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.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Tenerife

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.

  • Fuerteventura

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.

  • Lanzarote

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.

  • Gran Canaria

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.

  • La Palma

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.

Canary Islands for Kids

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

Discounts are available for children (usually under 12 years) on public transport and for admission to sights. Those aged under five generally go free.

Eating & Drinking

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.

Resources

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.

Children’s Highlights

Theme Parks

  • 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.

Water Sports & Boat Rides

  • 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.

Beaches

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

Museums

The Big Outdoors

Planning

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.

Before You Go

  • You can hire car seats for infants and children from most car-rental firms, but you should always book them in advance.
  • Most hotels have cots for small children, but numbers may be limited so reserve one when booking your room.
  • When selecting a hotel, check whether your hotel has a kids club, activities geared for youngsters and/or babysitting facilities.
  • No particular health precautions are necessary, but don’t forget the sun protection essentials, including sun block and sun hat, although they can also be purchased here.
  • Avoid tears and tantrums by planning which activities, theme parks, museums and leisure pursuits you want to opt for and, more importantly, can afford early on in the holiday.