The Canary Islands: 15 Must-Do Activities (+ Living In Spain Again)!

The Canary Islands are closer to Morocco than they are to mainland Spain! Today we’re sharing about our time working + living in this 7-island archipelago, plus 15 unique activities you don’t want to miss out on (because you WILL need to plan a trip there after reading 😉 )!

Ask my husband or children: as soon as we stepped foot onto Spanish territory, Mama felt at home!😅

I hadn’t thought too much about it so didn’t expect it to feel so good, but it did. It almost felt homey (for lack of a better word and even though I’d technically never been to Tenerife before).

So if you love Spain, you’ll love these islands!

Canary Islands courtyard restaurant with palm trees and plants

While our Portuguese had grown by leaps and bounds while living in the Azores and traveling all over Madeira, it’s just not the same as being back in a country where you feel like you feel the language, you understand what all the signs are saying, and you don’t have to think twice about asking for something in your non-native language.

PLUS, I just really enjoy Spanish “stuff” (language, culture, food, wine, and blatant straightforwardness, to name a few😂). I have Spanish blood, I lived in southern Spain for a bit, one of my degrees is in Spanish…it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but I enjoy so many different things that I forget.

It just felt like clicking back into “home”…yet outside our country of citizenship. (Can anyone relate?!?😆)

The first night in our house in Tenerife (which is old, Canarian, and has some funny quirks but is awesomely unique), I was sitting on the patio looking out to the ocean in the distance. Matt brought two glasses of Spanish wine out for us, and I remember telling him, “It FEELS so good to be here!” (Maybe that was because our kids were elsewhere, entertaining themselves quietly, but still…😂)

Spanish language.

Spanish people.

Spanish food.

Spanish ways of doing things.

Coming from life with all Portuguese ways of doing things (and language, and food…) you can tell a clear difference.

side of yellow Canary Islands house with canary palm trees and ocean in distance

And as much as we loved the Azores, Mama was HAPPY TO BE BACK in Espana.

I’m not immune to its downsides, but every country has those. (Lesson #1 in travel, if I could teach you anything, is that every single place in the world has its Pros and Cons!)


#15: Go to a Guachinche!

This is absolutely a must! If someone tells you they’ve been to the Canary Islands but not gone to at least one guachinche, then they’ve missed out on a key element of Canarian life.

(In English, this is pronounced like the “gua” in guacamole with a “cheen” and a “chay” at the end! “Gua-cheen-chay” and yes, there is a fascinating Language Nerd rabbit hole you can go down learning about the history of where this word came from!)

Basically, think “Canarian restaurant pop up.”

guachinche menu in Spanish nailed to a tree

They’re mostly seasonal, small restaurants that might only be open in a certain spot at a certain time, and serve certain food, and there are no signs telling you where. This seemed much more common on the island of Tenerife versus the island of Gran Canaria.

Local winemakers will share their wines and some small plates to go along with it, or maybe more. There are guachinches that seem to be more established and open more often, more like a typical restaurant.

guachinche restaurant menu in Spanish with prices

TIP: You can order either a full serving (1 racion) or a half if you just want to try it (1/2 racion). Personally, I love this system! (And it’s not just for guachinches, this racion system is in all Spanish restaurants…see our list further down.)


#14: Visit the stunning Anaga!

view of Anaga Rural Park with mountains and ocean and town in distance

Anaga is an area in the far east of the island of Tenerife and one of the most beautiful areas!

If you want to do the most popular hikes, you need to plan ahead and buy permits as they don’t allow many people in! (And if you’re caught hiking without a permit, be prepared to part with your dinero.)

Anaga Park, Tenerife, hiking with mountains and trees


#13: Live in an authentic Canarian house!

Window with view of mountain with town and ocean
Not a bad view to wake up to!

Skip the hotels and resorts. If you’ve made it to the Canary Islands, why would you skip getting a cool Spanish house?!?

I’d love to have time to create an entire post all about our house, but for now I’ll give you just two teasers. 😉 Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the most interesting door lock ever!

Door with large iron bar slanting across to large lock and chair in front of the door.

I mean, forget the giant lock (which is cool in itself) and the old key…what about that massive iron bar?!? Does this need to make a comeback into our modern world?🤣

Next, our kitchen sink…

Old stone sink in kitchen of Tenerife house

So many things I like about it, and so many things I don’t. We’ll save that for another time.

Fresh citrus from an ancient tree in our backyard? Yes please!

The girls have spent hours picking this fruit and squeezing it for fresh juice!

Citrus tree with with small orange fruit in Canary Islands house


#12: Explore the cute towns!

Small street in Canary Islands with green house then pink house on your right and green house, orange house and then pink house on your left

When you’re not enjoying your fun old Canarian house, get out and go to the small towns! (Not the big ones or even any of the “cities,” if you can avoid it!)

Tenerife Plaza with light post in middle and old church with palm trees

And while you’re in the towns, do #1 further down…


#11: Take a gondola up Teide (tallest mountain in Spain)!

