Beach Baroque: Families flock to Tenerife to go wild in its weird and wonderful theme parks

Mother Nature has provided ample evidence of her ingenuity on Tenerife, the Canary Islands' largest chunk of planetary real estate. Clearly, her first decision was to think big: Teide, the island's huge central volcano, stretches a mighty 3,718m from the Atlantic. Then, she went a bit Baroque: the black lava rock pools in Garachico on the north coast, for example, and the peculiarly long-needled Canarian pine tree. Finally, she provided some exhilaration: the dramatic ridges and valleys of the Anaga range in the north, the dazzling azure seas that hug the island's shores. Oh, and the year-round sunshine. There, she seems to be saying, I've done my bit. What have you lot got in the locker?

Well, said mankind, we can think big, too. The Pirámides de Gímar were an impressive first attempt: ancient relics of the indigenous Guanche society, they can still be seen just off the main TF-1 motorway that runs along the eastern seaboard. Then came the Spanish, with the gracious colonial city of La Laguna, followed by Santa Cruz, the capital. Much later the vast resorts of Playa de las Amricas, Los Cristianos and the Costa Adeje sprang up: playgrounds for tourists that have transformed the landscape of the south coast since the 1960s. Here, imported white sand replaced the black lava evidence of a very human sort of ingenuity, as we extracted the maximum reward from nature's bounty.

So, we'd thought big, just as Mother Nature had. What next, though? Well, that's where man-made exhilaration, with a dash of our very own sense of the Baroque, comes in. When the two finally collided last year they resulted in Siam Park, an exotic amalgam of Thai-themed village and spectacular family water park, which lies just inshore from the Costa Adeje. As an expression of mankind's desire to sculpt the natural landscape for our own pleasure, the park is at once unlikely and oddly impressive; as a way of extracting squeals of delight from your offspring it is very hard to beat.

Of course, Tenerife has long been a tremendous place in which to entertain children. Some of that entertainment is provided by Mother Nature herself: the chance to swim in azure seas, play in year-round sunshine, or go on dolphin-watching excursions in the channel between Tenerife and La Gomera. Some is man-made: most of the resort developments around Los Cristianos and Las Amricas are designed with families in mind swimming pools, crches and on-site family entertainment are part of the all-inclusive package deal. Coupled with regular flights from the UK (and a manageable journey time of just over four hours), Tenerife's many virtues have combined to make the island one of Britain's favourite holiday destinations, with more than 1.6 million of us visiting last year.

And where there are families, theme parks will surely follow. Aqualand on Costa Adeje, for example, is a diverting combination of waterslides and animal shows; you can buy a joint ticket for this and for the Aguilas Jungle Park, inland from Los Cristianos, where youngsters can tackle a 300m course of rope bridges, passages and tunnels. Pueblo Chico in the Orotava Valley is equally child-friendly: an attempt to represent Tenerife's major landmarks in 1:25 scale. Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz, meanwhile, is still one of the Canary Islands' star attractions. Part zoo, part aquarium, part theme park, it has a 16m-long underwater tunnel in which to view its marine species, a "Penguinarium" with real snow, and the largest collection of parrots in the world a new "Katandra Treetops" aviary opened here earlier this month. But newest, boldest and, well, wateriest of them all, is Siam Park.

I love a flume, I must confess. My local swimming pool has one, and I'm never quite sure whether I enjoy it more than the elder of my two sons (who just scrapes a height requirement I achieve all-too-comfortably). But to describe Siam Park as containing flumes is to understate things dramatically. The largest water theme park in Europe has an astonishing number of different ways of getting you wet. You can, for example, be dunked downwards on a vast inflatable doughnut, or sent forth from the top of a 28m Tower of Power that has you travelling at 43mph through an aquarium of tropical fishes. There's also the largest man-made wave in the world on which to body surf, or for the adrenalin-shy a "lazy river" on which to drift.

