Puerto de la Cruz – Wish You Were Here

First Impressions
Banana plants; palm trees; laurel trees; bougainvillea; frangipani…like Alice in Wonderland after a swig of the ‘Drink Me’ bottle, they all grow at an alarming rate in Puerto de la Cruz giving it a lush, tropical identity that separates it from the south of Tenerife by more than just distance.
Known as Tenerife’s sophisticated resort, it’s Spanish and Canarian voices that dominate the airwaves, and all through the summer months, it’s Spanish mainlanders who throng the streets, plazas and hotels.

Puerto de la Cruz was Tenerife’s first tourist resort and original destination of those wealthy and adventurous enough to visit the Canary Islands back in the 1960s and early 1970s. But when the south airport opened its runway and package holidays came within the financial reach of a vast untapped market, millions of Brits headed south for the holy grail of a guaranteed suntan. In Puerto, the Canarios re-claimed their favourite party town while the mainlanders remained loyal to its cobbled streets and fishing harbour.

Today, it’s both a tourist resort and a busy working town where Plaza Charco, the heart of the old quarter, fills every evening with families spending time together after the day’s work and where the worst traffic queues are on Sunday evenings when the ‘Domingueros’ (Sunday strollers) come into town in their finery to see and be seen.
By the harbour, retired fishermen sit around small tables playing dominoes or cards, a cigar glued to one corner of their mouths while the food stalls that border the quayside fill the air with the fragrant smoke of paella, fried sardines and succulent pork pinchos (kebabs).

Resolutely Canarian in character, Puerto has managed to retain its identity at the heart of Tenerife culture, where even the opening of a new roundabout is adequate cause for a fiesta, while still providing all the amenities and facilities of a 21st century tourist resort.

On its little promontory at the foot of the La Orotava Valley, Puerto gets the best of the north’s sunshine and just enough rainfall to keep it as green as the bananas that surround it.

The Right Climate
Puerto doesn’t enjoy as much sunshine as the southern and western resorts and it’s prone to more rain and cloud.
However, it’s this area historians were talking about when they coined the phrase, the ‘island of perpetual spring’ and temperatures range from 70° F in January to 84°F in August.

A Good Night’s Sleep
Pamper Yourself – Hotel Botanico (5*). Everything about this hotel says ’quality, luxury and attention to detail’. Step into the Oriental Spa Garden and you’re in Thailand; from the authentic massage pagoda beneath the palm trees to the aromatherapy room, the aim is unbridled indulgence of the mind, body and senses.
(0034) 922 381 400; www.hotelbotanico.com; double room with breakfast from €200 per night; range of offers on combined stay with spa treatments

Room with a View – Bahia Principe San Felipe (4*) enjoys an exclusive position opposite Playa Martiánez where the modern, spacious rooms have stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Mount Teide on the other.
(0034) 922 383 311; www.bahia-principe.com; double room all inclusive €248 per night for 2 persons

In the Thick of it – Hotel Monopol (3*). One of Tenerife’s oldest hotels situated in the heart of the town whose lobby is a balconied Canarian courtyard which is simply stunning. Try for one of the 15 rooms overlooking Plaza de la Iglesia.
(0034) 922 384 611; www.monopoltf.com; half board in double room with balcony from €96 per night
Catalonia Las Vegas (4*). Lively, friendly hotel right on the promenade in front of Lago Martiánez. Rooms have lots of space and great balconies overlooking the prom.
(0034) 922 383 900; www.hoteles-catalonia.com; Double room with breakfast from €70 per night

The Quiet Life – Hotel Tigaiga (4*) A green oasis of tranquility and style where your breathing becomes deeper the minute you step foot over the threshold. Set in beautifully landscaped, sub-tropical gardens above the town.
(0034) 922 383 500; www.tigaiga.com; double room with breakfast from €132 per night

Sun Loungers
The town’s main beach of Playa Jardín is a beautiful, black sand beach backed by extensive landscaped gardens, designed by César Manrique. Beyond it the valley slopes upwards to Mount Teide creating a breathtaking backdrop for sunbathers. The beach shelves steeply into the Atlantic rollers which for much of the year make swimming an extreme sport and addictive entertainment for those confident enough to enjoy the rough handling but a no-no for the timid or frail.

