The Canary Islands has something for even the most demanding mini traveller. Start with the natural canvas – wide beaches edged by shallow, calm water and bordered by rocks that shelter rock pools and scuttling crabs. Add to that a submarine trip or perhaps a kids' diving class, kayaking, surfing, kitesurfing or a fun bike trip into the hills. Throw in a museum focusing on the islands' nautical, pirate-plagued past and top it all off with a camel ride through sand dunes, a hike around a volcano rim or a trip to one of the many theme parks dotted around the islands.
Parents may baulk, but the theme parks around Los Cristianos have undeniable appeal for children, while go-karting, whale-watching, beaches and boat rides should have the whole family cheering. Surf lessons can keep kids entertained for hours and there's also diving to teach them a few new skills.
The sandy choice at Corralejo is superb. Older kids will love striding out on the dunes south of town, while tiny tots may prefer the small sheltered coves by the harbour. Kids of all ages will adore the colourful murals decorating Puerto del Rosario. Splashier options include the massive Acua Water Park, plus boat rides and children’s snorkelling and surfing courses.
Parque Nacional de Timanfaya is something to impress the most blasé whippersnapper, with natural geysers, moonscape terrain, audiovisual presentations and camel rides. The restaurant’s volcano-powered BBQ is pretty cool as well.
Las Palmas is not the most obvious region, but the city beach of Playa de las Canteras is magnificent, the Casa Museo de Colón’s model galleon is awesome and the science museum should blow their little socks off. Down south the children will adore rolling around the sand dunes in Maspalomas.
Tots won't want to go tottering around the Caldera de Taburiente, but older children may find the hikes invigorating, while children of all ages could find walking along the rim of the Volcán San Antonio exciting. Kids will love hunting for crabs in the rocky crevices of El Remo. Stargazing is another big draw – they'll adore getting lost in the Milky Way on the Roque de los Muchachos.
While plenty of attractions, including theme parks and zoos, have been designed specifically with children in mind, public spaces, such as town and village plazas, also morph into informal playgrounds with children kicking a ball around, riding bikes and playing, while parents enjoy a drink and tapa in one of the surrounding terrace bars. Indeed, many town squares actually have a kids' playground, something you'll stumble across with gleeful frequency. Local children tend to stay up late, and at fiestas it’s common to see even tiny ones toddling the streets at midnight. Visiting children invariably warm to this idea, but can’t always cope with it quite so readily.
Discounts are available for children (usually under 12 years) on public transport and for admission to sights. Those aged under five generally go free.
Whole families, often including several generations, sitting around a restaurant or bar table eating and chatting is a fundamental element of the lifestyle in the Canaries and it is rare to find a restaurant where children are not made welcome. Even if restaurants do not advertise children’s menus (a growing number do), they will still normally be willing to prepare a small portion for your child or suggest a suitable tapa or two. Baby-friendly extras like high chairs and changing tables are commonplace in resorts, though tend to be a little thin on the ground in more out-of-the-way spots.
Aside from the normal selection of soft drinks on offer, you might come across a zumeria (juice bar), where you'll find a healthy variety of fresh fruit juices. In bars, a popular choice for children is Cola Cao (chocolate drink) served hot or cold with milk.
Always make a point of asking staff at tourist offices for a list of family-friendly activities, including traditional fiestas, plus suggestions on hotels that cater for kids.
For further general information about travelling with children, see Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children or visit the websites www.mumsnet.com/travel, www.takethefamily.com and https://familytravel.org.
This is an easy-going, child-friendly destination with precious little advance planning necessary. July and August can be very busy with Spanish families from the mainland, and hotels in the main tourist resorts are often block booked by tour companies. Early spring is a good time to travel with young children as the weather is still warm enough for beach days, without being too hot, and the theme parks and attractions are not too crowded – until the Easter holidays, that is.
You can buy baby formula in powder or liquid form, as well as sterilising solutions such as Milton, at farmacias (pharmacies). Disposable nappies (diapers) are widely available at supermarkets and farmacias.
Dive Academy, Arguineguín, Gran Canaria One-day bubble-maker courses for children from eight to 10 years old.