And the Thai theme? It's everywhere, despite Siam Park being around 7,000 miles from Bangkok. Beyond the pink twin domes of the entrance, the first thing my family and I encountered was a floating market, complete with elephant statues and plenty of bamboo; many of the rides are hidden within traditional Thai architecture. It's difficult to know what Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the princess of Thailand, would have made of it all when she opened the park last year, but she can't fail to have been impressed by the sheer pizzazz of the place.

There are rides and activities for all ages: our three-year-old was particularly taken with The Lost City, an ornate construction of gentle flumes topped by a huge bucket in the shape of a monkey's head, which gradually filled up and then poured water on to squealing tots. His older brother, meanwhile, favoured the Naga Racer, a six-lane slide you whizz down on rubber mats. And me? I became addicted to the Tower of Power, then hurtled down the Dragon ride (which starts from the top of the world's largest dragon statue, apparently).

It was on Siam Beach, the broad scoop of white beyond the rides and the water market, that my family and I finally caught our breaths. Here, from our private Thai-style cabaña, we watched children squealing in the shallows of the wave pool and teenagers cavorting in the surf. Behind us rose the park itself: big, Baroque and exhilarating. It might not quite be Tenerife as nature intended, but when your children tell you they never want to go home, you know you've come to the right place.

Tenerife: Five great beaches

Playa de las Teresitas

The great escape from the island's capital, Santa Cruz, lies at the end of a suburban bus ride (route 910). The giant cliffs rearing up around the cove add to the scenic drama of Tenerife's most stylish artificial beach. Despite the proximity to Santa Cruz, outside of summer weekends they remain surprisingly quiet. The waves are gentle and facilities good, with plenty of little kiosks lining the front and a few basic eateries behind, serving delicious simple fish dishes.

Playa de las Vistas

This huge sweep of sand in southern Las Amricas is always busy, although it's rarely overcrowded. The sea defences mean that only tiny waves lap the sands, but a blustery natural stretch alongside draws surfers and bodyboarders; with lessons and rentals available. The bars and restaurants of Los Cristianos are only a short walk away.

El Mdano

Just east of the island's southern airport is easily the best natural beach on the whole island. El Mdano is a great place to watch the windsurfers and kitesurfers who throng to ride the bay here though when they're out in numbers you can expect the winds on the beach to be uncomfortably strong. The waves in the bay are usually gentle, and the seafront boardwalk links a string of modest cafes and eateries, none of which are too touristy.

Playa Jardin

Puerto de la Cruz's naturally grey main beach is rarely too crowded. The promenade beside it is lined with pleasant cafs and bars. The seas here can get rough; when they do its best to retreat to the elegant seawater pools at the other end of town, designed by surrealist Canarian artist Csar Manrique.

Playa del Duque

Flanking the most expensive resort in the south the Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque is the most stylish beach in Las Amricas and one of the least busy. Plenty of decent bars and restaurants lie alongside, and various watersports including jetskiing and parasailing are offered on the adjacent Playa del Fañabe. A 10-minute walk away is the quiet fishing village La Caleta: great for seafood in the evening, and snorkelling in the bay during the day.

Christian Williams

Travel essentials: Park life

Pirámides de Gímar (00 34 922 514 510; ), Calle Chacona, Gímar. Open 9.30am-6pm. Entry 10.40.

Aqualand (00 34 922 715 266; ), Avenida de Austria 15, Costa Adeje. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission 24.50. A twin-park ticket, including admission to Jungle Park (00 34 922 72 90 10; ) at Urbanizació*Las Águilas del Teide, Arona, is 35.

Pueblo Chico (00 34 922 334 060; ), La Orotava. Open 9am-6pm. Entry 12.50

Loro Parque (00 34 922 37 38 41; ), Puerto de la Cruz. Open daily 8.30am-6.45pm. Admission 31.50

Siam Park (00 34 902 060 000; ), exit 28/29 TF-1, Costa Adeje. Open daily. Admission 28. Four-person private cabañas cost 300 per day. Twin-park ticket for Siam Park and Loro Parque is 49.

Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?