And other tips to help you survive the Canary Islands

Tip one: First, it’s important not to assume that just because they’re grouped under the same name, these islands are in any way identical. On a very, very basic level, here’s the what’s what of the inhabited islands:

Fuerteventura – good for windsurfing and has enough beaches that you could switch every day for a month and still be bathing happily in new pastures

Tenerife – the ‘party’ island – although not to be overlooked as a family or cultural getaway destination

Lanzarote – great for art and sculpture, the most famous pieces of which were mainly created by the skilled hands of Cesar Manrique

La Palma – a hiker heaven

La Gomera and El Hierro – smaller, less touristy and the places where you’re most likely to be able to appreciate Canarian culture that hasn’t been soiled by sozzled tourists

800px-Fuerteventura_-_Playa_de_Butihondo

Tip two: If you’ve been thinking this could be the perfect opportunity to put Spanish language lessons into practice, think again. The lingo of the Canaries is much more similar to the South American varieties of the language than it is mainland Spanish, meaning all those ‘th’ sounds need to be swapped to s’s, and the locals won’t be able to comprehend your foreign-sounding accent.

Tip three: Tip. Spanish etiquette applies here, which means a 10% tip in bars, cafes and restaurants. The island’s industries are built on tourism, so your gratuities will likely count towards the wages of bar staff. Just because service charge isn’t included doesn’t mean it isn’t expected.

Tip Four: If you’re going on a wholesome family holiday, check out information about the nearby beaches before you go. The canaries have an abundance of ‘clothing optional’ beaches. So if you’re dragging along hormonal teens, they may end up going a bit pink, in more ways than one.

Tip five: Don’t just think of it as a chance to top up your tan. These islands have a culture and cuisine of their own. If you beach hop and don’t make time for anything else, you could miss out on more memorable activities like Harley tours in Costa Adeje, or whale watching on the coast. Which leads on to…

Tip six: Eat where the locals eat if you want a taste of Canarian cuisine. It may be difficult to distinguish the Canarian-fare restaurants from your average fish and chip tourist-grabbing, dingy café. To differentiate the real deal from the genuine fake, look for menu signs written in Spanish with words such as ‘Menu del dia’. No, they probably don’t want your custom, but if you bring along a guide book and can manage to pronounce the names of the dishes with some slight flare, what makes you any different from any other hungry customer? One traditional dish to look out for is Ropa Vieja – chickpeas, meat and potatoes.

Tip seven: And finally, be wary of the bars. A tourist at a resort is a walking target. Don’t get misguided by those offers of ‘free drink’ from empty bars. Usually the unprinted small print reads: buy one over-expensive cocktail and get a measly, watered down version for free. Go to a nice bar, where it’s worth paying 5euros for a beer, and enjoy the un-soiled atmosphere of a place that doesn’t try to lure you in with poor quality spirits. Finally, when settled in a suitable drinking establishment, don’t order doubles. The shots in Spain might be different to what you’re used to – poured with generous hands and likely to end up flooring you before you’ve even had a chance to dance.

Featured photo credit: Fuerteventura – Playa de Butihondo 2″ by Mário José Martins – http://www.flickr.com/photos/pepemartin/3663822040.

Second photo credit: “Fuerteventura – Playa de Butihondo” by Mário José Martins – http://www.flickr.com/photos/pepemartin/10161084964/.