Tenerife. The Canary Islands. The names sound far away, exotic and indeed, most Americans would be hard pressed to find these islands on the map. When spotted, their location off the West Coast of Africa would validate the term exotic, yet travelers are often mystified upon arrival in Tenerife because the island feels so “European.” It feels like Europe because it is Europe. It’s part of Spain and benefits from all the important infrastructure (think roads, electrical systems, water, etc.) built to European standards.
For seasoned travelers this results in an experience that is both exotic and familiar...all at the very same time, in the very same place.
Tenerife is the largest of the seven Canary Islands and has a unique, paradoxically tourism distinction when compared to your typical island getaway. It’s both a great family resort destination and a great luxury destination. While many islands lay claim to being family friendly based on their beach activities, Tenerife takes the family experience up quite a few notches. It has all the usual beach activities, yet it is also home to two best-in-class theme parks.
Loro Parque (Spanish for Parrot Park) (www.loroparque.com) started out in 1972 as a paradise for a collection of 150 parrots and originally occupied just 3.2 acres of land. From these humble beginnings Loro Parque has grown in size to 33 acres and has the largest parrot collection in the world. Over 4,000 parrots, representing 350 species and sub-species, call Loro Parque home. Over the years, Loro Parque has added many different animal attractions, including Europe’s largest dolphin show pool, the world’s largest indoor penguin exhibition (it actually snows to make the penguins feel at home), the longest shark tunnel in Europe, and the park is only the second place in Europe to house killer whales (orcas). Some of the other animals featured in the park are: chimpanzees, western gorillas, marmosets, sea lions, small-clawed otters, jaguars, tigers, iguanas, Galapagos tortoises and various breeds of shark. Loro Parque zoo attracts 40 million visitors a year and is located on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz, a town located on the North Coast of Tenerife.
To keep the island attractions balanced, the founder of Loro Parque opened a water park called Siam Park (www.siampark.net) in the south of Tenerife in 2007. Siam Park features 12 different rides and attractions. Additionally, the park includes a Thai theme on all of its rides, park buildings, and restaurants. The park’s 25 buildings comprise the largest collection of Thai-themed buildings outside Thailand. Designer Christopher Kiessling consulted the Thai Royal family about the Thai theme and design of Siam Park. He received their permission to use the park’s name and theme. Respecting the family’s wishes, he did not copy royal palaces, temples, or statues of Buddha in the park. Siam Park was officially opened in 2007 by Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Thailand Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
For families seeking a bit more adventure than the normal beach destination activities of kayaking, snorkling & scuba, Tenerife offers families the added thrill of paragliding. Tenerife has world’s best weather conditions for year-round paragliding. Typically, flights last between 30 minutes for a basic flight to about 50 minutes for something more deluxe. This unique sport can accommodate people from age 5 to 80, making it an adventure suitable for the whole family. My recommendation would be for a flight that begins on Mount Teide at approximately 7,800 feet and ends at about sea level in the town of Puerto de la Cruz. Not only does this give you a long ride, the change in scenery - as you soar like an eagle - goes from mountain, to desert, to lush tropical, to ocean views. Definitely the experience of a lifetime.
Of course, adventure activities like paragliding aren’t just for families, as you can definitely work them into a luxury or romantic escape. For those looking for the ultimate in luxury, one of Europe’s finest spas happens to be located in Puerto de la Cruz. The Oriental Spa Garden at the Botanical Hotel (www.hotelbotanico.com) is a 5-star facility boasting thermal pools, saunas and steam rooms. Specialized treatments like a lavender-scented aromatherapy room, chocolate treatments and volcanic body wraps are also on the menu. The Botanico Hotel & Oriental Spa Gardens has been a member of Leading Hotels of the World since 1998 and is owned by the family that also owns Loro Parque and Siam Park.
The Ritz-Carlton Abama Resort
(www.ritzcarlton.com/tenerife) is another luxury property that JAX FAX can happily recommend. This hotel features not just a great luxury spa, but it’s a must stop for golf fans as it is home to the challenging and world renowned 72-par golf course designed by Dave Thomas.
Hotels in Tenerife that are perfect for a luxury family holiday include the Gran Melia Palacio de Isora (www.melia.com) and the Bahia del Duque (www.thetaishotels.com/bahia
del-duque). The Gran Melia is a 5-star property where while mom and dad relax in the spa the kids (ages 3-12) will be entertained in the MiniClub that features games, kid’s workshops, a kid’s pool and play area. For nighttime activities there is “Palacio for kids” - an evening leisure area for all the family with board games, bouncy castle for the little ones, video games and a cinema.
The Bahia del Duque is yet another property that combines luxury for the adults and special entertainment options for the children. The hotel’s kids mini-club offer children aged 3 and older supervised activities that include treasure hunting, painting, volleyball and children’s shows. For older kids there is a Teen Lounge - inspired by the California surfing lifestyle shown in the film “The Great Wednesday”. The Teen Lounge offers the perfect place for teenagers to retreat and get some privacy. Board games, a Play Station, a Wii and a relaxation area with a television will make this secret hideaway the perfect place to keep them happily entertained.
My final hotel recommendation is really for the luxury minded romantic travelers - for this one it’s probably best to leave the kids at home and take the opportunity to experience a bit of romance. This is a unique luxury getaway with authentic local flair. The 5-star Hotel San Roque (www.hotelsanroque.com) is located in the charmingly picturesque village of Garachico. This luxury boutique hotel is set in a beautiful 18th century villa, the striking room are designed in a contemporary style and feature Charles Rennie Mackintosh furniture. Activities in Garachico include swimming in the rock pools along the coast, visiting the Plaza de Libertad with its local cafes and historical buildings, and hiking the coastline and surrounding hills. A great place to reconnect with that someone special.
It’s easy to get your clients to Tenerife and generally the easiest way is to connect them through Madrid’s Barajas Airport. Convenient connections are available from most major European hubs. As an agent you do have to be careful on one point - the island has two airports. North and South. If you use the right airport for your clients stay, they will have a very short transfer time, however if they are staying in the south of the island and you send them to the North Airport, they may have an hour transfer time...and who