Tenerife is only an hour from Gran Canaria by ferry and you get to south Fuerteventura in less than three hours. Gran Canaria also has direct overnight ferries to Lanzarote and even boats to mainland Spain. While fares for non-residents aren't cheap, the ferries are a great way to get between islands with a car or a large family.
There are three ferry companies in Gran Canaria: Fred Olsen, Armas and Transmediterranea.
The ferry to Tenerife
Ferries to Tenerife run from Puerto de las Nieves in the north west of Gran Canaria and from the capital Las Palmas. Currently the Norwegian-owned Fred Olsen does the Agaete route (one hour to Santa Cruz plus a free 40 minute bus ride from Las Palmas) while Armas does the Las Palmas route (under three hours). Prices are similar for both journeys.
Look out for Fred Olsen deals that include the ferry ride and tickets to the Loro Parque theme park in Tenerife: They can be great value and you have the option to spend a night on the island next door.
The Ferry to Fuerteventura
Fred Olsen and Armas go from Las Palmas to Fuerteventura. The Fred boat is a fast catamaran and does the journey in under three hours while the Armas is a traditional ferry and takes about four hours to get to Morro Jable in south Fuerteventura.
Technically you can do a day trip to Fuerteventura by catching the early Fred Olsen and getting the late ferry back.
The Armas boat also continues on to Fuerteventura's capital Puerto del Rosario which saves you a long drive if you're he.ading north.
The ferry to Lanzarote
Armas runs a night ferry from Las Palmas to Arrecife in Lanzarote four days per week. It leaves at midnight and arrives early in the morning.
The ferry to La Gomera and La Palma
Where there's no direct ferries to these two island Fred Olsen has a bus link between Santa Cruz and its ferry port in south Tenerife at Los Cristianos. The bus is included in the price and there isn't too much waiting before you're on the ferry to the next island.
The ferry to Spain
Armas runs a weekly ferry between Las Palmas and Huelva in southern Spain using a brand new ship. The journey takes 48 hours and departs on Thursdays. Transmediterranea goes weekly from Las Palmas to Cadiz.
For the latest timetables check the Fred Olsen, Armas and Transmediterranea websites.