This article originally appeared Belfast Telegraph.
Tenerife has completely altered my perception of a Spanish holiday and I can’t wait to go back.
Situated off the north-west coast of Africa, the island is blessed with good weather all year round and as it’s just four-and-a-half hours away from Belfast with Ryanair, it’s no surprise it’s such a hit with families here.
My wife and three-year-old son Noah joined me for the trip and we were lucky enough to stay at the four-star Hovima La Pinta hotel in Costa Adeje.
This environmentally-friendly hotel has a stunning beachfront location and is ideal for families.
We stayed in one of the ‘Excellence’ two-bedroom seafront apartments, which was one of the best I have seen in many years of travel.
It was massive, had great air con, brilliant views of the sea and pools, plus a wonderful balcony to watch the sunsets in the evenings with a sneaky glass of wine.
If you get the chance to visit the hotel, don’t think twice about going all-inclusive. The food is fantastic and is actually better than some five-star hotels I have stayed in.
What impressed me most about Hovima La Pinta, though, was the people who worked there — I have NEVER visited any hotel where the staff were so good with kids. Each and every one took time to laugh, joke and play with Noah every day and it made his holiday so much more special.
Our first full day had my little boy jumping with joy as we set off in the morning on a whale-watching trip aboard the catamaran Bonadea II (+34 922 714 500, firstname.lastname@example.org).
It’s a smaller boat than some of those doing similar tours, so it feels very relaxed — even if the sea was a bit rough.
It soon became clear that the welfare of the animals was the crew’s number one priority and as we looked across the waves we were provided with some in-depth information about the sea life in the area and their natural habitat.
Unusually, we weren’t able to spot any pilot whales on the day, but we did have 15 minutes of fun as we watched a pod of dolphins swim and jump around the catamaran. A superb experience and well worth it if you have the time and the sea legs.
Next up on our whistle-stop tour of the island was an afternoon visit to Siam Park.
Tenerife’s water kingdom is already established as the best water park in the world and for good reason. Set against a backdrop of spectacular Thai architecture, with everything from meandering rivers to free-fall slides, this is the setting for your own epic adventure.
The star of the park is without doubt the Tower Of Power.
This 28-metre-high ride seemed designed to amaze my son and scare the bejesus out of me in equal measure.
Thankfully, Noah was too small to give it a go (and I was too scared) but to see the brave souls hurtle 76 metres and shoot through the middle of a giant aquarium containing sharks and manta rays is quite simply breathtaking.
Before you even get to any of the rides, there’s a gorgeous white sand ‘beach’ and turquoise lagoon which looks more Phuket than Canary Islands.
The hugely entertaining wave machine starts up for the final 20 minutes of every hour, bar the one right before closing time.
Younger kids like my little boy will enjoy The Lost City, a super splash zone with slides, water guns and giant dunking bucket.
With so many rides for all ages and loads of great restaurants to choose from, it would be easy to spend the whole day here.
The next morning — after a brilliant breakfast at the hotel — we met our guide for the next two days.
I have always been a great believer in using a local person to help point out the most interesting places to see, no matter which holiday destination I choose. I hit gold with Carlos Miles, who was a mine of information.
If, when your holiday’s over, you want to go home with more than just a tan, then let Carlos (+34 609 610 202 /email@example.com) show you the real Tenerife.
His ability to find the best sights, sounds and tastes of the island is exceptional and with his help you leave with memories that will last a lifetime.
Carlos, together with transfer company Let’s Go Bus (+34 607 933 102), took us on our next family adventure.
It’s roughly an hour’s drive to get to the north coast of the island and we were lucky enough to travel through the stunning villages of Los Gigantes and Masca.
The lush, green side of Tenerife is so very different from the southern part of the island and it doesn’t get much lusher or greener than inside the gates of Loro Parque zoo.
Loro Parque received TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice 2018 award for the best zoo in the world for the second year running. The award reinforces the zoo’s role as an authentic wildlife conservation centre whose pillars are education, conservation and raising awareness among its visitors about the importance of protecting the animal world and its ecosystems.
For those of you who don’t know (me included), Loro is Spanish for parrot and you can expect to see a lot of exotic birds here.
For us, however, the highlight of our unforgettable visit was the show at the Loro Parque Dolphinarium.
It is home to nine magnificent bottle-nose dolphins and Noah was lucky enough to get closer than most when he was chosen to be part of the show.
Other must-sees include orca whales, sea lions, gorillas, the shark tunnel, Tiger Island and a huge colony of emperor penguins that stand under snow flurries as you glide past their icy home on a moving walkway.
It’s a really memorable day out, with something for all ages and my wife and I enjoyed the day just as much as Noah.
On our final day we headed to Teide National Park, where we had planned to use the cable car to get to the top of Mount Teide, Spain’s highest volcano.
High winds scuppered that plan, but Carlos gave us an extended tour of the park and its spectacular volcanic landscape — the perfect end to the best family holiday we have had in years.
- Geoff Frazer