Thanks to a previous short trip to Tenerife, I knew diving in the Canary Islands was underrated. So, I was excited to have a month diving in Gran Canaria to explore their waters further. Smaller than Tenerife, the island serves as the local capital of the Spanish archipelago.
Maybe it isn’t fair to compare a 4-day trip in Tenerife with a 4-week trip to Gran Canaria, but I can say I was impressed with the dive sites of Gran Canaria. Of the 16 dives I did all around the island, here are the five sites I loved the most. I think they give the best glimpse of what scuba diving around the island of Gran Canaria has to offer.
My five favourite dive sites in Gran Canaria
In one month on Gran Canaria, I logged 16 dives all around the island. They can be grouped into three main diving areas:
- the northwest, from Agaete to Sardina del Norte
- the east, from Telde to Arinaga
- the south, from Puerto de Mógan to Pasito Blanco
The south area is all about boat diving in calm and clear waters, whereas the rest of the island is a mix of boat and shore diving in sometimes sporty conditions. The exception would be Playa Tufia, its location seems to be always sheltered.
Among my top 5 diving spots in Gran Canaria, please note some locations are suitable for beginners, and others will only be for experienced divers. The good news for beginners is that Gran Canaria is a great place to expand your skills thanks to the diversity of dives you can try.
1 – The Arona Shipwreck
My dive parameters:
Dive #1 – max depth 35 m – dive time 28 min – water temperature 23°C
Dive #2 – max depth 33 m – dive time 30 min – water temperature 23°C
I apologise in advance if you are a beginner diver; my favourite dive site in Gran Canaria will be for experienced divers only. It’s deep (35 m), and the surface conditions can be rough (the 1-hour surface interval on a RIB between dives can be challenging sea sickness wise).
However, I promise a fantastic wreck dive if you have what it takes (experience + deep specialty). It is among the best I did in Europe. You need two dives to explore it in full. The water is crystal clear, the shipwreck lies on white sand and massive shoals of fish swirl all around it.
Expertly guided by the instructor of 7 Mares, Sergio, I had memorable swim-throughs that reminded me of the SS Coolidge in Vanuatu. That’s why I nicknamed it the “mini-Coolidge”. Note, the dive centres willing to take you there may request to see you scuba dive in another location beforehand, whatever your logbook.
The boat ride from the harbour of Taliarte (Telde) takes about 15 minutes. Conditions can be choppy. Apparently, I was pretty lucky with the waves that day. Still, towards the end of the surface interval, the swell started to get to me. I just geared up and waited for my two dive buddies in the water.
The cargo ship is 100 m long and sank in 1972 following a fire. We went to the stern on the first dive, and obviously, we ended by the bow on the second dive. Its shallowest point is at 20 m below the waves. The water is so clear that from 5 m deep, you can already see the shipwreck.
We started by swimming between the huge crossbars and the 45° inclined upper deck. This is already quite an introduction to the shipwreck before getting to the hull. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the stern, the propeller is missing. But no worries, the Arona shipwreck offers plenty of perspectives to play with your underwater camera and your dive buddies.
Sergio took us inside at the end of the first dive, where the passages are large enough and don’t present any major risk. We were initially briefed to only penetrate the wreck following him since some parts could collapse and have sharp edges. With your best buoyancy and frog kick, exploring the inside of the shipwreck is exciting. The remaining structure of the boat magically filters the light.
We went straight to the bow on the second dive and spent some time below the hull, forming like a cave above the seafloor. A last look at the machinery on the upper deck, including a large winch, and it was already time to ascend for our last safety stop. Due to the depth, each dive is unfortunately short as it was decided not to go into decompression to be able to dive the shipwreck twice. Yet, we had to do a one-hour surface interval with the swell, but it was worth it.
2 – Pasito Blanco
My dive parameters:
Artificial reef – max depth 21 m – dive time 43 min – water temperature 24°C
Natural reef – max depth 19 m – dive time 45 min – water temperature 24°C
I have good news for my second favourite dive site in Gran Canaria: it’s for everyone! With relatively shallow depths (you can stay above 18 m), almost no current and plenty of marine life, Pasito Blanco is delightful whether you’re an Open Water diver or a seasoned underwater photographer.
It’s actually a double dive site. On the first dive, I went to the artificial reef, and on the second one, the natural reef of Pasito Blanco. Pasito Blanco is the name of the town and harbour facing the dive site. However, you can go diving there from many locations along the south coast of Gran Canaria. In my case, I joined the team of Scuba Sur based on the gorgeous flowered marina of Anfi del Mar in Arguineguin.
