Spain Guide

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La Palma Beaches

Don't come to La Palma expecting endless stretches of golden sand flanked by amusement arcades and burger bars. The island has kept mass tourism at bay partly because its coastline has only a small number of beaches consisting of black volcanic sand and pebbles.

Much of the coast is characterised by steep cliffs of volcanic rock and small coves, only accessible by boat (and even then access can be hazardous depending on the sea state).

The main beaches are at Los Cancajos on the east coast and at Puerto Naos and Puerto de Tazacorte on the warmer western side of the island. The capital Santa Cruz has a large beach, Playa de Bajamar, on the south side of the town.

The beaches of Los Cancajos and Puerto Naos are equipped with changing cubicles, toilets and first aid posts and have been awarded the European Blue Flag for cleanliness. The naturally black lava sand can be off putting for northern European visitors but the beaches and coastal waters here are spotlessly clean.

In the north of the island, near Barlovento, you'll find a series of natural rock pools and caves which have been adapted to provide sea water swimming pools and sunbathing areas. Try a day out at these "Piscinas La Fajana" as an alternative to the beach.

Don't forget that La Palma doesn't promise guaranteed year round sun and you may encounter several days of grey skies and rain. The island's beaches have fewer sunny days than the frantic tourist resorts of Playa de las Americas in Tenerife or Playa del Ingles in Gran Canaria.

There are occasional storms in the winter with high winds and awe inspiring waves which can be more than five metres high. Beware of high seas, strong currents and an undertow which is extremely dangerous at times. Always heed the flag warnings you'd be most unwise to swim when the red flag is flying.

The fresh breezes here can also present a danger for lily white skins from northern climes you can still burn very quickly even though the temperature may not feel that hot. So don't forget the sun cream!

Puerto de Tazacorte has the longest beach on the west coast and a large fishing harbour with deep sea fishing vessels and pleasure boats. The restaurants which pepper the harbourside are supplied with the fresh catch of the day by the colourful fishing boats which you'll see moored here. A great place to sample the local seafood and watch the world go by.

Puerto Naos is another traditional fishing village where you'll find a good beach and the local diving base which organises excursions to view the wealth of marine life in these virgin waters.

Exotic fish have been able to colonise the black coral reefs, volcanic caves and underwater arches of the crystal clear water which has been virtually undisturbed by the perils of modern tourism.

Take a boat excursion from Puerto Naos or Santa Cruz and you may well be treated to the sight of dolphins playing in the surf, turtles and even whales.

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