Lanzarote’s biggest resort has all the things that people love about the Canary Islands: There’s a choice of beaches on the oceanfront, colourful nightlife, ideal scuba diving conditions and a ton of things for families to do.
Lanzarote also has those classic Canarian lunar landscapes, best enjoyed at the Timanfaya National Park and the Cueva de los Verdes lava tube.
The island has avoided heavy development and many of its top attractions were developed with the help of the artist César Manrique, who gave them a timeless, space-age style.
1. Playa Chica
The volcanic outcrops on either side of Puerto de Carmen’s best beach help create pool-like calm waters.
On the beach kids can splash around in safety, provided they keep an eye on the rocks that are sprinkled around the bay.
In the water these walls create perfect clarity, so you have to bring your snorkelling gear when you come to see the seabed that teems with life.
Divers also use Playa Chica to get to El Veril de la Tiñosa, a huge drop-off a little way out.
2. Playa Grande
Just east of Playa Chica, this beach is much longer but is a bit more open to the ocean.
If you prefer more room and less bustle then this is the one for you.
The winds can pick up, but on gusty days when you rent your sun lounger it will come with a windbreak.
As with all of Puerto del Carmen’s beaches Playa Grande is kept spotlessly clean, and the Avenida de las Playas that runs behind it has shops and eateries just a few steps away.
3. Scuba Diving
If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but have been putting it off, Puerto del Carmen has all the incentive you need to make your first splash.
The first thing you need to know is that the waters are very mild here; the Canary Islands are on the Tropic of Cancer, and receive currents from the Sahara and Gulf of Mexico.
And as we mentioned there’s that incredible underwater cliff, El Veril de la Tiñosa, which drops three kilometres down.
You can have the adventure of a lifetime without ever having to stray from the resort.
4. Rancho Texas Lanzarote Park
With a single ticket you’ll get access to Rancho Texas’ water park, zoo and live animal shows.
It’s one of those attractions that needs a whole day, and you can break it up with different activities: You could spend the morning in the company of all sorts of animals including cougars, white tigers, sea lions and armadillos.
When it starts to get warm you can hit the park’s pools and slides.
Rancho Texas also has a great variety of birds, and there’s an eagle show in which these birds of prey whoosh just a few centimetres above your head.
Golf is on offer almost every day of the year in the Canary Islands due to the spring-like climate.
There are three courses on Lanzarote and it won’t take long to get to any, but Lanzarote Golf Resort is right next to Puerto del Carmen.
This is an 18-hole par 72, taking advantage of the majestic coastal and mountain scenery.
If you’re unfamiliar with windy conditions then it may pose a bit of a challenge, as it does get breezy on this course.
The upside is that the fairways are broad and on the edge of the rough are dark beds of lava gravel, which makes it easy to find lost balls.
6. Boat Trips
Being in the Atlantic you’ve got a good chance of spotting dolphins and whales, depending on the time you visit.
There’s a company based in Puerto del Carmen called Waverider, taking you out to the ocean on a high-speed powerboat.
You can go on an ocean safari, cutting the engines on the open ocean until you spot a dolphin pod or Minke whale before tracking it for an hour or more.
You could also book shorter excursions to see more of Lanzarote’s volcanic coastline or for a short but thrilling joyride.
Other firms also provide similar trips to the coast around Papagayo, where you’ll drop anchor at hidden coves for a swim.
7. Local Attractions and Activities
In Puerto del Carmen there’s enough to keep families occupied for far longer than a two-week holiday.
During your stay you could hire bikes (traditional or electrically-assisted), or segways to roll along the promenade in style.
The resort also has a go-karting track, Gran Karting, fun for groups of mates who want to compete against each other, but also good for little racers as there’s a separate track for youngsters.
There’s also fun on four legs instead of four wheels; Puerto del Carmen has a stables that provides horse-riding lessons, as well as one or two-hour trips into the countryside.
As Lanzarote’s main tourist centre Puerto del Carmen caters to people who want to paint the town red, with karaoke bars, pubs, nightclubs, a casino and a tempting choice of restaurants.
