Surfing in Canary Islands has long been a top choice for wave seekers on the continent. From Lanzarote – the so-called Hawaii of Europe – to the breaks that roll into Palma
Surfing in Canary Islands at a glance
- Reliable waves for much of the year.
- Warm, even in the winter.
- Fun towns and some great things to do when you’re not in the ocean.
- Localism in some spots.
- Loads of holidaymakers around.
- You might need a car.
What you’ll find in this guide to surfing Portugal
This is a branch of our ultimate guide to surfing in Europe.
An introduction to surfing Canary Islands
The Canaries are some of the most stupefying and stunning islands in all of Europe. But even saying that is a little bit of a misnomer. This speckling of Spanish lands is far closer to the shores of north-west Africa than they are to Madrid. Still, the continent has claimed the archipelago, and EU surfers are surely darn glad they have…
There’s some seriously awesome surfing in Canary Islands. From the wild bays of Lanzarote (the so-called Hawaii of Europe) to the resort-side waves of Tenerife, there’s something for a whole host of riders. Beginners need only seek out the surf schools of Lanza’s Caleta. Experts can make for the heavy barrels of La Santa and Gran Canaria.
Canary Islands surf culture really began with the first tourists from the UK. They brought their egg-nosed longboards over from Cornwall and the West Country with the hope of trying out some of the rollers that crash in off the mid-Atlantic. What they eventually found were gnarly tubes that would become super-famous – just check out El Quemao.
It’s hardly a wonder that surfing in the Canaries continues so strongly to this day. There are loads of pluses. A mix of reefs and sand-bottomed breaks are on offer. There’s usually warm weather and moderately warm seas. The waves are reliable. And the islands have a tourist infrastructure to match the Costa del Sol.
What island should I choose for surfing in Canary Islands?
There are eight islands that make up the whole Canaries chain, along with countless out-at-sea rocks that aren’t even worth considering as a surfer. In fact, the smaller of the bunch are also best disregarded. They do have waves, but they aren’t well known and are super tricky to get to.
We recommend sticking to one of the big four for your first surfing trip to the Canary Islands. Not only do they have enough breaks to keep even the Kelly Slaters among us going for a whole holiday, but they’re a cinch to reach and come with stacks of great accommodation. Where will you choose?
Lanzarote surf has risen and risen to become one of the standouts of the Canary Islands in recent decades. A Mars-like island that pulls in some lovely swells from the Atlantic, it’s perhaps best known for the long sweep of sand that is Caleta. But there’s more than just that beginner favorite. Much more…
The pros will only have eyes for the unforgivable barrel at El Quemao, or The Slab. If the names aren’t enough to scare you off, surely the zipping walls of Atlantic water dashing over super-shallow reefs will be. You can find both of that at the resort town of La Santa.
On the east coast, there are other surf spots that are usually not as popular. A few point breaks north of Costa Teguise take the biscuit, but any further south that than is all resorts.
Read our full ultimate guide to Lanzarote surf
Surfing Tenerife is a whole different affair to Lanzarote. Welcome to the most built-up and bustling of the islands, it’s certainly got the après surf. You’ll even catch breaks rolling right into seaside promenades dotted with Burger King and sunset bars around Fitenia. The coastline close to that gives way to the colossal Los Gigantes, which also overlook some seriously awesome breakers.
Of course, there are places to go to find empty line ups. In the wilder region of Punta del Hidalgo up north, for example, there are lava reefs that produce consistent breaks at El Roquete. The desolate coastline of Benijos Beach is also worth a look. The rocks are a ding factory, but the waves usually aren’t crowded.
Most people come to Fuerteventura for the stunning beaches. They are considered the very best in the whole chain. Expect white sand, high cliffs, and waters that are Greek blue, not murky Atlantic grey.
As far as surfing in Fuerteventura goes, it’s the northern half of the island that comes up trumps. Corralejo has most of the surf schools. Access to spots to the south of the lively town and the blustery Flag Beach (a favourite with kitesurfers) helps there.
However, the real surf mecca has to be El Cotillo. It’s known for its paradise-looking Shell Beach. But go to the south and you catch a longer stretch of sand that has a variable wave that goes left and right over sand. Follow the coast some more and prepare to do battle with the Spew Pits – the jagged rock reef there ensures it’s a playground for pros only.
Surfing Gran Canaria really revolves around the island’s capital, Las Palmas. A break called La Cicer has helped more beginners than you can shake your patatas bravas at into the water. It’s still a kook fest to this day, but hugely fun when the swell is tidy.
More challenging reefs at La Barra and a the rocky-bottomed La Guancha area add to the mixture of options around the city and to the north. Continue down the east coast and you can find lazy wedges that are nice for intermediate improvers at Playa del Hombre. Meanwhile, the monster at El Frontón promises huge challenges, no matter if you’re a veteran of Oahu North Shore or not.
