year, so it’s no wonder Europeans love going here to escape the cold winter – similar to what the Caribbean is for Americans.
Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria are two of the most popular holiday destinations in the Canaries, and for good reason too. However they’re both quite different….
Fuerteventura has quieter and has long, gorgeous and varied beaches, where you can lounge around on sunbeds or enjoy water sports.
But if you want to be able to see and do a variety of different things away from the coast too, then Gran Canaria may be a better choice.
If you’re considering a beach vacation in the Atlantic Ocean and are torn between these two islands, here’s our honest comparison of Fuerteventura vs Gran Canaria, from the beaches and mountains to the island’s nightlife scene and much more.
By the time you’re finished, we’re sure you will have made up your mind!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Has Better Beaches?
- Which Is The Best For Hiking & Other Adventures?
- Cultural Attractions & Historic Sites
- Which Has Better Food?
- Which Has Better Nightlife?
- Which Has The Best Hotels?
- Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
- Which Is Less Crowded?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Fuerteventura vs Gran Canaria: Which Is Better?
Fuerteventura vs Gran Canaria: A Quick Overview
Fuerteventura: A Quick Overview
The second largest of the Canaries, Fuerteventura is a popular beach destination. There are plenty of beach resorts here that are perfect for a relaxing trip, alongside wonderful stretches of golden sand.
But on the other hand, the name of the island literally translates to “strong winds,” so you won’t be surprised to find out this island is also known for its surfing scene and other water sports.
Gran Canaria: A Quick Overview
With most of its land designated by UNESCO, Gran Canaria has a very diverse landscape and has been nicknamed “a continent in miniature.”
From beaches and sand dunes to rock cliffs and volcanic mountains, this island promises an adventure ahead for its visitors.
When it comes to culture, Gran Canaria has an interesting mix of customs too. Most of the locals are Catholics, but the recent influx of tourist activity has brought modern values into the island, including a trend of so-called gay tourism.
Which Has Better Beaches?
This is a tough battle as both islands have gorgeous long beaches.
But if you’re looking for quiet beaches where you can peacefully enjoy a stroll or sunbathe, Fuerteventura is definitely the one for you. For water sports, Fuerteventura also takes the win.
Fuerteventura: The Beaches
Fuerteventura is known for its long and beautiful beaches, and many say it has the best beaches out of all the Canary Islands – yes, even better than Tenerife. You’ll even find gorgeous black sand beaches here too.
The most iconic beach on the island is probably Playa de la Barca which is part of the Sotavento Lagoon. It’s got gorgeous crystal turquoise water and is often depicted in postcards. Another famous beach is Corralejo Beach which has a marina and a water park, perfect for a vacation with your kids.
If you want a beach away from the resorts, there’s a small village on the northwest coast called El Cotillo. There you will find quiet beaches such as the Cotillo Lagoons and Playa Concha.
Another more secluded beach on the island is Playa de Cofete at the southernmost tip of the island. To reach the beach, you will have to drive through unpaved roads, but the view and serenity of this place will be worth all the effort because you will get to enjoy a stunning beach alongside majestic views of the mountains.
The island is also known for being a great surfing spot, and both beginners and seasoned surfers will find a beach that suits their needs here.
For those looking for big waves, October to April is the big wave season, recommended for professional surfers. But even during these months, there are spots suitable for beginners, too.
The beaches most suitable for beginners are Playa del Castillo, El Cotillo, El Moro, La Caleta, and Flag Beach. And for surfers at intermediate levels and above, try Los Lobos, El Cotillo, and El Hierro are amongst the best.
Playa de la Barca is also famous for kite surfing, and it’s the site of the annual Windsurfing Championship.
Gran Canaria: The Beaches
Just like Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria is home to some of the best beaches in the Canaries.
The most popular one is probably Maspalomas, located on the southernmost of the island. It’s a long beach with a view of sand dunes, and it’s also famous for the lighthouse at the end of the beach.
