The Canary Islands’ Spanish name – Islas Canarias – originated from the Latin term Insula Canaria, which means “Island Of Dogs.” Many experts believe that these so-called dogs are actually a species of Monk Seals that, when translated to Latin, reads as ‘Sea Dogs’.
But while only a handful of people know that fact, most people who have dived there know that the Canary Islands offer some of the finest diving in the world.
Showcasing 1400 KM (870 miles) of coastline that are regularly nourished by the Gulf Stream Current and with an average water temperature of 17-18° C (63 – 64° F) in winter and 23° C (73° F) during summer, the Canary Islands offer the perfect setting for divers of all skill levels.
Thanks to their location, climate, and temperature, it’s always fun to dive in the Canary Islands no matter what time of the year. Every dive site in the area, including those that are heavily-visited and isolated, are teeming with vibrant flora, awesome underwater sceneries, and of course, prolific sea life. Aside from recreational divers, underwater photographers also flock to the islands thanks to its exceptional pristine waters, which provide more than 30 meters (or 100 ft.) of visibility.
Rich in history, Tenerife (the biggest island of the Canaries) is home to numerous monuments and museums that portray the island’s colorful past. Beneath the water however, Tenerife is even more impressive.
While the oldest mountain ranges and volcanoes on the island are young compared to other islands in the Canaries, Tenerife’s volcanic activity heavily contributed to shaping its underwater formations and landscapes. Here are some of the most popular and lesser known (but equally interesting) dive sites on the island:
With a diving depth of around 8 to 14 meters and above-average water visibility (10 to 20 meters), El Puertito offers diving that suits beginners and veterans alike. Diving at El Puertito will bring you close to several endangered and exotic marine species. The site is part of a crucial conservation project which was set up to protect and encourage the reproduction of endangered green turtles.
El Condesito Wreck Site
Lying at a depth of approximately 18 meters (59 ft) and with visibility in excess of 35 meters (115 ft), this wreck diving site is suitable for both experienced and beginner divers alike. Keep in mind, however, that the wreck has become somewhat unstable compared in recent years. Still, it can be accessed through different entry points. Diving into the wreck of the El Condesito almost guarantees an encounter with trumpet fish, octopus, barracudas, eels, and other sea creatures that have taken up residence at the site.
The Mushrooms (Los Champinones)
This is one of the lesser-known diving sites in Tenerife. With a depth of 13 to 35 meters, The Mushrooms is a great site for beginner divers.
Marine life at The Mushrooms may not be as exotic when compared to a site like El Puertito; however, a healthy selection of underwater wildlife can be found there. You may catch a glimpse of lobster, larger-than-your-average tuna, torpedo-like barracudas, moray eels, and more. In addition to the marine life, the mushroom-shaped volcanic rock formations at the site are a delight to behold.
Only experienced divers are recommended to dive this site. Seasoned vets who explore The Steps are rewarded with more than just a sight of diverse sea life. Volcanic reefs, basalt formations, sandy levels, and other impressive natural formations can all be found at this site.
Known as the Canary Islands’ third largest landmass, Gran Canaria is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Volcanic in origin, the site is filled with fissure vents and the water temperature never drops below 17 °C, which makes it suitable to dive all year round.
Colorful damselfish, massive shoals of bastard grunts, schools of sardines, top predators like the barracuda, parrotfish, and other marine species that are native to the Canaries can be found in Gran Canaria.
Starting at a depth of 12 meters and descending to 16 meters, this boat diving site offers a relaxing drift dive, given the right current. Divers can also follow the reef around and get a glimpse of reef fish, cuttlefish, barracuda, and large shoals of roncadoras that live in the overhangs and holes.
Located south of the airport, El Carbon Marine Reserve is arguably the best region for diving in the Canary Islands. Neither boats or fishing are permitted in El Carbon, and as a result pretty much all of the marine life that is indigenous to the Canary Islands can be found there.
A lovely city that is rumored to have one of the best climates of any city around the world, things are always ‘just right’ in Las Palmas.
The city is home to Playa de Las Canteras (the longest urban beach in the globe), and the best wreck dive sites in the Canary Islands can be found off its shores. Arona and Kalais stand out in particular, offering excellent diving opportunities to experienced divers. Its shallower dives (located near Las Canteras beach) are excellent training grounds for new divers to develop their skills.
Starting at the bay of Arinaga, this dive site has a maximum depth of 14 meters, which is ideal for beginners and snorkelers. Divers that follow the reef to the left will encounter all kinds of fish, including the Atlantic blue fin damsel fish, parrotfish, lizard fish, cuttlefish, and wrasse. Swimming in its shallower waters, you will probably encounter juvenile barracudas, octopus, trumpet fishes, and more.