At the far end of town is the much smaller black sand beach of Playa Martiánez with equally stunning views across the La Orotava Valley; a good spot for surfers.
Slightly out of town and a favourite with locals is the reclusive beauty of Playa Bollullo which rewards the effort required to access it with three lovely black sand coves (one a naturist beach) beneath the cliffs and a beach bar/cafe that wouldn’t look out of place in the Greek Islands.

On the town’s main promenade is the swimming and sunbathing paradise of Lago Martiánez where you can effortlessly while away entire days amidst tropical gardens, oodles of sunbathing terraces, restaurants, kiosks, seven swimming pools and a 15,000 square metre lake with an island at its centre below which the town’s Casino is located…it’s all very James Bond.
Open every day from 10.00-17.00; entrance €3.50 including your sun bed and mattress

Wine & Dine
Special Occasion – El Regulo (C/Perez Zamora, 16; (+34) 922 38 45 06; closed Sunday): First class presentation, professional service and perfectly cooked Canarian cuisine in an exquisite old townhouse; perfect for birthdays and anniversaries.
Mil Sabores (thousand flavours) (C/Cruz Verde, 5; (+34) 922 36 81 72, closed Wednesday): A foodie’s nirvana where the menu is so mouth-watering it could provoke a Meg Ryan, ‘When Harry met Sally’ reaction.
A perfect choice for hopeless romantics is stylish Rosa de Bari (C/ del Lomo, 23; (+34) 922 36 85 23; closed Monday) whose cool sophistication and chic décor compliment fresh pastas and Italian cuisine.

Going Local – Always packed with locals, Tasquita de Min (Mesquinez; (+34) 922 37 18 34; closed Monday) beside the harbour, serves fish and seafood dishes as fresh as an Italian waiter. Their vieja (parrot fish) has to be one of the tastiest fish you’ll ever sink your teeth into.
Cha Paula (C/Blanco, 19; (+34) 922 38 07 30; closed Monday) in the streets above Plaza del Charco, is a fishermen’s favourite; great tapas and seafood in an atmospheric old mansion.

Family Friendly – El Pomodoro (Punta del Viento; (+34) 922 38 13 28) overlooking Atlantic rollers which crash below the restaurant’s open arches has a menu which will appeal to all the family – traditional cuisine, steaks and pizzas.
With a ‘menu del dia’ costing only €8.95 for three courses plus refreshments, Aguamarina (Ctra. Del Botánico ; (+34) 922 37 68 18) in La Paz is a wallet friendly hostelry with big portions of good quality food.

Meat Free – Barcelona and Madrid comes to Puerto in the guise of El Maná (C/Mesquinez, 23 (+34) 922 36 85 23; closed Monday) a modern, organic restaurant. Opt for the degustación and discover that mana doesn’t really come from heaven but from the restaurant’s kitchen.
El Limon’s (C/Esquivel) veggie burgers, hot dogs and natural fruit juices are popular with the student population.

After Dark
Wander Puerto’s streets at 23.00 and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a town which goes to bed early…wrong. The local population are night owls and don’t hit the bars until midnight.

The Ebano Café on Plaza Iglesia is a sophisticated spot for a chill and a chat before midnight and the bars around Plaza Charco are a people watcher’s paradise. Limbo above Cha Paula, Elements in the Ranilla District, La Suite near La Paz and Colour Café overlooking Plaza Charco are all atmospheric bars with imaginative décor and an individual style. For something livelier, soak up some Cuban vibes at sultry Azucar in a former gentlemen’s club near Plaza del Charco. Salsa, thumping Buenavista Social Club meets Jayzee sounds and more-ish mojitos make this a venue to remember.

Live entertainment fans should head to Molly Malone’s beside the harbour for some Irish ‘craic’ and a sing-along until midnight strikes. Mario’s Bodega, at San Telmo, is an intimate venue to enjoy some excellent traditional musicians (early birds be warned – they don’t begin to tune up until 23.30). Anyone with a contemporary appetite should check out El Teatro on c/ Puerto Viejo for live music, DJs, art exhibitions and theatre performances.

