La Palma

Get to know what it’s like to visit this destination.

Getting To Know La Palma – Cruise Port Guide

 

Most cruisers would be forgiven for mixing up the Canary Island of La Palma with the capital of the Balearic Island of Majorca, Palma. However, the fifth largest of the seven Canary Islands is a real treasure, and its nickname of ‘La Isla Bonita’ – the Beautiful Island – is a true testament to the sheer abundance of jaw dropping natural wonders that can be uncovered there. At 706 square km in size, La Palma can be very easily explored in a day ashore from a cruise ship and many stop off here in the main town of Santa Cruz de La Palma on the east coast (again not to be confused with the larger town and port of Santa Cruz on the neighbouring island of Tenerife). Now that we’ve figured out the geography, let’s delve into our La Palma cruise port guide and see what else you should be adding to your must see list during your time on the island.

What is immediately evident when docking in this rather sleepy town is that it is for the natural beauty that one visits, with mountains rising up over 2,000 metres immediately viewable from the harbour. In fact, the Roque de Los Muchachos – Rock of Boys – at 4,246 metres above sea level, is second in height only to Mount Teide on Tenerife within the island chain and boasts a telescopic array to wow stargazers; in fact, La Palma is the second most important astrophysics observatory in the world and principle northern hemisphere site. This towering mountain range in the north of the island, overlooks one of four national parks in the Canary Islands, the Caldera de Taburiente National Park. Beyond this the ridge of the Cumbre Vieja slopes to the south revealing a barren volcanic landscape and ending at the southern tip of Fuencaliente, where there are various volcanic craters and cones, most notably the San Antonio Volcano. For the nature lovers, the Los Tilos Laurel Forest is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Status boasts amazing hiking trails through stunning ecosystems and more hiking routes to explore. All these delights mean that La Palma just might be the hidden gem in the Canary Islands crown.

Travel Tips

The good thing about cruising here is that the port at Santa Cruz de La Palma acts as a gateway to the island, whilst also being a pretty town to stroll around to a more colonial style rather than somewhere that has been over developed like other Canary Island destinations. The port is fairly easy to navigate, with there being a flat walk of approximately 1km to the start of the main pedestrianised street, Calle O’Daly. This street is a mixture of cobblestones and paving slabs, and all along its length you can find an assortment of local souvenir shops, clothing stores, shoe shops, furniture stores and small cafes and bars.

The other main attraction of this town is the street that runs parallel to Calle O’Daly next to the waterfront, the Avenida Maritima. This street is the location of the most impressive set of traditional wooden balconies in all the Canary Islands, and now these former merchants’ houses and fisherman’s’ dwellings have souvenir shops and nice restaurants occupying some of their ground floors.

The last place of interest within the vicinity of the port are the two local beaches of Santa Cruz de La Palma, which runs parallel to the Avenida Maritima, and Playa de Bajamar, around 20 minutes’ walk from the port, situated directly opposite the cruise berth. La Palma itself is not the most renowned Canary Island for its beaches however and being a volcanic island, most of the beaches are black sand.

Those are really the main thing to see in Santa Cruz de La Palma and in reality, aside from the beach, the town itself really can be explored in around 2 hours total. So, the best thing you can do is head off to explore the island. Renting a car is a great way of exploring the island independently and there are a couple of firms in the small terminal building in the port, offering rentals from as low as €35 for a car for a whole day, or of course there are always ship excursions to head off with a guide.

Most cruisers would be forgiven for mixing up the Canary Island of La Palma with the capital of the Balearic Island of Majorca, Palma. However, the fifth largest of the seven Canary Islands is a real treasure, and its nickname of ‘La Isla Bonita’ – the Beautiful Island – is a true testament to the sheer abundance of jaw dropping natural wonders that can be uncovered there. At 706 square km in size, La Palma can be very easily explored in a day ashore from a cruise ship and many stop off here in the main town of Santa Cruz de La Palma on the east coast (again not to be confused with the larger town and port of Santa Cruz on the neighbouring island of Tenerife).

What is immediately evident when docking in this rather sleepy town is that it is for the natural beauty that one visits, with mountains rising up over 2,000 metres immediately viewable from the harbour. In fact, the Roque de Los Muchachos – Rock of Boys – at 4,246 metres above sea level, is second in height only to Mount Teide on Tenerife within the island chain and boasts a telescopic array to wow stargazers; in fact, La Palma is the second most important astrophysics observatory in the world and principle northern hemisphere site. This towering mountain range in the north of the island, overlooks one of four national parks in the Canary Islands, the Caldera de Taburiente National Park. Beyond this the ridge of the Cumbre Vieja slopes to the south revealing a barren volcanic landscape and ending at the southern tip of Fuencaliente, where there are various volcanic craters and cones, most notably the San Antonio Volcano. For the nature lovers, the Los Tilos Laurel Forest is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Status boasts amazing hiking trails through stunning ecosystems and more hiking routes to explore. All these delights mean that La Palma just might be the hidden gem in the Canary Islands crown.

