Tenerife’s five-star luxury promises winter fun for all the family
Look no further than these curated Canary Island hotels for five-star family travels
“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures,” wrote the poet Lovelle Drachman. This applies to none more than children who, as any parent know, are insatiably curious and every day for them is an adventure – never more so than when on holiday. Watching our four-year-old daughter, eyes filled with trepidation, bravely sliding down a teeny-tiny waterslide made me realise the level of courage required for that particular adventure. Or our nine-year-old daughter, as she tentatively agreed to try paella for the first time and then, with amazement, discovered it was a new favourite dish. Adventures are all around when you’re young and so much is new, and it’s a privilege to expose our children to the exciting world around us.
I can’t claim adventure was the sole reason for our sojourn to the Canary Islands, although the chance to experience the language, culture, and cuisine of a new country was definitely an exciting prospect. In truth, it was the cold, grey and interminably long UK winter that wore us down, until the temptation of a sunny and sandy tropical holiday became too much to resist. In winter, the largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife, averages temperatures of 21˚C and less than three days of rain per month.
The Spanish island of Tenerife can thank its proximity to Africa for its temperate climate. The affluent Costa Adeje lies on the warmest and calmest southwest side of the island and is famous for golf courses, beaches, waterparks – and the highest concentration of 5-star hotels in Europe. Of these, it’s The Ritz-Carlton, Abama that we call home for the duration of our stay.
Upon arrival, two characteristics left an immediate and lasting impression: the distinctive pinky-red, Moroccan-style clay terracotta buildings and, looking past the palm trees, the most incredible view of the deep blue ocean beyond. The Ritz-Carlton Abama boasts a 72-hole championship golf course, nine restaurants, a spa, a tennis academy and multiple swimming pools. It is spaciously designed, so even when occupancy is high it still feels relaxed and private.
The accommodation consists of the main citadel of 315 rooms and the more secluded villas of 144 rooms; these are also split between families and adult-only suites. Our room was spacious, comfortable and well equipped – indeed, my only criticism was the plentiful use of plastic for water bottles and toiletries. While there are plenty of quieter adult-only lounges and pool areas for those looking for peace and calm, there is also more than enough space and facilities for families to have fun. The kid’s club with its friendly staff and fun activities was an instant hit with our children (and gave my wife and I some spa time) while the largest lagoon pool had many bridges and imitation rocks for climbing, swimming and exploring.
The main attraction was the nearby beach, with the transport to get there (a mini-train and the funicular cable car) a close second. Although the beach is public it remained uncrowded, and the complimentary sunscreen, hotel towels and sun-loungers (as well as butler service for endless drinks and ice-creams) all gave it a very luxurious feel. The beach is set in a small cove sheltered by cliffs on either side, ideal for swimming or lazing on the sand and the ladders leading from the rocks into the water allowed for many adventurous jumps into the water.
A day of adventure requires fuel; an area where The Ritz-Carlton, Abama certainly didn’t disappoint from the casual Lobby Bar offered live music, to the refined two-Michelin-starred MB restaurant.
Our most exciting find was the Verde Mar restaurant, specialising in 100% locally produced vegetarian dishes. From appetisers of vegetable crisps with delicious hummus to the delicately cooked leek with truffle mayonnaise and almond starter, followed by mains of sweet potato gnocchi with hazelnut and coffee foam, every bite was genuinely delicious.
Away from the hotel, there was much to explore on the island itself. A trip to the top of Mount Teide (an occasionally active volcano and the highest peak in Spain) via a cable car is a good half-day activity, as is a dolphin and whale cruise. Our younger children had eyes only for Siam Park, the largest waterpark in Europe; crammed with enough rides, pools, splashes and thrills to entertain the whole family.
TROPICAL VIBES OF THE CANARY ISLANDS
To the northwest of the island lies the charming town of Puerto de la Cruz, where Hotel Botánico & The Oriental Spa Garden lies nestled among unforgettable tropical gardens. The oldest luxury hotel in the Canary Islands, Hotel Botánico is tucked away among 25,000sqm of greenery. Guests can stroll and relax in the gardens at any time of day (or night, thanks to the artistic light installations) or simply sit and observe the ducks, black swans, and koi carp in the pond. For those of a more active disposition the grounds also contain two tennis courts and golf practice facilities, while the surrounding streets are abuzz with shops, bars, restaurants, and the nearby botanical gardens.
The hotel is set in a classically beautiful building radiating comfort and charm, and recent refurbishment has only added to the ambience. We were wowed by the impressive entrance, from the artwork of 800 floating crystal leaves above a beautiful glittering amethyst stone, to the large aquatic fish tank of hypnotically swaying jellyfish beckoning to be admired. The hotel has five restaurants and a bar, and the dark wood paneling and carpets emanate a sense of classical luxury.
However, for all the decadence indoors, it’s the swimming pool (and the large adjoining dining area) outside which is the main focal area. Tucking into an indulgent breakfast overlooking the water, tropical birds flittering about in the adjoining aviary, makes for the perfect start to any day – wiling away an afternoon in a deckchair, ice creams at the ready from the sharp suited staff, isn’t a bad way to continue either.
The entertainment facilities are another selling point for the hotel. Access to the excellent children’s club and award-winning spa are both complimentary, meaning nearly an entire day was spent in separate but equal family bliss. The Oriental Spa Garden, spread over 3,500sqm and on a child-free side of the hotel, includes indoor and outdoor pools, Turkish baths, Japanese saunas, shower sensations and, best of all, a jacuzzi tucked away behind a waterfall. The spa also offers a complete range of beauty and wellness treatments, including programmes for pain relief, detox and antistress.
It was always going to take something special to coax the offspring further afield, but the nearby Martianez Lagoon – a long beachfront stretch of swimming pools, islands, waterfalls and palm trees – was just the ticket. Another unmissable attraction was Loro Parque. Originally opened more than 50 years ago as a parrot sanctuary, it’s helped save 12 bird species from extinction and has the largest parrot gene pool in the world. These days it’s a sprawling and lush jungle zoo, with more than 40,000 animals of over 500 species.
Zoos can be a controversial topic, so it was reassuring to see the large living spaces the animals enjoyed, and the ‘human certified’ animal welfare certification as well as the negative carbon footprint certification (the only zoo in Europe to hold either of these designations). It was also fun to visit the Loro Parque Foundation, which has been involved in over 200 conservation projects around the world, and has another 60 planned for this year – including building a living coral atoll of more than 8,000 corals (the largest outside the ocean). The surprise attraction was the Katandra treetop walk, high up among the branches and a good chance to get close to all sorts of colourful (and noisy) tropical birds.
Family holidays can be a fine balancing act, but with the thoughtful facilities curated by these hotels, it was with sun kissed cheeks and salty hair that we happily bade farewell to the beautiful Canary Islands.