As well as the families and the nudists, Playa del Inglés is fantastic for jet skiing, sitting on a banana boat and, on the right day, for surfing. The watersports centre is right there on the sand at the east end of the beach and waves pop up all along the three-kilometre shore.
Howling winds and consistent surf keep the day trippers away, but Pozo is the place to be if you windsurf or kitesurf. The town has all the facilities you need and there's plenty of places to crash and refuel. The wind and waves here are so good that it hosts an annual world championship event. Just down the coast you have Playa de Vargas, the island's kitesurfing hotspot. Vargas has a campsite just behind the beach.
At its south end, known as La Cicer, Las Canteras beach is thick with groms on banana yellow boards. Serious surfers stick to the outer break at the southern tip, of head round the corner to the El Lloret break. La Cicer is the place to learn to surf in Gran Canaria because the surf is decent almost every day.
But there's more to Las Canteras beach than surfing; the central section where the reef starts is a superb snorkelling spot. The whole beach because a reserve in 2009 and the transformation has been nothing short of epic. Snorkelling was always good, but the fish were small and shy. After almost 10 years of peace, they are getting big, fat and friendly.
Vast schools of striped bream and parrotfish drift over the rocks and grouper, triggerfish and jacks are coming back. You also stand a good chance of seeing rays in the sandy patches, moray eels along the reef and even the odd barracuda.
Alex Says: Jump in at Playa Chica, then swim south along the rocks or out to the reef. You'll see thousands of fish.
This tiny north coast fishing village has a lovely sandy beach, but most people come here for the angels. The sheltered bay is home to a colony of these harmless but endangered angel sharks. Along with dozens of other fish species, including huge stingrays and the odd manta. Sardina is an easy dive; you jump in off the jetty and swim out to the angels.
Quiet Taurito resort has grown into a diving hotspot and it's the place to learn to Scuba. The dive shops cluster around the beach and you're only yards from a post-immersion cocktail. Taurito also has a water sports centre on the sand so you can also jet ski and kayak.
The waters of east coast El Cabrón swarm with fish. You can snorkel right off the beach or dive just around the corner. The beach is quiet and sandy and perfect for a family day out (bring supplies as there are no shops).
Gran Canaria's ultimate resort beach is a great place for most water sports. There's a sailing school at the west end of the beach, watersports on the jetty and pedalos all over the place. Most of the island's yacht and whale-watching trips live from the two marinas.
South Gran Canaria only gets surfable waves when the swell comes in from the south or west. Most of the time, the best waves are on the east and north coasts and that's where you'll go if you book a surf trip from a resort. Most beginner trips head to Playa del Hombre because its beach break is reliable and safe. There's a shop just behind the black sand, but not much else other than empty black sand.
The laid back end of Gran Canaria's resort coast doesn't have the epic sands of Maspalomas or the nightlife of Puerto Rico but it's a good spot to learn to windsurf without crashing into a pedalo. The windsurf schools are at the north end of the coast just before the cliffs.
Anyone can enjoy El Confi's laid back atmosphere and the great views of Las Palmas but its main draw for water sport's lovers is the barrelling wave just offshore. It's not for beginners as the water is shallow, the lava reef sharp and the locals intolerant of mistakes. Nobody wants to give up a day's surfing to scoop a guiri off the rocks so make sure you know what you're doing before jumping in.
Other Gran Canaria water sports spots
The whole eaast coast of Gran Canaria is ideal for windsuring and kitesurfing during the summer when the acceleration zone creates consistent wind and waves. The north coast is the best for surfing although most spots are reef rather than beach breaks. Head to El Frontón for the ultimate bodyboarding challenge. For diving, talk to a good dive shop as there are sites all around the coast. For snorkeling, see our Top Ten spots.