Destination photos courtesy of Sam Whiteside ©

Key highlights of La Palma

  • Santa Cruz de La Palma
    • Avenida Maritima and its 15th Century Balconies
    • Calle O’Daly
    • Naval Museum
    • Centro de Interpretación de La Bajada – Exhibits on quinquennial celebrations honouring the Virgen de Las Nieves (patron of the island) in a restored, historical space.
    • Playa Santa Cruz de La Palma and Playa de Bajamar
  • Caldera de Taburiente National Park
  • Roque de Los Muchachos (tallest peak) and the Astrophysics Observatory
  • Town of El Paso and La Glorieta Square
  • The Caños de Fuego (Fire ducts) Volcanic Caves Interpretation Centre and Las Palomas Volcanic Cave
  • Fuencaliente and the Volcano of San Antonio
  • Tendel Archaeological Park
  • Los Tilos Laurel Forest
  • Aldea Rum Distillery
Gran Canaria Port

Regular cruise line visitors

  • Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
  • Silversea
  • SAGA Cruises
  • P&O Cruises

Cruise Expert Insider 🔎 La Palma by Sam Whiteside

Jane Archer No Fly Cruises

Most people I speak to think that La Palma is not as interesting as the other Canary Islands and if I ask them if they have ventured further than the town most will say no. That is a shame because this is definitely what we in the industry call a gateway port. If all you do here is stay around town, I feel you will have missed out on quite possibly the most breath-taking natural scenery you are likely to view. Do be warned though, if you are not someone who has a head for heights or if you get a bit travel sick on winding roads, then La Palma will definitely test you, as all the best bits of the island are high above the clouds, quite literally in some cases.

Don’t get me wrong, if you aren’t really into exploring and getting off the beaten track then you can potter around the town easily enough. You may also find yourself lucky enough as I once was to be in port the day of particular festivities, like the Carnival Los Indianos which occurs in either February or March dependent on the year, and is commonly known as The White Party, for the fact that everyone dresses in white and engage in throwing talcum powder over each other, in a friendly manner of course. There is a reason for this celebration, which is to remember those who once emigrated to Latin America to earn their fortune, who then returned home to La Palma bringing their wealth and some of their newly adopted cultures to share with their fellow islanders. Cuban music, cigars and of course rum bring thousands out onto the streets and it is not uncommon for the town, whose normal population is around 20,000 inhabitants, to swell to almost 50,000. It is one big street party, and I must admit that not even being covered head to toe in talcum powder and all the necessary cleaning that takes place afterwards will dampen your spirits. It was an exhilarating experience.

This is obviously luck of the draw if you end up here on this very day, but if you don’t I have had some wonderful tapas at restaurants that occupy the wonderful old merchants houses on the Avenida Maritima. For me you cannot visit a destination and not try the local food so, whatever you do, make sure you ask for Canarian potatoes with the famous mojo sauces and then pick up some at the souvenir shops or even in the local supermarket before you get back onboard. If you want to take a bottle of something home with you, I have visited the local rum distillery in Charco Azul in the north of the island, and you can find their products in many of the shops in Santa Cruz. The rum is called Aldea and they use traditional distilling methods, and it is still a very labour-intensive process to get their rum. They infuse it with various spices and flavours, my personal favourite being the honey flavoured rum. They also do their own gins and vodkas, but if you are not into spirits, then wine from La Palma is also lovely and full of flavour, grown in the rich volcanic soil to perfection.

Having been raised in a relatively flat part of the UK, I am always fascinated by mountains and La Palma does not disappoint in that. Whether you explore the volcanic craters down at Fuencaliente or fancy heading up to the highest point to see the telescopic array and peer down into the vast chasm that is the Caldera de Taburiente, you will feel like you are on top of the world. I don’t think there are enough superlatives or adjectives to describe the views this island has to offer, sometimes I think it’s best for pictures to do the talking, or better yet see if with your own eyes. I have been a part of shore excursions, but I have also rented cars from the port and the island is simple enough to explore by yourself if you fancy tackling the mountainous terrain. My biggest tip, and I have already said this but will say it again, is go further than the port to fully appreciate this island. If not, you may just be jealous of all the wonders you hear about at your dinner table that evening.

Sam Whiteside

Cruise Destination Specialist

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La Palma

 

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