With their fringing of sugar-white sands and rugged backcountries topped by volcanos, quaint Spanish pueblos with sleepy cantinas, and buzzy resort towns with more family hotels than you can shake a stick at, these two Canary Islands are up there with the most popular of the bunch. But which should you visit this year, Lanzarote or Fuerteventura?
Cue this guide. It will home in on the key differences between these two eastern options in the Canary chain, to offer insights on everything from where has the best nightlife scene to which is the top for beach bums.
We’ll think you’ll find that there are lots of similarities between the two – they are only separated by a narrow dash of just seven miles of Atlantic Ocean, after all. Both have breathtaking interiors, both offer lovely sands, both come with surf breaks and pool-ready hotels. But what is it that sets them apart? Let’s take a closer look…
Table of Contents
Lanzarote or Fuerteventura? The quick answer…
Choose Fuerteventura for beaches – the island has the whitest sands and clearest seas in the whole of the Canarian chain. Fuerte is also great for beginner surfers and chill-out holidays, particularly if you head away from the big town of Corralejo to smaller resorts like El Cotillo.
Choose Lanzarote for more off-beat adventures and wilder beaches. There are long stretches of black sand to be had on the east and west coasts here, plus national parks filled with active volcanoes. Lanzarote also boasts some of the most family friendly resorts in the region, but you’ll need to stick to the south and east coasts for those.
Lanzarote or Fuerteventura for general vibe and atmosphere?
The south coast is where most people base themselves. There’s a long strip of built-up resorts running along the coast there from the airport. They begin with Playa Honda and end with Puerto del Carmen. We won’t lie – they are busy. They’re also international affairs, sporing full-English breakfast joints and karaoke bars. Thankfully, there’s a wilder side on offer on the north coast of Lanza, which is where you should go to escape the crowds and experience the more rugged part of the island.
Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands but is widely considered to excel mainly in beaches. There are epic bays pretty much everywhere you look here, but the Grandes Playas of Corralejo and the conch beaches of El Cotillo are the ones that usually hit the headlines. There is a string of resort towns along the eastern coast here, but they’re generally smaller than in Lanzarote, with less buzzy promenades and lively nightlife but something quieter that’s probably a touch more suited to families and couples.
Winner: Fuerteventura wins for atmosphere because it’s developed resorts aren’t as large and sprawling as the ones on Lanzarote.
Lanzarote and Fuerteventura for ease of travel?
Both Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are a part of the Canary chain, which sits something like 700 miles from the Spanish mainland and over 40 miles from the unconnected coast of southern Morocco. That basically means that the only way in is via the air, which makes Lanzarote the overall winner here. The reason? Its César Manrique-Lanzarote Airport is the bigger of the two options, is served by more flights, and is actually just a touch closer to Europe, so connections to the runways are about 5-10 minutes shorter overall.
Still, there’s not a bad selection of flights heading to the Fuerteventura Airport. Aer Lingus come in from Dublin, Corendon Airlines do charters from Basel and Hannover, Jet2.com link to Newcastle and Glasgow, and there are loads of year-round option with Europe’s leading budget carrier, Ryanair. You shouldn’t find it too hard to reach the island if that’s the one you choose.
Winner: Lanzarote but Fuerteventura isn’t that hard to reach either.
Lanzarote or Fuerteventura for beaches?
Fuerteventura is regularly hailed as the best choice among all the Canaries for true beach lovers. It’s got consistently white sand and turquoise-glinting sea waters, apart from some more dramatic runs on the south and east coasts. The six-mile stretch of powder that runs away from Corralejo is the piece de resistance. It’s known as the Grandes Playas and hosts something like 11 different beaches, which get progressively quieter as you distance yourself from town. However, El Cotillo Beach is the one to hit for talcum-white sands and greenish seas, while the pure drama of dune-backed Playa de Sotavento is also not to be missed!
Then you get Lanzarote. The beaches here are more of a mixed bag. Some parts of the island – around Órzola on the north shore and Jameos del Agua in the east – are all rugged, black-rock stone coves where you have to seek out hidden swimming lagoons. The major sand stretches start at Playa Blanca in the south, running all the way to the impossibly wonderful Playa del Papagayo, which has pink-tinged shorelines and coral reefs. The north-west coast is where the jaw will drop, at Caleta and hidden Risco Beach that you need to hike an hour to get to.