The tallest mountain in Spain is on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

However, I wouldn’t say go visit it just because of that—I’d say go visit Teide because the landscape is so unique!

I’ll spare you the dozens of moon-like photos I took in this area, but here’s one of Teide itself (with very little snow).

Mount Teide in the Canary Islands with a little bit of snow on top

You can hike Teide (with permits that sell out long in advance), or you can take a gondola up.

We enjoy hiking…however, with two small kids, we’re big fans of the gondola option these days.🤣

View from Teide with lots of clouds

Teide is also supposed to be one of the best places in the world for stargazing, but weather was never good enough for us to go on a night we were free, so it wasn’t meant to be this time.


#10: Drink the fresh-squeezed orange juice!

Glass of fresh orange juice with straw

Even as I write this (after having left Spain), I miss the fresh-squeezed orange juice.

If you’re a citrus lover, once you’ve gone fresh OJ, you never go back.


#9: Eat bocadillos for breakfast!

If you’re out and about in Spain in the morning, and you want a breakfast, chances are you’ll need to eat a bocadillo. Often you can get these in a Spanish-style “breakfast package” for less than 5 euros with a small glass of coffee or orange juice. They’re a great deal and if you find a place that offers various bocadillo options, you’re in luck!

Two bocadillo sandwiches with tea and coffee

BONUS BREAKFAST TIP: Order a cortado! This is a Spanish espresso with milk drink. It’s what I generally order when I’m in Spain, plus I just love the way saying it rolls off my tongue, so it’s a win-win.

cortado coffee drink in Tenerife, Canary Islands


#8: Lava Tubes

There’s a story here.

I decided “lava tubes” sounded like a unique experience for my “worldschooled” children (don’t get me started on terms for education 😀 I don’t even like that one but it’s what I’ll say here), so away we went!

I expected the typical tourist experience but oooooooh boy was I ever wrong! We got THE most scientific guide I’ve ever had. Very serious about geology…and lava tubes. There was no smiling. We were being fully educated on everything.

After being given a PhD in Lava Tubes, we were allowed to exit the building into the vans to journey to the entrance. Of course I wanted to sit right up in front with El Doctor de Tubos de Lava and see if I could get him to crack a smile.

I was gratified to learn he did have the ability to understand jokes delivered straight-faced. In fact, if you spoke Spanish and English, you got an extra treat because he mixed the two and as the day progressed, became increasingly funny to me. Although still, no smiling.

Our daughters were the only two children in the group, and he was fantastic with them—even while never cracking a smile. Twice, he let them walk (or crawl) down small lava tubes…an experience none of us adults got to have!

Big smiles from my children (and us as parents, because of course you love it when people make it special for your kids).

But still, no smiles from El Senor.

It’s okay. He was completely memorable. We love you, Dr. Lava Tube.

Two girls walking through  a lava tube in Tenerife with guide in front


#7: Cook a real Spanish outdoor barbeque (in your aforementioned Spanish house)!

After a day out exploring the lovely Islas Canarias (so much smoother to say that than “The Canary Islands,” right?), you have to do what the locals do:

Focus on a good outdoor grill session. Meat, meat, and more meat.

Look how cool our Spanish outdoor kitchen is!

Outdoor kitchen in Canary Islands with outdoor sink and grill

(In comparison to our last outdoor kitchen in California before we sold our house.)

There’s nothing like grilled meat over an open flame. The landlord even let us use their cool traditional skewers!

Spanish chicken on skewers


#6: Take a ferry to La Gomera!

Canary Islands ferry with ocean out window

Since there are seven different islands that make up “The Canary Islands,” exploring some of the outliers (like La Gomera from Tenerife, or Lanzarote from Gran Canaria) is something you can do by ferry!

view of La Gomera island from Tenerife at sunset


#5: Drive through the winding roads in Gran Canaria!

This was surprisingly one of my favorite things we did on Gran Canaria! We found some of the cutest little towns this way too…

view of Spanish town on Gran Canaria

If you know the story of these hats hanging in the plaza, please leave your expert insights in the comments below because literally no one was there to answer the question when we passed through!

hats on ropes in town on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands


#4: Hike Roque Nublo with Someone Special!

Roque Nublo (“cloud rock” or “rock in the clouds”) is one of the most popular hikes on Gran Canaria.

My oldest daughter and I did this together a a “hiking date” while Matt and our youngest did a little bit at the start and then just played around on the rocks and had snacks while waiting for us. 😊

We were pretty speedy even though it worked up a sweat, and we had SUCH a fun time! (Here, she picked out a spot and called to me, “Mama, I found a spot I think you’ll really enjoy!”)

girl sitting at top of Roque Nublo hike on Gran Canaria


#3: Feed Lemurs At the Monkey Park!

One of my daughters is what I’d call a lemur expert (a.k.a. she taught me there are more kinds than one 🤣)!

So when I saw there was a place on Tenerife called simply “The Monkey Park” where you could essentially go into the enclosures with lemurs and—if you were lucky and got said lemurs on a good day—have them eat out of your hand!

