Where to live or buy
When people say they want to live or buy a property in Tenerife, I sometimes wonder whether they are fully aware of how many micro-environments the island has. It also has micro-climates, with the weather being notably different in different parts of Tenerife. The east coast is very breezy, hence it’s where the airport is, whereas the west coast is much more sheltered. One doesn’t have to go far inland (and therefore uphill), however, before it changes again, becoming colder in winter and sometimes much hotter than the coast in the summer – particularly at times of calima. The north coast is different yet again, being often much cloudier and with more rainfall (though it’s all relative, I know!): for this reason, it’s often several degrees cooler in the north, and much greener.
In terms of their specific requirements, moreover, many people’s are often contradictory, even though they don’t necessarily realize this to be the case. One particular couple, for example, said that they were hoping to move to Tenerife in a few years, and in the meantime wanted to buy a property to use for holidays, and then retire to the property. They wanted something near the coast; near public transport; not in a busy holiday area, such as Los Cristianos; preferably somewhere quiet with a bit of local culture; within walking distance of shops, bars, and restaurants; and not too windy.
As I said to them, although they’d be using the property for holidays in the first place, they would want to live in it permanently when they retired. These are not compatible requirements. The vast majority of the time, the sort of property one goes on holiday in is not the sort of property one could live permanently in. A complex, for example, is fine for holidays, but often people find that it drives them up the wall when they are faced with permanent living there. Holidaymakers rarely notice the problems (internal politics, problems with committees, budgets, noise, etc.) and long term residential tenants can move on if any given situation gets on their nerves, but buyers need to be much more careful.
Buying “near the coast” too can end up with buyers wishing to escape “up the hill” where it’s more residential, whether complexes or independent houses. When you live here permanently, the ebb and flow of different faces as people come and go (holidaymakers and tenants) can end up creating a very unsettled feeling. Sometimes, it’s just recenice to have the coast within view and an easy ten minute drive, but to live somewhere where it feels more stable.
Each area, too, is very different, and each has its pros and cons. What follows is an attempt at providing an evolving list of areas and the things that might usefully be taken into account when considering them. This is something I’ll be writing up over several weeks so it’s not a comprehensive list yet … far from it! If there’s an area you would like to know about that I’ve not written about yet, please let me know and I’ll add it straightaway.
Alcalá: Alcala is Playa san Juan’s much less well known neighbour, a typical south Tenerife town in that all the lovely stuff goes on unseen behind the main road that runs through it, making it look like a relatively unprepossessing place with, at times, a bit of a traffic problem. Take a side turning, however, and you’ll find a large plaza, shaded with great old trees where children play and elderly people sit in groups chatting on the benches, the whole thing surrounded by bars and restaurants … and a road down to one of the least known little harbours and beaches on the west coast. For those looking for somewhere to live, Alcalá offers peace and quiet, a good selection of shops, and easy access to other parts of the the west coast. For property investors, it is perhaps one of the best chances for profit in coming years, with the fairly new 5* Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora hotel on the edge of town getting an increasing world-level reputation, and with the new Fonsalía floating port for all ferry traffic to the western islands – and the new motorway spur to feed it – coming in the next few years.
Amarilla Golf: ten years ago or so I wouldn’t have considered this area as desirable. There were ongoing problems with legality, and at one point there was just one complex there that was actually legal. The golf course was pretty unattractive and the only way into the area was through the back end of the Las Chafiras industrial estate. Over the last decade, however, this area has been transformed, with many new and legal complexes, a new access road through the Golf del Sur, a new and beautiful marina, and the golf course is green and lush. In my opinion, this is in general terms one of a handful of a real success stories in south Tenerife in recent years.
Callao Salvaje and Playa Paraiso: These two urbanizations have spent many years in the doldrums, looking for all the world as though they were stuck in a 1970s time warp. Recently, however, they have been seriously updated, with a new 5* hotel and scuba diving centre in Playa Paraiso, and a really rather lovely brand new beach and jetty, and considerable coastal landscaping, in Callao Salvaje where there are a few good quality hotels already. There are also plans, which will be developed over the next several years, to join the pair with a cliff-top walkway. Moreover, both have finally been adopted by Adeje, so they are now able to enjoy municipal services from the Ayuntamiento after a couple of decades of being private developments with poor quality water supplies, a huge telecommunications problem, and a significant lack of road signs and lighting. These developments, very recent as of early 2012, mean that the future is looking very bright indeed for the area, and should see the two towns go from strength to strength, as well as consolidating their status as desirable holiday resorts, rather than a dumping ground for “allocation on arrival” holidaymakers.