Winner: Fuerteventura just about wins this one, but you won’t be short on beaches in Lanzarote.
Lanzarote or Fuerteventura for natural beauty?
Nature lovers visiting the Canary Islands will be pleased to hear that both Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are downright breathtaking places. Each has been forged and reforged over the millennia by the action of volcanoes and earthquakes, and now come with barren interiors and uber-dramatic coastlines.
Lanzarote hits a zenith at the raw Timanfaya National Park. It’s been a backdrop to Hollywood hits like The Planet of the Apes, and is all stark cinder cones and frozen lava fields. Next, the Risco cliffs on the north end of the isle are laced with zigzagging hiking paths that take you through strange thickets of succulents to lookout points. The nearby La Geria valley is alltogether lusher, with vineyards and palm oases popping out from the earth. Then you have the Los Hervidero pools and coves, which get bashed by the onslaught of the Atlantic waves. It’s varied stuff.
The most scenic landscapes in Fuerteventura can be found at Mount Tindaya. Located close to La Oliva, this cultural heritage site is home to nearly 300 foot-shaped engravings and tells the story of the island’s ancient inhabitants. You can also take a ferry at the port of Corralejo and go for a day trip to the nearby Lobos Island. Declared as a national park, it’s got empty coves and black-rock mountains that top out at sweeping lookouts. The highlight, though, has to be the Parque Natural Jandía in the far south. There, soaring cliffs drop to undulating sand dunes and completely deserted beaches that run on for mile after mile.
Winner: Lanzarote is the most dramatic of the two islands on the nature front.
Lanzarote or Fuerteventura for food?
Foodies spending their vacation days on Lanzarote or Fuerteventura are in for a real treat. Because of the same weather conditions and location in the Canary Islands, you can find similar foods on both islands. The cuisine in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura is primary seafood with Latin American and Spanish influences.
In Fuerteventura, try local Canarian dishes like goat stew and the spicy and crispy patatas bravas (brave potatoes that come with chili). You can also order gofio (a type of roasted corn flour) or majorero cheese at one of the many tavernas on the island. Some of our favorite dining establishments on Fuerteventura Island include the Ugly Duckling (for international Scandinavian cuisine), La MARquesina (seafood), and Restaurant Marabú (Mediterranean cuisine).
In Lanzarote, you will find dishes like puntillas de calamar (deep-fried baby squids) and boquerones (anchovy filets). Visitors with a sweet tooth should not leave the island before trying the delicious bienmessabe, which is made from almonds, egg yolks, and honey. Book a table at the beachfront Restaurant Costa Azul to enjoy fresh fish and seafood or have a memorable dining experience at Coentro restaurant that focuses on something a touch different: Brazilian cuisine.
Winner: Draw. Both islands have very similar cuisines.
Fuerteventura or Lanzarote fro things to do?
Both Fuerteventura and Lanzarote offer a wide range of activities to enjoy. However, we’d have to admit that Fuerteventura is a little more of a low-key destination than Lanzarote…
Yep, Lanza has stacks of options. You can hop on a bus tour of Timanfaya to learn more about the volcanoes on the island, or hit the volcanos visitor’s center for a journey through te geological past. The island hosts the strange world of the Jardín de Cactus, where you’ll wander between towering groves of native and non-native plants. There’s AQUAPARK Costa Teguise for the families, hiking paths on the Risco cliffs for adventurers, and shopping strips on the proms of Playa Blanca or at Teguise for the retail buffs.
While in Fuerteventura, lazing on the beaches usually takes center stage. However, travelers can also explore the streets of the historical capital of the Canary Islands, the town of Betancuria, which dates all the way back to the 1400s! There are snorkelling lagoons in El Cotillo and boat trips to make out to Lobos, ATV buggy tours of the dunes in the south, and rugged cave systems to explore in Ajuy.
Winner: Lanzarote is more suited to adventure- and activity-hungry travelers than Fuerte.
Lanzarote and Fuerteventura for nightlife?
