Santa Cruz de La Palma
Exploring Santa Cruz de La Palma is like visiting an art gallery. As such, the capital of La Palma is nothing short of ravishing with its colorful colonial homes made even more vibrant by balconies with gorgeous and captivating flowering plants. Even its cobblestone paths complement well with its traditional architecture, radiating a mix of typical Canarian and Carribean feel.
What’s more, this second largest city of La Palma is oozing with rich maritime flavor. Its volcanic sand beach offers a serene therapeutic vibe. Meanwhile, yachts dot the marina as well as luxury cruise ships.
On the whole, strolling from the promenade to the inner streets is a sensation-filling experience. This place steeped in history treats visitors young and old to a delightful glimpse of the island’s bygone era.
A Look into the History
Situated on the east coast of La Palma, Santa Cruz is a city with an illustrious past. It traces its history back to the 15th century when Alonso Fernández de Lugo conquered the island. From that point on, it became an important port on the route between Europe and Spain’s colonies in the Americas.
The port city reached its peak during the 16th century when it became the third most important maritime port in the continent, after Seville and Antwerp. With a flourishing export hub, it attracted a large number of merchants and bankers, thus the mansions by the promenade. All these and more contributed to the fact that Santa Cruz is, today, one of the best cities to visit in the Canary Islands.
Things to Do in Santa Cruz de La Palma
The city and municipality’s glorious past still lingers in the air. Travel back in time and get lost in Renaissance era churches, remarkable museums, and Flemish art pieces. Wander along its twisting back streets and admire the unique set of rustic balconies that are sure to brighten up a gloomy day.
Avenida Maritima is the bonbon of Santa Cruz de La Palma. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and take in the riot of colors from brightly-painted houses. Soak in the wooden balconies adorned with a variety of blooming plants – which makes for a truly delightful sight. These nicely-preserved colonial homes are not open to visitors except for some that its owners transformed to charming little restaurants and shops.
Continue further south to the promenade. Here, visitors can enjoy the fresh sea breeze and stop at the Castle of Santa Catalina. This military fortification helped defended the city from the pirates and corsairs in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Camino Real is more than just the city’s main highway. Mostly cobbled, it is where the main shops, squares, and interesting buildings are. Wandering from north to south, it is not hard to gain an insight into the capital’s history and culture. After all, almost every structure on this street stands a testament to the centuries-old tradition of the Canary Islands.
The quaint cafes, jewelry shops, and souvenir stores are what makes Calle O’Daly stand out from the rest of the city. This road, dubbed as the shopping street of Santa Cruz, is the perfect place to take back a little something of the island back home. It is also worth noting that the famous designer Manolo Blahnik hails from this city, so shoe-lovers are in for a treat. Overall, the immaculate cobblestone pedestrian street is perfect for a stroll anytime of the day.
Sitting on the north of Calle O’Daly is the palm-shaded Plaza España. The square, regarded as one of the most remarkable Renaissance architecture in the archipelago, also serves as the nerve center of the city. It houses some of the most prominent buildings including the impressive 16th-century Town Hall. On the other side are the historic Church of El Salvador and a beautiful bronze statue of Manuel Diaz in the middle.
Insular Museum of La Palma (Museo Insular)
Step back in time at Museo Insular, an excellent museum housed in a former 16th-century monastery. Wandering around, visitors will find a diverse range of exhibits from Guanche skulls to impressive shell and coral collection. The museum also holds galleries of 20th-century paintings and contemporary art.
The Naval Museum (Museo Naval)
When in Santa Cruz, it is hard to miss the full-size ship that looks stranded. But this ship, a replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria, is the Naval Museum. It features a permanent exhibition of ancient maps and sailing knots. Also, the museum retells interesting stories revolving around the sugar industry on the island during the Spanish conquerors’ time.
Santuario de la Virgen de Las Nieves
Take an easy hike north of the city to see La Palma’s primary object of pilgrimage. Santuario de la Vigen de Las Nieves boasts fabulous baroque interiors. It’s Mudejar-carved ceiling, crystal chandeliers, and eye-catching sculptures are the precursor to the Virgin Mary herself. This 14th-century figure is the oldest religious statue in the Canary Islands. Sitting peacefully on an elevated spot surrounded by greenery, the area also offers splendid views over Santa Cruz.
