Com­ing Out Top On Tener­ife

Mr Ca­nary Is­lands Matthew Hirtes re­veals the var­i­ous sides of mul­ti­fac­eted Tener­ife in­clud­ing surf, turf, and ur­ban.

World Travel Magazine - - Contents -

Ca­nary Is­lands res­i­dent ex­pert takes a tour of Tener­ife, re­veal­ing the un­der-the-radar des­ti­na­tions lo­cated be­yond the re­sorts.

Ac­cord­ing to best­selling Amer­i­can au­thor Neale Donald Walsch, “Life be­gins at the end of your com­fort zone.” Yet when I find my­self at­tempt­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a smooth pas­sage through an At­lantic break­wa­ter in a kayak, I feel more like my days on earth could come to a crash­ing end. Mi vida flashes be­fore my very eyes as we wait for the waves to sub­side off a choppy palm beach in Tener­ife. I have taken the ad­vice of Walsch to break out of my com­fort zone how­ever. The plea­sure plot in ques­tion be­ing the gi­ant lux­ury re­sort in the south west of the is­land: The Ritz-carl­ton, Abama.

The des­ti­na­tion of choice of hol­i­day­mak­ers who barely have to dip into their small change to fund a 9.000€-a-night stay in one of Abama’s volup­tuous Tagor vil­las which also comes with a but­ler and golf buggy.

My co-pad­dler is John Beck­ley who has swapped his na­tive South Africa for Tener­ife just as I have re­lo­cated from the UK to neigh­bour­ing Gran Ca­naria. The plan had been to scale the heights of Teide:

Spain’s lofti­est moun­tain which rises 3,718 me­tres above sea level. Ex­cept one of Eu­rope’s sun­ni­est spots is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a rare cloudy day and Tener­ife’s tallest tor is lost in a nim­bus.

Now there’s Eu­rope and then there’s Eu­rope. Spain col­o­nized the Ca­nary Is­lands, Tener­ife the largest of th­ese mag­nif­i­cent seven isles, dur­ing the reign of ter­ror of the Catholic Monar­chs, Fer­di­nand and Is­abella. This au­ton­o­mous com­mu­nity lies around 100km west of the African main­land and closer to 2,000km from the Ibe­rian penin­sula.

A des­ti­na­tion in its own right, you won’t want for much at The Ritz-carl­ton, Abama whose de­sign apes a Moor­ish res­i­dence (in­ter­est­ingly ar­chae­ol­o­gists have con­cluded that the pre-span­ish in­hab­i­tants of Tener­ife, the Guanches, were land­locked Ber­ber slaves ex­iled for their sins) fit enough for a re­gent. My ex­quis­ite sev­enth-floor suite (with bath­room fea­tur­ing Asprey Cos­met­ics straight out of Lon­don’s Bond Street) over­looks the neigh­bour­ing is­land of La Gomera. As well as the banana plan­ta­tions which dot the sub-trop­i­cal Guía de Isora mu­nic­i­pal­ity and fur­ther green­ery in the form of a 72-par cham­pi­onship golf course de­signed by erst­while Ry­der Cup golfer Dave Thomas.

Sporty types will also ap­pre­ci­ate the seven ten­nis courts avail­able at their dis­posal whilst ab­so­lute begin­ners or those look­ing to im­prove their game might want to en­rol for an Annabel Croft Ten­nis

Acad­emy course. There are also four Padel (a squash-ten­nis hy­brid in­vented in Mex­ico) courts if you want to try your hand at this sport.

On my first day at the Abama, I de­cide how­ever to take it easy. As in hor­i­zon­tal. Lolling about in the in­fin­ity pool and the spa’s wa­ter cir­cuit be­fore tak­ing the ca­ble car down to the ho­tel’s playa which feels like it’s owned by the re­sort but isn’t as pri­vate beaches are illegal in Spain. There’s also a train (like ones you see along the sea­side) to help you get around the Abama.

