If you have read this blog, you might realize that I love the Canary Islands. I have now been to the islands 5 times in the past year: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Tenerife´s north side, and Lanzarote.
With foreigners allowed into Spain, I finally got to have my girlfriend Maisie visit me for a week. When deciding where to take her, I knew that I wanted to take her to the Canary Islands. Maisie is a waterpark enthusiast and it turns out that the world´s best waterpark according to TripAdvisor, Siam Park, is on the south side of Tenerife. Siam Park was closed for all of COVID and only just reopened a couple weeks before our trip. We had to go.
June 16, 2021: Welcome to British Tenerife
Maisie flew to Barcelona, and from there we flew on Vueling to Tenerife´s North Airport, arriving around 18:00. Tenerife has two airports, but from Barcelona (and most of Spain) you can only fly to the north. The South Airport has more flights from other countries. As a generalization, this is because the north airport is located next to most of the population, while the south airport is close to the beach resorts.
Regardless, it was only a one-hour drive from the north airport to our hotel in the south. We stayed in a town called Adeje at a complex full of extended stay apartments. Almost all of the clients were British tourists. Some of them live here for months while some come for just a few weeks. The staff spoke perfect English.
The complex had a few restaurants, including a British pub and a tapas restaurant. We ate at the tapas place which had surprisingly good reviews. Afterwards, we stopped for a pint at the pub. There was an Irish man singing pub songs and playing a guitar. The British and Irish crowd loved it. Maisie´s favorite person was a very strong, drunk, and tan British man. Maisie joked that I should fight him.
June 17, 2021: The Best Waterpark in the World
The next morning, we visited Siam Park, the world´s best waterpark according to TripAdvisor. Siam Park is in Adeje just a few minutes’ drive from our hotel. As you can guess from the name, the park is Thailand themed.
The theming of the waterpark is first rate. Close to Disney-level theming.
The rides at the park are also incredible. My favorite ride was called Singha (like the beer) and had jets that pushed you up hills making it feel like a roller coaster.
Another highlight was the 30-minute-long lazy river which included a conveyer belt that pushes you up a hill and then turns into an unexpected water slide ending below a shark tank. I loved it!
Due to COVID; the waterpark was fairly empty, and we only waited in one line for 15 minutes. We technically had to wear masks on the slides which was awkward. Eventually the masks got so wet that they would fall off people´s faces. Luckily, the staff did not enforce the mask policy.
I would agree with TripAdvisor that this is the best waterpark I have ever been to. Maisie agreed, saying that it was slightly better than Noah´s Ark in the Wisconsin Dells, her previous favorite.
For the rest of the afternoon, we walked around the beach area known as Playa de las Americas. The beach was full of surfers and the town, while touristy, was nice enough.
We then headed back to the hotel to change for dinner. We had a delicious fresh seafood dinner in the town of Los Cristianos. The restaurant was in a narrow alley next to another restaurant that had live music. So we were able to get the better food and the music from the other restaurant: the best of both worlds.
June 18, 2021: The Rugged Northwest
Today, we did a road trip to towns along the northwestern side of the island. This is the most rugged part of the island.
We started our day with a 1-hour drive from Adeje to the town of Icod de Los Vinos. This is a cute historic town located on a steep slope 200 meters above the sea. The main attraction is the ancient dragon tree known as El Drago Milenario. It is thought to be 1,000 years old. This famous tree is the symbol of Tenerife and once graced the backside of the 1,000-peseta banknote.
The tree is enormous – much larger than it appears in pictures. Surrounding the tree is a botanical garden.
Our next stop was the town of Garachico, 10 minutes west of Icod de los Vinos. Garachico is a coastal town set underneath a steep mountainside. The start attraction in Garachico is the natural swimming pools. The pools, made of volcanic rock, look like a swimming pool right next to the ocean. The water is seawater. Many people were watching, but few dared to swim. Maisie, who loves swimming, decided to go in…and loved it! She said this was a highlight of the entire trip.
Next, we drove west and up into the mountains. Tenerife, and all the Canary Islands, have a multitude of microclimates. As soon as we left the sunny beach, the weather became foggy and cold.
After cruising through numerous tiny villages, we reached a traditional restaurant called Meson del Norte. Because we were not on the ocean, the restaurant specialized in land-based dishes such as steaks and jamons. We ate a grilled cheese (a grilled block of cheese- not the sandwich) and a goat stew. It was delicious!
Next, we continued south along an incredibly windy road atop steep cliffs. We eventually reached the village of Masca, perched in the most beautiful dramatic valley. The village has 99 residents and sits 650 meters above the sea, which can be reached by a treacherous trail. The views are the highlight of Masca, as there are no real attractions.
To get out of Masca we drove the windiest paved road I have ever taken. The road switchbacked up a hill and at each switchback, I had to maneuver the car back and forth like when parallel parking. Luckily there were very few cars coming in the opposite direction and they all happened to pass me in convenient locations.
