Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Exploring the Canary Islands - Tenerife

We all loved our first family holiday abroad to Lanzarote last year, not too long a flight, good weather, contrasts of scenery and things for everyone to enjoy that we were almost tempted to book it again this year but instead decided to explore a different Canary Island and settled on Tenerife.
Whist in Lanzarote we had a day trip to Fuerteventura so this will make Tenerife our 3rd Canary Island.
view from our balcony
 The plane did a wonderful circle of the island before coming into land, going over the south of the island so we could look down on the beaches we would soon be sitting on with the volcanos in the background. And it really wasn't long before we were in our hotel room overlooking the beach. We were so close to the beach you could hear the waves breaking. We were staying in the Guayarmina Princess, Costa Adeje and it was a stunning looking hotel. Amazing entrance area, 2 pools on a sun terrace (and a toddler pool which was quite deep for toddlers) and a lift down to the beach. We picked this area of Tenerife as its outside of the popular Las Americas (think club 18-30's) but still had things to do and nice evening strolls along the promenade.

surfing and rock pooling
We had a couple of days of sitting by the pool, on the beach and taking a stroll to Las Americas, you can walk all the way to the small port of Los Cristianos but little legs in the heat wouldn't make it that far. It was a lovely walk though passing a couple of beaches, kids play areas, bars and shops and an area that was great for rock pooling. Can't say we found Las Americas appealing in any way but its fine during the day, bit different at night time I'm sure. We grabbed a taxi back to the hotel, too hot for walking back.

Las Americas
Our first trip was to Masca, the hidden village. Its nestled right in a valley of steep mountains and a very popular spot for walking. I would love to go back and do the walk from there down to the coast in a few years time when Charlotte's little legs are bigger. It looked stunning and was so secluded.

Next up was Loro Parque, this was an hour on a coach to the other side of the island but was a fantastic day. The animal park has been running for 40 years and tries to create natural environments for the animals.

Gorilla at Loro Parque
On the most part I think this was achieved with a large rainforest environment for the gorillas and keeping the penguins in semi-darkness for part of the year. There are lots of animals to see with a big killer whale show on the scale of what you would see at Sea World, Florida.

Killer Whale at Loro Parque
 We sat right at the front and got soaking wet, having been to sea world myself I knew how wet we would get. @readitdaddy thought it great but Charlotte got a little upset and we had to move seats. The aquarium and dolphin shows were excellent, we only caught the end of the sea lion show and couldn't even get a seat at the parrot show it was so popular.

dolphin show at Loro Parque

 There is a treetop walk way to climb up and lots of other animals you would see at an animal park. We didn't think much of the eating places and were very pleased we opted for a pack lunch provided by our hotel.

Mt Teide
 I think our best trip of the holiday was a jeep trip into Mount Teide National Park. So much more exciting bumping along in the back of a land rover with the hood down taking in the amazing views of the volcano and rock formations. We only went "off road" once but the cars could take better routes than the coaches can and we could stop off at the quieter locations for photo opportunities. The tour guide was excellent getting all the kids involved as well as the adults and teaching them about the volcano's and lava.

looking down a lava tunnel
After the national park we had to get dressed up to go on a camel ride, not sure I've ever looked or felt quite so silly in my life, but everyone happily joined in. I am really not a fan of camel rides but Charlotte seemed to be loving it and happily sang song to our camel to make him happy.

camel ride
 Our last trip was a pirate boat trip to see dolphins and whales, and yes we really did see them. There are so many different boat trips to do in Tenerife, but I think with a child at 3 hours long this one seemed just right.

pirate boat trip
 There are a number of "fish farms" off the coats of Tenerife that the dolphins do obviously love, and yes we did see some dolphins there. But the boat did go further along the coast to see families that are to be regularly spotted in the waters. The boat was a 150 year old wooden sail boat, but now with a motor fitted. This made it a little choppy in the waters so not great if you get sea sick. After sailing around for 2 hours looking for the dolphins and whales they stop outside of the bay of Las Americas for lunch (provided) and a swim in the sea.

pirate boat trip
 Costa Adeje was a good pick of areas to stay, there were bars and restaurants and a lovely beach. It was very dark sand though but if you walked around the bay (away from Las Americas) you would get to a lovely cove and beyond that another beach which was a bit more golden sand. The whole area is very build up, once you are up into the mountains you find all the lovely Canarian houses but the scale and sprawl of the tourist areas was sad to see. Hotels built into the sides of volcano's to try and cram in a bit more space.

evening view from balcony
 The Guayarmina Princess Hotel was wonderful. We stayed half board and are also vegetarian and didn't struggle for food. Almost all food is labelled in English, Canarian potatoes are a must try. There were plenty of waiters to seat you and take your drinks order (you have to pay for drinks at dinner, we often skipped drink with dinner and brought it from the local shop to have on our balcony).

pool area
 We upgraded to a junior suite room with sea view. The room was excellent giving 2 double beds and a sofa/tv area, we don't often turn the tv on when on holiday but finding BBC, ITV & CH4 was a bonus. But sadly for a room sleeping 4 adults only 2 chairs on the balcony. There is evening music from the restaurants below but this stopped by 11pm.

hotel room
There was the usual reserving of sunbeds even though you are told not too but there were usually enough to go around. We aren't fan of sitting round the pool so would often go there about 5pm when it was quieter. The kids club we found understaffed, and not up to UK standards at all (its run by the hotel not the tour company). No signing in our out or even asking of names. The day we went along one lady took 10 kids off to the little pool and we went to find a spare sunbed (being 2pm there were very few). 15mins in I went to check Charlotte was doing ok, peeped over a balcony and she was fine. Another 15mins went by and just as I'm about to check her again I hear crying. She had been wondering around trying to find us. She said she didn't enjoy it so asked to leave, the lady said she could go. She said to the lady do you know where my mummy and daddy are. The response was no and she still let my daughter go. There are 3 swimming pools and a few hundred sun beds and my daughter was left to find us at the age of 5. We never sent her to the kids club again.

South Tenerife
That moment aside everything else about the holiday was lovely, but we did spend the whole week comparing it to Lanzarote and we felt that Lanzarote was the better of the islands. It seems to have a bit more culture and love the white wash buildings and less high rise buildings thanks to Cesar Manrique.

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