Getting to and Around Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz de La Palma, on the eastern side of the island, is accessible by ferries. From the main port, several ships sail to other islands in the Canaries.
Meanwhile, those who are not comfortable with traveling through the waters may take the convenient inter-island plane. The airport in Villa Mazo is only 6 kilometers from Santa Cruz. From here, travelers can hire cars and take LP-5, LP-2 and LP-20 motorways. Otherwise, they may take the efficient public bus. Route 500 takes passengers from Punto Limpio to La Recova bus station in less than 30 minutes.
Best-Rated Hotels and Apartments
The only major port on the island is in Santa Cruz de La Palma. Thus, it is the usual first or sometimes the only stop on visitors’ itineraries. Its beauty is enchanting at every corner. As such, it is no wonder why those who’ve set foot on its streets don’t ever want to leave or wish to stay a little longer. It’s a good thing the city has an extensive list of excellent accommodations fit for every visitor’s need.
Hotel San Telmo
This stunning 2-star hotel is set in a beautifully restored 17th-century building. One of the best boutique hotels in the city, it only has eight rooms that make for a more intimate experience. Admire the contemporary decorations of the chambers, some have balconies overlooking the flower-filled gardens while others have ocean views. The property also serves daily breakfast and has a bar where drinking is allowed all throughout the day.
Parador de La Palma
Set in glorious isolation on the hillside of Breña Baja is Parador de la Palma, an oasis of rural tranquility. This traditional Parador is proud of its friendly and efficient service, comfortable rooms, good food and an air of colonial grandeur. The exterior is adorned by wooden balconies, and there is an open patio garden that overlooks the city of Santa Cruz and the Atlantic Ocean.
Apartamentos La Fuente
For those who prefer convenience and proximity than serviced rooms, Apartamentos La Fuente is the place to be. Located in the city’s main pedestrian street, this complex is just a stone’s throw away from restaurants, bars, and shops. It also offers free WiFi, cozy rooms, and a rooftop sun terrace. Unfortunately, this four-story building does not have elevators, so guests will have to endure climbing up and down with the use of stairs.
Bars and Restaurant
The port city of Santa Cruz features a wide variety of food choices featuring the most mouthwatering dishes of the island. There is a multitude of not-to-miss dishes, including papas arrugás con mojo (boiled salted potatoes) and bienmesabe (sweet made from egg yolks, ground almonds, and sugar). All these can be washed down with delicious, high-quality local wines.
Dining at Enriclai feels more like visiting old friends who happen to be great hosts and cooks. With only four tables set in a 200-year old building, the atmosphere is delightfully intimate and friendly. Carmen, the owner-cum-chef, offers a choice of dishes that alters daily according to what is fresh in season. Furthermore, their local wines complement the delicious meal perfectly.
Sporting a laid-back atmosphere with a budget-friendly menu, Chipi-Chipi is a local favorite. This hill-top restaurant caters to visitors from all walks of life for all kinds of events and celebrations. Among its extensive cuisine selection, diners should not miss their steaks and barbecue dishes. Those who fancy some fresh air while feasting on their dish may dine in the restaurant’s charming rustic courtyard.
Restaurante Parrilla Los Braseros
Los Braseros is a well-loved hill-top steakhouse. Experience dining under tamed vines and in a garden in full bloom while savoring the ocean view. They also cater to specific dietary requirements of their guests, offering gluten and dairy free food, among others. Also notable are the owner and staff who make visitors feel at home with their warm and friendly service.
A Place Where History and Arts Meet
There is a plethora of reasons to fall in love with Santa Cruz de La Palma. Declared as a Property of Cultural Interest, this city is where history and arts meet and harmoniously blend together. Its rich past translates so well with its beautiful colonial architecture and style. Also, the quaint restaurants, vibrant shops, and excellent holiday rentals add up to its appeal. Whether guests are into soaking up some stories from the past or wanting artsy inspiration to fuel their crafts, they are sure to be entranced by this La Palma jewel.