What is your idea of an authentic Tenerife location?
Is it a sweeping bay with a beach lapped by azure seas backed by a row of quaint fishermen’s cottages with a few little tascas serving freshly caught fish?
Maybe that is authentic. Then again, maybe not. Maybe it’s only quiet.
How about an urban sprawl with unattractive apartment blocks propped up by noisy bars and bustling shops?
Spoiled and over developed for tourism?
Perhaps, perhaps not. Most of the over development of beauty spots that has been carried out on Tenerife has been to build homes for Canarian residents.
There are a couple of places on Tenerife that fit the first description, más o menos, that are mainly the haunt of people on coach excursions or whose restaurants are filled with tourists enjoying what they might see as the ‘authentic’ Tenerife.
These aren’t necessarily the most authentic parts of Tenerife at all, but they are nice spots to spend some time.
And there are absolutely loads of places that fit the latter description where visitors to Tenerife never ever set foot. These most definitely are authentic Tenerife.
What is considered authentic can depend on each individual’s idea of what authentic should be – unspoilt and tranquil often colours that picture, especially on a holiday island.
I once sat in a side street in Puerto de la Cruz with friends of a friend in a tapas bar eating octopus and paprika flavoured potatoes surrounded only by Spanish speakers. The friends of my friend moaned about it being too touristy. What they really meant was it was too busy and boisterous for their tastes. They preferred quiet places like Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera (a resort populated as much by German visitors and residents as Canarios) and Bajamar (also a resort which is populated mainly by German visitors in winter months).
Despite being a tourist resort, Puerto has some of the biggest ‘local’ fiestas on Tenerife. Those who dismiss it as too touristy simply don’t know it. It is too touristy in the way that Barcelona or Edinburgh is too touristy (i.e. it has tourists but they don’t define its heart and soul). But it’s too big for the people who think of ‘authentic’ as somewhere small, quiet and quaint.
I also stood on one of Tenerife’s busy town streets during a fiesta and heard the kiosks lining the street being described as selling tourist pap. This particular fiesta did attract a lot of visitors but go to any fiesta on Tenerife and you’ll find the same kiosks… even when you don’t find any tourists.
They don’t sell tourist pap, they just sell pap. Locals lap this stuff up. It’s authentic.
Recently on Twitter we posted a picture of a new contemporary tapas bar in La Orotava. It attracted a comment from someone saying they preferred their tapas bars more authentic and filled with locals.
Have you been to La Orotava after dark? I’ll give you three guesses what you’re going to find and here’s a clue. It begins with a capital A.
But I got what they were saying. They probably liked their tapas joints to be those small murky bars in one horse towns where a couple of old guys nurse their glasses of vino del país whilst ensaladilla rusa, carne con papas, boquerones and a mezcla of something unidentifiable slowly dry up underneath a glass cabinet on the counter.
It is authentic… but no more, or less authentic than a modern tapas bar in La Orotava.
It’s just a different sort of authentic.
Sometimes authentic can be lovely old buildings and cobbled streets, sometimes it can be sleepy hamlets; sometime it’s quaint fishing villages, sometimes it’s sophisticated city streets and a lot of times it’s grimy, urban jungles.
Each has their own authentic personality and it can be as fascinating to walk down dimly lit side streets deep in Santa Cruz at 11pm, observing life in the city, as it is soul-soothing to sit in the sun at a café overlooking a harbour where fisherman flog their catch to the local restaurateurs.
Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that because somewhere is quiet on Tenerife, it automatically makes it more authentic than somewhere bustling and busy.
Often it can be entirely the other way around.