My first taste of the re­sort’s renowned culi­nary of­fer­ings (Martín Berasategui’s Basque restau­rant

M.B has two Miche­lin stars and Ri­cardo Sanz’s Kabuki fu­sion joint one) comes at lunchtime. At the

Beach Club. On sul­try Tener­ife where an In­dian Sum­mer lasts into Jan­uary, I cool down with a gaz­pa­cho be­fore tuck­ing into some quin­tes­sen­tial fin­ger food of fo­cac­cia and French fries washed down with some lo­cal wine (Tener­ife has es­tab­lished it­self as the best and big­gest pro­ducer of vin­tages across the Ca­nary Is­lands) which is sur­pris­ingly sub­stan­tial and a si­esta to sleep it off leads to an early night as I fail to wake in time for din­ner.

Day Two finds me in nearby Playa de San Juan. Af­ter kayak­ing with Ac­tivi­dades Náu­ti­cas de

Tener­ife, John and I re­hy­drate with a caña (a half-pint) of lo­cal Do­rada lager at the Cofra­dia de

Pescadores Nues­tra Señora de la Luz. This is the restau­rant owned and run by the Playa de San Juan’s Fish­er­mans’ Guild, so those fruits of the sea taste as fresh as if they’ve just fallen from the metaphor­i­cal tree.

It’s a lit­tle early for lunch how­ever. So we take a mini cliff­side hike to what ap­pears to be a ruin of a her­mitage. There are no sign­posts to con­firm our sus­pi­cions but later re­search re­veals that the aban­doned build­ing is in fact a dis­used pump­house.

Head­ing back to the port, we take our pick from one of the lively prom­e­nade eater­ies. Res­tau­rante

Mar­lin ticks the boxes on the ocean-breeze and peo­ple-watch­ing front. Af­ter break­fast­ing like a king at the Abama’s buf­fet La Ve­randa (Bucks Fizz, fruit, ce­real, omelette, cheese, and cof­fee), I lunch like a prince with a clas­sic av­o­cado and tomato salad fol­lowed by grilled cheese with mojo (the Ca­nari­ans don’t do spices apart from this pi­quant condi­ment which typ­i­cally com­bines chilli, cu­min, and gar­lic). There’s no room for dessert.

I’ve hopped over from my home is­land of Gran Ca­naria for very much a full week­end. That’s the beauty of a Ca­nary Is­lands visit: the ease with which you can travel to the other isles (with the east­ern ones of GC but par­tic­u­larly Fuerteven­tura and Lan­zarote be­ing more arid whilst the western ones in­clud­ing Tener­ife, El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma are more ver­dant) by ferry or plane.

Tener­ife’s a great fam­ily des­ti­na­tion. Rewind to last sum­mer and my­self, wife and three sons are head­ing over to Siam Park in the south of the is­land’s touristy Costa Adeje. This Thai-themed wa­ter park has been con­sis­tently voted the world’s num­ber one since open­ing in 2008 and I brave the Tower of

Power, a ver­ti­cal 80km per hour drop pass­ing through an aquar­ium host­ing both sharks and rays.

A use­ful tip is to buy a twin ticket which in­cludes en­try to sis­ter park: Loro Par­que. This zoo’s sit­u­ated on the other side of Tener­ife, on the is­land’s north coast. In Puerto de la Cruz, Tener­ife’s orig­i­nal re­sort which at­tracted wealthy trav­ellers from more northerly climes from the 18th cen­tury on­wards with the cli­mate con­sid­ered a form of treat­ment with the is­land, com­plete with nat­u­ral swim­ming pools which can re­sem­ble one big out­door spa thanks to the surge of the At­lantic.

Tener­ife’s the most pop­u­lar of the Ca­nary Is­lands, which has re­sulted in the world’s most fa­mous chains open­ing ho­tels here. For an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent stay, how about us­ing ITER’S Casas