On the southeastern coast of the island, there’s another popular beach resort called Playa del Inglés. Both the water and the sky are beautifully blue here, and the water is shallow. You can find countless little cafes and shops here, and the place is very lively.
Another prominent beach on the island is Playa de Las Canteras, located in the city of Las Palmas – the capital of the island.
The beach is popular for snorkeling, as it has clear water and some spots near the shore are relatively shallow with great reefs. The best snorkeling spot is right in the middle of the beach, south of Playa Chica. There you will see a variety of fish and other colourful sea creatures.
Which Is The Best For Hiking & Other Adventures?
Although Fuerteventura offers many kinds of sights and activities, Gran Canaria probably has more to offer as we explain below.
There are so many things to do on Gran Canaria, and all kinds of landscapes, that even a week’s trip might not be enough to see what the island has to offer.
Fuerteventura: The Activities
When going on a holiday in Fuerteventura, most people usually lie around on the beach all day. But what other activities does the island have to offer?
For one, something you should do is take pictures at the spectacular caves of Fuerteventura! The photos always come out social-media-worthy and exploring the caves is a great activity too.
One of the best caves is Playa de la Solapa where you can take a picture with the sea as a backdrop framed by the cave.
Apart from beaches, Fuerteventura is known for its volcanic landscape. From the village of Lajares, you can take a hike up to Calderón de Hondo Volcano, one of the most popular volcanoes on the island – and it’s dormant, so you don’t have to worry about anything!
There you will get to see the cool landscape of a volcanic mountain and also a view of the island from high above.
Up north on the island, you will find the town of Corralejo. While it’s known for being a resort town with gorgeous long white sand beaches, it’s also home to the stunning Corralejo Sand Dunes Natural Park. You will find various desert wildlife there, mostly birds, and you can also ride a camel!
The combination of vast sand dunes with a view of the ocean on one side and volcanic mountains on the other makes for unbelievably perfect natural scenery.
Recommended: The Best Hikes In Fuerteventura For Views & Fun!
Gran Canaria: The Activities
One thing this island is known for is the majestic landscape of sand dunes. The Dunes of Maspalomas is a 400 hectare stretch of desert, perfectly juxtaposed with a view of the ocean (see photo below). We think you should visit the sand dunes at sunset to see how it transforms in colour as the sky changes.
Aside from the beaches and dunes, another icon of the island is Roque Nublo, one of the largest natural rocks on earth.
As you walk to the foot of Roque Nublo, you will be in awe of Gran Canaria’s truly one-of-a-kind mountainous landscape. You can also view Roque Nublo from afar, such as from the viewpoint of Pico de Las Nieves where you will also see the surrounding trees.
Look out for the interesting wildlife in Gran Canaria while you walk – you may spot giant lizards, blue finches and lots more!
The rainbow rocks of Los Azulejos de Veneguera are also a must-see – it’s a uniquely colourful range of mountains because of its past volcanic activity.
One extra reason both locals and tourists flock to this place is that it has a special hidden natural swimming pool in the heart of the mountains. After a day or two of rain the pool fills up creating a picturesque pool in the middle of the mountains.
Just like Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria also has caves by the beach where you can take unique pictures.
The most notable one is the cave at Playa Taurito. The cave at Playa de Amadores is also popular, but for a different reason — here you can swim in clear blue waters under the imposing rocks of Bufadero de Tauro Cave.
Cultural Attractions & Historic Sites
The whole Canary Islands have a similar culture, so you’ll find similar music, dance, and festivals in both Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria.
As for historic sites, the Canaries aren’t really the best place for historians because while there are several historic sites, there are only a few of them.
Fuerteventura: Culture & Historical Sites
Like the rest of the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura has hints of Spanish influence and you will find festivals and music livening up nights on the island.
