We follow local expert Linda Wainwright to La Gomera’s best beaches.
By Linda Wainwright
La Gomera is the second smallest of the Canary Islands, a stunningly beautiful, tranquil place. The words “magical” and “spiritual” are often used to describe it. Unlike some of its sister islands, what it is not famous for, is its beaches.
So it may seem a bit odd to write about the island’s best beaches. That’s because the mainstream media concentrate on white sand beaches, with mojitos on tap. That’s not what La Gomera’s beaches are about.
However, if you like your beaches a little on the wild side; if you don’t mind a bit of a stroll (or even, possibly, a bit of a scramble) down to the beach, then La Gomera may be your kind of place.
In three months on La Gomera, I haven’t yet had opportunity to check out all of them, but my favorite is Playa Santa Catalina, sometimes called Hermigua Beach. It’s a pebble-strewn bay, which I used as my “office” when I first came to the island. Taking my dog and my lunch, with a 3G connection from the headland above, it was an idyllic place to work. At one end of the bay, stand pillars, which are the remains of a port facility, built at the beginning of the last century, for the export of bananas, before Hermigua was easily accessible by road. Beside the pillars is a sea water pool, the favorite spot of locals in the summertime. I love it here.
Like all the Canary Islands, the south side of La Gomera is the sunnier, warmer flank of the island, and the north is more susceptible to the vagaries of winter weather. Northern beaches where pretty, white waves lap gently in summer become wild in winter, with white foam crashing in from huge, grey rollers; so sunbathing is unlikely, let alone swimming. The south, however, is a different matter, so that’s where I’ve been heading these last few weeks for my dose of sunshine.
Arrive on the island by ferry, and the beach of the tiny capital and port, San Sebastian, is right there, next to the marina, which is next to the ferry. As beaches on this island go, it’s fairly smooth; most are rocks and pebbles, and if you are there in winter you will very likely have the beach to yourself. Even when the sun is bright, locals don’t go to the beach in winter. Right over the other side of the harbor is the beach of La Cueva, with breathtaking views of the island of Tenerife, and the Teide volcano.
The best-known beach on the island is in Valle Gran Rey, a village reached by descending a dramatic steep and curving road into the valley – but then, that’s most of the island’s roads. I can think of scarcely one beach to which that doesn’t apply. The first time I visited Valle Gran Rey, some years ago, it was a sleepy, fishing village. That’s changed, but given that tourism is now universal, and a necessary component of many economies, the changes are not too radical. This is, probably, the best beach on the island. Like most Canary Island beaches, it’s black sand. It has a small lagoon, which is not only picturesque, but is perfect for cooling off when that sun just gets too hot. Development in the village is low rise. It reminds me for all the world of a 1950s resort from some black and white movie.
If facilities are important in assessing a beach, then, bars and restaurants are only minutes from your towel in Valle Gran Rey. A lazy lunch and a return to your chosen spot are dead easy. That also applies to Playa de Santiago, which, despite being home to a four-star hotel, the Hotel Jardin Tecina, somehow hangs on to that quaint charm when you are outside the environs of the hotel, with its excellent little restaurants and bars.
Outside of those beaches, life’s a picnic. That is, if you want to eat near to the beach, you need to take your own food. Some, like the sheltered beach in La Caleta close to the village of Hermigua, have picnic tables. Most have no facilities, but the rewards that implies – the less-spoiled beauty of a rugged coastline; being able to barbeque or do the things we used to do on beaches before they became so regulated; and even sleep out under the stars, in summer at least.
Linda likes to say that she is “re-inventing herself for her third age” these days. She transplanted to the Canary Islands more than 20 years ago. Now with kids grown up, leaving behind the 9 to 5, she studies writing and photography and is beginning to scratch a living from them, thus fulfilling a lifelong dream. She blogs at www.islandmomma.wordpress.com