Tenerife – Not What It Used To Be – Part 1

Ok, I admit it was a challenge. I was looking to rent a villa somewhere as warm as the Caribbean, as tropical as Hawaii and with enough attractions and surprises to keep me amused. I also didn’t want to fly a million miles to get there.

“Impossible,” my wife said.

“Tenerife,” said my neighbour Phil, and proceeded to convince me that the most famed Canary Island is not what it used to be.

Like many, my preconceptions of the island had been tainted by media coverage of teenage excesses in a neon jungle.

canary islands, tenerife, las teresitas beach“It’s just not like that,” pressed Phil.

So uttering threats of evil retribution if proven wrong, I took his advice and decided to rent a villa in Tenerife.

Six weeks later, I’m writing a postcard on a near deserted beach in a horseshoe cove. I have a lot to say to Phil but before I start my wife returns. She delivers two iced bottles of beer and a plate of grilled sardines from the fisherman’s bar that sits in front of a handful of cottages to our left. In a clear blue sky the sub-tropical heat is being fanned by a gentle ocean breeze. The only sound is laughter from my two young children splashing each other in the clear waters of El Puertito, ‘the tiny port’.

In front of the bar a fisherman sits on the slipway mending an olive-green fishing net which spreads from his leathery bare feet to an upturned blue and red rowing boat at the water’s edge. A fading nautical cap shades his mahogany features from the fierce sun.

I have to admit it’s a far cry from the overcrowded beaches that I’d anticipated. But this is just one of the surprises that my neighbour had promised, and Tenerife had delivered. To be fair, even the resort beach of Playa del Duque where we’d spent the day yesterday could hardly be called ‘overcrowded’. The broad swath of golden sand provided more than enough elbow room for everybody. Plus the boardwalk promenade at the back harboured a variety of high-class bars, restaurants and shops in a village-like setting. Don’t get me wrong though, we hadn’t spent all of our time so far with bucket and spade in hand. We were determined to venture out and discover the ‘new Tenerife’ for ourselves.

Our villa in Costa Adeje provided the perfect base and breakfast on the terrace became our daily planning session. A day trip to the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, provided a fix of culture. Driving past the gravity-defying architecture of the Auditorium, its gleaming white roof curled into a peak like a breaking wave, set the tone for a day that was filled with many ‘wow’ moments. Not least of which was the restored old quarter, with brightly painted shops and shuttered tapas bars lining the cobbled lanes.

We paused for a coffee in a pavement café overlooking the newly revamped Plaza de España with its expansive lake, part of remodelling of the sea front side of the city to benefit the increasing number of passengers disembarking from the international cruise ships visiting the city.

With the aroma of strong coffee and fresh pastries, the café proved to be an atmospheric place to take in the comings and goings of the real Tenerife. Workers rushed purposefully from office to office, shoppers trudged with bundles of coloured bags from the pedestrianised tree-lined boulevards, and visitors like us weaved slowly in and out of the melee, stopping to consult a map or gaze up at a historic mansion.

From Santa Cruz we drove further north still, past the palm-studded sands of Las Teresitas beach. At the fishing village of San Andrés we veered into the hills, motoring higher and higher between sharp-ridged mountains that scored the verdant heights with a dozen shades of green.