If diving on a sandy bottom with a few concrete constructions and metal tubes spread here and there can sound off-putting at first, wait until you get there. The amount of marine life these structures gather is incredible. This artificial reef is one of the five locations of a project led by the University of Las Palmas. The idea was to study which material and shape work best to attract and give shelter to marine species of the Canary Islands.
Obviously, it worked exceptionally well since I saw many stingrays, large schools of grunts, a cuttlefish and even a sea turtle! When I arrived in Gran Canaria, everyone told me how they were a rare sight. Well, here you go, on my 9th dive in Gran Canaria, I got to see one! I couldn’t get too close since I didn’t want to chase it. The turtle looked in a hurry, so I took my picture from a distance.
What I loved about this dive site was the fact we mostly stayed in one spot. It allowed me to take many pictures without having to speed up. This is the only way to get great images by letting the animal approach you and not the contrary.
After a one-hour surface interval, we dived the natural reef of Pasito Blanco. Once again, it was full of life, with shoals of grunts swirling around the reef. The navigation is extremely straightforward since you go around an oval-shaped reef.
All the edges of the reef form small caves where you’ll find stingrays, tiger moray eels and giant trumpetfish. I was lucky to be joined by a local diver who knew all the secret spots like the one with the three cuddling moray eels. By the way, Pasito Blanco is a great spot to take pictures of tiger moray eels with their scarlet cleaner shrimp buddy.
3 – El Cabrón marine reserve
My dive parameters:
Dive #1 – max depth 21 m – dive time 59 min – water temperature 24°C
Dive #2 – max depth 21 m – dive time 76 min – water temperature 24°C
The marine reserve of Gran Canaria is often named as the number one dive spot on the island. It’s isn’t my number one, but it is still in my top 3. From an underwater landscape point of view, it was by far the two most exciting dives I’ve done: swim-through, drop-off, caves and arches… it is apparently due to the past volcanic activity of the island. It starts with a plateau at 12-14 m and then drops to a sandy bottom around 20 m. The different routes are accessible to most levels of divers.
However, watch the entry! El Cabrón is a one-of-a-kind shore dive site. I was diving with Buceo Sur, a dive centre from Arinaga, near Ingenio, where I was staying. They are one of the closest dive centres to the marine reserve (although most dive centres on Gran Canaria can take you there). I think we easily spent 30 minutes on the dive briefing at the dive centre even before getting into the van.
Honestly, to make a safe water entry at El Cabrón, it really matters to follow the instructions. Because of the slippery rocks and the waves, there is really a better and safer way to get to the water (almost) fully equipped. Being a famous diving spot of Gran Canaria, there are a lot of dive centres and divers every day. Expect 5 to 10 vans with 6 divers each. However, it was nice to see everyone was respectful and helpful, no matter which dive centre you were with.
From a marine life point of view, being a marine reserve, I was expecting slightly richer waters. Sure, there were a few medium-size groupers I didn’t see anywhere else on the island. Like in other dive sites, I saw colourful club-tipped anemones, shoals of grunts and the striped bigeyes. The “Reserva Marina de Arinaga ”, its actual name, was created in 2001. It might need some more time before boasting with marine life despite being already a no-take zone.
Warning to all underwater photographers, some swimming is necessary to see the most interesting parts (the caves and the arch). It means there is little time at each spot to take pictures. So, I recommend a wide-angle lens for this dive site and fine-tuning your settings while swimming at the beginning of the dive.
Note that if you’re lucky, your divemaster or instructor may be able to show you a lovely yellow seahorse near the shore on the way back. In my case, we found it on our second dive. As it took me some time to realise, I had broken one optical fibre (commanding one of my strobes/underwater flash); it explains why my second dive was so long due to the change of settings I had to do on my underwater camera… oops!
4 – Playa Tufia
My dive parameters:
Dive #1 – max depth 17 m – dive time 67 min – water temperature 23°C
Dive #2 – max depth 22 m – dive time 50 min – water temperature 23°C
Night dive – max depth 17 m – dive time 75 min – water temperature 23°C
It was my first dive site on Gran Canaria with 7 Mares while staying in Las Palmas during the two first weeks of my stay. I had the opportunity to dive there twice during the daytime and another time at night. While the underwater topography is not as impressive as El Cabrón, the density of marine species that can be found is just fantastic. In a small bay of the east coast, right north of the airport (you see the planes taking off), you can get an excellent overview of the marine life in Gran Canaria. Besides, it’s a great dive site for both beginners and advanced divers.
