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Playa de la Arena (or 'Arena Beach' in English) is a small resort 45km (approximately 40 minutes by car) away from the Reina Sofia Airport on the island of Tenerife.
As I have said in a previous post, I have been spending my summers in Tenerife for the last 11 years, but I have been visiting for two or three weeks at a time for nearly 20. The reason is that I have family out there who live in Playa de la Arena.
The first thing to mention about this lovely little place is that it really is not for those die-hard clubbers who want loud, late music. Las Americas is more likely to suit your tastes. Though there are a couple of small clubs within walking distance of Playa de la Arena, the best and liveliest of these being Karaoke Bar Tropical, which is a Spanish bar playing loud, Spanish music until the wee hours of the morning. You won't find many English people there, but as long as you can order a drink in Spanish (or at least have a go) you'll be made very welcome and have a fabulous time.
Anyway, back onto Playa de la Arena. The resort is located on the ever sunny West Coast of Tenerife, around a half hour walk from the better known resort of Los Gigantes and around a fifteen minute walk from Puerto Santiago (which will become more relevant when I elaborate on some of the day trips etc).
The first thing you'll notice as your tour bus pulls into Playa de la Arena is the stunning and quite sizeable beach. A lot of beaches on the island are man made, to cater for those who prefer white sand beaches. This one, however, is perfectly natural, which is why it is a black sand beach. This is a result of the island being a volcanic island and is a stunning beach. I have heard tourists complaining about the sand before, saying it looks dirty simply because it is black sand. Well, it certainly is not a dirty beach. In fact it has a European Blue Flag award for cleanliness. Furthermore, there is a vast array or water sports on offer during the peak season at very reasonable rates. For example, I was able to hire a jet ski for one hour for only 30 euros (about £20).
Before you start enjoying the beach however, the first thing you'll need to have arranged is your accommodation! The biggest and most beautiful hotel in Playa de la Arena is without doubt the Hotel Playa la Arena, a centrally located 5 star beauty. The hotel is beautiful on the outside and having had a friend stay there, I can vouch for the fact that it is lovely on the inside too. It is a pricey one, with a sea view room at peak time costing up to £800 if booked through a tour operator (and that's just for accommodation). However, if you speak Spanish or know someone who can, it is worth calling the hotel personally and making a reservation that way. A friend of mine did this and saved £300 for a 10 night stay. They do have English speaking staff, of course, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you tend to save a little more if you speak to them in Spanish!
Other hotels in the area include the hotel Lagos de Cesar and Barceló Varadero. There is, of course, also the option of going self-catering or renting privately. You can view classifieds online from people who rent a private apartment out there, but there are also self-catering complexes available, such as the Tagara Complex and the Sunflower complex, both of which have pools. Once you're in your accommodation and settled, it's time to explore. There is quite a bit of construction work going on at the moment, with new hotels and apartments going up all the time in this rapidly expanding resort. But one thing that never changes I the great array of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes.
I'll start with restaurants. Along the main stretch just on the beach road is a huge variety of eateries. There is an Austrian restaurant. An Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse, a Chinese restaurant, three Italian restaurants and also a French restaurant. As a little tip, if you go into the Chinese restaurant, ask to see the Menu of the Day. This is an unadvertised offer they do where you get a main meal, prawn crackers, soup, bread and a sharing platter for 5 euros per person. My understanding is that this was brought in to get the locals in to keep business booming even outside of tourist peak seasons and as such it is not advertised. But if you ask, they'll happily show you! In my experience the English and German run restaurants tend to be the most expensive. One particular little restaurant I really must recommend is Bar Dorta, which is off the main street. It is on the road up to the fishing village of Puerto Santiago and you tend not to get tourists in there. The main reason for this being that when you pop your head around the door, you'll notice old Spanish men sitting at the bar eating tapas and speaking loudly to one another and I think a lot of people are a little intimidated by this. However, the place is owned by an old man, Helario, who is very welcoming of tourists and has his restaurant menu in several languages. You really must go in! The food is beautiful and there are a lot of traditional Canarian dishes on the menu. Even better is the fact that, as a local bar and restaurant, you pay local prices and not the inflated tourist tariffs. It really is very good value for money in there.
There is also an Ice Cream café (Italian) on the main street and several small coffee shop type places for lunch. You'll not go short of places to eat. Venture away from the main street up some of the side streets to find some real gems of local restaurants.
After your food, it's time to hit the bars. This resort really is great for families as the vast majority of bars cater for families, with family friendly entertainment on a nightly basis during the peak months. For those who enjoy the tradition English Pub feel, try Pilgrims, which is run by two cockney guys! This is just a little further up from the beach and is open late. There is also live entertainment most nights.
Highland Paddy 3 is family friendly, with 4 pool tables and game machine (keep the kids entertained) and regular karaoke nights and live entertainment. The Blarney stone is much newer and again is a family friendly pub on the main stretch. Though the bar is Irish by theme, it is run by Spanish staff. The customers are, I'd say, 90% English. There is food available at certain times too. A couple of doors down from this is El Convento, a tiny discotheque which has been there for absolutely years and caters largely for Spanish clientele. There is another nightclub along this stretch as well playing Spanish music until the early hours. Though largely Spanish, this club is welcoming to tourists. Drinks prices are a little inflated in here though.
