Part of the fertile, emerald carpeted, northwest corner of Tenerife known as Isla Baja (the Lowlands), the capital of the Buenavista municipality hides its best profile from passing visitors behind ranks of non-descript housing. Skirting the old centre en route to the golf course or to the lighthouse at Punta de Teno, you’d be forgiven for thinking Buenavista is still being built, and between the hours of 2pm and 5pm, that it’s not yet inhabited; its streets bereft of citizens and its shops shuttered down.
But the Conquistadores didn’t name it Buenavista (beautiful view) for no reason and, far from being new, it’s actually one of the earliest settlements on the island. Those who take the time to explore behind the concrete are rewarded with the old quarter with its pretty plaza and narrow streets, and a rugged coastline framed by the towering, seven million year old Teno Cliffs, peppered with quiet coves and rock pools.
With a new five star hotel planned on the site of the golf course, Buenavista seems to be gearing itself up for a tourism influx, but it’ll need to attract some good restaurateurs to its current sparse offering as, despite the presence of the very excellent El Aderno dulcería, visitors cannot live by cake alone.
Buenavista’s development began in parallel with the conquest of Tenerife, the first Conquistadors, drawn to its fertile soil and abundant rainfall, settling in the area from 1497. Lands were first distributed by Alonso Fernández de Lugo to Diego de Cala in 1498 in settlement for financing the conquest and then sold on to Juan Méndez ‘El Viejo’ in 1502. El Viejo’s residence of Hacienda de La Fuente today forms part of the Buenavista Golf Course and can just about be seen on tiptoe above the metal hording that surrounds it.
Many of the first settlers who came to the area between 1502 and 1513 were from Andalucía and Portugal, influences which can still be seen in the architecture of the old quarter.
Thanks to sugar cane and vines, Buenavista grew prosperous during the seventeenth century; but the price of fortune included much of the forest that covered the Teno Massif and earned the town its name, as fuel for the hungry sugar refineries.
As elsewhere in Tenerife, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw a decline in fortunes due to world conflicts, economic recession and, in the case of Buenavista, plagues of locusts. By the beginning of the twentieth century, its citizens were returning to Buenavista and re-introducing agriculture, livestock and all the old crafts of wicker, cane and wood working that have survived to the present day.
What to See
The heart of the old town is the Plaza de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios and the church of the same name. Traditional housing surrounds the picturesque square with its bandstand and jade laurel trees above whose canopy, wisps of cloud snake their way through the crags of the slate grey Teno while the stone clock tower of the church stands sentry against the sapphire sky.
The white walls and grey tower of the church are sole survivors of a fire in 1996 which destroyed numerous priceless treasures from the original structure dating from 1558. The statue of Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, seen in the church today, was sculpted in Seville and brought to the town in 1997. Stained glass windows, elaborate reredos and an original Nazarene sculpture by Martín de Andujar dating from the seventeenth century bring pride back to the restored interior.
Perfectly aligned rectangular windows mark the front of the building on the opposite corner; a mid eighteenth century granary now converted into the public library.
Calle el Puerto takes you to the Casa de la Cultura with its unusual closed balcony running down one side of the inner courtyard. Retracing your steps, turn right onto Calle El Chorro and down into the blooming wilderness of the Barranco de Triana with its shady picnic site opposite the old washing area. A stepped path lined with hibiscus and pepper trees takes you across the barranco to Calle La Asomada and you can cross the bridge back into town.
Head for Playa de Las Arenas, signposted from the Golf Club road, to discover the delights of Buenavista’s coast. Ample parking lines the pebble and sand bay which curves from the westerly boundary of the golf course to a small headland. A recently renovated coastal path weaves in and out above rock pools and small coves all the way to the foot of the Mirador de la Monja and, even on the busiest and hottest of summer days, you can still find a secluded spot from which to admire the ‘buena vista’.
What to do
To the end of the earth
Travelling the Punta de Teno road is no leisurely Sunday outing; the fear factor is pumped up at the Mirador de la Monja (nun’s lookout; the rock pinnacle resembles a nun, apparently), where primeval cliffs tower threateningly above and drop precipitously to the sea below and the road ahead seems to disappear into a black abyss. On some days you enter the tunnel, the link between two micro climates, under a gloomy ceiling of cloud, emerging a few hundred yards further on under clear blue skies; an incredible phenomenon. The road descends to the lighthouse at Tenerife’s most westerly edge, coves lapped by crystalline cyan waters and exhilarating views of the Los Gigantes cliffs. It’s also said to be one of the best places for fabulous, iridescent sunsets; maybe, but it’s a brave driver who’d make the return journey in the dark.
