Welcome back to another Tenerife blog! There’s so much to share from here so there will be a few more coming up soon and then probably some littered throughout the rest of the year and maybe even beyond, who knows? Today we’ve got a guide to some of the natural pools around the island which were some of my favourite things to visit while I was there. I’m starting in reverse order and finishing with my favourite but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the others too!
The Garachico natural pools are probably the most famous in Tenerife. The town of Garachico is a lovely town in typical Canarian fashion with picturesque streets and a lovely central plaza. It used to have one of the most important ports on the island, exporting Malmsey wine and other produce. This was until Teide, the volcano at the centre of Tenerife, erupted for several weeks in 1706. Lava flowed down into Garachico, partially destroying the town and decimating the port. However, it was this lava flow that created not just one but a series of natural pools which are now the most popular attraction and draw a lot of tourists to the town.
Garachico is in the north west of Tenerife, about an hour driving from Costa Adeje in the south (where my hostel was) and the same from Santa Cruz, the capital, in the east. The pools are in an area of the town called El Caletón and are well sign posted but if in doubt, just head towards the sea!
The pools are actually ‘natural’ (you’ll see what I mean when I talk about the next pool), being formed out of the lava that flowed down from Teide through the town. They have the look of rock pools but bigger and a bit more sheltered at times. It obviously depends on the tide and the weather as to the condition of the pools. It was overcast when I went and I would say the tide was at a medium level which is supposedly the best time to see the pool. Even if the sea was a little choppy, the arrangement of the rocks meant that the pools were much calmer, there being no tide in them. Because they are the most well known pools on the island they can be quite busy, especially the area closest to the parking and restaurant. If you take the time to head a bit further in, you can find some smaller but much quieter pools all to yourself!
The pools are near enough to the town itself to be within a few minutes walk from plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops. There is also a restaurant and bar on the lava itself, right next to the pools. While the pools themselves are natural, paths have been created that wind through them so it’s easy to walk around. You don’t have to risk life and limb scrambling over slippy or spiky rocks just to find a good spot. A set of metal steps have been added to the sides of the bigger pools so that you can enter and exit gracefully, should you so wish.
A little bit of advice now, based on my experiences here. I didn’t see any changing facilities, not to say that they don’t exist, but it might be a good idea to come ready for a dip or with a good towel for a quick poolside change. Like I said before, if it seems busy, carry on a little to find a quieter spot. Also beware of the weather. There are some lifeguards near the larger pools and if the water is too rough, which it can be in autumn or winter, the pools might be closed. One more thing, and maybe the most important! After swimming in one of the smaller, quieter pools for a while, a local guy went in and pulled a sea urchin from right where we’d been swimming! There were several more around so be careful!
A really nice idea would be to combine a visit to the natural pools at Garachico with some of the other towns in the area. If you are coming from Santa Cruz, you could stop at San Cristobal de La Laguna, considered the cultural capital of the Canaries, and La Orotava, a stylish town known for Casa de los Balcones. If you are coming from Costa Adeje or the south in general, combine a trip to Garachico with a slight detour to see the cliffs at Los Gigantes and drop by Masca, a picturesque hamlet nestled in the mountains.
Los Gigantes is the name of both the huge cliffs that tower along a portion of the west coast of Tenerife and the town that sits below them. Los Gigantes, or ‘the Giants’, reach a height of 500-800m but are not the only attraction around the town. Los Gigantes also has its very own natural pool, officially called Charco de Isla Cangrejo (Crab Island Pool) but more colloquially referred to just as Los Gigantes, where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the cliff. Los Gigantes is about a 40 minute drive north of Costa Adeje and could easily be combined with a trip to Garachico if you wanted to make a day, or even just an afternoon, of it!
I really like this pool despite it being the least ‘natural’ of the three on this list. What I mean by that is that even though the formation of the pool itself is natural, as is the area surrounding it, there is a concrete wall that has been put up to shelter it from the waves. To be fair, this is what makes it accessible in the first place so I can’t complain too much! There is a small car park near the entrance but also plenty of street parking around as well. It’s a short descent down some steps to get to the pool but from the top you get the most magnificent view of the cliffs of Los Gigantes as well as your first peek at the pool down below. The pool is super fun because at certain times and in certain spots it is super calm so you can just chill but if you go closer to the wall that I mentioned, you can wait for the waves to come crashing in! While in general I’m pretty satisfied with everything I got to do while I was in Tenerife, if there was one thing I wish I had done, it’s go to this pool to watch the sunset. The sun comes down right by the cliffs so it can be a really beautiful spot to spend the evening.
Something to bear in mind is that there are no facilities at this pool. There are steps to get you down to the level of the pool but after that there are no special paths or anything. There is nowhere to buy food or drinks either so bring snacks and water (and maybe beer?) with you. Shade is also limited depending on the time of day and flat spots are few and far between. Think about bringing an umbrella but at least a cap and lots of suncream as well as a thick towel to sit on and flip flops or water shoes for walking about.