Bio­climáti­cas as a base? Th­ese eco­log­i­cal houses are the prod­uct of an ar­chi­tec­tural com­pe­ti­tion and part of a work­ing tech­no­log­i­cal park, which feels on one overnight ad­ven­ture there, the very an­tithe­sis of a re­sort with my break­fast in­ter­rupted by a pair of scientists tak­ing the tem­per­a­ture of my Tel­ly­tubby-style abode. ITER’S hand­ily placed for El Medáno, one of the gusti­est lo­ca­tions on the is­land. This has made it a firm favourite with in­ter­na­tional kitesurfers and wind­surfers. The laid­back vibe is in­fec­tious with a dress-less pol­icy re­sult­ing in a uni­form T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops get-up. As a fam­ily, we love to lose our­selves on Tener­ife be­yond the main re­sorts of Los Cris­tianos and Las Améri­cas, in the likes of Unesco-world-her­itage-listed San Cristóbal de la La­guna. The lo­ca­tion of the Ca­nary Is­lands’ old­est univer­sity, this is one pedes­trian-friendly town. If the is­land’s a con­ti­nent in minia­ture due to its range of flora and cli­mac­tic gulf be­tween a colder north and warmer south, La La­guna’s cob­bled streets and his­toric build­ings make it a bon­sai Cam­bridge. Hav­ing toured Lan­zarote’s cel­e­brated La Ge­ria wine re­gion, I’d like to re­turn to Tener­ife to nav­i­gate the fel­low Ca­nary Is­land’s very own Wine Route. This starts in white­washed Tegueste in north-east

Tener­ife where vines were in­tro­duced by Catholic mis­sion­ar­ies. Pass­ing through Ta­coro­nte, home to

some of the is­land’s most revered vin­tages, and cliff-perch­ing El Sauzal which boasts the Casa Museo In­su­lar de la Vid y el Vino (Is­land Vine and Wine House Mu­seum) be­fore end­ing in ma­rine and green Santa Úr­sula.

The wine har­vest doesn’t only bring bot­tles of vino to the ta­ble as I dis­cover on a chance en­counter deep in the in­te­rior. As Tener­ife’s guach­inches pop up in lo­ca­tions which can range from a con­verted garage to the edge of a plan­ta­tion. Th­ese tem­po­rary res­tau­rants are set up to dis­trib­ute the sur­plus of lo­cal wine and of­fer a cheap in­tro­duc­tion to the tra­di­tional Ca­narian food dishes which ac­com­pa­nies the booze.

If you like to go na­tive on holiday like me, pop by cap­i­tal Santa Cruz de Tener­ife and the Es­ta­dio

He­liodoro Ro­dríguez López. This is where lo­cal he­roes CD Tener­ife play and ev­ery time I go, I flash back to the very first time of see­ing them lose 2-0 to the Span­ish main­land’s Sevilla in Septem­ber 1996 as young and old tuck into a match­day snack of sun­flower seeds. Cur­rently they’re try­ing to re­turn to a top flight they very nearly joined again fol­low­ing a 2016-17 play-off de­feat to Madrid’s Getafe.

If you’re ad­ven­tur­ous enough to leave the bub­ble of the re­sorts, you might be sur­prised to find the beaches else­where more black than blond. This is be­cause they’re com­posed of vol­canic sand rather than grains im­ported from the Sa­hara in the likes of the beach at Abama and, my per­sonal favourite, the is­land’s pic­ture-post­card Las Tere­si­tas close to the fishing vil­lage of San An­drés with some of the best seafood res­tau­rants on the is­land. But, as I dis­cov­ered kayak­ing, Tener­ife re­veals an­other, al­to­gether wilder, side when you exit its com­fort zone(s).

Pre­vi­ous page, Basil­ica of Can­de­laria and peb­ble beach in Tener­ife This page, from top left, Café so­ci­ety: Icod de los Vi­nos; Green and pleas­ant land: La Oro­tava Op­po­site, from top, Ducks Beach: Playa de los Patos; White­washed Tener­ife: Garachico

Pre­vi­ous page, go­ing to rack and ruin: Old Pump­house, Playa de San Juan This page, from top left, Duke Beach: Playa del Duque; wet and wild Tener­ife: San­ti­ago del Teide Op­po­site, from top, pretty in pink: The Ritz Carl­ton, Abama; balmy, palmy is­land:...

This page, from top left, Tree’s a crowd: Icod de los Vi­nos, Life’s a beach: Playa de Abama Op­po­site, from top, colour­ful houses and palm trees on street in Puerto de la Cruz town; Home alone: Ro­ques de Gar­cía

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