Driving along the famously zigzagging roads in Gran Canaria is definitely not for everybody (hello Spain’s allegedly most dangerous road GC-200!). But for the experienced driver renting a car will help you see as much as possible during your stay. However, there are some things that are good to know if you’re planning on driving in Gran Canaria. Read on for some handy tips to help you plan your road trip!
First Things First: Why Renting a Car in Gran Canaria Might Be a Good Idea
Although Gran Canaria might look small on a map, they don’t call it a miniature continent for nothing. This Spanish island, about 150 kilometres off the northwestern coast of Africa, is astonishingly diverse and offers visitors endless possibilities when it comes to interesting activities.
From the golden sandy dunes in the south to the buzzing city life of Las Palmas, beautiful hiking trails and cute mountain villages – there’s so much to see.
Renting a car might be smart if you want to see as much of the island as possible in a short period of time. What’s more, not all sights are accessible by public transportation, so having your own car also gives you better access to the more remote locations.
Organised tours and excursions can quickly add up so renting a car and exploring independently can often be a more budget-friendly alternative, at least if there is more than one person splitting the costs.
Exploring by car also gives you the freedom to stop whenever you see something interesting or feel like taking a break.
What Does it Cost to Rent a Car and Drive in Gran Canaria?
Naturally, the cost of renting a car depends on multiple factors. For example what kind of car you choose, when you want to rent it, what age the driver is and from where you choose to rent it from all affect the final price tag. And of course the cost of gas depends on how much you drive.
But to give you an example, here’s what it cost for us in December 2021. We rented a Renault Clio from Omega rental in Las Palmas for five days. We drove a total of around 400 kilometres – all along the coast around the whole island, to Roque Nublo, Tejeda, Tamdaba Natural Park and some other shorter distances (like to and from the airport).
Cost of Renting a Car in Gran Canaria – Example from December 2021
Rental: 150 euros (parking in Las Palmas included)
Gas: 50 euros
Total cost of renting a car and driving in Gran Canaria: 200 euros.
What documents do you need to rent a car in Gran Canaria?
What documents you need to rent a car in Gran Canaria and what paper work you might need to fill out might vary a bit depending on where you’re from and which car rental you choose. Make sure to check with the car rental of your choice if you’re unsure.
A valid driver’s license probably goes without saying. In addition to a driver’s license you’ll probably need your passport as well.
In our case, the process was super easy and fast. We filled out information online in advance while making a reservation and so all we had to do once we went to get the car was sign some papers. We didn’t even need the passport, but I don’t recommend counting on this.
Make sure you check what time the car rental is closed for siesta before picking up the car.
Now that we’ve established what pro’s there are to renting a car and driving in Gran Canaria as well as what it might cost let’s move on to the tips!
1. Only For Experienced Drivers
There are many different types of roads in Gran Canaria and not all of the roads are difficult. For example, the main highway between Las Palmas and Maspalomas is pretty straightforward driving.
However, Gran Canaria is also home to some pretty extreme routes! For example, did you know that you can find what is considered Spain’s most dangerous road here? The GC-200 has more than 360 curves and is definitely not for rookie drivers!
Although GC-200 might be an extreme example, it is certainly not the only winding road here. That’s why anyone driving in Gran Canaria should be prepared to manoeuvre some seriously zigzagging roads and hairpin bends. Sometimes even while simultaneously avoiding sheer cliff edges.
So if you’re planning on driving here, make sure you have a driver who’s comfortable behind the wheel. He or she should have nerves of steel and not be the kind who takes unnecessary risks or doesn’t stick to speed limits. Preferably they’ve had their license for some time and have some experience driving abroad as well.
With that said though, for the experienced driver Gran Canaria is a great driving destination. Navigating the twists and turns with stunning views can be a thrilling and exciting experience you won’t forget.
2. Size Matters – Picking the Right Car
Now of course you need to choose a car that’s suitable for you and anyone else you’re travelling with. But if possible, consider opting for a smaller car.
First of all, a smaller car is often more nimble than a larger one. The easier it is to manoeuvre on those winding roads, the better.
Some of the roads on the island are also quite narrow and with those scary cliff edges… let’s just say it’s less nerve-racking with a smaller vehicle.
In addition to this, it’s easier to find parking for a smaller car. Many of the sights in Gran Canaria have limited parking (like for example Mirador del Balcón and Roque Nublo) and chances of being able to squeeze in a small car somewhere are better than with a big one.
3. Opt for a Navigation System
Okay, I’ve already mentioned the zigzagging roads a few times. But because of them I really recommend getting a car with a navigation system or at least make sure you have a phone you can use for this purpose.