Fuerteventura also offers a good selection of historic attractions including museums and monuments. Learn about the island’s culture by visiting La Alcogida EcoMuseum, a uniquely shaped museum that gives an insight into a peasant village pre-touristic time.
The old town of Betancuria is also recommended if you’re into history. It used to be Fuerteventura’s capital and is now an important colonial landmark and religious center.
Gran Canaria: Culture & Historical Sites
Same as Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria has deep Spanish influences which means music, vibrant colours, and dancing!
If you’re looking for historic sites, the old town of Vegueta is a must-visit. The entire area is filled with picturesque Gothic architecture and cobbled alleys, great for a nice afternoon stroll.
You will find many historic buildings, such as Santa Ana Cathedral (photo below), Casa de Colon Mansion, and the Museo Canario. Another prominent historic site on the island is The Painted Cave.
Which Has Better Food?
The food throughout the Canary Islands is more or less the same, so if we are to compare the two islands’ food scene, we have to judge by the diversity and ease of finding good food.
And by these metrics, Gran Canaria is a winner. Along with Tenerife, Gran Canaria is known as one of the best spots to get a taste of the Canaries.
Fuerteventura: The Cuisine
On Fuerteventura you will come across the island’s special Majorera goats, which is a local goat breed famously known to have high milk production.
But of course, the meat is also very tasty too, and is made into all kinds of dishes from fried goat meat to stew. They also make special goat cheese from Majorera goat milk.
Another local specialty is gofio, a type of roasted corn flour often added to all kinds of dishes from stews to desserts.
Aside from that, the main dishes you will find on the island are of course various types of fresh seafood.
Gran Canaria: The Cuisine
Just like its landscape, the food scene in Gran Canaria is also gloriously diverse.
Las Palmas is filled with many fine dining restaurants with amazing views, but you will also find plenty of smaller, more casual dining places where you will really get a taste of the island.
The island’s most iconic dish is probably its mojo sauce, usually served in the form of potatoes with mojo.
Overall, the dishes in Gran Canaria are similar to Fuerteventura (and the rest of the Canaries), but the ease of finding good food on the island makes it a foodie’s paradise.
Which Has Better Nightlife?
Fuerteventura offers a more laid-back kind of nightlife compared to Gran Canaria, with many bars and pubs where you can sit back and relax.
And even though the town of Corralejo in Fuerteventura is a party hotspot, it’s got nothing on the nightlife in Gran Canaria. In particular, Playa del Inglés on Gran Canaria is known to be one of the top nightlife spots in the Canary Islands.
Fuerteventura: The Nightlife
There are many cafes and pubs on this island, and they are frequently crowded with locals and tourists.
The beach town of Corralejo is famous for its nightlife, particularly at Avenida del General Franco. You will find many Irish pubs, cafes, sports bars, and fantastic restaurants for all kinds of tourists there.
One of the best bars in town is Waikiki Bar, which is always alive with excitement every night of the week and is open til’ dawn. And Flicks Bar is a popular disco and karaoke bar that serves a great selection of cocktails.
Other resorts where you’ll also be able to find vibrant nightlife are Caleta de Fuste and Puerto del Rosario.
Gran Canaria: The Nightlife
Aside from the beaches, Gran Canaria is famous for its nightlife. On this island you won’t run out of night-time entertainment, from parties to events that last until sunrise.
The aforementioned Playa del Inglés is a beach that’s been associated with gay tourists and nightclubs for years. In particular, the district called Yumbo Centrum is filled with gay bars and clubs.
Aside from Playa del Inglés, a great nightlife scene can be found in the areas of Maspalomas and Puerto Rico in the South, and Las Palmas up north. Las Palmas is mostly filled with trendy bars.
Which Has The Best Hotels?
Because its main attractions are the beach resorts, it’s no wonder that Fuerteventura has some of the Canary Islands’ top hotels. And if you want a vacation where you stay in your resort for most of the day, then Fuerteventura definitely has the edge over Gran Canaria.
