What it’s Like Moving to the Canary Islands as a Kid!


Quick Facts

Fun meter: Pretty darn fun
Location: Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Adventure: Travel
Type: Moving
Time: 2.5 Years
Level of difficulty: medium, but speaking Spanish really would have helped.
Good for what ages: All Ages.
Cost: Cheaper than California
Access: Flights from all over Europe.
Hint: If you work it right, 2x the holiday gifts. They get gifts from the three kings. But Santa still delivers. Double the joy.


I moved to Gran Canaria two and a half years ago. I was pretty mad at my parents when we first came from California. I missed my friends and didn’t speak Spanish. And they didn’t ask me if I wanted to go. Today, I absolutely love it. I have cool friends. We go snorkeling and boogie boarding at the beach all the time. My school is awesome and I’m learning four different languages. We go on all kinds of fun adventures all year long. And I never get cold like I did in California.

Speaking Spanish

When we moved here, I knew the names of some fruit and the colors in Spanish. That’s it. Thanks Dora the explorer!! I started using Duolingo to learn. We also watched Netflix in Spanish. I’m pretty annoyed dad will only let me watch is Spanish and I don’t like that one bit. But I get why he insists. I really like reading graphic novels in Spanish because it’s easy to understand what is going on. My favorite are the stories by Reina Telgemeier. I’m reading “Hermanas” right now. 

Sojourn was 4 when we moved here and within a few months he refused to speak English at school. He has been learning to read and write in Spanish, so it’s easy for him. 

It has been a lot harder for me. I was 9 when we moved. After two year, I’m close to catching up with the kids in my grade in the Spanish classes. Some days are still tough and I feel like I have a long way to go. Other days I’m rocking it!

Don’t be afraid if you don’t know Spanish. Most people are super nice and patient. And most kids speak a little English in case you don’t know all the right words.

Flying across the Atlantic to our new island home.

Moving day, we will miss you California.

Going to School in The Canaries

Sojourn and his friends

Sojourn and I on the first day of school

Going to school

Sojourn and I go to Colegio Arenas. It is an international private school. Except nearly all the kids in the school are from Spain. It’s an international school because we take classes in lots of languages. This year, my geography, art and robotics classes are in English. My biology, technical drafting, PE, math and music classes are in Spanish. Five classes a week I take either French or Chinese. 

Compared to the public school I went to in California, the lunch is pretty great. But it is not hard to do better, as that food was terrible. My favorite lunches are the homemade french fries or the paella with lemon.

I’m really lucky I can go to school right now. My friends in California are all remote. We wear masks in school and everywhere on the street.  My class is now a bubble group so we don’t mix with other classes even during lunch and recess. We only hang out with our class. I kinda miss the other kids but I am super glad we get to go in person. 

My school has a music conservatory. People come from all over to learn piano, violin, cello and flute. I took piano, but stopped during the quarantine and haven’t started back up. My school also has an awesome swimming pool but we can’t use it right now because of COVID. 

Regular Activities

My favorite after school activity is theater. We act out the best and worst part of our week. We practice being different animals or forces of nature. I love improv. I am the youngest kid in class as most of them are teens. It took me a while to get comfortable with the group and feeling creative all in Spanish. But it’s my favorite day of the week. 

My friends go to karate, do gymnastics, play football and basketball, swim classes, dance and so much more. Mom goes to Zumba, runs on the beach and took Salsa and Bachata classes before the quarantine. Dad just surfs all the time. 

During the summer, Sojourn and I went to two camps. We spent a month at a horse camp. We rode horses and helped care for the turtles and donkeys. We went hiking and played all kinds of games. In August we went to beach camp at club náutico. I learned to sail, wind surf, canoe, paddle board. We did beach sports and even played chess. It was a busy summer. 

Making Friends

I made friends at school, camps and through the expat community. It’s nice having friends who speak English. Most of my friends speak some English either from a bilingual school or because one of their parents speak English. 

The kids at school are nice, although they have been together since they were 3. They were super inviting, but it took a while to feel included. 

My parents go to expat meetups where I’ve met other kids like me. Some have been here their whole lives and others are just figuring it out. I like talking about Harry Potter and Hunger games. We also like to go hike and explore together.

Hot or Cold? Neither!

It’s cold here all the time. Just kidding. It took a few years before I felt cold at all. The coldest day here is a normal summer day in Capitola, California. The rain here is different. It rains for five minutes. It doesn’t normally rain for days like it did in California. When it rains here, I step in a doorway and wait a bit. 

It doesn’t really get super hot here on the north side of Gran Canaria. We don’t have air conditioning and just leave the windows open for ocean breezes. But if you go to the south side of the islands in summer it gets toasty.

Nature & Adventures

Beaches are the best!! My very favorite place on the island is Las Canteras beach. I love snorkeling at Fish Corner in front of Peña la Vieja. It’s shallow enough that my brother can stand and the fish get so dense I have to push them aside. We see parrot fish, ornamental wrasse, octopus (but it is very rare to see them), and many other tropical fish. Farther down the beach is the surfing and boogie boarding beach called  la Cicer, where many people (kids and adults alike) come to learn how to surf.

There are great hiking places up in the mountains such as Roque nublo that my family and I love to hike. In Maspalomas there are giant sand dunes that we like to take the boogie board. And after we finish walking the dunes there is a warm beach perfect for swimming. Mogán and Anfi are super fun sheltered beaches down south..


What is Food like in the Canaries?

I miss american breakfast places with pancakes, waffles and bacon + eggs. Here in Gran Canaria, breakfast is mixtos (which is a grilled cheese sandwich with ham), churros and hot chocolate and a smoothie. Which isn’t bad or any healthier. And is a whole lot better than the raw fish for breakfast we ate when in Japan.

Since Las Palmas is such a big city, there are plenty of yummy restaurants. But they only open for dinner at 8pm?!? That is kid bedtime in the United States. Here kids never seem go to bed. Like Peter Pan. A few of my favorite restaurants are: Dosciendo Gramos, which has very good burgers, chicken nuggets and great lemonades,  Nopal, which has the only good tacos and burritos that we have found and smoothie galaxy which has good smoothies, and breakfast sandwiches such as avocado toast.