Arrecife kind of gets the shaft when it comes to places that people stay and enjoy in Lanzarote. Aside from a few cruise ships coming through, many don’t get to experience all the fun things to do in Arrecife, Lanzarote.
This is a guide on why you should stop there and what to do in Arrecife for first-time visitors.
In this post...
Arrecife is Lanzarote’s small capital, home to most of the island’s population, and the only airport servicing the area. The city started off its life as a small fishing village and took its name from the rocky reef that surrounds the beaches and coast of the city.
However, as trade started to grow and ships came to and from the new and old worlds, Arrecife grew in size and importance. Eventually, in 1852, Arrecife replaced Teguise as the capital of Lanzarote.
When most people think of Lanzarote, they conjure images of resort towns sitting along the coast with bright lights and hotels packed full of tourists… or at least I did.
However, Arrecife seems to revolt against this image and the town is full of narrow alleyways and tree-lined shopping streets, giving it a quintessentially true Spanish vibe.
The city has a kind of hip feel to it- with delicious restaurants, a small craft beer scene, and historical sights dotted amongst the buildings.
It’s hard not to be enamored by this small capital if you take the time to explore it and see all the things to do in Arrecife.
During the day, the city swells as cruise ships dock in the port and the guests descend on the town in mass, filling up the bars and cafes while trying to make the most of their short stop in Lanzarote.
However, on the days when there are fewer cruise ships or as the cruise guests make their way back to their boats, the city changes, and locals come out to walk their dogs and fill up the bars and restaurants having completed a hard day’s work.
This is when you really get to learn more about Arrecife and all that it has to offer.
Arrecife is also the main transport hub of the island and the perfect base for those wanting to explore the rest of the island from a central location.
Pretty much all of the island buses go in and out of the main bus station in Arrecife, which is the connecting point for those wishing to travel to the north and the south of the island.
Alternatively, from Arrecife, you can drive yourself to pretty much any part of the island within half an hour thanks to its central location on the east coast.
In between exploring the rest of the island, take time to explore what the capital itself has to offer.
There are plenty of things to do and see in the city and I have written this guide of things to do in Arrecife to help you plan what to do in this cool little city.
If you feel I have left anything off this list, please leave a comment below!
Best Things to Do in Arrecife
1. Explore Castillo de San Gabriel
Just off of the coast of Arrecife is a small castle built on the Isle de Los Ingles, which literally translates as the Island of the English.
Castillo de San Gabriel is pretty small with a couple of canons outside the front entrance and visiting is one of the best things to do in Lanzarote.
Inside, there is a museum that was closed when I was there, unfortunately. The museum looks at the ethnographic history of Lanzarote and is meant to be super interesting!
However, the information inside the museum is all in Spanish and you will need to get a guide if you want the full experience.
Outside of the castle, it is also absolutely jaw-dropping and is accessible by two walkways that connect the island to the mainland.
During high tide, the island is surrounded by the sea and feels pretty detached. There are views over to Arrecife’s main center and over towards the volcanoes behind the Gran Arrecife Hotel & Spa.
There is also a small beach next to the castle where you can sit and chill out after visiting, although I am not sure how peaceful this will be during the summer months.
The castle has had an interesting history because the island was fortified to protect against pirates.
However, the original castle was built with wood and was easily burnt down by Berber pirates who came to pillage the island. They subsequently built the castle that stands today out of stone and in the 1970s it became a national monument.
2. Take in the Views at Star City Cafe
César Meringue declared a rule that buildings should not be over a certain height- 7 stories in Arrecife and 3 outside of the city.
However, the Arrecife Gran Hotel & Spa was built before this rule came into place and it now towers above the rest of the buildings on the island at 17 stories high.
On the 17th floor, you will find the Star City Cafe & Bar and the Altamar restaurant. The cafe is open throughout the day and offers some of the most stunning views out over the city.
The cafe is affordably priced and has a fully stocked bar along with a kitchen that serves up some good food.
I didn’t personally get to eat at Altamar as it was closed at the time I visited but it looked very nice and like they would serve up food to match the stellar views.
If you are in a rush and don’t have time to stop for a drink at the cafe, you can simply go and check out the view.
Try taking the glass elevator up to the 17th floor where you can watch as you rise up above the city and Playa del Reducto. This is one of the most essential things to do in Arrecife!
3. Eat Dinner at Naia
I struggled to find good food on Lanzarote until I stumbled across Naia after eating some of the worst food paired with the worst service I have ever experienced.
I spent a day anticipating the food having seen the most palatable plates of food as I walked past and online.
Finally, the chance arrived and I sat down and waited for the kitchen to open patiently. Once it was open, we were the first to order and went for the slow-cooked cod with black rice along with the grilled Saharan squid with potato cream.
