Can’t afford Mauritius or the Caribbean this year? Try Tenerife for sunshine and luxury closer to home - and without the long-haul price tag
There’s something about family life that makes me yearn for a luxury holiday. A week off from drudgery: the cooking, cleaning, school run and swings. Somewhere warm with a nice hotel where someone else will wash up. Maybe even somewhere with a spa where I can lose myself for an afternoon or three while the children run riot in a five-star kids’ club.
Just as well then, since the Indian Ocean and Caribbean are well out of my league, that I’ve discovered Tenerife. Yes Tenerife. You heard me right.
It may not have the glamour of Mauritius, say, or Jamaica but it’s an awful lot cheaper and, in many respects, better for UK families than those rather more upmarket destinations.
It takes around four hours to get there rather than 10 or 12. And when you arrive the climate is sunny but temperate. This is because, while it is closer to Africa than Spain, refreshing trade winds mean it rarely feels too hot. It means it is excellent for families travelling with babies, who hate that on-holiday-boiled-in-the-bag feeling. My youngest, who was just five months old when we visited, never overheated once and was even happy to take his daytime naps under a sunshade while his big sister splashed in and out of the hotel pool.
It’s not a cultural centre, but who really wants culture on a family holiday? I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t mind not being dragged to a museum and there is plenty to do if you fancy a day out. Our two enjoyed Loro Parque, a parrot park and animal reserve in north Tenerife - my daughter’s sides almost splitting at a show in which dressed-up parrots aped adult tourists in mini Jeeps and diminutive deckchairs (you had to be there). Not even the magnificent killer whales and 'stinky' penguins could compare, and she’s been asking me for a parrot ever since, even though I’ve explained I don’t know how to train birds to look like they’ve overdone sun and sangria.
We didn’t manage a visit to Aqualand, a water park in the south of the island (free buses run from the major resorts), or take a boat out to spot wild pilot whales and dolphins ploughing through the channel between Tenerife and the neighbouring island of La Gomera (daily boat trips run from Puerto Colón in the tourist hotspot of Playa de Las Américas), but we did hire a car to go to see Mount Teide, the incredible volcano in the centre of the island and Spain’s highest mountain. It was worth it for the drive alone, a long windy climb with breathtaking views out to sea.
But what about the luxury factor? Tenerife is not famed for it.
Well, no. But this is where it gets really interesting. In many ways, Tenerife doesn’t compare with more exotic destinations half way round the world, and the pie-and-pints hotspots of Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Américas are best avoided. But there are a good handful of reliable four and five star hotels that do very well for a lazy fly-and-flop holiday that doesn't break the bank.
We stayed at the Abama Hotel
– a vast pink confection on a cliff top on the west coast of the island. It’s certainly not the prettiest hotel I’ve ever seen but we were, nevertheless, impressed with its facilities, which included a pool for almost every day, restaurant for every mood and private beach. And, best of all a spa, where I spent my first-ever afternoon away from my baby son – with both of us living to tell the tale.
I also enjoyed more low-key attractions such as the hotel grounds where I pushed my daughter and wheeled her brother’s buggy around beds of wonderfully gaudy flowers like dresses in Strictly Come Dancing. More than once I stopped to sniff a particularly lovely bloom only for it to take off, a brightly coloured butterfly quickstepping above our heads.
It certainly felt luxurious. And a long way from grey and grotty London. But the best thing? It may have felt far away but it wasn’t. And being so close, we didn’t need another holiday to get over the journey home.