Oceanarium Explorer, Calea de Fuste, Fuerteventura Dolphin- and whale-spotting trips, kayak hire and sea lions at the harbour.
Submarine Safaris, Tenerife and Lanzarote Underwater boat trips with diving opportunities for older, experienced children.
Canary Island Divers, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote Bubble-maker courses in the pool or ocean (over eight years) plus open-water courses for the over-10s.
C. B. Marítima Acantilados, Los Gigantes, Tenerife Daily two-hour whale- and dolphin-spotting boat trips.
Tina, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera Four-hour whale-watching excursions, including lunch.
Museo de la Piratería, Teguise, Lanzarote A swashbuckling museum about the history of piracy on the island.
Casa Santa María, Betancuria, Fuerteventura Folklore and crafts, plus an excellent underwater 3D film.
Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Tecnología, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Fascinating science and technology museum with lots of hands-on exhibits for kids.
Casa-Museo de Colón, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Museum recounting Columbus’ voyages with an impressive replica galleon.
Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre, Santa Cruz de Tenerife Natural science and archaeology, including Guanche mummies.
Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos, La Laguna, Tenerife Great science museum for children, including a planetarium.
Artlandya Doll Museum, Icod de los Vinos, Tenerife A fascinating doll museum with a vast collection of dolls from around the world.
All the following beaches have shallow waters, fine sand (for sandcastles), various activities (pedalos, boat rides, volleyball or similar), plus family-friendly restaurants and ice-cream vendors within tottering distance of the sand.
Fuerteventura Corralero Viejo, Muelle Chico (Corralero), Caleta de Fuste, Costa Calma, Playa del Matorral (Morro Jable)
Lanzarote Playa Grande (Puerto del Carmen), Playa Blanca, Playa del Castillo (Caleta de Fuste)
Gran Canaria Playa de las Canteras, Playa del Inglés, Playa Mogán
Tenerife Los Cristianos, Playa de las Américas, Costa Adeje, Las Teresitas
La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro have mainly black-sand beaches with, overall, fewer activities for children, aside from whale-watching cruises and the ubiquitous glass-bottom boat trips.
La Palma Puerto Naos, Puerto de Tazacorte, Charco Azul (natural pools cut out of the rock)
La Gomera Playa de las Vueltas and La Playa (Valle Gran Rey), Playa Santiago
El Hierro La Restinga
Siam Park, Costa Adeje, Tenerife This massive water park has the works, including raft rides (on rapids), an artificial wave pool and even a white sandy stretch of beach.
Maroparque, Breña Alta, La Palma A small zoo with spacious enclosures and pleasantly landscaped gardens.
Oasis Park, La Lajita, Fuerteventura Mammals, birds, sea life, plus camel rides on offer.
Acua Water Park, Corralejo, Fuerteventura Splash-tastic fun for water-loving kids.
Playa de las Teresitas, Tenerife Calm, safe waters for waterborne young ones.
Acua Water Park, Tenerife The kids can flap about in the water once they've overdone the slides.
La Maceta, El Hierro Excellent swimming for children in these natural seawater pools.
Playa de las Vistas, Tenerife Its waters calmed by breakwaters, this is excellent swimming territory.
Charco Azul, La Palma Fantastic swimming in a string of pools fed by seawater right by the waves.
Playa del Pozo, Fuerteventura Gorgeous beach with safe waters and a lifeguard on duty in summer.
Playa de las Canteras, Gran Canaria Superb city beach for snorkelling and swimming youngsters.
Isla de Lobos, Fuerteventura Children should enjoy the ferry ride and Robinson Crusoe–style novelty of landing on a tiny, uninhabited island.
Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, Lanzarote Fascinating volcanic park with geyser displays and camel rides.
Lanzarote a Caballo, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote Horse riding and short treks.
Troglodyte caves, Artenara, Gran Canaria Fascinating Flintstone-style prehistoric caves.
Lago Martiánez, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife A fabulous watery playground.
La Caldera del Rey, Los Cristianos, Tenerife Horse riding, plus petting farm, climbing wall and low rope course for kids.