Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Looking for an Authentic Canarian Resort on Tenerife

A regular question that pops up from would-be visitors to Tenerife is a variation of ‘I’m looking for an authentic Canarian (Spanish) town to stay in. Where should I choose?’

The first time we heard this question we answered it we thought it meant that the person asking wanted a really authentic Canarian town and so came back with Garachico if they wanted to stay on the coast and La Orotava if they were happy to stay inland a bit.
In the end they opted for Costa del Silencio - not a place I’d have ever included in an answer about authentic Canarian resorts except maybe to say not to go there. 
 That was one of our first lessons in learning that it was important to understand what people actually meant when they said they wanted ‘authentic’.
It’s quite amazing the number of people who indicate they want somewhere with a Spanish feel and then opt for Golf del Sur or Los Gigantes. When they say authentic they often mean somewhere smaller and quieter than Playa de las Américas with a few traditional eateries, but also with bars and restaurants that wouldn’t feel too alien. Send them to Tacoronte or Güímar and an email of thanks for recommending truly authentic towns would probably not be forthcoming.

We now tend to be able to spot the people who really want the Orotava’s and Garachico’s – they are more likely to be very specific about what they’re after and, a bit of a generalisation here, are a bit better at researching online and send their questions to us directly.

TripAdvisor is an excellent tool for advice about the main resorts, but anyone really looking for ‘authentic’ Tenerife is unlikely to use it as a first stop. Nine times out of ten you can bet that anyone asking the question there is looking for Costa del Silencio, Golf del Sur or Los Gigantes.

But if you really are looking for a coastal resort (if you head into the hills anywhere on Tenerife you’ll soon find yourself faced with authentic) that has a Canarian atmosphere then here are some suggestions.

Alcalá – only a hop, skip and a jump away from the south western trio of Los Gigantes, Puerto Santiago and Playa de la Arena but more Canarian by far. Plenty of choice of varied restaurants for its size; life focuses around a small plaza and sunshine is a plenty. The luxury hotel Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora on the edge of town has brought in more visitors, but for now it’s Canarian through and through.

Playa San Juan – Next door to Alcalá and a bit bigger in size. Not quite as charming but with a much better beach. A decent amount of bars and restaurants, but there’s a lack of accommodation – probably why it still feels Canarian. A lot more British voices in town than there was even a few years ago.
Garachico – Truly authentic and historic town on the north west coast and one of the Canary Islands’ most charming. Plenty of restaurants and the hotels are small boutique affairs in wonderful old buildings. Busy with visitors during the day and quiet at night.

El Médano – Wind and Kite surfers’ favourite haunt on the south east coast that gets oodles of sun and a fair breeze (hence the surfers). Bohemian and laid back with a strong Canarian atmosphere. Loads of good restaurants and a few imaginative bars.

Las Galletas
– Joins on with Costa del Silencio but miles away in character. A Canarian town and small fishing community with a pleasant marina which has a few restaurants overlooking the sea and lots more on the seafront promenade. Complete shortage of hotels though.

Las Caletillas – Part of Candelaria on the east coast and a place favoured by Spanish holidaymakers. The old part of Candelaria where the Basilica stands is much more charming than the newer Las Caletillas area where the hotels are located. Both sides of town have a good selection of restaurants and some of the biggest fiestas on Tenerife take place in Candelaria.

Los Cristianos – some people might scoff at this suggestion. Los Cristianos may be the choice for a lot of mature European visitors but its soul is distinctly Canarian. Wander through the harbour in the day and head to San Telmo late at night and you’ll see what I mean.

Puerto de la Cruz – The best mix of Canarian town/ tourist resort on Tenerife (okay I’m biased…but it is) as it’s a working town as well as a tourist resort. As much, if not more so, a playground for Canarios from the Orotava Valley and around as it is visitors. Stick to the old town, join in the fiestas of which there are plenty and don’t party until after midnight and you’ll see a very different place from that experienced by visitors who frequent the handful of bars aimed at British visitors.
 Choose any of the above and you’ll be assured of a taste of Canarian life – but remember the strength of the flavour may vary slightly depending on how much you bite into it.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Going Native in Tenerife over the Festive Season

There’s always a lot going on over the Christmas period on Tenerife and never enough time to fit everything in. This year we were guilty of not even sending Christmas cards to some of our best friends, partly because after a number of friends and family chose the same week to escape Britain for Tenerife’s warmer climes we just ran out of time (a bit of a lame excuse I know).
Apart from the fact we were failures as friends, we enjoyed a varied and interesting festive period on Tenerife.

