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Hit the beach: The coastline varies from the plunging cliffs of Andén Verde in the north-west to the gradually sloping sands of Maspalomas beach in the south, over a mile wide in parts. There's a choice of 60 beaches along the 147-mile shoreline, with sands of gold, grey and black. The capital, Las Palmas, is a popular port-of-call for large cruise liners, and offers two urban beaches.

Fire up a mountain barbecue: Gran Canaria has 63 mountain reservoirs, more than any other Canary Island, several featuring peaceful recreational areas. Pack some food and head to the Embalse de Cueva de Las Ninas where a dozen or so pine-shaded picnic tables and stone barbecues sit by an emerald lake. Take heed of any barbecue bans during summer as forest fires have previously destroyed large tracts of pine forest during particularly hot, dry spells.

Choose a different way to get around: Hit the hills on two wheels or four on a scenic mountain bike trail or quad bike safari. Swap machinery for beast and take a camel safari through the dunes of Maspalomas or a horse ride through sub-tropical flora in El Salobre. Abandon land altogether and take to the surf at Arguineguín, or try your hand at windsurfing at Pozo Izquierdo, considered one of the best beaches in the world for this sport.

Eat and drink: What Canarian cuisine lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for in flavor. In the hills, try local favorites like goat's cheese, watercress soup and rabbit in spicy sauce. Along the coast, fine seafood restaurants are abundant. Parrot fish is one of the favorite local catches on the menu, often baked in salt. Everywhere, tropical fruits like papaya, mango and prickly pear make a colorful dessert.

Party till the small hours: Gran Canaria is many things to many people, one of which is a non-stop, flashing neon, party zone. Dozens of bars, clubs and entertainment venues draw crowds from all over Europe. Maspalomas and Playa Inglés are the main hotspots, particularly with the gay community, though Las Palmas also harbors a buzzing nightlife scene.

Escape to the hills: To flee the crowds head to the northern shoreline and its fishing villages like Puerto de las Nieves, or take a stroll along the network of walking trails in the interior. Get up-close-and personal with Mother Nature in lush, fruit-filled valleys such as Agaete, or in vast swathes of pine forest like Tamadaba. Climb the highest peak, Pozo de las Nieves or sample rural life at the picturesque village of Teror.

Sample cave life: It's estimated that around 2,000 islanders still live in cave houses, much like their ancestors did before the 15th century Spanish conquest. Visit a cave village deep within the Barranco de Guayadeque, one of Gran Canaria's most spectacular valleys. As well as a scattering of cave houses honeycombing the hillside, the village also features a tiny cave chapel, bar and restaurant.

Take a trip through time: For a glimpse of Gran Canaria in prehistoric times, head up to the Caldera de Bandama, a huge crater from an extinct volcano. Moving forward in time, visit ancient Canarios sites such as the Cenobio de Valerón cave store rooms and Cueva Pintada. The Vegueta district of Las Palmas houses impressive legacies of the Spanish conquest such as Santa Ana Cathedral and the Casa de Colón.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.