Playa Tufia must be the most charming location of all the dive sites I’ve been to in Gran Canaria. It’s one of these places I would have never known without scuba diving. Tufia is a small troglodyte fishermen village. Be warned, there is quite a slope between the parking and the beach. If it’s easy to go down before diving, after a one-hour dive, take your time, breath deeply and just think one foot after each to climb up (yes, fully equipped with your tank on your back).
We started on the right side of the bay (looking at the ocean) to look for seahorses. If I count correctly, I saw three: two brown ones and one yellow seahorse. I was so happy to see a seahorse of this colour for the first time. Then we returned to the left side of the bay to a small cave above which barracudas hang in the jacuzzi created by the divers’ bubbles.
We went further out of the bay on the second dive to eventually see stingrays and maybe angel sharks. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right season, so I wasn’t too disappointed we couldn’t see any. However, we did swim through large shoals of grunts which always makes an impression!
My night dive in Playa Tufia ticked all the boxes of a good night dive. Usually, at night, marine species go out more to find food while hiding in the dark. I saw so many octopus and cuttlefish, including a splendid white-spotted octopus. I saw white sea hares for the first time; it included one being caught by a crab for dinner!
I returned the favour to Virginia of 7 Mares, who was guiding me, by showing her a spotted bumblebee shrimp which I found below a sea urchin. We went for quite a long night dive, but there was so much action that we basically dived until we hit the reserve.
5 – The Cermona II shipwreck
My dive parameters: max depth 20 m – dive time 49 min – water temperature 24°C
Like if I needed an excuse to return to Puerto de Mógan! When I first read the description of the “Mógan wrecks”, artificial wreck dive sites created for scuba divers, I wasn’t enthralled. But as I had been once before to Puerto de Mógan and loved its gorgeous white, blue and yellow marina covered in bougainvillaea flowers, I just thought it was worth giving it a try.
It proved to be an excellent idea. The Cermona II is a shallow shipwreck. I couldn’t go below 17 m, even by almost lying in the sand for some shots. You can swim all around the shipwreck in less than 10 minutes by taking your time. So, if you are a beginner diver, that’s the perfect opportunity to try wreck diving with clear waters and little to no current.
The shipwreck is so well put with so much life around it that my dive buddy and I had a fantastic time taking pictures. Bonus, a bit further out in the blue, at about 15 m deep, I saw the largest school of barracudas of all my dives in Gran Canaria.
Other sites worth a dive
Now you know my five favourite spots, I wanted to give you an extra head up to other dive sites I liked in Gran Canaria. Note I couldn’t do two famous dive sites of Gran Canaria: Cathedral in Las Palmas and Sardina del Norte. The first one was because the diving boat was under repair, and the second was because of the weather. I promise the day I return to Gran Canaria, I’ll update my article.
- El Juncal
My dive parameters:
Dive #1 – max depth 24 m – dive time 44 min – water temperature 22°C
Dive #2 – max depth 18 m – dive time 31 min – water temperature 23°C
It was a tie between The Cermona II shipwreck and El Juncal to be in my top 5 dive sites of Gran Canaria. The dive site is below impressive cliffs north of Agaete and features a wide sea cave with an air bell. I’d like to recommend this dive to at least advanced divers. However, marine life was relatively scarce, which favoured the shipwreck in Puerto de Mógan.
We stayed on the rocky reef on the first dive, and I had to look below every rock to find something to photograph. The second dive was a bit short, but I must say getting in the giant cave was exciting. There is a tunnel to access the air bell, and I still don’t get where the current I faced came from. Again, no particular marine life inside, but the blue glow at the cave entrance is quite mesmerising.
- Las Merinas
My dive parameters: max depth 10 m – dive time 63 min – water temperature 23°C
Most of the interest of this shore dive is to swim from the old pier of Puerto de las Nieves in the direction of the famous natural monument “El Dedo de Dios”. The dive site is shallow but starts with quite a long surface swim. So, it can be a good site for beginners but with a good level of fitness. The highlight of the dive is a small swim-through cave. It’s also the only spot where I managed to get a decent nudibranch picture in all my dives in Gran Canaria.
- Risco Verde
My dive parameters:
Dive #1 – max depth 9 m – dive time 54 min – water temperature 24°C
Dive #2 – max depth 12 m – dive time 58 min – water temperature 24°C
It’s the perfect dive site for people learning to scuba dive or shortly after their Open Water certification. However, experienced divers could get disappointed. This shore dive site is extremely shallow. It’s pretty much a vast plateau descending very, very progressively.
