In the Dunes of Maspalomas. Sitting on the sandy southern tip of Gran Canaria is the tourist town of Maspalomas. It’s actually a cluster of smaller beach resorts and stretches for miles along the southern coast of the island.
This busy strip of beaches and holiday resorts attracts tourists from across the globe. It is particularly popular with Europeans looking for sun. You’re more likely to mix with Brits or Germans here than locals! So much so that one of the beaches has the name of the Englishman’s beach or Playa del Inglés.
But it would be a mistake to discount Maspalomas for being too touristy. In this midst of this tourist zone is one of the islands most popular nature reserves. The Dunas de Maspalomas or Maspalomas Sand Dunes.
Considering how much this area aimed at mass tourism, the Maspalomas Sand Dunes maintain area lot of natural charm. They are almost intact from the sprawling hotels of the surrounding resorts. So even though the reserve is in the island’s most commercial tourist resorts, spending time in the sand dunes of Maspalomas is a must for any visitor to Gran Canaria.
What are the Maspalomas Sand Dunes?
The Maspalomas Sand Dunes cover a space of over 1,000 acres on the southern tip of Gran Canaria. As the name suggests, the entire area is famous for its rippling golden sand dunes.
Getting lost in the sand dunes, it’s easy to imagine that you’re not in Maspalomas, but wandering through the sandy deserts of the Sahara. It’s only the distant views towards the sea and the hotels inland that ruin this illusion.
The sand dunes date back to the last ice age. At this time, the sea receded and winds blew the sands from the seabed and onto the coast of Gran Canaria. Over time, enough sand had arrived on the island to create these giant, crescent shaped sand dunes.
The wind shapes the dunes in to huge drifts of solid sand. The winds continue to carve and mold the dunes today and are gradually moving the sand dunes towards the west of the island.
So it should come as no surprise that it can get quite windy down here!
How to get there?
There are many ways to visit the Maspalomas Sand Dunes. I find that the easiest way is by visiting Playa Del Inglés. The resort has good transport connections and has plenty of parking, as well as being very close to the sand dunes.
There are many ways to access the dunes from Playa Del Inglés. I’d recommend these two.
Take a walk along Paseo Costa Canaria
This pleasant walkway stretches from the beaches at Playa Del Inglés and finishes by the entrance to the Maspalomas Sand Dunes.
For visitors who want to view the sand dunes from a distance, this is the best option. The pathway extends along the edge of the dunes and has the benefit of being easily accessible and less sandy.
There are many bars and restaurants in Playa Del Inglés so you can head to this coastal walk after grabbing lunch or having a drink here.
Ave. de Tirajana
If hitting the bars in Playa Del Inglés isn’t to your tastes, head straight for the sand dunes down the Ave. de Tirajana. This is one of the main roads into the resort and it provides quick, easy access to the sand dunes.
At the southern end of this road you will fine the Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas. Bearing left at the hotel entrance, the pathway to the sand dunes follows the perimeter of the complex. You will see the sand dunes ahead of you as you walk south with the hotel on your right.
What to do in the Sand Dunes of Maspalomas?
The dunes of Maspalomas are a great place for instagrammers and budding photographers. The crescents and curves of the sand dunes makes for beautiful photos and the height of the dunes can create some great profile pictures.
There were a quite a few visitors making the most of the sandy views for this exact reasons. Getting photos of other visitors in your shots is also a great way to show perspective. It’s only when you see someone walking through the sand dunes that your realise how big they are.
Be at one with nature!
After trekking though the sand dunes and reaching the ocean, you may find yourself at one of Europe’s most popular nudist beaches. The nudist area sits on the very tip of the Maspalomas sand dunes.
Other visitors prefer to sunbathe in the privacy of the sand dunes.
Don’t worry if nudism isn’t your thing. I spent over an hour wandering around in the sand dunes and didn’t come close to the area. The sand dunes are very large so there’s plenty of space for everyone.
If you want to visit the nudist beach, you can see the red deck chairs close to the coast in the picture above (disclaimer – the people on the left are wearing clothes). My tip would be to walk around the dunes, rather than across them. It can be quite a tiring walk.
Nature lovers should head to the east of the sand dunes, towards a lagoon called La Charca de Maspalomas. The small nature reserve is home to a range of bird life including migrating kingfishers. It’s an oasis of life in desolate sand dunes.
Camel rides are also available in the area. These allow you to explore the dunes whilst experiencing a camel ride. I personally don’t advocate this type of tourism and wouldn’t personally pay for this experience, however I’ll allow you to make this decision for yourself. There’s a fab post here about whether camel ride is ethical and how to look out for animal welfare when going on a camel ride.
Having visited the dunes twice during our stay (you’ll understand why we visited twice below), we picked up the following tips which I hope will make your visit easier.
Watch out for the wind! Wind creates sand dunes. And these sand dunes are massive; so it’s no surprise that it gets quite windy. Visiting in strong winds is not enjoyable, especially if you get sand in your eyes. Try to visit on a day where winds are calm and remember that its quite often windy on the sand dunes but calm inland. Come back on day that’s less windy if needed.
Wear shoes. The sands get very hot and could burn your feet.
Prepare for lots of sand. Ok, this one sounds like a no-brainer, but I found sand in unexpected places for a long time after my visit. There’s no way to avoid this because there’s a lot of sand here so be prepared and take plenty of showers afterwards.
Bring plenty of water. Some of the dunes are very steep and climbing them can be physically demanding. There’s very little shade here and temperatures can be high. Make sure you have plenty of water and keep hydrated. Head inland if you are having problems.
In the Sand Dunes of Maspalomas: Thank you for reading!
I hope this has inspired you to visit the Maspalomas Sand Dunes. It’s a great place and a fab experience. If you enjoyed the post or found it helpful, please help me out by sharing this on your social media channels.
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To see my other posts on Gran Canaria and other locations in Spain, click here.