Canary Islands • Volcanic Character
Picture the volcanic landscape of Hawaii’s Big Island accented by Arizona-like high-desert terrain. Spain’s Canary Islands, the seven-island chain in the Atlantic Ocean northwest of Africa, are the result of volcanic eruptions that created not only a stunning topography of mountains and craters but also an amazingly diverse range of ecosystems and climates. Be aware: The only canaries you’ll see are at a zoo or in the curio shops. The name of the island chain is believed to be derived either from a North African tribe known as the Canarii or from a native breed of menacing dogs encountered here by the few ancient Romans who came ashore. During the Age of Exploration, the Canaries were a compulsory port of call for ships on their way to the New World. The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English introduced their traditions, all of which helped mold the islands’ modern-day identity. Golf arrived in the late nineteenth century, courtesy of the British. Five of the islands have a token nine- or eighteen-holer here and there, but Tenerife (with eight courses) and Gran Canaria (with six) have by far the best golf to offer.
Where to Play
Buenavista Golf Club * * * * 1/2
Tenerife’s answer to Pebble Beach, Buenavista unfurls along the northern shoreline of the island, with five ocean holes set on a cliff above craggy rocks and crashing surf. As if the ocean views weren’t enough, designer Seve Ballesteros created additional eye candy with a central lake and waterfall between the ninth and eighteenth holes.
Calle La Finca, Buenavista del Norte, Tenerife; 011-34/ 922-129-034, buenavistagolf.es. YARDAGE: 6,019. PAR: 72. GREENS FEES: $75-$115. ARCHITECT: Seve Ballesteros, 2003.
Costa Adeje, Old * * * *
Utilizing the stone-wall terraces of a former banana plantation, desert cactus and rock, and black volcanic sand for bunkers and waste areas, Spanish architect José Gancedo fashioned a course with equal parts challenge and beauty. When the wind starts to howl off the ocean, club selection is as difficult as predicting the roulette wheel at the casino in nearby Playa de las Américas.
Finca Los Olivos, Adeje, Tenerife; 011-34/922-710-000, golfcostaadeje.com. YARDAGE: 6,781. PAR: 72. GREENS FEE: $115. ARCHITECT: José Gancedo, 1998.
Best of the Rest
Two other scenic oceanside courses on Tenerife are Golf del Sur (golfdelsur.net), which hosted a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match and features tropical flora and black sand bunkers, and Abama Golf Course (abamahotelresort.com), a palm-lined layout by Dave Thomas, the designer of the Belfry. On Gran Canaria, El Cortijo Club de Campo (elcortijo.es) wends through hundreds of century-old palm trees and has a wonderfully hilly back nine.
Where to Stay
The hilltop Hotel Botanico & Oriental Spa Garden (rooms from $265; hotelbotanico.com) on Tenerife overlooks the ocean and snow-capped Mount Tiede. Guests have preferred access to Buenavista Golf Club and El Peñon, the second oldest club in Spain. The best option in Gran Canaria is Hotel Riu Grand Palace Maspalomas Oasis (rooms from $120; riu.com) amid the sand dunes of the island’s southern coast. Two eighteen-hole courses are within fifteen minutes, and the concierge can arrange a round on any of the island’s layouts, including El Cortijo.
Where to Eat
Regulo Restaurante (011-34/922-384-506), run out of an elegant home in Tenerife’s historic district of Puerto de la Cruz, serves delicious fresh seafood and locally produced Malvasia wine, praised by Shakespeare, among others. If you venture to the island of Lanzarote to see its otherworldly landscape of volcanic ash, dine at El Diablo (011-34/928-173-105) in Timanfaya National Park, where fish, steaks and poultry are cooked by volcanic heat—a cast-iron grill is placed over a hole in the ground.
The most popular city for direct flights to the Canary Islands is Madrid. The flight time from New York to Madrid is seven hours. From Madrid to the Canaries is two hours and forty minutes. Iberia Airlines (iberia.com) flies from JFK to Tenerife.
Volcano sightseeing is a popular off-course activity. The Parque National Las Canadas del Tiede on Tenerife, which surrounds Mount Tiede, offers intriguing formations. On the island of Lanzarote, Timanfaya National Park, with its eerie landscape that has appeared in many a science fiction film, you can take a tour by camelback. But it’s the islands’ spectacular beaches—some with distinctive black volcanic sand and others with gold sand—that remain the biggest draw. Other recreational pastimes include hiking and mountain biking, as well as casino gambling and shopping at large complexes such as Tenerife’s Playa de las Américas.
—Ed Schmidt Jr.