Unfortunately, the visibility was poor that day. I was hopping with a shallow site, I’d had good opportunities for macro shots, but not even. The main highlight of the site is a boat anchor a bit outside of the bay, on its left side (looking at the ocean). But because it’s mostly a beginner site, I got a sand storm around it pretty quickly.
What to see underwater in Gran Canaria?
The Canary Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean but off the western Africa shore. So, it isn’t about colourful coral reefs like the Red Sea in Egypt, but about volcanic landscapes with marine species that could surprise you. When doing Fish ID on my pictures, I had to mix my book for the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. However, this marine species guide edited by the council of Gran Canaria helped too. (in Spanish only).
I summed up below the most common and famous marine species to be found in Gran Canaria’s waters. If you speak a bit of Spanish, I indicated their name in Spanish to follow the dive briefing in the original version. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, it could still be convenient to know their local name since they tend to appear in the dive briefing in English as well since not everyone knows their name in English.
- Angelote / Angel shark
- More in winter; you need to look in the sand.
- Chucho / Stingray
- Also, round stingrays and eagle rays sometimes, they are all “chuchos.”
- Morena pico pato / Tiger moray eel
- So beautiful with their glass-like teeth, you’ll find many in Pasito Blanco.
- Lady escarlata / Scarlet cleaner shrimp
- You’ll usually find them with a tiger moray eel or a sea anemone
- Anemona / Sea anemone
- Clubbed tentacle anemones come in orange, pink, purple, red or brown
- Cangrejo araña fleche / Arrowhead spider crab
- Absolutely everywhere there is a crack in a rock
- Pejeverde / Ornate wrasse
- They are everywhere and move fast like bees
- Vieja / Mediterranean parrotfish
- This red, yellow and grey parrotfish is like the mascot of diving in Gran Canaria. Interesting fact: only females are these colours.
- Catalufa / Bigeyes
- My favourite fish in Gran Canaria; these red fish with enormous eyes have white stripes in the Canary Islands and hide in caves
- Fula Negra / Bluefin Damselfish
- If you have never met a damselfish before, wait until you see this tiny fish defending its territory
- Roncadores / Grunts
- These are the enormous shoals of fish you’ll see in most dive sites in Gran Canaria
- Corneta / Trumpetfish
- The biggest ones were in Pasito Blanco
- Caballito de mar / Seahorse
- Playa Tufia is a real seahorse hotspot
- Mero / Grouper
- If you love groupers and their melancholic look, go to El Cabrón marine reserve
From a nudibranch point of view, Gran Canaria wasn’t the destination for them. I saw two large blue and yellow Cantabric doris in Tufia and El Cabrón and a little pink flabellina in Agaete.
Which scuba diving centres to choose in Gran Canaria?
The style of diving in Gran Canaria is to go by van, either shore diving or to a harbour where the dive centre booked a boat with an independent captain. As a result, few dive centres have their own boats. It means that dive centres can drive you everywhere around the island, and it’s included in their price. If it’s far away from them, they might not go every day, though. Buceo Agaete and Scuba Sur were almost exceptions. In their case, they tend to stick to diving with their own boat in their respective area.
It means that you don’t have to travel all around the island to scuba dive in all the main areas. The longest I drove in Gran Canaria, from Agaete to Puerto Rico, was about 1h15. I would still recommend sharing your time between the north and the south by staying first in Las Palmas and finishing in a relaxing seaside resort like Puerto Rico. This is in the latter where I found my favourite dive centre of Gran Canaria: Scuba Sur, in Arguineguin.
For instance, 7 Mares in Las Palmas go most of the time to the dive sites of Telde such as Playa Tufia, but they often go to Sardina del Norte and El Cabrón marine reserve as well. Contact the dive centre close to your accommodation and ask for their schedule as a rule of thumb. You’ll save on rental car costs.
Note dive centres in Gran Canaria usually go for a minimum of 2 dives, except for night diving. So, you need to plan for a minimum of half a day. The budget is hence about 60-70€ if you have all your equipment. If you need to rent scuba diving gear, the complete kit is around 20€ a day.
Is Gran Canaria a good place for beginners or to learn scuba diving?
Yes, it is! If you consider passing your Open Water certification to become a scuba diver, then go for it. Thanks to a great choice of accessible shore diving sites, it is less stressful to learn basic skills. Shore diving is easier from an organisation point of view, and you won’t risk seasickness. You can remain shallow, and the shore is always close.
The best spots for beginners were definitely Playa Tufia and Risco Verde, two shore dive sites. But you can also learn scuba diving on the beach of Las Canteras in Las Palmas with 7 Mares and on the beach of Anfi del Mar, in the south, with Scuba Sur.
