Seven things to do in gay-friendly Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria sand dunes

The Spanish island of Gran Canaria is one of the most popular destinations for LGBTQ sun-seekers in Europe. That said, it’s not actually that close to mainland Spain. The island is part of the wider Canaries archipelago. It lies 93 miles off the coast of northwest Africa (approximately 840 miles from Europe).

Why it became such as gay hotspot dates back to the 1970s. As well as offering year-round sunshine, visitors discovered a more liberal, tolerant atmosphere on the island, well away from the conservatism of the mainland. Gay bars began to appear, and this accelerated after Spain decriminalized gay sex in 1979.

The gay life can be found in and around Maspalomas. If you’ve never been before, here are seven suggestions worth a visit.

1. The gay beach and sand dunes


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Marco Vio (@marcovio)

The gay beach in Maspalomas also happens to be the nudist beach (this is probably not a coincidence!). The shoreline is dotted with kiosks serving refreshments, and you’ll head toward Kiosk number 7. Be warned: It is something of a walk from the nearest drop-off point.

Take a taxi to Maspalomas lighthouse and walk for around 30 minutes along the shore to reach the gay beach. Alternatively, take a taxi to the Riu Palace. Pass through the big arch to the sand dunes, bear right, and then follow the wooden posts toward the beach. This will probably take around 25 minutes.

The gay beach is surrounded by around 1,000 acres of Sahara-like sand dunes. Many gay men use this as a cruising area. However, if you do so, please be sure to take away any litter! The region is a protected nature reserve and environmentalists have recently slammed tourists for failing to clean up. Specifically, jellyfish-eating giant lizards have died after eating condoms left behind!

Related: Seven gay, married couples share their honeymoon travel adventures

2. The Yumbo Center


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by | FRANCK | (@frnck_be)

The Yumbo Centrum opened in 1982 and instantly became a home for local LGBTQ venues. By day, it’s a shopping center. Rokoko, just outside, is a great place for breakfast or lunch. In the evening, the bars and their terraces open up. Tourists tend to follow a route, starting their evening at the likes of Bar Diamonds, the Bear Cave (Bärenhöhle) or Pirates, and ending up at cruise clubs such as Strong Construction, The Box, Bunker, and Cruise. Several, such as Sparkles and Ricky’s Cabaret Bar, are known for their drag shows.

The Yumbo offers at least two dozen different bars, and many don’t get going until late (like, after midnight), so make sure you take a nice long disco nap earlier in the day and head out late.

3. Take a gay catamaran trip


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by JJ (@jj.nzuk)

There’s a weekly gay boat trip every Friday that’s become an institution over the years it’s been running. Book a ticket online and then head to the meeting point in front of Ciao Ciao in CC Anexo II shopping mall in Maspalomas at 1:30 pm. Jeeps then take you to Puerto Rico bay to catch the boat, where you’ll spend a few hours cruising the crystal blue waters. Snorkeling, jet ski, parasailing, and banana boat rides are added optional extras. You’ll return in the early evening.

If you love to get out on the ocean, there are also several dolphin and whale watching cruises operating from the island.

Related: Six gay-friendly vacation hotspots for winter sunshine

4. A jeep excursion into the Gran Canaria mountains

The Gran Canaria mountains, with large crag Roque Nublo silhouetted on the left
The Gran Canaria mountains, with large crag Roque Nublo silhouetted on the left (Photo: Canary Islands Tourist Board)

Gran Canaria isn’t just about sun, sea, and… well, sex! Geographically, volcanic eruptions formed the Canary Islands. In fact, the Cumbre Vieja volcano, on the island of La Palma, made international headlines when it spewed ash and lava for three months in 2021, destroying thousands of homes. Thankfully, there have been no volcanic eruptions on the island of Gran Canaria for hundreds of years.

For a day away from the beach or pool, take a jeep tour up into the mountains… just remember to wear something warm. As soon as you begin to ascend, the temperature cools significantly. Also, if you want to keep things gay, there’s a separate gay jeep tour.

Be prepared for some twisty, mountain-hugging road experiences, along with the chance to enjoy a bite to eat in a small village tucked away in the valleys.

If you’re really looking for a different sort of experience, you can even book an overnight stay in a cave home built into the sides of the mountain. In 2019, UNESCO awarded the sacred area around Risco Caído World Heritage status. It offers cliffs, ravines, volcanic formations, and a landscape of rich biodiversity.

5. Stargazing in Gran Canaria

Astrotourism is one of the attractions of the Canary Islands
Astrotourism is one of the attractions of the Canary Islands (Photo: Canary Islands Tourist Board)

Due to a lack of light pollution, Gran Canaria is an amazing place to enjoy some romantic star watching. The Observatorio Astronómico de Temisas is around a 35-minute drive from Maspalomas. It offers 1-2 hour tours of its facilities and allows observation of cosmic bodies through its telescopes.

There are also star-gazing tours, including one that takes in the sunset from Roque Nublo (an 80m-tall volcanic crag up in the mountains) followed by observations of the Milky Way.

6. Las Palmas

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Plaza de San Juan, Arucas, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (Photo: Canary Islands Tourist Board)

Although you’ll probably want to stay in Maspalomas, if you hire a car, you can easily explore the wider island. The capital, Las Palmas, is the historic center. However, fishing villages such as La Aldea de San Nicolas and Puerto de Morgán also offer an abundance of charm.

7. Maspalomas Pride

Thanks to its balmy climate, Gran Canaria offers not one but two annual Pride festivals. Gay Pride Maspalomas tends to take place in early-to-mid May, while Winter Pride Maspalomas takes place six months later in early-to-mid November. For both festivals feature a Pride Walk. A big stage set up in the Yumbo features drag and musical performances, and the bars are overflowing.