Maspalomas Sand Dunes: Activities and Exploration

First published on May 25, 2024 and last updated on May 31, 2024

One of the most captivating sights on the beautiful island of Gran Canaria is the Maspalomas sand dunes. These dunes are not just a natural wonder but a playground for adventure and relaxation. We’ll guide you through the best activities and how you can best explore the Maspalomas sand dunes, ensuring you make the most out of your visit.

Overview of Maspalomas sand dunes

Spanning over 400 hectares, these dunes are a striking example of nature’s artistry, formed over thousands of years from sand blown in from the Sahara Desert. This phenomenon has created an expansive desert-like landscape right by the Atlantic Ocean, providing a unique and contrasting environment that is both surreal and stunning.

The rolling sand hills, some reaching up to 10 metres high, offer an ever-changing landscape as the wind continuously shapes and reshapes them. This dynamic environment means that no two visits are ever the same, making each exploration of the dunes a unique experience.

Beyond their visual appeal, the Maspalomas sand dunes play a crucial role in Gran Canaria’s ecosystem. They provide a habitat for a variety of plant species, such as the unique Canary Island date palm, and are a sanctuary for local wildlife, including numerous bird species and small mammals.

Historically, the Maspalomas sand dunes have held cultural and economic importance for the local community. They are a vital part of the island’s tourism industry, and are also steeped in local tails, adding a layer of mystique to the natural beauty.

Activities at Maspalomas sand dunes

The Maspalomas sand dunes offer a wide range of activities that cater to adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and those simply looking to relax and soak in the stunning surroundings. Here’s a rundown of the top activities you can enjoy:

Exploring the Dunes

One of the most popular ways to experience the dunes is by exploring them on foot. Walking tours, whether guided or self-guided, allow you to immerse yourself in the vast expanse of sand. You can wander at your own pace, marvel at the shifting sands, and discover hidden spots along the way. Guided hikes often provide additional insights into the geology, flora, and fauna of the area, making your exploration even more enriching.

Camel Rides

For a truly unique perspective, why not experience the dunes from the back of a camel? Camel rides are a favourite among visitors, offering a sense of adventure and a taste of traditional Saharan travel. The gentle sway of the camels as they traverse the sand hills provides a relaxing yet exhilarating way to see the landscape.

Photography

The Maspalomas sand dunes are a photographer’s dream. The play of light and shadows on the dunes, especially during sunrise and sunset, creates stunning visual effects. Whether you’re a professional photographer or just love taking pictures, you’ll find countless opportunities to capture breathtaking shots. 

Sandboarding

If you’re looking for a thrill, sandboarding is certainly an exciting activity to try. Similar to snowboarding, this sport involves riding down the dunes on a specially designed board. It’s a fun and exhilarating way to experience the landscape, and a great activity for those who love adrenaline-fueled sporting activities.

Bird Watching

The dunes and the surrounding areas are home to a diverse array of bird species. Bird watchers can delight in spotting various types of birds, from migratory species to those native to the Canary Islands. The nearby La Charca Lagoon is a particularly good spot for bird watching, offering a chance to see birds in their natural habitat.

Best Times to Visit

Choosing the right time to visit the Maspalomas sand dunes depends on what you’re looking for. Here are some tips on the best times to visit:

Ideal Seasons and Weather Conditions

  • Spring (March to May): Spring is one of the best times to visit, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds. The landscape is also more vibrant, with blooming flowers adding to the scenery.
  • Autumn (September to November): Similar to spring, autumn offers pleasant weather and a more relaxed atmosphere as the peak summer tourist season winds down.

Time of Day Recommendations

  • Sunrise: Early morning is a magical time to visit the dunes. The temperatures are cooler, the lighting is perfect for photography, and you can enjoy the tranquillity before the crowds arrive.
  • Sunset: The dunes at sunset are equally stunning. The soft, golden light creates dramatic shadows and a serene ambiance, making it a perfect time for a leisurely walk or a photo session.

Considerations for Avoiding Crowds

  • Weekdays: Visiting on weekdays can help you avoid the larger weekend crowds.
  • Off-Peak Hours: Midday can be very hot and crowded, so aim for early morning or late afternoon visits for a more comfortable experience.

Tips for a Great Experience

To make the most of your visit to the Maspalomas sand dunes, here are some handy tips:

Safety Tips

  • Stay Hydrated: The sun can be intense, especially in the middle of the day. Make sure to carry plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen regularly, wear a hat, and use sunglasses to protect yourself from the strong UV rays.
  • Comfortable Footwear: Walking on sand can be challenging, so wear comfortable shoes suitable for sandy terrain.

What to Bring

  • Essentials: In addition to water, bring snacks, a map, and a fully charged phone.
  • Clothing: Light, breathable clothing is best for staying cool. Consider layers for changing temperatures throughout the day.
  • Backpack: A small backpack can help you carry your essentials without burdening yourself.

Environmental Considerations

  • Respect the Habitat: The dunes are a delicate ecosystem. Stick to designated paths and avoid disturbing plants and wildlife.
  • No Littering: Carry a bag for your rubbish and dispose of it properly. Let’s keep the dunes clean and beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
  • Leave No Trace: Take only pictures and leave only footprints. This principle ensures the dunes remain pristine.

Accessibility Information

  • Access Points: There are several access points to the dunes, with some areas offering more accessible routes than others. 
  • Assistance: If you need assistance, consider joining a guided tour. Many tours are equipped to accommodate different needs and provide a more accessible experience.

Nearby Attractions and Activities

While the Maspalomas sand dunes are a highlight, the surrounding area also offers plenty of attractions and activities to enhance your visit. Here are some must-see spots and things to do nearby:

Maspalomas Lighthouse

A visit to the Maspalomas sand dunes wouldn’t be complete without seeing the iconic Maspalomas Lighthouse. Standing tall at the end of the dunes, this historic lighthouse has been guiding ships since 1890. It’s a perfect spot to learn a bit of local history, take some beautiful photos, and enjoy panoramic views of the coastline.

Maspalomas Beach

maspalomas gran canaria

Adjacent to the dunes is the beautiful Maspalomas Beach, a long stretch of golden sand that’s perfect for relaxing after your dune adventure. Whether you want to sunbathe, swim, or take a leisurely walk along the shore, the beach offers a serene setting with the dunes as a backdrop.

La Charca Lagoon

Nestled between the dunes and the beach is La Charca Lagoon, a small but important ecosystem teeming with wildlife. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a fantastic place for bird watching and nature photography, and the lagoon also provides a tranquil contrast to the vast sandy expanse of the dunes and is ideal for a peaceful stroll.

Horse Riding

For a unique and memorable experience, consider horse riding in the stunning landscapes surrounding the Maspalomas sand dunes. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, there are options to suit all levels. These guided tours provide an opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy the island’s diverse terrain.

Local Markets and Shops

Take some time to explore the local markets and shops near Maspalomas. You’ll find a variety of souvenirs, local crafts, and artisanal products. The markets are a great place to experience the local culture, taste traditional foods, and find unique items to take home as mementos of your trip.

Wrapping Up Your Sand-Filled Adventure

The Maspalomas sand dunes are truly a treasure of Gran Canaria, offering a blend of natural beauty, adventure, and tranquillity. From exploring the shifting sands to experiencing a camel ride, and from capturing stunning photographs to engaging in thrilling activities like sandboarding, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or a first-time visitor, the dunes promise a memorable adventure filled with stunning views and unique experiences.