If the sandman hasn’t called you by 2 am, most of the town’s clubs, including Vampis (considered by some as one of the best clubs on Tenerife) and Xit (good for R&B, soul and hip-hop), are on Avenida Generalisimo.

Bonus Points
Loro Parque – Justifiably advertised all over the island as “a must for the Canaries”, this vast zoo is set in 135,000 sq metres of sub-tropical gardens and bestows breathtaking moments, like a flock of flamingos taking off from a lawn just feet away from you, or penguins diving beneath the icy surface of their frozen world and transforming themselves from awkward waddlers to sleek acrobats, or a whale leaping from the water and landing just inches from your now wet toes.
The best bits are the dolphin, orca, sea lion and parrot shows.
Not cheap, but a brilliant family day out.
Open every day from 08.30-18.45; www.loroparque.com; entrance €31 adults, €20 children aged 6-11, 5 years and under free; free train every 20 minutes from outside McDonalds.

Botanical Gardens – More Ant ‘n’ Dec than Alan Titchmarsh, these gardens contain exotic specimens from all over the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, all of which are thriving in Puerto’s perfect botanical climate and producing the plant equivalent of The Lost World.
Wander through giant leathery leaves, agave plants that ought to be classified as lethal weapons and palm trees that would dwarf Jack’s beanstalk. When the hysteria of the undergrowth gets too much, find solace and tranquility at the Monet-styled water-lily pond before skirting your way around the giant Banyan tree lest it tries to swallow you.
Open every day from 09.00-18.00; entrance €3

In the Shopping Basket
Plenty of good supermarkets with great selections of fresh fish and vegetables; the choice of electronic shops, tourist and craft outlets and shopping centres with familiar high street names like Mango and Zara as well as some excellent Spanish outlets like Stradivarius means you’ll need to keep some euros for those excess luggage charges.

R We There Yet?
Only fifteen minutes from the north airport, unfortunately all UK arrivals currently fly into the south airport, an hour’s drive away.

Suits You Sir
This is the resort for anyone wanting a healthy dose of Canarian culture, cuisine and hospitality in a stunningly beautiful setting. For centuries, the choice of scientists and explorers, but any modern British visitor whose only priority is a sun tan should consider south. Popular with more mature British and German visitors during the winter months, buzzing with Spanish mainlanders during the summer; there’s a lively youthful scene throughout the year, however, it’s very much Spanish/South American influenced with music and a culture that some UK visitors may find too unfamiliar.

Star Ratings

Accommodation: 4 stars – Wide range of hotels, ranging from the truly 5 star Botanico to hotels in historic old buildings and small pensions. Drops a star due to the fact that some hotels feel like the music at many a 40 year old’s birthday bash…dated.

Restaurants: 5 stars – Something for everyone. Although Canarian restaurants predominate, visitors can pretty much take a culinary trip around the world in Puerto and, because many restaurants cater for the town’s working population and not just tourists, eating out is incredibly good value. With the aroma of fried fish and barbequed meats assaulting your nostrils constantly, Puerto isn’t a destination for anyone hoping to shed some pounds.

Beaches: 5 stars – As long as people can get over the fact that the beaches are black sand, they’ll find themselves spoiled for choice.

Nightlife: 4 stars – Anyone hoping for tribute acts is in for a disappointment; anyone interesting in discovering the after dark habits of another culture will find much to enjoy. If you’re the sort of person who’s tucked up in bed by midnight, you’ll miss the best.

Lasting Impressions: 5 stars – A resort which attracts return visitors year after year. If you visit during one of the many fiestas, it’ll be an unforgettable experience; however, Puerto’s constant jewel in the crown has to be Loro Parque.

And the Downside…There’s a price to pay for the lush scenery all around. Tales of Tenerife’s ‘grim north’ are generally exaggerated, but there can be rain in winter and cloud in summer; if anyone’s visiting for a week and they want guaranteed sunshine, they run the risk of being disappointed.