With a length of 60 km (37 miles) and a width of 20 km (12 miles), Lanzarote is the 4th largest island in the Canaries. Just like the other Canary Islands, Lanzarote is of volcanic origin. This blesses the island with a mild and dry climate (Avg. Daytime Temp: 21°C to 29°C).
The eruptions that occurred during 18th and 19th century have given many of Lanzarote’s regions an otherworldly form, which many describe as lunar or Martian.
This natural reserve sitting between Fuerteventura and Lanzarote has a diving depth of 16 meters to 22 meters. The sea life found in Los Lobos is very unique. Its waters are teeming with nosy Atlantic triggerfish, glass-eye fish, shoals of barracuda, and other underwater creatures that won’t be found elsewhere in the Canary Islands.
The Harbour Wall
Located at Puerto del Carmen, The Harbour Wall offers an interesting shore dive no matter what time of the day.
During the daylight hours, its shallow entry leads to a 24 meter depth and makes for a leisurely dive.
At night however, the sandy bottom – which is featureless during the day – turns into a colorful field of anemones. Cuttlefishes, sea horses, spider crabs, shrimps, and octopus can be seen along the wall. With its excellent water visibility, underwater photographers will never run out of photo opportunities at The Harbour Wall.
A shore dive site that can be easily accessed from the beach at Playa de la Barilla, The Cathedral starts with a short surface swim just out of the bay followed by a descent to about 14 meters. Following that, divers swim through the drop-off leading to the site, which can be found at a depth of approximately 30 metres.
Characterized as a large underwater cave, downward funnels can be found at the site’s rear. In addition to the magnificent underwater landscape, the site is also filled with corals, small shrimps, soft corals on the walls and roof, groupers and trumpet fish.
Playa Chica Reef
With a depth of anything between 6 – 16 meters, this dive spot is very suitable for beginners. Within the protected bay, divers may catch a glimpse of breams and wrasses swimming around. Beyond the bay, divers are often treated to the sight of giant rays and angel sharks. During late afternoon, a shoal of barracudas frequent the reef, using the protected waters as a hunting ground.
Situated a few hundred miles from the coast of northwest Africa is the island of La Palma. Its alternate name, La Isla Bonita, is very apt, as there is something beautiful to behold no matter where you are on the island.
While most of the dives begin at the east, west, and south coast of the island, Los Cancajos and Puerto Naos have the highest concentration of dive operators.
For many visitors, the underwater backdrop of La Palma – the volcanic landscape, walls, tunnels, grottos, caves, and more – is the main show. However, as you read on, you’ll see that marine life is also thriving in the waters of La Palma.
One good thing (among the many) that Los Cancajos has going for it is it’s so big, there are at least 8 different dives you can experience there. With depths that range from shallow to very deep, there’s something to enjoy for all types of divers.
Through the entrance, you will reach the Chapel-Cave, which is a large lava tunnel. With a depth of 10 meters, it is accessible even for beginners. Moreover, divers can surface inside the cave and watch the little shrimps dance. From the Chapel-Cave, divers can swim along several lava flows that lead them to greater depths, canyons, and some of the finest rock formations in the region.
Surrounded by volcanic landscape that looks like the moon and located at the south end of La Palma, many divers begin their journey through Las Cabras by entering a small bay and following some of the lava tubes, the deepest of which go to approximately 30 metres. Along the tubes, divers are likely to encounter several rays and fish that won’t be found in shallower waters.
Puerto Naos’ reef provides an excellent wall dive, which start at 10 meters and drops down to a depth of 40 meters. While beginners can enjoy the shallower waters teeming with moray eels, rays, and a host of other species experienced divers can go deeper to marvel at the black corals.
This underwater cemetery is arguably the most popular diving spot in all of La Palma. The stone crosses at the bottom of the site serves as a tribute to people who endured the harsh and ancient era of the crusades. Malpique however is more than just a sunken cemetery. Its walls are filled with moray eels and numerous fish species make the dive site extremely appealing to both beginners and seasoned pros.
About 150 km from the African coast is La Gomera – the smallest of the 7 main islands in the Canaries. With average temperatures 22 °C in winter and 27 °C in summer, La Gomera’s climate is very pleasant – making it a popular destination for tourists.
Its small size means that dive sites are not as plentiful as they are at other islands in the Canaries. However, the diving experiences La Gomera offers are nothing short of exciting.
Despite its size, the island is home to a stunning variety of fish like roncadoras, Turkish wrasse, trumpet fish, and more. Stingrays, electric rays, moray eels, shrimp, and lobster can all be found in its waters. With its sandy floor filled with colorful sea cucumbers, corals, sponges, and anemones, La Gomera has a lot to offer for an island its size.
