Hacienda de Abajo at La Palma, “Isla Bonita” | The Pretty Island

La Palma, “Isla Bonita”,  the Pretty Island lies in the northwest of the Canary Islands and has a population of approximately 85.000 inhabitants and a surface of 706 square km.

From the air and shortly before landing, the island arouses curiosity and attraction.  At first glance, you can already appreciate that it has a diverse landscape. Declared a World Biosphere Reserve, La Palma is full of contrasts. From its rugged cliff coastline to its fine black sand beaches, astonishing nature and breathtaking views are worth to explore. High mountain landscapes, lush forests and natural spaces;  wild, varied, volcanic, green, rural, it is unique!

Upon landing, you will be surprised by the image of a strange strip of thick whitish mist, like a cotton wall that appears as an imaginary border between the sea, the land and the sky. An image that is repeated frequently as you explore the island.

The flavorings of the autochthonous flora and the strong sea scent will surround you during your stay. If you like nature and outdoor life, you will find a stunning combination of all kinds of trails, unusual cliffs and protected areas of great ecological value. A sequence of scenic postcards whose beauty will remain in your memory.

Not far from the airport, the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma, which has been declared as a cultural asset, deserves a long walk through the city. It is immediately noticeable how important the influence of multiculturalism has been on the island since it was an important center of connection for the commercial exchange between continents in the XVI and XVII centuries. In addition to the traditional Canarian house with beautiful balconies, we find great examples of civil, religious and military architecture, as well as a great artistic legacy from the Netherlands.

Visiting the Castle of Santa Catalina is a must. Built between the years 1683 and 1692, it was the key piece of the old defensive system of Santa Cruz de La Palma, composed in its origin by several bastions, walls and covers of access to the city.

Driving to Tazacorte, crossing the island via its central axis from east to west,  stopping at El Passo, will reveal a picturesque town with outstanding handicraft products that you can enjoy in the workshop and museum “Las Hilanderas“. In the exhibition room, shoes are made with silk of La Palma by the recognized designer Manolo Blahnik.

In Tazacorte, we stayed at the beautiful Hotel Hacienda de Abajo, from where we moved to different points of the island. The building does not have the appearance of a hotel establishment. Actually,  it is an old sugar ranch of the seventeenth century located in the historic district of El Charco. Since then, the property has been preserved generation after generation and changed the sugar crop for banana plantations, as in the most cultivating areas of the island.

Pool area at the Hotel Hacienda de Abajo

Once inside, we begin to realize that we are in a unique establishment whose luxury lies, not only in the category and decorative exquisiteness of its interior but in the perception that is the ideal place to please all senses. A feeling of being in an exclusive hotel that combines the authenticity of a stage that takes us back to other times through its art, with the necessary and sufficient modernity and technology to make the stay in the hotel an unparalleled experience.

The current owners, with an exquisite culture and excellent treatment, have managed to turn the building into a hotel that we could qualify as a museum. It houses artworks, antiques and tapestries in its 32 guest rooms, common areas and corners. It is worth noting that the hotel has craftsman staff who is in charge of the good conservation of all the art pieces and antiques.

But, do not think you will find an ancient, mottled building. On the contrary, its wide spaces allow the exhibition and the relaxed observation of all the work conserved by the heirs of Hacienda de Abajo since the Seventeenth Century, whose most recent generations, great lovers of art, have been acquiring new pieces.

Relaxation area at Hotel Hacienda de Abajo

The artistic heritage is not limited to the interior of the building. Its spectacular and leafy garden also houses sculptures and stone fountains that combine perfectly with the many varieties of plants originating from the five continents. Lush plants, flowers and fruits, water flowing from the fountains with a mild whisper, corners to please the senses at any time of day, make up a garden that would be the envy of any palatial owner. Specialized biologists, travel from France on different occasions throughout the year to guide the professional staff on the conservation of the gardens. No wonder the hotel has been awarded the Medal for tourism merit in sustainability and quality.

The Hedonist Magazine Second Issue S/F 17′ lying on the tables of Hotel Hacienda de Abuja’s reception area

From the reception to the gardens, each space of the hotel invites to contemplate the artworks, such as the paintings, the porcelain pieces, furniture, and tapestries that are exposed throughout the space. The illumination is also carefully thought out, both the ones that radiate from the ostentatious teardrop lamps of the ceilings and those that illuminate discreetly from different angles.

Each room has its own personality, yet, they all have a common denominator, which is to give maximum relaxation and comfort to their guests. Colors like reds, pastel blue, combined with the white color covering the roof beams, give warmth and an intimate place impression. The bathrooms are spacious and have different bathtubs in each room; the cabinet design is inspired in the style of Carlos IV in almost all of them. All is meant to create harmony. In its appearance, the establishment is a cluster of tradition, but it is carefully offset with innovation.

Pool area at the Hotel Hacienda de Abajo

In the middle of the marvelous gardens, there is the pool with comfortable hammocks and a tent with sofas. There is also a spacious spa cabin with a massage room.

