All You Need to Know About Surfing in the Canary Islands
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Sand dunes, lunar landscapes, crystal-clear water, and blue sky; any time of the year. Plus the occasional Saharan breeze in your hair. Otherworldly surroundings only a stone throw’s away from Europe.
Closer to Africa than Europe, off the south coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands are a melting pot of European, African, and American influences, with a laidback vibe that’s more similar to Hawaii and the Caribbean. But the Canaries are more than just another beach holiday destination. They are home to some of the best waves in Europe and an impressive number of hair-raising tubes.
Each island has its own personality and you’ll find a multitude of surf camps in the Canary Islands that are either close to great nightlife, food, and shopping, or in more serene and pristine locations.
From the surfing seasons and best waves to what to eat and more useful travel advice, here’s everything you need to know about budgeting and planning your surf trip to the Canary Islands.
For surfing in mainland Spain, check out our guide to planning your surf trip to Spain.
Now let’s get started…
Surfing seasons in the Canary Islands
The “land of eternal spring,” the Canaries have a very stable climate, with pleasant summers and mild winters, year-round sunshine and warm water.
The Canary Islands are a year-round surfing destination. Thanks to their location, they’re exposed to the full force of the Atlantic and benefit from a large swell window.
The archipelago also gets strong trade winds, which is why it’s such a popular kiting and windsurfing destination, and you’ll find numerous kitesurfing camps. But when it comes to surfing, northeasterly winds can sometimes ruin the waves. Therefore, it’s best to go out in the morning, as trade winds usually pick up in the afternoon.
You can find a wave to surf in the Canary Islands on any given day. That being said, the most reliable conditions can be found between September and April.
For beginners, the best time to go is in summer and autumn, when the waves are gentler and the water is warmer. But you can find beginner-friendly waves all year round.
Simply put, any time is a good time to learn to surf in the Canary Islands.
For more experienced surfers, the best time to score world-class waves is between November and February, when more powerful waves roll in and the famous hollow reef breaks come to life.
Image credit: Oceanside Gran Canaria Surf
Water temperatures in the Canary Islands are pretty stable, but you’ll still need a wetsuit during the colder months.
Water temperatures peak in the range of 22-24°C (72-75°F) in late summer and early autumn, and drop to 17-20°C (64-68°F) in winter.
During warm summer days, you can surf in boardshorts/swimsuit. But throughout the rest of the year, you’ll need a long-sleeve shorty or a 3/2mm wetsuit.
Booties are highly recommended, as many surf spots have jagged rocks and urchins on the seabed.
The surf scene in the Canary Islands
Image credit: Homegrown
Surfing in the Canary Islands was pioneered by English vacationers in the 1960s. By the late 1970s, there was already a small but dedicated surf culture present, with new surf spots being discovered. However, surfing on the islands didn’t really take off until the 1990s.
Today, the Canaries are a classic winter escape for European surfers. In the surfing world, they are referred to as the “Hawaii of Europe”, thanks to their mild climate, year-round sunshine, and long periods of groundswell. But also because of waves like El Quemao, The Slab, and The Bubble, which are strikingly similar to Hawaii’s powerful and hollow reef breaks.
Indeed, the archipelago is most famous for its heavy and hollow waves, breaking over shallow reefs. For beginners and intermediate surfers, that doesn’t sound too welcoming. But there are waves for all levels, as well as numerous beginner-friendly beach breaks. In fact, the Canary Islands are a great place to learn to surf.
The selection of surf spots is simply massive.
While the Canary Islands have earned themselves a reputation as having some of the fiercest localism on the planet, it’s usually the challenging and famous waves that suffer from this.
In most beginner and intermediate surf spots, the vibe is good in the water. Just follow good surf etiquette and you’ll be fine. And remember that throwing a “Hola!” and a smile when greeting locals will get you a long way.
The best surfing destinations in the Canary Islands
Image credit: Yokomo Surf
The archipelago has seven main islands, and you’ll find surf on each of them. However, the prime surfing destinations are the larger islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Tenerife, and Gran Canaria.
Image credit: Surfintrip Camp
Fuerteventura, the second largest of the Canary Islands, is also one of the least developed. In translation, it means “strong wind”. So, it should come as no surprise that it’s one of the most coveted kitesurfing destinations in Spain and the world.
On the northern coast, Corralejo is the main surf hub on the island, with several surf spots for beginners, like Rocky Point and Flag Beach.
On the namesake island north of Corralejo, Los Lobos is the longest wave on the Canary Islands.
A 30-minute drive from Corralejo, next to Majanicho Beach, El Hierro is one of the most powerful waves on Fuerteventura. In front of Majanicho, The Bubble is the most famous wave on the island, serving powerful rights and lefts that break over a reef bottom, known to split boards in half.
On the west coast, El Cotillo is one of the few beach breaks on the island. On most days, it offers mellow waves for beginners and intermediate surfers. With a bigger swell, it starts to barrel.
Lanzarote owes most of its fame to its two gnarly waves – The Slab and El Quemao, both located just outside of the village of La Santa. El Quemao has been dubbed the “Pipeline of the Canaries” because – you guessed it – it looks so much like Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline.
On the north coast of Lanzarote, Playa de Famara is one of the best beginner surf spots in the Canary Islands. This is where most surf camps in Lanzarote are based. There’s plenty of room for beginners to practice along the 6km (3.7mi) beach.
» Join a surf camp in Famara.
Image credit: Stefan Leijon
Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, is the most popular with tourists and is renowned for its wild parties, bars, and nightlife. It also has surf all over.