Punta del Espino
Located just outside Playa Santiago’s harbor is Punta del Espino. This dive site is famous for many things: Its seabed, filled with rocky reefs and sand, is home to large shoals of bastard grunts and bogue. Hiding within the countless rocks are glass-eye fish, dusky groupers, and if you’re fortunate enough, you may even come face to face with the shy spotfin burrfish.
It takes only a few minutes to get to this dive site by boat. There are many attractions in El Aguila, and its depth of 6 to 20 meters makes it accessible to divers of different skill levels. However, the main highlight is a collection of caves, one of which is huge.
In exploring the caves’ interiors, divers often find spotfin burrfish and numerous sleeping rays. Outside the caves, it’s usual to spot shoals of barracuda hunting for food and angel sharks napping on the sandy seabed.
This dive site has a depth of 5 to 20 meters and can be reached within 10 minutes from San Sebastian. Located around a reef large enough to come up from the seabed to the surface, this dive site offers plenty of sights to see –shoals of trumpet fish, stingrays within its tunnels, and more.
An 11-minute trip from the harbor takes to you to Punta Guincho where plenty of stingrays, nudibranchs, garden eels, lobsters, and breams live. With a cave teeming with marine life at 12 meters, swim-through arc at 20 meters, and other highlights, it will take more than one dive to get a glimpse of everything.
The smallest and furthest to the south west of the Canary Islands, El Hierro surprises its visitors with its rocky and very steep coasts. Numerous inaccessible cliffscan be found there, some of which are over 1000 meters high. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to enjoy at El Hierro.
The waters of the island are inhabited by an abundance of tropical marine life. Shoals of black sea bream, trumpet fish, black corals, and spiny globefish and much more can be found in the island’s waters. When summer comes, big rays, hammerhead sharks, grey triggerfish, and tuna frequent the region. And with a large variety of caves, volcanic tunnels, and arches, the island’s underwater scenery is just as beautiful as anywhere else in the Canaries.
The Restinga Marine Reserve
Serving as a refuge for fauna endangered by commercial fishing, it’s not surprising that this marine reserve is home to larger-than-usual groupers and jacks. The reserve is also home to many species of sharks, rays, and more. With its 12 restricted dive sites protected from harsh currents and violent winds, diving at the marine reserve is possible no matter what time of the year.
In exploring this site, divers descend from a platform that extends from the shore to a depth of about 12 meters. They then drop to approximately 25 meters, and this is where things get exciting. The ridge has caves and crevices all over it where comb groupers, red hogfish, queen triggerfish, and other marine creatures reside.
Fuerteventura, which roughly translates to “strong winds,” is a very fitting name for this island. Known for the strong winds that pass through the region and with over 150 beaches, wind and kite surfing are two of the most popular water sports in Fuerteventura.
With a volcanic seabed that can be as deep as 3,500 meters, the island is a deep-sea fishers dream. For divers on the other hand, Fuerteventura is home to numerous impressive dive sites (wrecks, reef, etc.) and an equally impressive variety of marine life.
El Bajon Del Rio
Its bottom is a melting pot of basaltic-formed volcanic rocks that look like huge mushrooms and can be as high as 10 meters. These rocks serve as shelter for several marine species such as black, cow, and zebra breams, guelly jacks, ornate wrasse, trumpet fish, lobsters, schools of barracuda, and more.
El Calamareo, Corralejo
With excellent water visibility of 15 to 25 meters, diving in El Calamareo, Corralejo is always good. The wall is crowded with slipper lobsters, glass-eyes, forkbeards, and more. Away from the wall, the open sea is often patrolled by striped barracudas, parrotfish, and dusky and comb groupers.
This sandy-floored trench is surrounded by volcanic formations, small caves, and crevices. The sandy center, which is at a depth of 16 meters, has eagle rays and angel sharks as its ‘regulars.’ Moving to the rocky areas and caves surrounding the trench, divers often encounter lobster, groupers, barracuda, morays, and various types of bream.
Thick crowds of breaks and guelly jacks gather along the edges and crevices that riddle Barranco’s reef. The reef is home to several eels like tiger morays, black moray eels, and big mask morays. Swim further away from the reef if you want to get up close and personal with sting rays, angel sharks, and eagle rays.
Language: Castilian, Catalan, Basque, Galician, Valencian, Majorcan.
Dive Season: All year round
Air Temperature: 7°C average temperature in the winter, 24°C average temperature in summer
Water Temperature: 17-18° C (63 – 64° F) in winter; 23° C (73° F) in summer
Visibility: Can exceed 35 meters
Skill Level: Beginner to professional