The majority of these will be set on “The Strip”, next to Avenida de las Playas, which runs behind the main beaches.
It all depends on your taste: You could pick from any number of Irish bars or discos where electronic music thumps until dawn, or head for somewhere like the Island Bar, known for its good live music.
The old-town, just in from the marina on the west side of the resort also has its share of restaurants, pubs and cocktail bars, and is well worth a peek.
9. Timanfaya National Park
In less than 20 minutes you can be in one of Spain’s best-loved national parks.
It’s a volcanic zone that was formed suddenly in 1730 when Timanfaya erupted and for the next six years covered a quarter of the island in lava.
To call the landscape “pretty” would be wrong, because it looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, in the best possible way! At El Diablo restaurant on the park you’ll see a demonstration of the volcanic activity bubbling beneath the surface, where temperatures reach 600°C. There’s also a geothermal grill, so you can tell your friends that you’ve had lunch cooked on a volcano!
10. Cueva de los Verdes
Another stunning volcanic formation is this six-kilometre lava tube, one of the longest in the world.
It was formed around 5,000 years ago after the La Corona volcano erupted.
Fluid lava sank below cooler, solidifying rock to create this long tunnel that bends its way down to the sea.
When Barbary corsairs launched raids from North Africa in the early modern age the islanders would take refuge in these cavities.
The cave has been kept in its natural state apart from a helpful lighting system, which sets off the vibrant colours on the cave walls, caused by oxidisation of the basalt’s iron content.
On all but the very hottest summer days Lanzarote has comfortable walking weather thanks in part to its ocean breezes.
This is good news if you’re enticed by the island’s alien landscapes.
One of the best in the area is the path west to the upscale resort of Puerto Calero.
Wear some sturdy shoes and pack a bottle of water and you can set off on a cliff-top adventure.
As you go you’ll pass a number of quiet beaches where you can amble down the water and admire the scenery for a while.
There are also restaurants and cafes along the route so you can make a pit stop on the way.
12. Mirador del Río
You can get to Lanzarote’s northernmost point in well under an hour.
And what will greet you when you arrive is a scene like no other.
From a platform 475 metres atop an escarpment you have a perfect view of the Island of Graciosa, and to the sides to you can see the immense cliffs as they curl down to the water.
The platform as well as its view windows underneath were designed by Lanzarote artist César Manrique, who created a host of works around the island.
There’s a fee to enter, and it’s worth checking the forecast before you leave as the lookout will sometimes be shrouded by cloud.
On Lanzarote’s wilder and a less touristy north coast is Famara a small coastal community huddled against the soaring cliffs and next to a breathtaking natural beach.
The bay curls out for three kilometres and has medium waves that pull in water sports fanatics from around the world.
Surfing and kite-surfing are the main two activities; the tradewinds flowing across the Atlantic meet this beach head-on and create ideal conditions for more experienced boarders.
For everyone else it’s a place where you can wonder at the savage beauty of the seascape.
14. Charco Verde
On the lower edge of the Timanfaya National Park, next to the sea, is another of Lanzarote’s otherworldly sights.
At the base of steep mountainsides behind a windswept beach is a strange pool of bright green water.
It looks bizarre against the colourless gravel of the beach and its rocky surrounds.
The strange tint is caused by a species of alga in the water, as well as its high sulphur content.
The best vantage point is just to the north of bay, and you’ll get the best photos on sunny days when the lagoon has a radioactive glow.
15. Jardín de Cactus
César Manrique was also responsible for Lanzarote’s Jardín de Cactus, 25 minutes north and just past Guatiza.
It’s the site of a former quarry; a small depression in the moonlike landscape.
Manrique put down stone paths on the quarry floor, running back and forth past beds planted with some 1,100 different cactus species in a host of shapes and sizes.
It’s a small attraction, but full of whimsical little details like Marique’s cactus design motif, all in an unearthly scene.
You can wander the paths before surveying the gardens with a drink at the snazzy bar beneath the garden’s restored windmill.