Localism can be rife in Gran Canaria, especially in famous spots like El Confital. It’s a shame, because there only seem to be good vibes in the beer bars after a day on the water.
A guide to the surfing season
Let’s get one thing straight – there’s always something to surf in the Canary Islands. No matter the month, no matter the time of the day, you can guarantee a wave will be peaking somewhere. What’s more, with spring-like conditions and loads of sun throughout the year, it’s rare that your riding is done under downpours.
Of course, there are some tweaks and changes with the seasons. It means there are certain times better suited to beginners, and other times perfect for those learning how to ride…
September – March
The peak season for surfing Canary Islands waves. You just can’t beat the dominant N-NW swell direction and the prevailing offshores. The further you are from Christmas the more likely it is you’ll have mild conditions. This is no Nazare – things don’t switch on overnight come October. In fact, there’s a waiting game to be played down on The Slab when the midwinter kicks in.
That said, some places are famously reliable. La Caleta de Famara in Lanzarote hardly has an off day the whole of the season. Yes, surf schools flock in, but the beach is so long you’ll always find somewhere to yourself. El Cotillo over on Fuertaventura enjoys nearly 80% groundswell from December to January. La Cicer in Gran Canaria is even better.
Put simply, come surfing Canaries for the winter to soak up the sun and enjoy some of the most reliable surf conditions anywhere in Europe.
April – August
Reading the above, you might think there’s zero surf in Canary Islands during the summer months. Not so…
It’s true that things get smaller and less consistent. But there’s still an average of over 50% surfable days across the islands. That means popular surf towns like Caleta de Famara and Cotillo are sure fire bets. You’ll rely more wind swell, for sure, so don’t come expecting huge periods of >15 seconds. But that shouldn’t be an issue if you’re after whitewash to practice on or are sharing your summer hols with a little surf trip on the side.
Generally speaking, the two ends of the summer season are best for those who want a real Canaries surf trip. The middle months are scorching hot, a little windy, more busy, and can be a bit of a waiting game.
Top things to do in Canary Islands when you’re not surfing
The Canary Islands haven’t garnered a reputation for holidaying for nothing. On low days or no-surf days, there’s still oodles to do. Whether you come to scale a volcano, sample fiery mojo sauce, or simply unravel a little history, you’re sure to leave pleased…
Timanfaya National Park (Lanzarote)
Be sure that you drop the surfboard in Lanzarote for a day off to see the amazing Timanfaya National Park. A land carved by magma and forged by fire, it was used as the backdrop in the hit Hollywood film One Million Years BC, in which Raquel Welch does battle with big dinos and reptiles. Anyway, the place is one to take the breath away. It’s all cinder cones and lava fields. The big visitor’s centre has spots where you can peer into the crust of the planet. They even cook their meat skewers on open vents that are heated by underground lava chambers.
Hike Mount Teide (Tenerife)
At a whopping 3,718 metres above sea level, Mount Teide is the highest in all of Spain. Hikers come from all around to scale its summit, which looms right in the middle of the island. The walk is a truly awesome one. It takes you through fields of huge lava boulders and then onto the shoulder of the Montaña Blanca. Eventually you reach a mountain refuge where you can recharge before the push to the summit that’s often high above the clouds. You will need to apply for a hiking permit from the national parks service to get to the summit.
Explore the Roque Nublo in Tejeda (Gran Canaria)
Prepare to be wowed by the sheer wonders of the Tejeda region. This stunning area of bluffs and sinewy ridges looks more like Colorado than the Canaries. It’s perfect for those who want to go on scenic drives or hit dusty trails when they aren’t surfing. The highlight is the Roque Nublo formation itself. Protected by UNESCO, it looms a whopping 67 metres above the valleys. Don’t forget the walking boots.
Travel essentials for anyone surfing in Canary Islands
- Currency: Euro (EUR/€)
- Population: 2.12 million
- Biggest island: Tenerife
Where exactly are the Canary Islands?
The Canary Islands sit out in the Atlantic Ocean. They are way nearer to Africa than to Europe. In fact, Morocco is just 62 miles east at the closest point. The south coast of Spain, meanwhile, is a whopping 807 miles to the north!
How to get to Canary Islands
This part isn’t hard. You will have to fly, though (unless you fancy a hard-going boat from Africa!). Still, loads of low-cost carriers link the Canaries to places in Europe and beyond. That’s because they are a super popular holidaying destination.
Check out low-cost airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet, along with family package agents like Tui. They all fly regularly to these sun-soaked lands.
If you’re planning on surfing in Canary Islands, then be ready to pay around 50 GBP extra to bring the board. There’s usually no problem doubling up, though – we’ve done it on many an occasion.
This ultimate guide to surfing Canary Islands simply wouldn’t be ultimate if it didn’t change with the times. That’s why we’re keen to hear from you if you’ve anything to add, whether it’s corrections, tips on places to surf, or anything in between.