Sunshine and solace top the shopping list for the conventional bucket and spade brigade in Tenerife but up north a revolution has been going on. For the past few years the island's capital has been transformed into a sparkling city break destination, ideal for those seeking a little more than sand between the toes.
The colourful city of Santa Cruz provides an arena for a number of surprising tag teams; the grey of urbanity, peppered with sprawling sub-tropical parks; the harsh geometry of 9-5 architecture, paired with the soft sand of Las Teresitas beach; and the tree-lined avenues of designer fashion stores, hand in hand with the cobbled streets and Canarian mansions of the old quarter.
Culture too has reared its head, especially since the opening of the eye-popping Tenerife Auditorium, a Sydney Opera House-lookalike that grabs your attention as soon as you approach the capital.
A Top Hotel
As the sun slips over the watery horizon, if you step out of the lobby of the Hotel Taburiente you will invariably step right into one of Spain's most delightful traditions, el paseo, the evening stoll. This ultra contemporary hotel is right across the street from the Parque García Sanabria, a bulging tropical island of palms, paths and ponds amidst a sea of office blocks and huge villas where generations of city dwellers amble arm in arm.
Perfectly located for the museums and shops and a short walk to the old quarter, the three-star Taburiente is gaining quite a reputation since its recent refurbishment. The new rooms are spacious and stylish, and incorporate all the mod cons that you'd expect from a higher graded hotel.
Cafe For Brunch
Head for the old quarter, in particular the top end of the pedestrianised Calle La Noria for a fine spot to indulge in a leisurely lunch. Park yourself in the sun at a pavement table at the hip Los Reunidos. Then order a fresh spinach and mushroom salad or an assortment of tapas and let the world glide by. Prices vary from €2.50 for individual tapas up to €14 for a whopping fillet steak.
There are three main museums in the city, all within walking distance of each other. The Musuem of Man and Nature (Calle Fuente Morales) is housed in what used to be the grandiose city hospital and provides a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours soaking up the origins of the Islands and its people. The Military Museum (Calle San Isidro 2) places great emphasis on the victory over Nelson in 1797. Numerous other artefacts regale stories of conquests and re-conquests. The Fine Arts Museum (Calle José Murphy) completes the cultural trinity with exhibits of local and international repute. Bear in mind all three are closed on Monday. For the spendthrift, also bear in mind there's free entry on Sundays.
For the more al fresco inclined, a 20-minute ride on the number 910 bus (every 15 minutes) will take you to the sandy sanctuary of Las Teresitas beach, a golden crescent dotted with palms, just outside the city.
Those with shopping bag aspirations will find a fashion and gadget nirvana along the pedestrianised streets fanning uphill from the Plaza España, or in the upmarket department store of El Corté Ingles at Avenida Tres de Mayo 7.
For a traditional taste try La Hierbita housed in an old Canarian mansion just on the edge of the old quarter. If you book a few days ahead, parties of four or more can bag a private balcony table and wave rabbit, pork and fish bones at the riff raff below. Appetisers include fried goats cheese with coriander sauce and start at around €5. Main courses such as rabbit in spicy red pepper sauce start at €9.
After Hours Cocktails
There are plenty of options for late night lounging at Bulan Chill Out Bar on Calle La Noria. The pavement tables give a ringside seat for people watching, whilst the dimly lit nooks and crannies inside provide intimacy for both couples and groups. From the rooftop terrace, the capital's sounds are but a distant hum. Chilling out on the hammocks and gazing up into the warm night sky, with a drink in hand is heaven in a net.
Did You Know?
Nelson was rendered left-handed during an attack on Santa Cruz. He was hit by grapeshot in the elbow during an uninvited foray to Tenerife's shores. His arm was later amputated. El Tigre, the cannon responsible for his loss, is proudly displayed at the Military Museum.