Travel: On Tenerife, life doesn't have to be a beach

Surrounded by lush tropical gardens and the most opulent greenery, I lay in the peaceful Oriental Spa Garden, unable to believe this was the same island I'd visited many times before.

Hotel Botanico. Picture: Contributed
Hotel Botanico. Picture: Contributed

Staring at the breathtaking views over the valley to Mount Teide and watching the palm trees swish back and forth in the breeze, I realised that Puerto de La Cruz might be the most cultural holiday resort in Tenerife – offering tourists a completely different experience from the south.

With its elegant plazas, stylish boardwalks and black sand beaches, holidaymakers can retreat here for a guaranteed taste of the everyday Spanish lifestyle.

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Just an hour’s drive from Tenerife’s largest airport, Reina Sofia, and 20 minutes from Tenerife North airport (TFN – also known as Los Rodeos), Puerto De La Cruz sits at the foot of La Orotava in the north, surrounded by mountains and a wealth of traditional Spanish tavernas.

The temperature in this part of the island is typically five degrees lower than the south, where tens of thousands of tourists flock every year to visit the sun-soaked resorts of Playa de Las Americas, Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje.

But despite being cloudier and not offering the same golden sands as its competitor resorts, Puerto De La Cruz has a unique vibe.

I arrived on a late afternoon in March, when the sky was scattered with clouds and the sun was slowly setting over the ocean.

The air was nippy, and as I pulled into the luxury Hotel Botanico, where I would be staying for the next three nights, I was in awe of the building’s alluring oriental decor and gold trimmings.

After being greeted by a concierge in 
a white sailor suit, checking in and 
being shown to my room, I quickly noticed how the elegant oriental theme of red and gold created a relaxing atmosphere throughout the hotel, and immediately I felt I was in paradise. It was no surprise that the Spanish royals, Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton had stayed here.

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The Hotel Botanico is situated a ten-minute drive from the bustling centre of Puerto De La Cruz, where the majority of bars, restaurants and shops are located.

During the day, the resort is swamped with families and couples flocking to the beach, wandering around the shops picking up their holiday souvenirs or heading out on island excursions. But as the sun sets, it becomes quieter. While my partner and I were strolling along the peaceful promenade in the moonlight, all we could hear were the waves crashing against the volcanic rock and the faint sound of traditional music.

Scattered along the waterfront is a large selection of eateries, ranging from Italian to Asian. After walking for miles, we stopped at a traditional Spanish restaurant, Columbus Calidad, where we indulged in steak and rice dishes.

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Afterwards, we explored the Plaza del Charco, where some of the more upmarket shops and cocktail bars are located. In this square, holidaymakers can relax in the plush cafés while watching a variety of street acts perform until the early hours of the morning.

Inside the Hotel Botanico itself, the most alluring feature was its Oriental Spa Garden. It came as no surprise that this establishment is one of the Leading Hotels of the World as the spa facilities are the finest I have ever experienced. Wearing white robes and slippers, guests can lie in the subtropical gardens for hours on end, listening to soothing Thai-themed music and watching the waterfall trickle into the swimming pool.

As I visited in early March, the air was too cool to lie outside for any length of time, so I explored the temple of well-being. Inside, the pathways leading to each therapy room were lined with candles and a strong smell of lavender filled the air. Around the poolside – which is decorated in marble – a Japanese sauna, a Turkish steam bath and an aromatherapy room are just a handful of the available facilities. If I’d had more time to relax, I wouldn’t have hesitated to book a massage or a facial – the selection of treatment options available is endless.

As well as the botanical gardens and excursions to the famous Teide National Park, Puerto De La Cruz has another major tourist attraction sitting on its doorstep – the Loro Parque. This hotspot, which boasts a diverse range of animal and plant species, has seen more than 19 million visitors pass through its doors since it opened in 1972.

It is home to the best dolphin and orca shows on the island and is the perfect day out for families, friends and couples. My partner and I spent the full day there, studying the animals, watching the shows and snacking in its selection of restaurants and bars. To make the day memorable, it’s worth upgrading your entry ticket to a Discovery Tour. This is available in multiple languages and provides guests with their own tour guide, as well as all the information about the animals they need. It also gives guests access to exclusive parts of the park where usually only staff are permitted, such as the gorilla exhibit and orca training tunnel, and an insight into the operation of Planet Penguin – a large cylinder which houses hundreds of penguins in Antarctic conditions.

Parrots and dolphins aren’t for everyone, so if water slides and an adrenalin rush are more your thing, 
I’d recommend the Siam Park. Situated in the south of the island, this water 
park has been named the best in the world by TripAdvisor and is home to a series of thrill-seeking slides, a handful of family attractions and a soothing, lazy river.

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Whether it is for a long weekend or a summer break, Puerto De La Cruz is the perfect holiday destination for families, couples and groups of friends looking for a taste of traditional Spanish lifestyle. And all only four hours’s flight away. How can you resist?