The food came out and it was artistically plated, so much so that I was already salivating.
When I tasted each of the dishes, it was like a flavor bomb had gone off in my mouth- it was beyond delicious. If I had had longer in Arrecife, I would have headed back each day to work my way through their menu and specials.
To match the quality of food, the service was impeccable with the staff being attentive and friendly, unlike many other places I had tried before.
The kitchen opens at 8pm and it is important that you reserve a table beforehand if you want to sit inside. Prior to 8pm, the restaurant is open for drinks and you can sit and wait for the kitchen to open. This place is exceptional!
4. Have a Coffee at Chikketerria69 Cafe
In the heart of Arrecife, you will find the charming Chikketerria69 cafe. The stylish cafe is nicely decorated with a bright and vibrant aesthetic to it. I went there in the middle of the day and ordered a coffee and a Nao craft beer.
The coffee was delicious and hit the spot after an early start and a long bus ride to Arrecife. The beer was also good and it was nice to see a local cafe supporting another local business with a range of their beers in stock and one on tap.
There were also small bites available that looked appealing and had I been hungry at the time, I would have ordered one of the sandwiches.
Another highlight of the cafe is that it was dog-friendly and some sweet dogs popped in with their owner for a quick coffee as they walked through the city.
5. Walk Around the City Lagoon
In the center of Arrecife is a lagoon fed with seawater that flows in from the Atlantic. The little lagoon is dotted with tiny old-school fishing boats that bob around in the clear waters.
During the day, the area is a hive of activity with people milling around and enjoying the beauty of the lagoon (although it’s not safe for swimming in).
At one end is the impressive skeleton of a whale, while the rest of it is for the little boats.
On the northern side of the lagoon is a promenade full of restaurants and bars where you will find some of the town’s nightlife and some of the best restaurants.
The lagoon looks beautiful at night with the lights of the town reflecting off of the water and creating a mirror image of the city. It is the perfect place to throw on a sundress or suit and tie and go for a romantic stroll with your loved one!
6. Eat Lunch at Cala
On the northern side of the lagoon is an aesthetically pleasing restaurant called Cala. They have a spacious indoor seating area as well as a large terrace.
The interior of Cala is impressive and very eye-catching, contrasting with many of the other places along the lagoon front.
I ended up visiting the Cala for lunch as it was the only decent place I could find still serving lunch at 1pm on a Friday afternoon.
We ordered the local cheese platter with some gofio, which was delightful and came with 4 different types of cheese as well as some delicious pumpkin jam.
We also ordered some fried local cheese that was also enjoyable (my lactose-intolerant heart hated me, however).
One of the best things about this restaurant is that you can order half portions of most of their dishes that makes them perfect for sharing but still are rather filling.
The staff was also very friendly and it all made for a pleasant experience.
7. Drink a Local Beer at Nao Craft Beer Bar & Brewery
I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to see that Lanzarote had a small craft scene that is forefronted by Nao. The awesome little brewery is located on the outskirts of Arrecife in a more industrialized zone.
The bar has a cool vibe to it that is pretty chilled out with just a few seats dotted around the edges and at the bar. If you manage to score a seat at the bar, you can look into the actual brewery and where the magic happens.
They have 4 taps that seem to rotate regularly as the beer I wanted to try was no longer available and a new black IPA had replaced it.
They also have a well-stocked fridge from which beers could be consumed in-house or taken home.
The brewery is very innovative and seemed to regularly come out with new beers, I really enjoyed their “Not Exactly A NEIPA” a great lower alcohol version of a New England style IPA. There was a small menu of beer snacks available, also.
Their brewery is only open Thursday to Saturday, from 12pm-3pm and then again from 6pm-11pm. You can take a one hour tour of the brewery if you contact ahead. Outside of these hours, you can find their beers around Arrecife.
8. Relax on Playa Del Reducto
On the southern end of the city behind the Gran Arrecife Hotel & Spa is the largest beach in the city, Playa del Reducto.
A large crescent-shaped beach with beautiful golden sands and crystal clear water, it is perfect for those who love just basking in the sun in addition to those who want to be more active.
Along the beach, you will find sun loungers that can be rented for as little as three Euros for the day.
At one end, you will see volleyball and football pitches in the sand and there is a wide range of water sports available from the beach such as paddle boarding and on windier days, windsurfing.
Around the beach, you will find plenty of bars, cafes, and restaurants where you can grab food and take a break from the year-round sunshine.
9. Immerse Yourself in History at Museo Arqueológico de Lanzarote
The Museo Arqueológico de Lanzarote is a wonderful, small museum in the center of Arrecife. It looks at the history of the island and the people who have lived here over the centuries.