Chayofa: Chayofa is a pretty residential area just 5 minutes up the road and across the motorway from Los Cristianos. Many consider it ideally located, being quiet but with excellent access to the motorway and literally on the doorstep of the main holiday areas. It wouldn’t be too wide of the mark to say it’s one of the nearest things we have in Tenerife to the British concept of suburbia. The area has grown considerably in recent years, and is a mix of independent and complex-based villas, townhouses, and apartments. It has a small number of bars and restaurants, and decent public transport links. It is also very near the new southern public hospital – whenever that might actually be up and running. One can also often see birds of prey flying freely overhead since the popular Jungle Park is in the immediate vicinity.
Costa del Silencio: not my favourite area, not least because it suffers from an acknowledged and fairly high crime rate, hence prices are often considerably lower than in other areas, but many residents say it has a really good community feel, and the local authorities have carried out a fair bit of public maintenance (lighting, street marking etc) over the last year or so.
El Médano: on the coast near the airport, so there is some noise from planes taking off, and it’s the world capital, it seems to me, for windsurfers, so is extremely windy at times. Like San Isidro, it is quite a way from other places, so being mobile is pretty essential. Having said all that, I think this is one of the nicest places on the island, with several beaches, one of which is a wonderful little town beach backed by the town square, some fantastic restaurants and cafés, and a cultural agenda that is among the best in Tenerife – there always seems to be something going on there. A downside is the ongoing argument over whether the iconic Hotel Médano is to be demolished (in whole or in part), and the Granadilla megaport, whose impact on the town is as yet unknown.
Golf del Sur: built in a ring around a golf course, some parts of the area now look a little dated, and there is a seemingly never to be finished hotel which is still hardly much more than a building site. Also, despite apparently good access to the TF1 at Las Chafiras, the main exit road can be a real bottleneck. It can be breezy and, for some, far too near the airport. And yet it is an eternally popular area, with a considerable number of British and Irish bars, and a fair selection of tourist-focused shops in the adjoining San Blas Commercial Centre. The plane noise in some parts is really not noticeable, and the golf course from which the urbanization takes its name also gives it a green and lush feel. There are also newer developments of apartments with some good hotels, as well as a lovely coastal path, and with the new San Blas environmental reserve and its luxury frontline hotel to one side, and the new marina on the other, the Golf del Sur has transformed itself from being in danger of becoming a very tired resort into a place that offers much both to residents and holidaymakers who want to stay somewhere quieter away from the main holiday areas.
La Caleta: An original fishing village at the “posh” end of the Costa Adeje, with a little beach and swimming area, fabulous restaurants, and on the doorstep to the beautiful Golf Costa Adeje. There really isn’t anything that can be said against La Caleta, and although there has been massive development in recent years beyond the old village heart, both design and construction have been sympathetic and sophisticated. Nearby, too, is an excellent international-level sports complex which is used by football clubs and Olympians, so the village even offers spot-the-celebrity for the starstruck. Add in a superb new road network, with 5-minute maximum access to the TF1, and you have something approaching a perfect location.
La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz: for those who think the south is just too hot, too touristic, too “British”, for them, and who want to live in north Tenerife, La Orotava would have to be among the top few choices on the list. It’s a very very pretty area with stunning views over the north coast, spreading out over a considerable distance in the hills above Puerto de la Cruz: indeed Puerto de la Cruz is La Orotava’s own port. This combination makes this pair of towns pretty unbeatable, with the original Tenerife holiday resort offering beaches, a lido and Loro Parque all combining with the bustling modern residential town of La Orotava. La Orotava also has, though, to its side, the old town, with its gardens and parks, beautiful basilica, museums, and House of the Balconies – the list goes on and on, and being preserved as a “conservation town”, it is one of the prettiest and most authentically “Spanish” places on the island.
Las Chafiras: this was billed as “luxury” accommodation when it first started to be developed, but it is in fact standard housing in various complexes behind the main Las Chafiras shopping areas. It has incredibly easy access to the motorway, to public transport, and the airport. Lots of shopping on the doorstep, and prices are affordable. There are continuous promises from the local authorities to “prettify” the area but further works seem haphazard.
Las Galletas: at first consideration, it’s not inspiring, sandwiched as it is between the Costa del Silencio and El Fraile, a town recognized to have several considerable immigrant communities, not all of which are legal. And yet Las Galletas is lovely, a typical south Tenerife Spanish town with pedestrianized streets with many and varied shops, cafés, bars, post office, banks, sports centre, schools, etc. It has good transport links, a lively area on the front for local fiestas, carnivals, concerts, etc., many frontline cafés overlooking the harbour, and a super and very pretty beach.
Los Abrigos: this is a in some respects a somewhat nondescript village but it’s based around a charming harbour with little boats bobbing up and down, and a pretty walkway lined with mainly tourist-focused restaurants (one is the Michelin rated Los Roques) and shops following its curve. The village has grown considerably over the past several years, with many of the new blocks of apartments built on a grid-style basis, but one can still believe nothing has changed when in the harbour area which is delightful. It has a good road up to the motorway, though it can be a real bottleneck at the TF1 end at times, and being a primarily Spanish area, its prices reflect the fact.
