Your vacation guide to La Palma, Canary Islands
Often called La Isla Bonita (the beautiful island), La Palma may just be the most stunning of all the seven Canary Islands. The entire island is considered both a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve as well as a Starlight Reserve due to its many stargazing points and clear, unpolluted night skies. And with over 600 miles of hiking trails and windswept black sand beaches, the island is perfect for nature enthusiasts looking to get away from it all.
Getting there and around
These days, you'll have to have at least one connection in a destination such as Madrid, Barcelona or one of the other Canary Islands before landing in La Palma (SPC).
There are also ferry options running from Tenerife -- just know the route is long (about eight hours), and the sea can be choppy. Once there, in order to fully explore the island, car rental is essential.
Where to stay
The H10 Taburiente Playa offers recently renovated rooms, several pools, and all-inclusive options for those wanting a more resort-style vacation.
Farther inland, have a tranquil boutique stay (sea views included) at the Parador de la Palma, ideal for relaxing.
Hacienda Sao Jorge is a beautiful hotel sitting on a verdant, lush estate complete with a massive pool. It's a short walk away from the black sands and large boulders of Playa Cancajos.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, stay at Hotel Haciendo de Abajo, a regal, 17th-century villa that once stood on a sugar plantation. Today, it's an adults-only hotel surrounded by lush palm trees a few miles away from the sea.
What to do and see
Beach bums, be ready for black sands on La Palma. Some of the best sandy spots include the aforementioned Playa Cancajos, with its shimmery dark sand and jagged volcanic rocks. Playa Tazacorte on the other side of the island also has a port, plus all the amenities you might want for a day at the beach. For a more deserted beach, Playa de Charco Verde is backed by towering mountains. Enjoy a more hidden black-sand beach flanked with greenery at the natural Playa Nogales. Just be careful when swimming -- these waters have very strong currents.
There are plenty of activities to do for those who get bored on the beach. Start with a trip to the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, formed by volcanic landslides. The park features natural wonders like waterfalls, streams and hilly pine tree forests. Speaking of forests, slightly farther north, the Bosque de Los Tilos (filled with Laurisilva trees) has some incredible hikes (not recommended for anyone with vertigo) and waterfalls.
Nearby, observation decks like Espigón Atravesado and Somada Alta offer incredible views. In fact, the entire island is full of observation decks where you can go and feel on top of the world. Hikers can also enjoy various volcano routes throughout the island.
Of course, like most of the Canary Islands, you can also scuba dive or snorkel. Remember, the island is declared a Biosphere Reserve, and this status includes its impressively clear waters. Besides spotting fish, coral and maybe the occasional shark, explore the underwater graveyard of the Sunken Crosses of Malpique, 39 underwater crosses covered in moss, coral and other sea life. Or, hop on a boat for whale or dolphin spotting tours (these typically leave from Tazacorte).
For those who prefer to stay on dry ground, the Rastro de Argual market in the colorful town of Los Llanos de Aridane each Sunday is a great place to barter for local goods or enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Nightlife has a whole different meaning on this island -- it's all about stargazing on La Palma. The island is protected as a Starlight Reserve, dedicated to protecting the quality of its famed night sky. Almost any spot on the island makes for some epic night sky viewing, but there are actually 16 miradores astronómicos, or viewpoints where you can specifically go to experience astrotourism. The most famous is the Roque de Los Muchachos observatory, perched at 8,000 feet above sea level, complete with 13 different telescopes.
What to eat and drink
While many of the Canary Islands cultivate wine, it's beer you should sip on La Palma -- beer specifically from the island's famed brewery Isla Verde. From the Coffee Stout to the Indiana Wheat Ale, you can buy its beers in its shop or sip them at the restaurant. It's worth noting that the brewery also runs mainly on sustainable energy, too.
Another key drink (this time a caffeinated one) to sample on the island is a barraquito at any time of day: a boozy coffee layered with condensed milk, liqueur and a shot of espresso.
Cuisine on La Palma ranges from fresh seafood to hearty stews to potatoes with the famed Canarian mojo picón sauce, similar to the other islands. But take note that the salt you're enjoying on any of these savory foods likely comes from the island's salt pans. You can also buy salt and take it home to give your meals a memorable kick from your Canarian vacation.
The best way to figure out if La Palma truly is La Isla Bonita is to vacation there and decide for yourself! One of the greener Canary Islands, La Palma is ideal for those looking to hike, stargaze, experience windswept black sands and dive into the local Canarian culture (or into the island's clear Atlantic waters).
If you aren't quite sure if La Palma is the right island for your visit, check out these guides which may help you choose another: