Gran Canaria is a prime choice for the sun worshippers and water babies who flock to its abundant soft-sand beaches. Its port, Las Palmas, is the biggest city in the Canary Islands chain, and it's often visited by cruise ships. The island enjoys a spring-like climate year-round. Expect sunny days, warm water and an average annual temperature of a mild 69 degrees. Gran Canaria gets just about 10 days of rain each year.
Like most Canarian cities, Las Palmas owns a distinctly Spanish feel and a rich history (the Canary Islands are an autonomous region of Spain). Conquistadors -- attracted by palm groves and a broad bay -- founded the city in 1478, and Christopher Columbus called there during his famous voyage of 1492.
The port's palm tree-lined streets are clean, well laid out and richly endowed with fabulous floral displays -- the city's gardeners make the most of the balmy climate. And you don't have to travel far to find a pleasant beach; the honey-sanded Playa de las Canteras lies just northwest of the downtown area and has the distinction of being one of the longest city beaches in the world.
The port also lies close to the internationally famous sea resort Playa del Ingles and the spectacular desert scenery of Maspalomas. Both are popular resorts year-round, so you will find plenty of dining and lazy beach options. Farther afield, visitors can discover quaint old towns like Arucas and Teror or explore Gran Canaria's volcanic interior -- a surreal moonscape of craggy gorges and gaping craters.