Playa de las Americas is the largest tourist hub on Tenerife, home to some of the best waves in the archipelago – The Spanish Left (La Izquierda), Billboards, and La Fitenia.
Just outside of Las Palmas, the capital of the Canaries, El Confital is a heavy barreling wave. Also here, El Lloret is another spot for advanced surfers, while La Cicer is a great beginner wave.
On the north coast, El Frontón is one of the gnarliest waves on the planet, hollow and merciless, and a spectacle worth watching (from ashore).
On the south coast, Playa del Ingles is one of the best beginner surf spots on Gran Canaria.
For more information about the waves, read our guide to the best surf spots in the Canary Islands.
How to budget your surf trip to the Canary Islands
Image credit: Oceanside Gran Canaria Surf
Besides their proximity to Europe, another appeal of the Canary Islands is that they are relatively inexpensive. The cost of living is cheaper than in mainland Spain, and chances are you’ll get the best bang for the buck.
At the same time, the Canary Islands cater to all budgets.
Image credit: Homegrown
You’ll find an abundance of surf camps in the Canary Islands, tailored to all levels of surfers and their many specific needs. From a surfer’s standpoint, this is the most convenient and affordable option.
By staying at a surf camp, you won’t have to worry about finding accommodation, surf lessons, and board rental facilities. Everything’s taken care of. Furthermore, some surf camps also include daily meals, yoga classes, and even airport transfer.
You can join a budget surf camp in the Canary Islands for as little as €30 per person/day.
Food & drinks
Image credit: Soledad Big Waves
Same as in mainland Spain, the best way to save money when eating out is to opt for the menú del día – three courses for a fixed price, usually served at lunch, which will set you back anywhere between €6 and €15. This is one of the best ways to eat like a local in the Canary Islands.
You’ll find numerous bars serving tapas – delicious, filling, and cheap snacks that can be eaten as a meal.
If self-catering, you can spend as little as €6 on food per day.
A cappuccino will set you back €1.30. The average price for a local beer in a bar/restaurant is €1.25. You can find local beer at the market for €0.50-€1.
What to eat & drink in the Canary Islands
For centuries, the Canary Islands have been at the crossroad between Europe and America, hence their unique flavors, with European, African, and American influences. The islands are renowned for their seafood, and the cuisine is all about using fresh and simple ingredients without doing much to them.
Staple foods you have to try during your surf trip:
- Mojo – a traditional spicy sauce made with peppers, garlic, cumin, olive oil, salt, and vinegar, served with almost every dish on the islands. Mojo verde is the milder version, while mojo picón is spicier.
- Papas arrugadas – tiny, wrinkly potatoes boiled in salted water, usually served with mojo drizzled on top.
- Queso asado – grilled goat or sheep cheese, served either spicy with mojo sauce or sweet with miel de la palma (local palm syrup).
- Almogrote – a traditional dip made with cured cheese, hot peppers, paprika, olive oil, and garlic, often served as a starter with warm bread or toast.
- Lapas a la plancha con mojo – grilled limpets with mojo sauce.
- Gofio escaldado – thick fish broth with a mix of roasted maize and wheat.
- Potaje de berros – Canarian watercress soup with corn, green beans, pork belly, chickpeas, carrots, and saffron.
- Puchero canario – a stew made with all sorts of fresh veggies and meat.
- Queso – “cheese” in the Canary Islands. Try the many varieties of goat and sheep cheese, the most famous of which being the Majorero goat cheese from Fuerteventura.
- Bienmesabe – traditional dessert made with eggs, almonds, cinnamon, and sugar.
- Grilled fish
Spain is a meat-eating country, and vegetarians/vegans have rather limited options. Luckily, salads are a staple food in the Canary Islands. Try the menestra (vegetable stew) and the ubiquitous papas (small potatoes). You’ll also find a variety of delicious and vegan side dishes, like champiñones (mushrooms), berenjenas (aubergines), and pimientos de pardon (small grilled peppers).
The most common wine is malvasía, found on all the islands. It’s usually sweet but you can also find the dry version.
More useful travel advice for the Canary Islands
Getting there: The Canary Islands are only a short flight from Europe. There are eight airports in the archipelago, which connect all the islands.
On Gran Canaria, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Airport (LPA) is the busiest, served by numerous airlines and with many connections to Europe as well as West Africa.
Tenerife has two international airports – Tenerife Surf (TFS) and Tenerife Norte (TFN). On Lanzarote, the Arrecife Airport (ACE) serves many European destinations and has regular flights to mainland Spain. Fuerteventura’s main airport is El Matorral (FUE).
Getting around: All the islands have airports and ports, and traveling between them is easy and fast. Traveling by ferry is usually cheaper. Taxis are relatively inexpensive and a preferred way to get around. And there’s also the option of car hire.
Insider’s tips: Due to their popularity, most surf spots in the Canary Islands tend to get crowded. Despite this, it’s still possible to find quiet waves. For this, you just have to get up in time for the dawn patrol. Most surfers tend to sleep in, especially over the weekends. Plus, early morning is when you’ll find the best surfing condition, with glassy and perfectly shaped waves.
Image credit: Soledad Big Waves
For a cold beer after a surfing session, hit one of the many cervecerías (beer bars, the equivalent of a pub). For drinks and food, hit the tabernas (taverns). And if you’d like to taste the Canary Islands’ flavorful volcanic wines, visit the bodegas (wine bars).
The easiest way to order a cerveza (beer) is to ask for a caña (small draught beer). For a larger beer, ask for a jarra (pitcher).
*Cover image credit: surfglassy
The Canaries are one of the best places to learn to surf on the planet. Take advantage of the year-round sunshine and warm water, and join a beginner surf camp in the Canary Islands!