Fuerteventura: Hotels & Resorts
One of Fuerteventura’s most popular resort towns is Corralejo, which is known for having breathtaking long sandy beaches. Book a room at AVANTI Lifestyle Hotel, Corralejo’s oldest hotel that offers the best Fuerteventura experience. The hotel is strategically located near the beach and the service is superb.
Secrets Bahía Real Resort & Spa is another resort oasis in Corralejo where you can spend your days sipping cocktails by the pool or at the beach.
Gran Canaria: Hotels & Resorts
You will find the biggest resorts at Maspalomas, as it is the island’s number one tourist hotspot. Amongst the best resorts is the Maspalomas Lago Canary Sunset Residence, which is situated close to both the beach and the dunes!
Another lavish resort in Maspalomas is the Seaside Gran Hotel Residencia, which is located in the middle of the palm oasis and serves all sorts of amazing food.
For accommodation away from the beach resorts, you can try staying at Parador de Cruz de Tejeda. There you will get to enjoy a gorgeous view of the mountains and forests from the comfort of the hotel’s pool or jacuzzi.
Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
Both islands have various family-friendly activities so both are great for family trips.
But overall, Fuerteventura offers a countryside that can be a great adventure for children. You can take your kids to kite surf, ride a submarine, explore the dunes, and much more. It is also more kid-friendly at night.
Fuerteventura: Family Vacation
We’ve talked about the many activities you can do in Fuerteventura and many of them are children-friendly too, such as the water park at Corralejo Beach.
But there is another attraction which is also famous in Fuerteventura and that’s Oasis Wildlife Fuerteventura.
It is an animal park or in simpler terms, a zoo, but it’s so much more than that. There you can take your kids to meet animals directly and have an interactive experience. Several specialties of the park are their Camel Experience, Sea Lion Experience, Lemur Experience, and Botanic Experience.
Gran Canaria: Family Vacation
The best area for families on the island would probably be Maspalomas. There you can find attractions for kids such as Aqualand, Holiday World, and Cocodrilo Park.
There’s also a giant aquarium called Poema del Mar in Las Palmas.
Which Is Less Crowded?
Trying to avoid crowds? Fuerteventura might be the better choice for you.
Although it’s a tourist hotspot, it remains one of the least populated islands of the Canaries. Even in the most touristy spots of the island, the atmosphere is very quiet and nice, and perfect for a peaceful getaway.
Second only to Tenerife, Gran Canaria is always bustling with tourist activity. The biggest city in the Canary Islands, Las Palmas, is located on this island too.
Of course, you’ll be able to find beaches that are more secluded, such as Pasito Beach and Playa del Confital, but overall, it’s probably not the best destination for those looking for a quiet vacation.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
In Fuerteventura, if you want to get out of the resort and explore the island, there’s really no getting around renting a car.
The island is pretty small anyway, so you’ll be able to drive to any point on the island and return in the same day. Plus, you’ll probably going to stay in the resort area anyways.
Gran Canaria has a pretty reliable bus system. Tourists can comfortably get from Las Palmas to other touristy towns including Maspalomas in the south.
The taxis are also relatively cheap and easy to find on the streets – look for the ones with the libre (free) sign as opposed to ocupado (taken).
Which Is Cheaper?
Overall, there’s no significant difference in the costs between Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. But Fuerteventura is just slightly cheaper in terms of accommodation and entertainment.
Therefore, budget shouldn’t play a role in your decision between the two islands. Just pick the one that suits your holiday style better.
Fuerteventura vs Gran Canaria: Which Is Better?
That wraps up our honest comparison of Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria! Both of these Canary Islands are amongst the top attractions in Europe, especially for those looking for a vacation in the sun.
However if you are looking for resorts with long gorgeous stretches of sand where you can lounge around on quiet beaches, or if you love water sports, Fuerteventura is the place for you. But if you want to be able to see and do a variety of things, we recommend you choose Gran Canaria.