Los Cristianos: the original fishing village has long since been consumed and disappeared into the developed conglomeration that Los Cristianos now is, and yet at heart it still retains the feel of a real and established town. It has several different areas, some residential, some touristic, and at its centre is the old but completely renovated Church Square where, as well as in other plazas throughout the town, there are frequent cultural events. There is also a new southern auditorium in the centre of town which stages international standard concerts. The whole harbour area has been refurbished with a very pleasant promenade along its several beaches and the old port itself has been transformed by the installation of pleasure craft jetties. It has also recently been announced that later this year cruise liners will start to call into the town, bringing welcome business to the town’s shops and confirming Los Cristianos’ reputation as an established holiday town with a great deal to offer on many levels.
Los Gigantes: of course, regardless of any other consideration, Los Gigantes has THAT view! Those cliffs are staggering and beautiful, and it is impossible to escape them. To some the parking is nightmarish, to others the town is too hilly, to yet others it’s claustrophobic, and it’s true that it’s not flat, and it really has been intensively developed. There are, though, some very nice properties indeed there, and some superb quality shops, as well as a few good hotels, a pretty sports harbour, a lido … and then there’s that view …
Los Menores: a typical south Tenerife Spanish village, so with accessible prices, and peaceful and quiet. It has really good access to anywhere in the South, and public transport is good. There are a few bars and restaurants, and the local main town of Adeje can be reached easily in 5 minutes.
Palm Mar: a new purpose-built residential urbanization, but in many ways, far more successful than, say, Parque de la Reina. Palm Mar is reached by a single road which leads to a mix of complexes, semi-detached town-houses and villas, some 20 years old or so, others very new. Many are really very pretty. It has a lovely new promenade and there seems to be a prevailing light breeze in the summer which can be very welcome, and it doesn’t have the typical cloud cover in the winter often associated with the Golf del Sur. The beach is natural and rocky, though there were plans to develop this. These plans, however, are part and parcel of the one problem with Palm Mar: it has been for years, and remains, a “work in progress”. Some apartment complexes are unfinished, and with the builders now out of business it is difficult to know when they’ll be completed. There were also plans for an open-air leisure complex incorporating a public swimming pool along the front-line plots, but again these are not going to happen in the foreseeable future. There is a recently established bus service, but the area still awaits adoption by Arona municipality.
Parque de la Reina: essentially a development of apartment blocks running behind the motorway, offering very easy access to Las Chafiras and the airport as well as Los Cristianos, but to me, it’s uninspiring, and has been something of a local crime spot over the last year or so. This is reflected in the prices, of course, which are considerably lower than in other areas.
Playa de la Arena: In the same way that Los Gigantes has that view, Playa de la Arena has that beach. By 2011, it had won a blue flag for excellence in every respect for 24 consecutive years, and it is indeed one of the prettiest beaches in Tenerife, with its typical black sand covered with matting walkways and benefiting from the shelter provided by the curve of a very attractive cove. There are plenty of parking spaces lining the main road behind the beach, and cafés, bars and restaurants galore. All this, together with a very good hotel and good road access, make for a really rather idyllic holiday resort. The area has started to become built up with residential properties in recent years behind the main road, but it’s still an archetypally Tenerife holiday resort at heart, and a very good one too.
Playa Paraiso: see Callao Salvaje above.
Playa San Juan: a nice small coastal town on the west coast with a new beach and lots of cafés, bars and restaurants lining the sea front. Parts of it are quite Spanish but there is a increasingly sizable expatriate community who choose to live there. It offers easy access to the whole of the west coast, from the Costa Adeje area to Los Gigantes, and in the not too distant future, maybe a couple of years, will have easy access to the extended motorway; within five years it will be virtually at the end of the new branch motorway coming off the TF1 extension to feed the intended floating ferry port at nearby Fontsalia. Prices in this area should increase considerably as a result.
Puerto de la Cruz: see La Orotava above.
Puerto Santiago: Sandwiched between Los Gigantes and Playa de la Arena, it is sometimes difficult to know where one ends and another begins. The three, and particularly Los Gigantes and Puerto Santiago, seem to be one coastal area. Yet Puerto Santiago has its own little black sand beach, and a lovely promenade over a rocky coastline lined with cafés and shops. If Los Gigantes has that view, and Playa de la Arena has that beach, Puerto Santiago has the feel of a real village, with its own little fishing port, and is clearly a place where people live, as well as go on holiday.
San Isidro: a bustling Spanish town with lots of traditional shops, bars & restaurants, and just 5 minutes from the airport. It is straight up the hill from El Médano, again just 5 minutes or so away. A downside is that it is quite a way from other places, so being mobile is pretty essential: having said that it perhaps feels that it’s further away than it is because the main street, at certain times, has an horrendous traffic problem.