Lanzarote’s south coast is where the main action is. A trio of resorts really stand out: Puerto del Carmen, Playa Honda, and Playa Blanca, along with the more urban and local nightlife scene of the island capital in Arrecife. The towns above offer lively cantina bars and even a smattering of clubs that tend to stay open late in the main season of winter and the high summer. There’s also a good drinking scene in the surf town of Caleta, but it’s mainly hip bars and seaside shacks with cold beer there.
Fuerteventura is more family orientated in general and there are only really two places to party: El Cotillo and Corralejo. The first has actually become quieter in recent years as the nightlife focus shifts to the latter, but there’s a nascent surf-party scene that’s fuelled by the hostels. The latter is the place to be for shimmying, but it really is largely beer bars and pubs with live music – not Ibiza by any stretch!
Winner: Lanzarote for the trio of south-coast resort towns.
Lanzarote or Fuerteventura for water sports?
The good news is that both of these Canary Islands offer amazing conditions for active holidays on the H2O…
The beach town of Caleta de Famara is most certainly the hub of it all in Lanzarote. The five-kilometer-long beach there has designated sections for surfers and windsurfers. The waves are good for all levels, and it’s even been touted as one of the top places to learn to surf in Europe. The nearby town of La Santa is better for advanced surfers, offering larger waves in the peak winter swell season. There are also extra windsurf hubs at Playa de las Cucharas and Costa Teguise.
On the other hand, Fuerteventura has plenty of wind, making it an ideal destination for windsurfing, kitesurfing, and sailing. The Playas Grandes area and the resorts of the southeast coast are filled with boat tour options and there are rentals for sea kayaks to get you into the coves around Cotillo too. Talking of El Cotillo, that’s Fuerte’s surfing hub, with beginner-friendly beaches right on the doorstep and breaks that suit more advnaced riders a short drive to the south.
Winner: This is a draw. Both these islands are water sports hubs.
Lanzarote and Fuerteventura for accommodation?
There’s not all that much difference in the hotels that exist on these two islands, though the local authorities on Lanzarote have probably done a better job of preserving the traditional look of the place. Building regs there mean that most of the properties have to follow the old way of construction – whitewashed walls, finca-style architecture. That means there are some excellent and charming B&Bs, along with some bargain-friendly surf lodges in the north, and family-friendly digs in the Teguise and Playa Blanca areas. Here are some of our best picks:
- Apartamentos Acuario Sol ($$) – A family favorite in the vibrant resort of Puerto del Carmen, this one has everything you need for a holiday on the beach with the little ones in tow.
- Finca Marisa ($$-$$$) – A romantic finca cottage between the inland volcanos, perfect for couples, complete with a splash pool.
- Canaryislandshost l Surf & Beach Apartment in Lanzarote ($$) – Chose this pad if all you want to do is surf, surf, and surf some more.
Fuerteventura also has plenty of hotels, though Booking.com reveals there are just over 2,900 options compared to Lanza’s 3,600+. Still, there’s loads of choice, along with a few large-scale modern resort hotels that wouldn’t be allowed on Lanza on account of the tighter building regs. The stand-out options here include:
- Hotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort ($$$) – A colossal all-inclusive hotel with chic suites and a prime location on the Corralejo beaches.
- Los Reyes Casa ZEN ($$) – A peaceful pad for two that’s very highly rated.
- Casa Paradise ($$-$$$) – You can barely get any closer to the white-sand beaches than this cottage home, set just 200m from the shoreline in El Cotillo.
Winner: Lanzarote wins because the hotels there have more unique styling and there are more of them!
Lanzarote and Fuerteventura – our conclusion
To be honest, we really don’t think you can go wrong in either of these places. Lanzarote promises wild adventures in volcano-topped national parks, beginner surf beaches, and charming hotels in the south-coast resort towns. Fuerteventura is the prime island to pick if you’re after some of the best sands in the Canaries, but also great for water sportsters and folk on the lookout for large-scale resort hotels. They are both easy to access since they have their own airports, served by regular flights out of the UK and other European destinations. And they can be great spots for budget travelers as well as those looking to splash the cash a little.
Overall, we’d say pick Fuerteventura if you want beaches – the sands of El Cotillo and the Grandes Playa can hardly be beaten. They are some of the finest in the whole chain of islands. If you prefer hiking and surfing, Lanzarote is a better pick. Plus, it’s got more charming country towns along its north coast where you can escape the buzz of the resorts.