Split into two main exhibits, the first one is a permanent archeological exhibit that features finds from across the islands as well as the surrounding waters.
There is also an interactive element to this room with a virtual reality space where you can immerse yourself in the archeological digs that have happened across the island and learn how the items in the museum were uncovered.
The second room features different temporary displays that change every so often, so you will need to read ahead to find out what will be on display during your visit.
The museum is very small so it won’t take long to explore, but is a nice way to break up the day. The signs are all in Spanish so you may need to ask for a guide or some translations, but hopefully, this will change over time.
Also, beware of the museum’s opening hours because it is open during the week but has very limited hours on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.
10. Check out a Shipwrecked Boat
Firstly, I want to state if you are staying in Arrecife and planning to walk here- it’s not really worth the effort because you will spend 45 minutes walking through an industrial estate and can’t really get that close to the boat as much of the surrounding area is closed off.
However, if you happen to be driving that way, it’s definitely worth a look as the ship is slowly rusting away and part of the rear of the ship has ripped away. For those coming in from a cruise, the shipwreck is located right at the port.
The boat was an English cargo ship that was built in the 1950s but sadly ran aground in the 80s while coming into dock in Arrecife.
11. Find Solitude at San Ginés
In the center of Arrecife is a 17th-century Catholic Church with a spire that dominates the city’s skyline.
Constructed out of abundant lava stone found on the island, the building is a beautiful white and black color. The interior features some exposed lava stone there is also plenty of wood, which provides a softer warming feel to the building.
Although not as lavish and in your face as Catholic Churches in countries like Italy, the inside of the church is still beautiful and ornate.
The church was originally built in the 16th century as a hermitage, but was destroyed by a flood and had to be completely rebuilt. It then went through further renovations and expansions, becoming the building that you see today.
It is a great place to enjoy peace and quiet away from the hustle of the city or the crowds on the beaches.
There is a mass every evening at 7:30pm, so make sure if you plan to visit that it is outside of this time. On Saturdays, you will find a lovely little market outside of the church.
12. Go to the at Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo
Just outside of Arrecife towards the main cruise ship port is a small castle that sits high above the water’s edge and houses a lovely small contemporary art gallery.
The gallery has rotating exhibitions so it is hard to say exactly what you will see there, but its cheap price and scenic location make the trip worthwhile.
From the gallery, you will be able to enjoy views out over the harbor with the toilets strangely being home to some of the best views.
There is also an amazing restaurant at the foot of the castle with the waves lapping just beneath the building.
The glass-fronted restaurant is only open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday but during the week, it is open during the day time.
I want to note that this place is a little out of the town and requires walking through a very industrial area, so if you have a car, I advise driving there and then you can also check out the shipwreck which isn’t much further along the coast.
Where To Stay in Arrecife
Arrecife Gran Hotel & Spa – On the southern end of the city by the coast is the impressive Gran Arrecife Hotel & Spa. The tallest building on the island offers rooms with amazing views out over the city and the Atlantic Ocean.
On the top floor of the hotel, you will find a restaurant and cafe, both with panoramic views. After a hard day exploring Lanzarote, relax in the hotel’s on-site spa and swimming pool.
Hostal San Gines – In the streets just behind the lagoon, you will find the perfectly situated Hostal San Gines, a little hotel and hostel that offers a comfortable night’s stay for those looking to travel on a budget.
The rooms are spacious and come with either a private bathroom or a shared one.
There are kitchen facilities so you can cook simple meals or breakfast in the hotel itself. The owners of the hotel are incredibly friendly and accommodating.
Top-Rated Lanzarote Tours
One of the best things about staying in Arrecife is that there are loads of tours that are available with pick up from your hotel or the city center.
Here are some tours that you can book to make the most of your Lanzarote adventure.
- Volcanoes and Caves Full-day Tour of Lanzarote
- Lanzarote Full-day Bus Tour with Scenic Views
- From Lanzarote: Day trip to Fuerteventura and Corralejo
- Lanzarote: North Island Photo Tour with an Expert Guide
- Teguise Craft Market and La Graciosa Island Tour
- César Manrique North Island Tour (pickup from Arrecife included)
If you’re looking for what to do in Arrecife, we hope that this guide gets you sorted and ready for your trip.
There are many things to do in Arrecife, from food to history to culture and we definitely recommend spending a day or two there!
More Lanzarote Travel Guides
- Tour of North Lanzarote
- How to visit La Graciosa
- What to do in winter in Lanzarote
- Things to do in Playa Blanca
- Places to visit on Lanzarote
- Things to do in Orzola
- Things to do in Lanzarote
Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.