Canary Islands

Tenerife

Puerto de la Cruz

Tenerife Landscape

We drove from the south airport in Tenerife with our hire car to Puerto de la Cruz in about 2 hours. Why did we fly into Tenerife South when there is a Tenerife North airport about 10 miles away from Puerto (as they refer to it locally)? Quite simply because I could find no flight there; however, fellow traveller Richard Brown informs me that in the winter months there are at least 6 flights a week from the UK into the northern airport - 3 on a Friday (Gatwick/Manchester/Birmingham with Britannia). He flew in just before Xmas with Britannia from Manchester. So thanks for that update, Richard.

Driving from Tenerife South airport to Puerto was fairly straigthforward. You come out of the airport and directly join the dual carriageway TF1 motorway northbound at junction 23 towards the capital Santa Cruz.

On the way you pass very close to their wind farms (giant wind turbines) that are very impressive. There are 150 on the island overall, and you get to see a large number of these as you drive towards Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Shopping Centre

As you approach Santa Cruz, at around junction 4 of the motorway, you will see signs for Santa Maria and "Centro Commerical" which basically means "Shopping Centre" - Milton Keynes style. There is a large Carrefour on 4 floors there with free parking so there's no excuse not to indulge for an hour or two one day.

At this point on the motorway you might see signs for Puerto Cruz (they omit the "de la" on all roadsigns); the motorway isn't totally finished here, so you exit the TF1 motorway, and rejoin the TF5 immediately via a small roundabout. I would anticipate that if you're reading this after Summer 2004 then it should all be done and dusted with seamless transition form motorway TF1 and TF5 which takes you directly to Puerto.

The bridging motorway between TF1 and TF5 is called the TF2, but I only ever saw signs for it on the return route; as I say, this part of the motorway is still under construction.
"You'll need a map of some kind if you intend driving or hiking around Tenerife"

You pass La Laguna town and the Tenerife North airport on the way to Puerto. You need a good map if you intend driving around, and I can recommend the "Drive! Tenerife Touring Map" from some Tenerifans currently operating out of Northampton. They cost just 2.99 at time of writing and are well worth their small cost. You can't buy on-line, but they will send you the map when you order it over the web and then they trust you to send your cheque back to them. The also do a huge range of GPS-enabled walking maps of all the Canary islands, and their website is worth a visit if you're into that sort of thing.

Puerto

As you approach Puerto de la Cruz things get steep as you descend to sea-level. Just take the first and only exit off the motorway that mentions Puerto (as well as Loro Parque) and you'll be there in minutes down some steep hills. We asked in our best Spanish where our hotel was at a petrol station and he was most helpful, as were all Tenerifians we met. Out of the tourist areas English is not really spoken so a phrase book is probably essential if you don't speak the lingo.

The centre of Puerto (for tourists of all countries) centres around the Plaza Charo, which is a typical Spanish square with dozens of eating places around it and in it. No doubt you'll read your guide book for recommendations or just take pot luck but we can heartily recommend the Rancho Grande and the Restaurant Rustico which is opposite the Rancho but underneath the road and looks out directly over the rocky beach, complete with very impressive flume sprays as the waves roll in to the lava rock coast.

Both these restaurants are actually outside the Plaza Charco area itself, on the beach front promenade leading up to that plaza. I'm pretty sure they're on the Paseo de San Telmo/Calle de Santo Domingo junction. I'm sure the locals will direct you if you can't find them yourself!

For a good meal try the Rancho Grande or the Restaurant Rustico, both on the sea front.

Prices are average but I would consider both "good value for money" and the extensive menu is wide ranging and very tasty.

You can pay by credit card without a problem at any of these restaurants.

We stayed at the Casablanca Apartments, which are self catering in a h-u-g-e block. The receptionists all spoke very good English, German, Taiwanese (just kidding) and could give you a map of Puerto which was really useful. We liked the clean, airy accommodation and there was an on-site bar/snack eatery where we had breakfast a couple of times.

During the low season we reckoned the place was the "Young At Heart" holiday headquaters - pensioners on long stays at much reduced rates. This meant the entertainment was most definitely aimed at the more mature holiday maker. Pehaps it is more up-beat during the summer!

If you had a hire-car there was underground parking for 3 a day which was definitely worthwhile. Opposite the hotel was a Fish & Chip shop and a German snack bar, neither of which we tried although I would have liked to! To walk in to the Puerto centre was really easy: diagonally opposite the hotel was a set of (steepish) steps down to the town. In fact there were 121 broad steps down and about 4,567 back up. Did I ever get a daily workout with those steps! Seriously though, if you are less able-bodied than some, then you will need to get a very reasonably priced taxi down (and back up) to the hotel. We refused our 15 year old daughter a taxi, as kids these days don't get enough exercise anyway.

Attractions

Try visiting the following Puerto attractions, as they were pretty good value for money (except for the Loro Park which was exorbitant at 21 each!):

  1. Banana plantation (Bananera El Gaunche). This can be found on the road that links Puerto with the motorway. It's set back a few meters from the road so is difficult to see coming from Puerto but is easy to spot going the other way! Anyway, bananas are their main crop but also every other possible exotic fruit is shown here in their garden. You also get a shot of very sweet banana liquor and a nice ripe banana before you leave. We spotted a couple of green parrots in the trees but disappointingly little other wildlife.
  2. Entrance to Loro ParqueLoro Park. Originally a parrot park but now a miniature "Sea World" of the sort found in Florida, complete with Dolphins. Actually the parrots were the worst part of this park, as they were in cages that we all considered far too small. The layout of the park cleverly disguises its actual diminutive size and their are plenty of places to eat and drink. The guide book tells you to "allow a full day" but frankly we were done within a few hours. And despite having a Dolphin show, there just wasn't that Wow-factor that you find in American theme parks. We gave it 6 out of 10.

    If you want to pay by credit card, don't forget to take photo-id or else you will be refused. There is, however, a cash machine next to the ticket office so you can use that if you need to. You can catch the "Noddy train" pictured here from the centre of Puerto for free, but we found parking no problem at all.
  3. Jardin Botanico. OK, so it's just a huge formalised garden originally used as an acclimatisation ground for exotic trees destined for Spain but you'll never see such a collection naturally in the wild! We spotted a white egret here and few parrots but nothing else. Still, apart from being right next to noisy main road, it was pleasant enough and cost just 3 to get in. Closes at 6:30pm.
  4. We didn't get to see the famous Lido, or artifical pools, at Lago Martianez right on the sea front in Puerto. Nor did we have time to see the Parque Taoro which contains, amongst other things a Casino (open from about 7pm) and Restaurant. Maybe next time...
  5. Do take the walk to Plaza del Charco. It's nice to eat out in the open (even at the start of January it was long trousers and T-shirt weather, with maybe a light cardigan for later on). Drinks are not measured here or anywhere else in Tenerife. For about 2 you get a treble whatever you want. Try the Spanish liquour called "43" (pronouned "kwar-enta ee trez") made from honey and some spirit. Sweet, but nice over ice. The local brandy was damn good too.

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