Aside from bars and restaurants is the huge selection of shops and supermarkets, of which there are many. There are three small supermarkets around the resort, but if you walk a little further up the main road in the direction of Alcala, you'll come to Mercadona, Tenerife's answer to Tesco! This is a huge supermarket which sells absolutely everything and fantastic prices. It is worth coming here for your alcohol and cigarettes before going home! There are a lot of local products (wine, beer and meat etc) available as well and these are really worth trying. In terms of the gift shops along the main parade, be careful when buying electronics. You really must insist that you get guarantees with things. You can buy a lot of small traditional Canarian gifts very cheaply and there's always room for bartering! If bartering is your thing it is worth heading to one of the markets. The nearest decent one to Playa de la Arena is at a small village called Alcala. This is a completely local village and hardly ever sees tourists there. It really is beautiful. You can get on a local bus from the bus stops along the main parade (the buses are green and the company is called Titsa) and ask for Alcala and the drivers are nearly always very obliging in helping you to get off at the right stop. The cost of an adult ticket from playa de la Arena to Alcala was less than a Euro last time I went and the journey only takes around ten minutes. The markets are made up of stalls run largely by African immigrants and bartering is great fun! The one in Alcala takes place on a Wednesday and it very big, though the biggest one takes lace at Los Cristianos on a Sunday and you can take the bus there too. It's about an hour on the bus but Los Cristianos is a lovely place and makes a great day out.
If day trips appeal, there is a small shop on the main parade where you can change your pounds into euros, commission free, and also books day trips. These include trips to the volcano, Teide, the Loro Parque and the Water Park and are very good value. I would recommend doing a dolphin safari boat trip. Los Gigantes harbour is about a half hour - forty five minute walk away and from there five or six tourist boats operate, offering dolphin and whale safaris and the opportunity to get close o the magnificent cliffs which give Los Gigantes (the giants) its name. The cliffs are spectacular and in all my years of visiting Tenerife I am never any less dazzled when I get up close. Rather than booking the trips through the shop I mentioned above, it may be worth going down to the harbour and booking them through one of the reps there, as you save yourself a couple of euros. You get fed and watered on most of the trips as well. The Flipper does notoriously good chicken paella! For those of you who enjoy sea fishing, a trip on the Feo would be great. The 2 hour dolphin safari excursions usually cost around 20 euros for adults and children from 5 usually go half price. Children under 5 go free on most of them. You get very close to these dolphins in their natural habitat and it really is a worthwhile excursion. Take plenty of sun cream though. All the boats which leave from Los Gigantes offer you the chance to go swimming in Masca Bay, a tiny little hideaway in the cliffs. This bay is stunning. The waters are crystal clear and I can safely say this is one of my favourite places in the world.
In terms of things for the children to do in Playa de la Arena, there is a huge games arcade called Caesar's Palace, which has a huge variety of games. This is directly opposite the beach. There is also cheap internet access here for those of you who cannot bear (like me) not to check their e-mail for a week! Last time I was there is 1.50 Euros (about £1) for an hour.
About five minutes further up the coast from the beach is the plaza. This is where most events in the area take place. If you go in Mid-July you'll undoubtedly catch the annual Fiesta, which is a huge street party which takes place each July. If you miss Playa de la Arena Fiesta, it is worth looking into other village ones as both San Juan and Alcala are within 20 minutes by car and throw great Fiestas!
There is a street fairground, lots of stalls and best of all, a massive firework display which is easily on par with Disneyland at New Year. The fireworks display takes place at midnight on the Saturday of Fiesta week and is an unforgettable event.
When the Fiesta isn't on though, there is usually something else happening for the kids in the plaza, whether it be a foam party or a dance of some sort. Spanish children have 3 months worth of summer holidays and they need entertaining too!
If that is not enough, walk over to Los Gigantes (or hop in a taxi for 2.50) and go to Oasis, which is an outdoor public pool with slides and access to the sea for fishing and swimming as well. It is 3.50 Euros for adults and 1.75 for children, which includes access to the pools and a sun lounger. A parasol is extra and given the location of the Oasis, it well worth hiring for the extra 2 Euros.
All in all, this is a resort with plenty to do. The beach is amazing, there are plenty of bars and you can take in a slice of local culture by simply walking (and quite safe it is to do so too) off the main street to the local areas. As I said before, it really is not suited for young groups who want to club until the early hours in a different club each night, but for young couples and families who want a quiet break in the sun, this is ideal!
I love swimming in the sea at Playda de la Arena as the waves can be quite fearsome at times. I've always found the beach to really clean and well looked after. I've tried a lot of the restuarants in both Los Gigantes and Playa de la Arena. We used to go to Serena II a lot and eat on the balcony overlooking the beach. They used to do a wicked prawns in garlic, but they seemed to have gone really downhill in the last couple of years, so we don't bother anymore. Not heard of Bar Dorta before, so thanks for the tip. Lexy
Donnie_Brasco 31.07.2006 12:17
Great review! I went to Playa de Las Americas 3 years back and did not enjoy it that much... i should have gone here instead!!