Away from the pool, but still in the gardens, there is the chapel, where classical and pop music concerts are held annually. It was built by the current generation of owners, using antique elements. It collects curious pieces, such as a large Flemish tapestry with entrance doors that once closed and together with the panel above them, form an astonishing altarpiece. Outside, it surprises the big contrast of a graffiti painted on the white wall.

The reading room, with ancient and modern books, is furnished with a variety of sofas, chairs and even a special bed for reading that takes you to other times in history. It has also a wide balcony from which you can smell the various aromas that come from the gardens you have in view.

Dining area of the hotel El Sitio

Dining in the refined restaurant of the hotel “El Sitio” is a pleasure for the palate. The Chef has been able to fuse excellently all his knowledge and the flavors of the different countries in which he has worked, thus offering an ultimate fine dining experience. The dishes are paired with wonderful wines made in an own cellar at the foot of La Caldera de Taburiente.

Graffiti | Art Wall

After the tour of the hotel with our amazing host Enrique Luis Larroque, we headed to Salinas de Fuencaliente, in South of La Palma. We could not do more than focusing our attention on the fascinating landscape of the salt pans. For Aristotle, salt was scorched earth, a compendium of the four elements: earth, water, fire (the sun) and wind. In Las Salinas the white of the salt merges with the black of the volcanic earth; the mud melts with the stone to hold the crystalline waters, from which dense drops of salt appear. The salt shines during the day because of the sun and the warmth of the young earth, but also after sunset, when the lighthouses in the south of La Palma are illuminated.

Las Salinas de Fuencaliente is, like the Hotel Hacienda de Abajo, a story of dreams and projects of a family saga. An entrepreneurial project in which the attitude of perseverance, “stubbornness”, as the owner Andres F Hernandez prefers to define it, has allowed them to achieve success.

After a tasting menu of excellent quality and exquisiteness, Andres and the Chef Juan Carlos Rodriguez Curpa guided us on the tour of the kitchen and the restaurant with magnificent views over the Salinas. Andres says that Las Salinas and its surroundings represent a way of life. Everything revolves around them. It’s like having a plant that has to be taken care of and irrigated daily.

Upon our return to Tazacorte, we drove along a narrow road, attesting again that La Palma is a very important producer of the Canarian banana. For a long stretch, we crossed through hundreds of banana trees as if it were a long tunnel made of thousands of the yellow fruit.

Late in one of the afternoons, Rosario picked us up at the hotel to visit a few small wineries next to the hillside of Caldera de Taburiente. Together with his brother, he manages the vineyards and the limited wine production of an excellent quality. Their parents inherited a small agricultural land and acquired adjacent land to grow vine with some of the varieties in extinction.

The best way to discover the beauty of Park Caldera de Taburiente is to cross through its many paths on which you find your balance and discover the essence of nature.

The ecosystem of the Canarian pine forest is mainly represented in a spectacular abrupt mountainous landscape covered with volcanic rock, which surprises with beautiful waterfalls. The head of Barranco de las Angustias has a semicircular shape of about 8 kms in diameter and 2000 meters of unevenness that looks like a volcanic caldera, although it is not a volcano.  

Miguel Hahn, Director of Hotel Hacienda de Abajo, had arranged a visit for us to the astrophysics observatory and the telescopes. Also declared as Starlight Reserve and destination, the clear and beautiful sky, makes the Island the most attractive place for stargazers.

Driving a little bit more up to the top, we arrived at the highest point of the island. Centuries ago, the action of submarine volcanoes raised the island to the Roque de los Muchachos, 2,426 meters above sea level, a magic place that offers extraordinary views and sensations over the Caldera de Taburiente National Park and the other Canary Islands.

Black sand beaches at Isla Bonita

It is well worth to drive to the different points of the island to enjoy a swim at some of the black sand beaches and in the natural seawater swimming pools. Or simply admire the diversity of its landscape and listen to the sound of the waves gently reaching the sand or breaking against the cliffs. Playa de Los Cancajos is a quiet place, located in Breña Baja, close to Santa Cruz de La Palma. It has a beautiful promenade where you can also discover interesting coves of volcanic rock.  Also nice are Enchevite and La Zamora in Fuencaliente, Puerto Naos and Charco Verde in Los Llanos de Ariadne, Puerto de Tazacorte, Bajamar in Breña Alta.

We were absolutely amazed by The Charco Azul, in San Andres-Los Sauces. Looking to the sea from the promenade, colors of the sea are disrupted by the perfectly natural design of a  big intense turquoise shade as if it were emerging from the deep sea. The beauty of the landscape and the environment that shelters its natural pools has many visitors come here looking for a quiet place to take a swim before continuing its journey.

A few days are not enough to enjoy all the wonders that the island has to offer, which makes us think to return here in the not too distant future.

Photography by Naelia Salas