With a laid-back island vibe that infuses aspects of Caribbean, Latin, Spanish and European culture alongside a myriad of natural wonders, and a location closer to Morocco than Spain, the Canary Islands is one of Europe’s best kept secrets.
I have been visiting the Canary Islands regularly from my base in Madrid for 15 years. When the freezing cold arrives every November, I begin to plot: which island will I escape to this winter? And with year-round warm temperatures, sunny rays and no rainy season, I often find my way back to the Canary Islands in spring and summer too.
Thus, some islands in this remote archipelago may be easier to access than others. Here are my top tips for ensuring a smooth getaway.
Getting to the Canary Islands
It is more affordable to fly to the four largest Canary Islands: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Flights to these islands not only operate from Madrid and other Spanish cities on airlines such as Iberia/Iberia Express and Air Europa, but also from various cities across Europe on airlines such as Air France, Aer Lingus and British Airways.
Budget carriers such as Ryanair, Vueling, Jet2, Eurowings, Wizzair and easyJet fly to the Canary Islands from many Spanish and European hubs, although these often come with additional fees which can negate the cheap cost when they are considered cumulatively.
Traveling to the smaller islands of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro can be slightly more complicated and take longer.
If you want to island hop, once here you can fly between the Canary Islands on airlines such as local Binter Canarias, as well as Air Europa and CanaryFly. Another option is to take a ferry, which you can do with the local companies, Fred Olsen and Armas.
Because the Canary Islands are located near Africa – just west of Morocco and Western Sahara – and not Spain, nonstop flights from the Spanish mainland take nearly three hours. From London or Paris, you could fly for five or six hours.
Here is a more detailed look at access to each island:
Each of the main Canary Islands has an airport, except for Tenerife, which has two. North Tenerife (TFN) is usually used by locals, as many people reside in the capital of the island, Santa Cruz, which is not far from this airport. Tenerife South (TFS) is often used by tourists closer to the sunny southern resorts of the island.
Tenerife is the most accessible island for American visitors, with United Airlines launching a non-stop flight from Newark (EWR) to Tenerife South (TFS) from June 9, 2022. This flight is expected to operate three times a week.
Halfway between the white sand beaches of the south and the capital of the island, Las Palmas, in the north, Gran Canaria Airport (LPA) is easily accessible from places like Germany, UK, Italy and other European countries.
Located near the capital of the island, Puerto del Rosario, and not too far from the beaches of the Costa Calma, Fuerteventura Airport (FUE) sits in the middle of this long island, roughly equidistant from the resorts of Corralejo and El Cotillo to the north and Jandia to the south.
Near the capital of the island, Arrecife, César Manrique-Lanzarote Airport (ACE) is named after the island’s most famous artist. You can reach this island from almost 80 non-stop destinations on more than 40 airlines.
You can fly up La Palma (SPC) from just nine destinations on nine airlines. These are three destinations in Germany, one in Paris, Zurich and Amsterdam, and three cities in Spain: Madrid, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Tenerife (TFN). The airport is a 10-minute drive from the island’s capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma.
La Gomera Airport (GMZ) is served by a single airline serving two destinations: Binter Canarias flying to/from Tenerife (TFN) or Gran Canaria (LPA), with the frequency of these flights increasing or decreasing depending on seasonal demand. My favorite way to reach La Gomera, however, is on the fast ferry from Tenerife, which only takes 50 minutes – and you can also bring your car.
El Hierro is the farthest west and is the hardest to reach. Get to El Hierro Airport (VDE) flying with Binter Canarias or CanaryFly from Tenerife (TFN) or Gran Canaria (LPA).
Getting around the Canary Islands
Car rental in the Canary Islands
A car rental in the Canary Islands is essential, especially for those who want to leave the hotel and explore. You can rent cars from airports, hotels or independent locations at resorts.
International car rental companies on the islands include Hertz and Avis or consider using More cara local favorite that I enjoy renting thanks to low prices and friendly customer service. Orlando Rent-a-Car is another car rental option with a large presence on all islands except El Hierro.
Most of the Canary Islands have decent motorways and tarmac roads, but you may need to go off the beaten track to visit remote beaches or remote destinations, so be sure to check with your car rental supplier that this is authorized.
As in much of Europe, most rental cars in the Canary Islands are manual transmission, but it is possible to hire automatic cars, albeit at a higher price.
Taxis and buses in the Canary Islands
If you are not renting a car, there are taxi ranks in some towns and resort communities. Taxis often have fixed prices for specific routes, although fares can be high, sometimes even more expensive than a one-day car rental. Many taxi drivers don’t speak English either. There are no ride-sharing services such as Uber on any of the islands.
Although taking the bus is safe and cheap, it’s usually not the fastest or most convenient way to get around, so I highly recommend hiring a car.
If you take the bus, be sure to check timetables and be aware that services are generally reduced and minimal on Sundays and public holidays. While the Spanish term for “bus” is technically autobús, Canary Islanders refer to buses as guaguas.
Each island has a different public bus company and the drivers usually don’t speak English.
Here are the municipal bus lines by island:
Tenerife: TITSA, Tenerife Intercity Transport
Gran Canaria: Municipal Guaguas
Lanzarote: Intercity bus
La Gomera: Guagua Gomera
The Hierro: TransHierro
La Palma: TILP, Transportes Insular La Palma
See Insider’s complete guide to visiting the Canary Islands