Here’s the Plan …
When to go: Year round, though spring and autumn are pleasant. Carnival (24-28 February 2017) is lively, particularly the Fiesta de los Indianos on Carnival Monday. Almond trees blossom January to February.
Getting around: Transportes Insular La Palma buses serve much of the island – route 500 links the airport with Santa Cruz hourly; taxis are also a good option. Hiring a car offers most flexibility; local company CICAR is recommended.
Where to Stay: Hotel San Telmo is a friendly place in old Santa Cruz. Sister lodging Hotel Benahoare in Los Llanos is another option. Parador de La Palma is a grand faux-historic hotel with fabulous gardens and sea views.
Where to Eat: Santa Cruz has fine options. La Lonja serves classic dishes in a quaint courtyard. Enriclai is a tiny, quirky restaurant near La Recova market.
Day One: Explore Old Santa Cruz
Start in the heart of the old town: Plaza España, dominated by the 16th-century Ayuntamiento (town hall) and black-lava tower of Iglesia de el Salvador. The latter’s interior boasts bling altar decorations and a carved mudéjar-style ceiling.
Nip into the El Café de Don Manuel courtyard for the best barraquito in town – coffee with cinnamon, lemon, condensed milk and Licor 43. Next, head north-east along Calle O’Daly to Plaza de Vandale, and stalls laden with hand-rolled cigars and African crafts, then continue to Los Balcones, a row of colourful merchants’ houses – this style was exported to Havana.
In nearby Plaza de la Alameda, a replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship Santa Maria houses a maritime museum. Grab an arepa (stuffed corn cake) at El Encuentro café, then duck into the cloisters of the Museo Insular, a former convent that shows some fine works by local artists.
More walking? Tackle the 7.5 km loop north-west of town, along the Ruta de los Molinos (Watermills Trail) to the ornate Santuario de la Virgen de las Nieves and its fine virgin statue. Finish at Los Balcones, sipping mojitos at Cuban-style Cuarto de Tula.