From a sunset above the clouds to a shark-infested parrot park, the Canary Island favourite has much more to offer than all year sunshine, sand and cheap booze
When the Spanish first arrived on the island of Tenerife it was known as the Isla del Infierno (Island of Hell). Hardly surprising really when you consider that the island’s highest peak, Mount Teide, is the Earth’s third largest volcano.
Like many of the island’s five million annual visitors, we headed for Los Christianos on the southern coast’s Costa Adeje. A touch quieter than the adjoining resort of Playa de Las Americas, Los Christianos has a lovely beach that gently shelves into the Atlantic. Two sun-beds and a parasol will cost you €9 a day and there are plenty of local bars for snacks and drinks, plus showers and a life guard.
Fortunately for us, Teide has been dormant since 1798, and an evening trip up the mountain to watch the sun set from above the clouds was the highlight of our trip. Scrambling into a fleet of rugged four wheel drive vehicles we set off for Parque Nacional de las Canadas del Teide. Here, from a volcanic caldera that is 48 kilometres in circumference, Teide rises to its snow capped peak 3,718m above sea level. The Raquel Welch epic One Million Years BC was filmed here, so if you have seen that movie you will have a pretty good idea of what the park’s blasted lava fields look like, only minus the dinosaurs!
From the caldera we drove through the cloudline, stopping to slurp chilled Cava as we watched the sun dip below the cloud wreathed heights of the neighbouring islands of La Gomera and La Palma. The sun down, we moved on to Roques de Garcia where we were joined by an astronomer from the world famous Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, who guided us around the sparkling constellations of the velvet black night sky. The whole trip including a four course meal cost around €80 from our tour operator Thomson (www.thomson.co.uk).
Fins and feathers
Another brilliant day out was Loro Parque (Avenida Loro Parque s/n - 38400 Puerto de la Cruz; +34 922 37 38 41; www.loroparque.com; admission €32 adults, €21 kids) located on the north coast. In English the name means Parrot Park, but since its opening back in 1972 the range of creatures living there has greatly expanded. A huge exhibition pool hosts the only orca (killer whale) show in Europe along with dolphin and sea lion shows. It’s certainly spectacular but for my money the top Loro Parque attraction has to be Planet Penguin. Here we took a moving sidewalk around the climatically controlled Antarctic environment, to see the four species of penguin that happily live and breed there. They even have their own snow machine.
Further Loro Parque highlights include white tigers, gorillas, an aquarium with shark tunnel and one of the funniest performing parrot shows I have ever witnessed. Loro Parque's culinary jewel is the Casa Pepe tapas bar. Here we feasted on authentic Canarian and Spanish snacks like patatas mojo, octopus vinaigrette and stuffed pimentos (price per plate €3 to €5). If you don’t have a car, trips including transport and admission can be booked from most resort travel agencies and hotel receptions.
Fancy getting wet? Then Siam Park (TF-1 Highway just outside LosChristianos; www.siampark.net/en; €30 adults, €19.50 children) is the place to go. There are plenty of white water rides for thrill seekers and a vast artificial wave pool capable of producing breakers big enough for surfing at the oriental themed water park. For the more sedentary, like me, there are sun beds and a beach made of fine golden sand imported from Portugal. A free bus took us to the park from the centre of Los Christianos. You can save a few euros with a combined Siam Park/Loro Parque ticket for €52 adults and €35 children.
Food and drink
The best restaurant we discovered was a little family run place called Mojo Picon (Residencial Las Vinas, Playa de Las Americas; +34 922 795 181). Starters like Pimento de Padron (small peppers fried and salted) got our juices flowing while main dishes sampled included mixed paella, pepper steak and Canarian chicken in a red mojo sauce. Bread to be rubbed with raw garlic and tomato in the local fashion, is the traditional way to start your meal over a few drinks and included in the price. The friendly proprietor also went out of his way to accommodate children. The four of us paid between €60 and €70 inclusive of wine.
The Toro Tapas and Grill (Avenida San Fransisco, 2038650 Los Cristianos; +34 922 79 10 08) offers a good selection of tapas dishes like chorizo Diablo, grilled cheese, cod croquettes and prawns. Expect to pay €25 per person, while the Michelangelo (Edificio Parque Cattleya 5 Playa de Las Americas; +34 922 791065) is good for pasta and pizza. Craving a curry? Then try The Star of Asia (Americas Plaza, Playa de Las Americas; +34 922 750 559) has a very good early evening buffet for €9.99 per person plus drinks.
We booked a two bedroom apartment at the Columbus Aparthotel (Av. Santiago Puig, 6 - Playa de Las Américas) on a self catering basis through Thomson Holidays (www.thomson.co.uk).
The apartments offer a good level of comfort and are well served by local shops and bars. If you fancy half board I’d recommend the nearby Hotel Vulcano (Avda. Dominguez Alfonso, 838660 Playa de Las Americas; +34 922 787 740) where exhibition chefs will cook meat and fish to order at the buffet.