The great outdoors
Feel the need to burn off some excess energy? How about scaling vertiginous mountain paths, careening down forest trails on mountain bikes, scrambling through volcanic tunnels, or doing the Robin Hood thing with a bit of archery? El Cardón can arrange these, and more, for groups of six and above. With expert guides to ensure that your own personal adventure doesn’t go pear shaped, it’s a great opportunity to discover nooks and crannies that most residents, let alone visitors, never set eyes upon.
(+34) 922 127 938; Plaza de Los Remedios, 2; open 10.00-18.00, closed Saturday & Sunday; www.elcardon.com
A Massif golf scene
Whilst some of Isla Baja’s corners still remain a secret to many visitors, any self respecting golfer will be aware of Buenavista Golf; with emerald fairways framed spectacularly by the mountains on one side and by the crashing Atlantic on the other, it’s easy to see why golfing great, Seve Ballesteros, described it as the best course on the island…even if he did design it.
(+34) 922 129 034; Calle Buenavista del Norte; www.beunavistagolf.es; green fees €84 high season (October-April), €50 low season (May-September)
La Venta offers a selection of locally produced food, wine and goods from across the municipality including the famous Teno Alto goats cheese, musical instruments from El Palmar, miniature straw shoes on key rings made by the disabled of Buenavista and jewellery made from cane and the seeds of the drago tree. While you consider which pieces of Buenavista’s heritage to take home with you, you can learn about the history of its shopkeepers on the display boards in the foyer, from the first shop in the 1920s to the present day.
(+34) 922 127 938; Plaza de Los Remedios; open Monday to Friday 10.00-15.00 and 16.00-18.00, Saturday and Sunday 12.00-15.00 and 16.00-20.00
Where to Stay
Like Buenavista’s old quarter, the only hotel in town is shy of the public gaze; finding it’s a bit like cracking the Da Vinci code and involves seven palm trees and a large rock. Once it finally reveals itself, the treasure is a beautiful little hotel with each of its double bedrooms individually decorated for style and comfort. The private garden and fountains surround a swimming pool with views of Montaña Taco and Teide.
(+34) 922 129 006; 609 773 017; Bajada al campo de fútbol, 6; www.el-tejado.es; double rooms from €80 per night
Where to Eat
El Burgado, one of the most original looking fish restaurants on the island, compensates somewhat for the shortage of restaurants in town. If Robinson Crusoe had decided to diversify into catering, the result would have looked something like this; a canopy of billowing fish nets create a shady terrace which blends in perfectly with its rocky seaboard position; Poseidon himself would feel right at home, tucking into some of his aquatic subjects here.
(+34) 922 127 831; Playa de Las Arenas; average cost of a main course €10; open midday-21.00, daily
Brisas de Teno
The last chance for good wholesome nourishment before the nerve-jangling drive to Punta de Teno. Although a new residential complex has broken up the once uninterrupted views of the Teno Massif, the vistas from its pleasant airy patio, across banana plantations, are still impressive enough to compliment the fish and traditional Canarian cuisine on offer.
(+34) 922 128 036; Carretera General de Buenavista-Teno; average cost of a main course €8; open 10.00-23.00, closed Wednesday
Plaza de Los Remedios, the social heart of the town, is the popular venue for evening soirees. Surrounded on four sides by traditional architecture, it’s a charming setting for concerts, fiestas, open air cinema screenings and general impromptu shindigs where the sound of Shakira belting out that her ‘hips don’t lie’ competes with the rumbustious chatter from patrons partaking of a ‘copa de vino’ in the high narrow doorways of the distinctly Andalucían styled Bar Pilón and Bar Plaza La Cruz.
From Las Américas any route is going to take some time, but the 460 service to Icod de los Vinos, departing approximately every two hours from 05.25-20.00, is at least scenic; in Icod transfer to the 363 to Buenavista.
From Puerto de la Cruz catch the 363 service, departing at least hourly from 06.00 until 22.15.
The taxi rank is on Plaza de Los Remedios; telephone 922 127 130
Temporarily located in the same traditional old building as La Venta, the tourist office has some attractive leaflets covering the municipality and La Isla Baja.
(+34) 922 127 129; Plaza de Los Remedios, 2; open 10.00-15.00 & 16.00-18.00, closed Saturday & Sunday
There are parking spaces around, and on the streets leading from, Plaza de Los Remedios.
Processions of goats and ox drawn carts adorned with harvest produce and driven by farmers decked out in traditional costumes, livestock fairs and the lively ‘dance of the pilgrims’ make the Fiesta of San Antonio Abad, held on the third or fourth Sunday in January, an enjoyable and colourful pageant. The town also holds a big bash on 25th October in honour of its saviour, Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, who saved the town from a plague of locusts in 1659. Amongst other fiestas held throughout the year there are more irreverent celebrations like the fun sounding ‘Fiesta de Espuma’ (foam party) in late July when the plaza is transformed into a giant bubble bath.