The Caribbean has long been the go-to destination for year-round sailing, particularly in the winter months. But for those looking for calmer waters and quiet marinas, the Canary Islands offers a genuine alternative. In this latest article in our ongoing Spain series, Elite Traveler offers a luxury guide to sailing the Canary Islands.
Sitting off the coast of West Africa, the Spanish archipelago is made up of seven main islands (Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro) and a large number of smaller islets.
Its position in the Atlantic means temperatures never vary too widely. This makes it a perfect cruising ground regardless of the time of year. And for the price of one transatlantic flight, sailors can exchange the hustle and bustle of the Caribbean for a hidden gem.
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Sail into the Gran Canaria’s thriving capital city for a hit of hedonism. As the only true city in the Canary Islands, you will naturally find the best dining and shopping on its promenades. Cruisers generally come here to relax on pristine beaches, sip cocktails in beachfront bars and explore the beautiful old town.
It would be a crime, however, not to leave the cityscape behind and explore Gran Canaria’s stunning natural landscapes. Take a helicopter to the nearby Bandama Crater to gaze into one of the youngest volcanoes in the archipelago.
Las Palmas is the Canary Island’s main city / ©Flickr (David Huang)
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife
Santa Cruz is Spain’s second busiest port after Barcelona, and although you have more of a battle for berths on your hands, you receive the best facilities in the region in return. The town is unmistakably Spanish. There is beautiful architecture to marvel at and postcard-worthy streets to wander through. Those wishing to stay have the choice of several different luxury hotels, including the stunning Royal Hideaway Corales Resort where one of the island’s best restaurants, San Ho, is also be found.
While on the island, take time to travel to Teide National Park, an other-worldly environment that is dominated by Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide. Its Martian-like landscape has proved popular with film directors with Star Wars and Planet of the Apes both filmed here. Again, helicopter excursions over the mountain are an option but the cable car to the summit offers a much more intimate experience.
El Hierro is the smallest, least developed and least visited of the seven main islands and is far more rugged than its bigger neighbors. It is located at the tip of the archipelago in the west and was once thought by sailors to be the end of the world. You can dock in Puerto de la Estaca and travel inland to the village of Valverde. From here, you can venture into the foothills and explore mile upon mile of trail to spectacular viewing points from which most of the island can be seen.
Although it is still quiet, the island’s tourism is booming thanks to the growth in luxury isolated retreats. Take in the island’s end-of-the-world feel at the Hotel Puntagrand, one of the smallest hotels in the world. Perched on the end of a cliff, it stares out into the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
The rugged lands of El Hierro offer an escape from the crowds / ©Flickr (Mario Trifuoggi)
Where to Anchor
With your vessel, you have the distinct advantage of being able to explore the dozens of smaller islands and islets where there is little or no infrastructure. Drop anchor at these pristine points to enjoy the peace away from the crowds.
Playa Francesa, Isla de la Graciosa
Located just north of Lanzarote, Playa Francesa is hardly an isolated spot and can get busy in the summer, but it is still very quiet compared to the main islands. Dock your boat just off of the pristine beach and dive into crystal clear waters.
Playa de la Conca de Lobos, Isla de Lobos
Journey to the island of Fuerteventura to discover one of the most serene coves in the archipelago. Just a stone’s throw from the main island is Isla de Lobos and Playa de la Conca de Lobos is a scenic place to drop anchor for the day. It can get windy here at times so planning ahead is important. If the day is calm, Head inland to discover the islet’s turquoise lagoons, a perfect location for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The idyllic waters of Playa Francesa / ©Flickr (Simon Turkas)