All of them! It’s no wonder the Canary Islands were once known as the Fortunate Isles; this volcanic archipelago of 7 islands off southwest Morocco is a near-perfect holiday destination. There’s a subtropical climate with year-round sunshine, and a host of natural attractions: beautiful coastlines, national parks, and lush topiary. Families come for the glorious beaches and great-value family-friendly hotels, plus there’s no jetlag as you’re on European time. Each island has its own USP – which will you take your kids to?
The ‘Island of Eternal Spring’, Tenerife is the largest and most touristy of the Canary Islands, and served by the most flights. While some of the island has been over-developed (in the south), half is protected for its astonishing biodiversity across 6 different vegetation zones and many ravines and valleys. In the middle, UNESCO-listed Teide National Park holds Spain’s highest mountain, the Pico del Teide volcano, and an observatory (there’s great stargazing on the Canary Islands). The craggy coastline has plentiful beaches; those in the north have black volcanic sand.
Where to Stay
Families wanting to fly and flop will love apart-hotel Baobab Suites, an immaculate coastal resort only 20 minutes from the international airport. It has spacious suites (some with private pools or Jacuzzis), big main pools with splash areas, a sports centre, free kids club and family-friendly eateries. A safe, sandy beach is 15 minutes’ walk away (or there’s a shuttle bus), and you’re in the Costa Adeje which has restaurants, shopping and waterparks.
Self-catering families will enjoy La Malvasia, a trio of pretty stone cottages on the outskirts of a small village, 6km from beaches on the SE coast. They each sleep 4-6, share a glorious pool and sun-deck with shaded chill-out area, and have views out to the Prussian blue sea.
More tropical than its cohorts, Lanzarote, the most easterly of the archipelago, has extraordinary lunar volcanic landscapes, such as the Mountains of Fire craters in the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya. Contraty to popular belief, the island is wonderfully undeveloped – flat-roofed whitewashed houses are everywhere, but we didn’t see a single high rise. Beaches are fewer but offer golden sands and surfing.
Where to Stay
Quirky Finca de Arrieta is a great-value eco-resort set among peach and mango trees in the north of the island. There’s accommodation to suit all sizes of family, including stone cottages and Mongolian yurts, all with great kitchens and Balinese furniture. Kids will adore the fabulous playground complete with trampoline, giant chess set and boat-turned-play structure. There are farm animals to meet, and a solar-heated pool, plus a sandy beach a short walk away. Alternatively, base yourselves at Finca Malvasia, a veritable oasis of whitewashed stone cottages and a sub-tropical garden, set amongst vineyards. There’s a sparkling pool, stylish decor throughout, well-equipped kitchens for easy self-catering, and welcoming owners who help you get the most out of your visit. You’re 15 minutes from the airport; beaches are even closer.
Dubbed a ‘micro-continent’, Gran Canaria is the island with the most micro climates. Expect everything from sweeping sand dunes to lush valleys; a 1/3 of the island is protected as a Biosphere Reserve. Tourist development is mostly confined to the warmer and sunnier south; head to the cooler north for dramatic cliffs and mountains. There’s diving, hiking, and the best beaches are found on the flatter east coast.
Where to Stay
Twenty minutes north-east of the airport lies tranquil finca El Mondalon, surrounded by farmland. There are 10 rooms, hiking trails from the front door and a delightful restaurant. Parents will love the solar-heated pool with its Jacuzzi and fountain; kids will enjoy the playshed, which has toys, books and games. There are also farm animals, a children’s entertainer at weekends, and a small playground. The beaches are 10km away and you can learn to horse-ride nearby.
Want to get off the beaten track? Head to the most north-westerly island, La Palma, the least developed and most scenic in the archipelago. There’s a premier observatory at its summit, much of the terrain is National Park, it is still geologically active, and it has the most diverse plant life, including lots of pine forest. The wild black-sand beaches contrast with pastel-coloured colonial villages. Kids will be fascinated by the water tunnels (minas galerias) which transport water collected by condensation at altitude to the villages and plantations below.
Where to Stay
Casa Los Geranios is in the sunnier south, perched on a hillside with superb views over vineyards and banana plantations out to the shining sea. Traditional in style, and great value, it can sleep up to 8 in 3 bedrooms and there are gardens for playing hide and seek, plus beach toys to take to the black beaches. The wonderful owner greets you with a welcome hamper and homemade cake, and there are supermarkets and restaurants nearby.