It’s quite likely that even someone who usually never gets carsick will start feeling nauseous trying to read a map and giving directions while the car navigates hairpin bend after hairpin bend.
The views are also stunning – the less you have to look at a map, the more time there is to enjoy the amazing landscapes.
4. Don’t be a Time Optimist
When looking at a map of Gran Canaria, many of the distances might seem pretty short. Therefore it’s easy to make the mistake of assuming that getting from point A to B will be quicker than it actually is.
While the main highways are pretty fast and easy driving, many of the smaller roads on the island are almost painstakingly slow to navigate. In particular if you’re travelling with someone who gets easily nauseous on the curvy roads you should make sure there’s enough time for both the driving as well as occasional stops.
So although it might be tempting to cram in as much sightseeing into one day as possible I’d rather recommend renting the car for a few extra days and spreading out the activities.
5. Curvy Roads and Carsickness
Be prepared for the fact that Gran Canaria is home to some nausea-inducing roads for anyone remotely prone to carsickness. If possible, let anyone who gets nauseous easily sit up front and make sure they keep their eyes on the road and take regular stops.
As previously stated a navigation system is helpful since carsickness and reading don’t go hand in hand.
Some people find it helps if they eat something sweet or salty so consider packing some snacks. Also make sure you have enough water available in the car.
6. Fill up on Gas
Depending on where you’re driving gas stations can be surprisingly scarce in Gran Canaria. That’s why assuming there’ll be a gas station where you’re heading is not a good idea.
While it’s easy to find gas stations in the bigger cities, the same isn’t true for remote and rural areas. So make sure that you’ve filled up your tank before heading on a longer road trip. You don’t want to get stuck on those mountain roads!
And a little bonus tip: In addition to it being hard to find a gas station in some areas the same goes for restrooms. So remember to take this into account while planning longer trips.
7. Many Roads Aren’t Lit
In case you’re planning on driving along the more difficult roads, make sure you hit these roads during daytime.
Many of the roads aren’t lit and driving along the extremely zigzagging roads in the dark is not something I recommend even for the more experienced driver.
Following the coast and driving all around Gran Canaria is popular. If you want to do this it might be a good idea to start with the west coast and finish with the east coast. That way you can be sure that sunset won’t surprise you while you’re still navigating the difficult and unlit GC-200.
8. Most Scenic Drives in Gran Canaria
As the island is often referred to as a miniature continent, driving on Gran Canaria offers a lot of different scenery – some more attractive than others.
Driving all around the island along the coastline offers beautiful seaside views. But a large portion of it is driving through very dry landscapes that – at least in my opinion – got a bit boring after the first 20 minutes. And almost half of this route has you driving on the main highway along the east coast, which didn’t exactly possess any wow factor.
If you’re keen on driving along the coast and aren’t intimidated by the GC-200 you might want to consider driving this road between Agaete and San Aldea de Nicolás. The route offers nice seaside views and you can combine it with a stop at Mirador del Balcón (more on this place and many other interesting sights on Gran Canaria in my previous blog post: 10 Amazing Things to do in Gran Canaria). Please note that you should not drive on this road after it has rained!
However, personally I thought the most impressive roads and views where the ones between Las Palmas, Teror, Tejeda, Arteara and Tamadaba Natural Park. You’ll see lush, green mountainsides and valleys, pristine pine forests, charming mountain villages and colourful towns. Once you reach higher altitudes you might also drive through the clouds hugging the mountains, which is an eerie – yet incredibly beautiful – experience.
In particular GC-216 in Tamadaba Natural Park was breathtaking. The first picture of this blog post is from this road. The GC-216 offered amazing views over the sea, pine forests and even Roque Nublo (zoom in on the photo and you can spot it far away in the distance).
Just be aware that whoever’s driving might not be able to feast their eyes on all the awe-inspiring scenery. These roads require all the focused energy the driver can muster.
9. Traffic in Gran Canaria
The amount of traffic naturally depends on where you’re driving and varies a lot depending on time of day. But the smaller and more challenging the road the more it can potentially get congested, especially if it’s a popular road. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure you plan enough time for driving along those mountain roads.
The worst traffic we encountered during our stay was in Las Palmas. No surprises there: usually big cities aren’t the best for driving and Las Palmas is no exception. Finding a parking spot is also a challenge (but if you do need to park in the city try the garages near Poema del Mar). Las Palmas is also a great city to explore by foot or by bike (or bus) so there’s usually no need for the car here.