If I have some advice for this pool, it’s be careful! There are a few more risks here in terms of safety. For one, the entrance into the pool is very slippery and rocky so like I said above, water shoes are a good idea unless you can just tough it out. On a more serious note, the waves crashing over the wall into the pool can be fun but also dangerous. If the tide is high and particularly powerful, it’s advisable to avoid that side of the pool. There have been several accidents and tragically even a few deaths so this is something to take seriously. If the weather isn’t great, by all means go and enjoy the view which will still be spectacular but maybe give the swim a miss.
Last but not least – Las Piscinas Naturales de los Abrigos! This is the least well known of these three pools. There’s not even a sign on the main road, just a lay-by for those in the know. This means that it’s much quieter as well and there’s nowhere near as many people as Garachico and even Los Gigantes. To find the pool get yourself to the town of Los Abrigos, towards the southern tip of Tenerife. From there take the road out of the town towards El Médano until you see a layby just before a banana plantation. It will take just a couple of minutes in a car or less than 15 minutes by foot. From this layby you head towards the ocean and you’ll find the pool!
The pool is actually pretty rectanglular shaped but it’s completely natural, nothing man-made about it! It’s very deep, although the exact depth depends on how high the tide is. When it’s low tide, the pool is full and some waves will make it over the barrier of rocks and slip inside. However when the tide is high, the water swells to the point that it crashes in and significantly raises the level of the water every few seconds. It was super relaxing just watching the water flow in and out, like watching the ocean breathing. This is my favourite pool that I visited. There’s something about the way that the water moved that kept me entranced. Whether I was actually in the water or just watching from the side, I found it captivating.
To keep it short – there are none. Other than a set of metal steps to help you in and out of the pool, there is nothing there. Bring towels, water, snacks, whatever you might want for your afternoon at the pool. Saying that, you aren’t far from Los Abrigos and if you are walking from the town centre you will pass a supermarket where you can pick things up. There’s also a great arepa restaurant in Los Abrigos called Arepera Maracay!
Some advice for this pool now. I have been both when the tide is really high and the water level raises and lowers massively with every wave and also when the tide is lower and the water level is much more stable. Personally I prefer it when the tide is high because I think the sensation of the water lifting and lowering you is really fun and unlike anything else I’ve experienced. However, with that you have to be more careful. If you aren’t a strong swimmer or aren’t that comfortable in the water then it might be better to go at low tide. I would also suggest taking some goggles so that you can dive down into the depths of the pool. There is a fun little tunnel into a smaller pool to the side that you can try to swim through if you dare (although better in low tide or you will get thrown into the roof of the tunnel as the water rises at high tide). There are also plenty of fish to see in the pool because it is filled with water that has crashed in from the ocean just a few metres away and there are crabs scuttling up and down the rock walls of the pool!
As you descend from the roadside to the pool itself, you will pass a series of caves in the rocky hillside as you make your way down to sea level. There are more caves if you take a walk along the coastline and the more eagle eyed among you might spot signs of life in them. Towels hanging outside, handmade signs and even some of the people that live there! I don’t know a lot about this community but it seems to be made up of some people that live there more permanently and some who come to experience it for a short time. It also seems to be a choice for most people living in the caves, rather than any kind of economic necessity. From the outside looking in, it has a very bohemian, hippy energy. The caves near Los Abrigos are not the only inhabited caves on the island, there are also people living in caves near the town of La Caleta, further north along the western coast from Los Abrigos.
While you are in the area, you could combine a visit to las piscinas naturales de Los Abrigos with spending a few hours in the town of El Médano, just a ten minute drive from Los Abrigos. On Tenerife, El Médano is synonymous with windsurfing. You will feel why the second you arrive in the town. It is noticeably windier than anywhere else I’ve been on the island (except from one random stretch of highway on the way to Santa Cruz. I have no explanation for this but I always hated driving on that stretch of road). El Médano is a popular spot for tourists but a different breed of tourists than you will find saturating the resorts and British pubs of Costa Adeje or Las Americas. It is a laid back place that welcomes people who would consider themselves travellers rather than tourists. There are plenty of hostels, unique bars, cute cafes and independent shops. Try windsurfing, visit La Tejita beach or make your way up the Montaña Roja, a hill on the edge of town at the end of Tenerife’s longest beach.
There are of course other natural pools in Tenerife. I didn’t even scratch the surface of them. A quick Google search will reveal them to you but some of the names I’ve come across most frequently are Charco de los Chocos in Los Silos and Charco de la Laja in San Juan de la Rambla (charco being a Spanish word for pool). Wherever you go, it’s sure to be incredible!