The Week Before Christmas
Christmas week saw two firsts for me; wild boar steaks at the Sabor Español restaurant in the Barceló Santiago Hotel in Puerto Santiago followed by getting locked in a toilet in Route 66. The first I enjoyed a lot, the latter not at all.

Sarah and Terry Lee from LiveShareTravel were exploring the island and discovering oodles of material for their website. They’d been staying at the Pearly Grey in Callao Salvaje and we met up at Garachico, halfway (sort of) between Callao and Puerto de la Cruz.
Our first two choices for lunch, El Lagar de Julio and Aristides were inexplicably closed with, in true Tenerife fashion, no explanation whatsoever – bad luck guys, you could have had Andy waxing lyrical about you on a popular UK travel site. Mind you, after seeing herself on the video taken at the Los Pinos restaurant Andy vowed she’s never going to wax lyrical on camera ever again.
After lunch we persuaded Sarah and Terry to have a quick look at the belén in the former San Francisco convent to play my favourite belén game ‘find the caganer’. But being a traditional Canarian scene and not a Middle Eastern one, the caganer was missing.
 A couple of days later with my mum, sister and her boyfriend Graeme we had much better luck at the exhibition of belénes in Puerto de la Cruz where we found not one, not two but three caganers. As a bonus one of them was doing something I’d never seen caganers do before (in the interests of decency that will just have to remain a mystery).

Christmas on Tenerife

On Christmas Eve we explored the banana plantations around Garachico in Isla Baja. Due to work commitments we haven’t been able to hoof it around Tenerife’s countryside on foot as much as we like, so it was good for soul, body and mind to wander off the beaten track again. The pit stop at the ‘unusual’ bar at the end of the walk resulted in me not only getting to drink from a bottle of cerveza but also to sip from the bloggers’ Holy Grail as well as the subsequent blog was featured on the Wordpress front page for a few days.

This year we didn’t manage to make it to Santa Cruz and La Laguna to see the Christmas decorations, but we did head up the hill to La Orotava where we were rewarded a magical display and a street exhibition of evocative metal sculptures by talented artist, Julio Nieto. Arriving at dusk was perfect as the fading light created the optimum conditions for viewing these dramatic works of art.
Boxing Day and it was another walk – from El Portillo to La Fortaleza in the Teide National Park. The highlight for me was climbing over a volcanic spur to be faced with La Fortaleza on one side, Mount Teide on the other and a broad sandy plain inbetween – it’s one of Tenerife’s many special vistas.

A couple of days later it was my birthday and an excuse to try out the sexy new Cofradía de Pescadores restaurant in Puerto de la Cruz. The seafood was fresh, plentiful and scrumptious and I vowed to return to try out the razorfish.

New Year and Tres Reyes on Tenerife
New Year’s Eve saw the annual grape wielding trip to Puerto harbour for a night of cava quaffing and dodgy salsa dancing (only by me I hasten to add). We had a relatively early one and ended up walking home via a pitch black dirt track through the bananas at 4.30am. It was a bit spooky, but the cava helped steady the nerves if not the feet.

We don’t normally go to the Tres Reyes parades on the 5th January. I could tell you that’s because it’s for the kiddiewinkles, but the truth is by that point we just want to chill. But this year we dragged ourselves to La Orotava… and it was a blast. I only took one hit to the forehead, courtesy of Baltasar who was launching sweets through the air as though he was trying for some sort of long distance throwing sweeties record.

The festive period ended with the first Tenerife Magazine meet up of 2011 which included social media expert and all round star Arantxa Ros. We chose the Cofradía de Pescadores again so that Tenerife Magazine’s southern representatives, John Beckley and Colin Kirby, could experience some northern hospitality and tuna steaks that were nearly as big as the plates they almost covered.

Of course this being Tenerife, this business meeting wasn’t like the often dry affairs we experienced in the UK. This was more sun, seafood, cervezas and smiles as we bitched about the bad, glowed about the good and generally discussed plans for Tenerife Magazine's world domination in 2011.

That's our festive season ‘Going Native’ style - good fun and keeps us up to date with what's happening across Tenerife.