Mention the Canary Islands and you’ll instantly think of the favoured British destinations of Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. But this archipelago off the north-west coast of Africa is actually made up of seven islands, each one with its own unique flavour and subtropical climates that make them perfect for a family holiday year-round.
La Gomera is a 50-minute ferry ride from its larger neighbour Tenerife but a world away in terms of landscape, entertainment and atmosphere. It’s much quieter and underdeveloped, offering thrills of a less man-made nature, with farming still a large part of the local economy.
The fact that there are no direct flights from the UK means you get a more authentically Spanish and Gomerian experience, rather than anglicised bars and restaurants. But that doesn’t mean the journey isn’t straightforward. Ferries run from Los Cristianos, a short hop from Tenerife South Airport, to island capital San Sebastian three times a day and the Fred Olsen boat we boarded even had a children’s soft play area.
Hotel Jardin Tecina is a luxury resort clinging to the clifftops overlooking Playa de Santiago, a quiet and unusual seafront of black sand and pebbles as big as my two-year-old’s head. Unusually, it is owned by cruise and ferry company Fred Olsen. It’s about a 25-minute drive from the ferry port but if you don’t have a hire car, there are ferry taxis that run between the two locations and the hotel can arrange transfers too. The feel is Spanish and stylish and the views are just spectacular. Even though it has more than 400 rooms, there’s lots of space and the whole place feels very peaceful, with lush landscaped grounds, a plethora of things to keep you busy (as well as spots to relax) and a choice of restaurants.
Rooms are arranged around the grounds in whitewashed villas, each with their own external entrance, and the feel is upmarket but relaxed, with buggy friendly walkways everywhere. Our bed was extremely big and comfortable, and the travel cot for Ralph was good quality (even if he did manage to climb out of it when he was supposed to be napping one afternoon!).
Our bathroom had a modern feel with a fabulous shower although no bath. This seems to be fairly common in Spanish hotels from my experience and guests with smaller children are able to request a baby bath. We opted for a sea view room so we could enjoy our balcony once Ralph was asleep and it was totally worth it. The sound of the Atlantic combined with the rustle of palms was thoroughly de-stressing as we read and sipped wine at night.
The magnificent views continue at the hotel’s gorgeous pool area, where Ralph almost wore out the miniature slide in the children’s pool and ate mammoth ice creams. There are plenty of loungers and staff on hand, meaning I felt completely safe hanging out with him there while my husband played golf on the well-kept 18-hole course. He had a great, if hot and sweaty round, while I preferred to stick with the miniature golf.
The next day, we swapped duties for the afternoon so I could escape to Spa Ahemon for a massage and an hour reading my book on a lounger overlooking the ocean. This adult only area has a bar serving deliciously healthy drinks and cocktails, its own mini pool and a large list of treatments.
You will be spoiled for choice at Jardin Tecina, which has lots of different restaurants for every taste and occasion.There large Principal Restaurant has a wonderful (and much coveted!) balcony, open for buffet breakfast and dinner, and serving local and international dishes. Make sure you drench your morning pancakes in local palm honey (miel de palma) produced by the island’s 130,000 palm trees.
We were hugely impressed with the choice and quality, with many ingredients grown in the hotel’s own organic garden, Eco Fina Tecina. Lots of specialist diets and allergies are catered for too, with gluten, sugar and dairy free options. It was perfect for a toddler, as we could let him try lots of different tastes and the atmosphere was laid back, and this is where your meals are if you still half board. We were staying on a breakfast-only basis but could still book in for evenings for an extra charge.
There are a la carte options around the resort too, including a charming little tapas spot called Tasca Fandango where we had a delicious tasting menu that we could share with our son. We also enjoyed the Pool BBQ, which is open at lunchtimes and has a very cool burger menu, where you can mix and match your sides and sauces.
FOR THE KIDS
The resort’s Palmito Club is for four to 12-year-olds and open daily at 10.30am-1pm and 3pm-5pm. Younger children are welcome to attend with a parent and join in with the activities and use the play spaces. The staff are all fully -trained and friendly, running themed games and crafts throughout the day, from Zumba and football to making masks and doing karaoke.
In the evenings, they turn their hand to entertainment at the Mini Disco, where my toddler danced up a storm on the night we let him stay up past bedtime.There are often games by the children’s pool as well and if you venture outside the resort to the town of Playa de Santiago, there is a nice play area to enjoy, plus the rather unusual volcanic beach. Just be aware that while there is a lift down from the hotel’s clifftop position to the beach level, there are some steps to reach it at both ends. Babies and children are very welcome in all the restaurants, with plentiful highchairs and kids’ menus available.
FOR THE PARENTS
There is an almost endless array of things to do at Jardin Tecina and it would definitely make a perfect multigenerational holiday destination. As well as golf and the spa, there are tennis courts, a giant chess board, a hairdresser, film nights, aqua aerobics, walks and talks, and an art gallery with ever-changing exhibitions.
During the evenings, the children’s disco is followed by live entertainment or you can simply hang out on the roof terrace or beside the pool area. Club Laurel is situated beside the resort but at beach level and has a saltwater pool, bar and restaurant, and mini golf. It’s open to children but definitely has more grown up feel. Playa de Santiago also offers a few shops, bars and restaurants if you want to take a stroll further.
The resort is so idyllic and with such extensive facilities, you would not need for anything more. But don’t miss out on exploring the surroundings because La Gomera is a hidden gem of a holiday destination.
It’s not overdeveloped in the way parts of the other Canaries are, as demonstrated by the fact that all roads seemingly ascend or descend the main peak of Alto de Garajonay, rather than circling around the island’s edge. Nervous passengers might find driving around its rocky, mountainous terrain a little fear inducing, but the views are very special and there are plenty of ‘miradors’ to stop, take it in and get a family photo. Our favourite was Roque de Agando, where you can spot Teide – Tenerife’s dormant volcano – in the distance.
We also loved the lush pine forest at the peak and Garajonay National Park visitor centre, where we learned about local customes, La Gomera’s unique volcanic geography and biodiversity, and the island’s special whistling language of Silbo. Afterwards, we lunched on traditional red and green mojo sauces, fried cheese and fresh fish with the famous Canarian potatoes at nearby Juego de Bolas restaurant, made all the more atmospheric by the mountain mist swirling across the landscape in front of us.
Another hit was the drive down a winding valley to Vallehermoso, famed for its miel de palma, which offers a mix of quaint houses, vineyards and banana plantations. If the roads are making you queasy, Fred Olsen runs a shuttle boat service between the hotel, capital city San Sebastien and tourist hotspot (as much as Gomera has one) Valle Gran Rey, home to the island’s longest beach.
For us, this hotel and the island are hidden gems. We were charmed by the island’s rugged, unspoilt landscape and breathtaking views, while Hotel Jardin Tecina allows you to embrace the natural wonder in peaceful luxury. This is a perfect holiday for families who want to explore an unusual new destination while also enjoying the choice, service and quality of a top-notch family resort. We can’t wait to return.
Stays at Hotel Jardin Tecina from £65 per night for two adults on a bed and breakfast basis (£97 for half board), with 20% off ferry tickets for guests. Charges for children dependant on age. Flight packages also available. fredhoteljardintecina.co.uk
Find out more about La Gomera at lagomera.travel