Funnily enough, just a few days before we drove there, a travel influencer I follow actually posted about her trip there with her kids! I immediately send her a DM asking the all-important question,




I mean, taking Lemur Child to actually get that close to a lemur = Mother of the Spanish Century!

Unfortunately, she wrote back saying that all the lemurs had stayed up in their little perch in the corner and hadn’t come down. No interaction and definitely no eating out of hands.

I was disappointed, but tried rallying. Well, I reasoned, it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.

And then I simultaneously realized I could ask The Animal Whisperer (a.k.a. the One Who Created Them & Still Holds It All In His Hands) that, if it was possible to work it into His plans and purposes, surprising my daughter with the lemur thing would be really, really cool.

Oh, also part of parenting success is: DO NOT TELL YOUR CHILD AHEAD OF TIME WHAT COOL THING MIGHT POSSIBLY HAPPEN. If it happens, they’re delighted! If it doesn’t happen, they’re still delighted. 😂

Yes, I have learned through becoming a parent and having children that—as a child yourself—you can blatantly and straightforwardly approach your Good Parent and ask for whatever outlandish or semi-outlandish thing you want, and it’s totally fine. Sure, you may not get it, but it never hurts to ask!

And there’s where I am on that. 🤗 (And I have had some really interesting requests granted lately…but that’s another story!)

Fast-forward to the day we went to El Monkey Parco, and this happened over and over for both my daughters…

Ring tailed lemur taking food out of girl's hand

At one point I looked around wildly for my youngest, who I’d lost track of, and she was kneeling down calmly next to a similarly sitting lemur, stroking its back. Both looked perfectly content. (You’re not supposed to pet the lemurs, but she missed that memo apparently.)

Thank you, Animal Whisperer! 😄


#2: Loro Parque

I will preface this by saying that, left to myself, I’m not interested in going to aquariums that house large animals like orcas.

Someone once made me watch a documentary about it and it was one of those things you can’t forget.

However, at the same time, I have one daughter who is particularly concerned with and interested in animals, to the point that we wouldn’t be surprised this is her life’s calling.

SO…we chose to encourage this love of animals and take her to the #1 Annoying Advertised Thing you will see all over the Canary Islands, and that is Loro Parque. (Parrot Park)

Feel free to look it up yourselves but it’s basically a smaller, nicer, Spanish version of Sea World…with some other animals in there.

We went to all the animal shows, saw everything, the girls were entranced and learned a lot…

…and to this day it’s still in their Top 5 experiences they tell us have been their favorites on this trip. (I know, I know…not the lava tubes educational trip with Dr. Geology. I was shocked too.)


#1: Eat the Spanish food! (If you only can do one thing…!🥰)

interior of Spanish restaurant on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Yes, I’ve sandwiched this list with food-related items (#15 was the guachinches, remember?)

But even if you’re in a corner of a Canarian island where you can’t find a guachinche, you can always find a place that serves local food.

Whether it’s tapas or a full meal, you’ve gotta try the

  • Canarian potatoes (with the mojos/sauces! some restaurants have their own special sauce recipes too! below are two different styles from two different restaurants, but you can see the similarities)
  • Gofio (an absolute traditional Canarian food you have to at least try a bite of)
white dish with gofio, hand dipping bread
  • Estofado (this was one of my two favorite things the Spanish woman I lived with would cook for me!)
Spanish tapas dish with estofado
  • Garbanzos con espinaca (spinach garbanzo dish, which Matt and I have been making at home for almost 20 years but I still order it in Spain because every place makes it different!)

And you take your time…and your kids can play while you finish your wine or sangria or dinner…I have so many pictures like the below of our daughters playing with local kids or in Spanish plazas while the adults finished. (Here, our 5-year-old found a grassy spot in the plaza during sunset and did some sketching.)

plaza on Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain


“Where are the Canary Islands?”

Here in the CI’s, we’re only about 60 miles (or 100 km) off the coast of Africa/Morocco. The islands technically belong to Spain, although Las Islas Canarias definitely have their own unique customs and history and little bits of language!


“The islands aren’t named after birds?!”

Let’s discuss the elephant the canary in the room:

Did you know the Canary Islands weren’t named after birds, but dogs?

(Yup, think “canine” from the Latin “canaria”! Is that not so fun?! Save that for your next Trivial Pursuit extravaganza!)

We were fortunate to live here as a family for several months, cozying up in our Spanish house to work mixed with exploring. (The Canary Islands are usually the warmest place in Europe during the winter and cold spring months—another reason we came for a long while, to truly experience what it’s like to live here for longer!)

small model of Canary Islands, Spain
I loved this little mini-visual of all 7 of the Canary Islands!


  • We took a “vacation” to Morocco from our home here in the Canary Islands after I found a smokin’ hot flight deal. I definitely wanted to show my daughters Morocco this year so it worked out perfectly!
  • If you missed it, see our life in the Azores and our stopover in Madeira on our way to the Canary Islands.
  • What are we doing living in all these places and why? I wrote about it HERE first (and again here!).

PS: You can see all our travels on our Adventure page…or all our home projects on this page!

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