When is the best time to go scuba diving in Gran Canaria?
The Canary Islands like to nickname themselves the islands of eternal spring. Indeed, the water conditions are very stable all year long. The warmest it gets in Gran Canaria at the end of August is 24°C, and the coldest it gets in February is 19°C. So, diving in September is the most comfortable season to scuba dive in Gran Canaria.
If you need to rent scuba gear, note all dive centres offer 5mm full wetsuits with booties. Honestly, I was glad I brought my 7mm full suit, my hood, my gloves and my booties.
If you really want to get a chance to see one, the angel shark season is in winter, from November to March. Those fond of whale watching will prefer the summer to see the pilot whales passing by. To do this, hop on the fantastic whale and dolphin cruise leaving from Puerto Rico twice a day (make sure to book in advance).
How to go to Gran Canaria?
To return to the Canary Islands, I considered initially to try doing train + ferry. When I saw how much it cost to take the 2-day ferry from Andalucía, South of Spain, to the first Canary Island, Lanzarote, I understood it was a bad idea. When I won a flight with Vueling last Christmas, I took the opportunity to fly direct from Paris in 4 hours and a half.
Indeed, there are plenty of direct flights from mainland Europe (UK, France, Germany) and obviously mainland Spain with many different departure cities available all around the country. For affordable flight offers, I highly recommend checking outKiwi.com.
Once at the airport (there is only one, contrary to Tenerife), you can easily take the express bus for 4 to 5 € to Las Palmas in the north, or the resort area in the south, from Maspalomas to Puerto de Mógan. If you prefer riding a taxi, note Uber and other apps are not available on Gran Canaria. A taxi ride to Las Palmas is from 30 to 35€. If you stay in Las Palmas or in the south, it is pretty easy to only use the buses for very reasonable fares. The most expensive I paid for was the return ticket Las Palmas-Maspalomas for about 13€.
However, I also recommend renting a car for a few days as the inland side is absolutely gorgeous. Just make sure to wait for 24 h after diving before going in altitude. Roque Nublo is at 1813 m, and Pico de la Nieves, the highest point, at 1949 m of altitude. If you preferbooking your rental car ahead, have a look atcar rental prices in Gran Canaria online.
Where to stay in Gran Canaria?
Depending on the time you have and what type of holidays you want, you can stay in the north or in the south, or both. Since I was staying one month, I had the time to try a bit of everything, including one week in a more local location inland, Ingenio, where I rented a beautiful house with my dive buddy for as little as 23€ per night per person. But this place required to have a car.
If you want to relax, stay in the south. I recommend Puerto Rico, which is located in the middle of the south coast. It is a short driving distance to everything there: the dunes of Maspalomas, the dive sites of Pasito Blanco, the whale watching cruise and the lovely harbour of Puerto de Mógan.
I stayed for 3 days at the Gloria Palace Amadores in Puerto Rico when I explored the south coast. It’s a massive 4-star resort along a cliff with a view of the ocean like if you were on a cruise ship. Despite its size, I never felt overwhelmed by people thanks to all the different spaces, bars and pools at different levels. If you add to this, you can stay in a room with a private swimming pool; what not to dream of between dives… except maybe a thalassotherapy pool? It was indeed perfect on my decompression day before going hiking to Roque Nublo higher in altitude.
If you prefer city life with more action and socialising, staying in Las Palmas, in the north, is the best option. In the district of Canteras Beach, there is a cool surfing community with plenty of cafés where you can chill with a cheap smoothie or cocktail. If you feel hungry, they often have lots of vegetarian options on their menu. There is also plenty of historical and cultural sites to visit in the capital city of the Canary Islands. The old town of Vegueta and the trendy district of Triana, next to each other, were my favourite part of the city to stroll around.
For those on a budget, there are plenty of surfers’ hostels along Las Canteras Beach. I stayed for a couple of nights in Hi-Tide House. Their rooftop terrace has a breath-taking view of Las Canteras Beach but, to be honest, I got a few bad surprises with them.
If you are looking for something fancier, the stylish city hotels are on the north side of the beach. But for a change of scene, don’t hesitate to try the hotels of the historic district. I stayed at the Cordial Peregrina Hotel with its amazing rooftop terrace, including a small pool to refresh in the summer days. Just avoid keeping a rental car while staying in Las Palmas.
Is something still missing from this long article? Please let me know in the comments, and I’ll check if I can help!
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This article was written in partnership with the Gran Canaria tourism board. As always, all my views and opinions are my own and reflect my experience honestly.
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