Our final stop of the mini road trip was the town of Los Gigantes. This is a major tourist town located next to the largest sea cliffs on the island. The cliffs are 500-800 meters tall. In the town, there is another natural swimming pool with good views of the cliffs. Naturally, I watched as Maisie swam in the pool.
After resting up in the hotel, we went into Adeje for dinner. We ate at a restaurant next to the beach. The town was super touristy, and all the restaurants looked like overpriced tourist traps. However, Google Maps said that one restaurant among the traps was pretty good. It was and we only paid €15 for a risotto. Incredible!! Google Maps is a really good tool for finding restaurants.
June 19, 2021: La Gomera
Just west of Tenerife is the island of La Gomera. The island is famous because its forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are public ferries going between Tenerife and La Gomera, but they cost about €80 per person for the roundtrip ferry (that is just for passengers and does not include a car, which is needed on the island). However, for the same €80, you can take a bus tour of the island which includes a ferry ticket. Although generally not a fan of mass tourism, this made the most sense economically, so I decided to go.
The bus took us to the port where we boarded the ferry. The ride across the channel took about 45 minutes on a beautiful boat. The interior of the ferry is sleek and there is way more seating than I would have expected.
Eventually we made it to La Gomera. We disembarked and reboarded the bus which traveled with us.
The bus took us up a windy road towards the center of the island. The outskirts of the island are quite desert-like. But, as we climbed, the climate started to shift and become more humid. Eventually we passed through a tunnel and emerged into a lush green valley.
We descended to the village of Santa Catalina. A group of European scientists determined that this village has the best year-round weather of any place in the world.
Next, we ascended back into the highlands where we stopped at a visitor center for the Garajonay National Park/World Heritage Site. From here we explored some exhibits about the area as well as got a view of the thick forests further inland and uphill.
Garajonay is a thick forest. It exists because La Gomera is so steep that it traps the clouds, which release their moisture on the island. Other islands (such as Tenerife) have thick forests with similar plants, but none are as large or intact as Garajonay.
We then drove for an hour into the park on a narrow road where the bus struggled to make the turns. The forest is very thick here.
Eventually we reached a restaurant in the middle of the forest. We ate traditional La Gomera foods including soup with gofio (a flour made with mixed grains).
At the end, we were treated to a demonstration of the whistling language used exclusively on La Gomera. It basically sounds like whistling exactly what you would speak. The language is used because it can be heard over much further distances than speaking or yelling. Therefore, farmers and herders could use this language to communicate with each other.
On the drive back towards the coast, we passed by some impressive viewpoints and rock formations.
Eventually we made it to the main city of San Sebastian de La Gomera. The city is famous for being the final stop for Columbus before sailing to the New World. A statue of Columbus graces the city center along with a tower from the early 1400´s.
We got tropical ice cream before heading back to the ferry.
The ride back was uneventful, but once in Tenerife we decided to skip the bus ride back to save some time- as the bus had to drop off about a dozen other groups before going to our hotel.
For our final dinner, we walked to a restaurant called El Jardin de Abuela. The funky restaurant had quirky décor including a sign saying ACAB: All Cats Are Beautiful. The food was a twist on the typical tapas, which we enjoyed.
June 20, 2021: The Southeast of Tenerife
This was our final day on Tenerife and in the Canary Islands, so we had to drive back towards the north airport. The easiest road was the highway along the east coast of the island. This part of the island is short on sights, but we did our best to find things to see.
Our first stop was a former leper colony at Abades, which is now a cool surfing town. The former colony is now in ruins and is a 3-minute dirt road drive from Abades. Unfortunately, the colony is off-limits to the public and even had a guard posted outside.
Our next stop was the town of Guimar. Guimar is the location of the pyramids of Guimar. The “pyramids” are an archaeological site dating from the 1800´s…..what!?!? It appears to be just lost improvements by local farmers. The museum was closed, but from the outside, this looked like the most overrated place ever.
Our final stop was the town of Candelaria. This town is home to the most important church on the island: Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria. The church is home to a famous Black Madonna statue which apparently washed up on the shore. The church is a popular pilgrimage site and was designated a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011. The church was very busy and so was the town. But honestly, the architecture of the church was nothing special by Spain standards. It reminded me of a nice Spanish style building in California.
One thing cool that the town had was statues of ancient indigenous chiefs. I really liked the town of Candelaria. It is lively.
With that it was time to head back to Barcelona.
I absolutely love the Canary Islands and Tenerife is the island with the most to do by far. While not as adventurous as the north, the south side of the island is worth visiting if anything just to go to Siam Park.
Maisie really loved the northwest of Tenerife. The rugged mountainous scenery is very impressive, although similar places can be seen on other islands such as Gran Canaria. Therefore, I would not call these particular mountains a must-do even though they are incredible.
La Gomera was a mixed bag. The island is undoubtedly very beautiful. The bus tour was an easy way to go to the island, but you don´t get to see it at your own pace. The better move, if you have the budget, would be to research an itinerary online and drive it yourself since the guide didn´t add all that much. Still, I think it is a worthy day trip but only for those who have already seen the main sights on Tenerife.