La Palma

In Blog, Europe, Featured, Hints and Tips, Locations, Spain by Ryan & ErinLeave a Comment

Drinking beer and watching the “Superbowl of the Canary Islands”!
4.50€ per pint of Guinness
*3.30€ per pint of local beer (Dorada)

We grabbed a four-seat wide, only slightly harrowing, island-hopper flight from Tenerife to La Palma to take in a race considered to be one of the hardest ultra-marathon mountain races in the Canary Islands: the Transvulcania (meaning across volcanoes of which the island has two). Watching over 1700 participants slog through 73.3 km (45.5 mi) of mostly volcanic rock tracks with a cumulative elevation gain of 4,415 m and elevation loss of 4,110 m was sure to work up a sympathetic spectator thirst! But would there be a Guinness to slake it?

It’s easy to see why La Palma is nicknamed “Isla Bonita”

Our race day started early in the dining room of our Los Cancajos hotel for a quick fuel up at 9.30am… but we couldn’t really complain as the dining room had been open to race participants to break their fast since 2am to ensure their arrival at the start line by 6am – ouch! From breakfast we slogged it up an elevation of at least 100 metres of achilles burning steep streets for 15 minutes to the bus stop of the 300 line that would take us up into the island’s center and its secondary capital (and ultra-marathon race finish line) at Los Llanos de Aridane. The bus came right on schedule but bursting to the gills with mostly locals. We had been warned that most of the island turns out to view what is considered one of Spain’s most important races and what our ultra-running mate jokingly calls “The Super Bowl of the Canary Islands”… You can bet on participants, there’s tv and internet live stream coverage of the event and spectating with a beer in hand is basically mandatory… yep, he may be right!

The crowds packed around the finish line of the Transvulcania Ultramarathon in Los Llanos made it hard for us to get a good vantage point

But first we had to get there. The crowded standing room only journey for the next hour and a half stopped at every Gua Gua (bus) stop on the route. We were now 3 hours into our race to view the Transvulcania having arrived at Los Llanos by 12.30pm. The elite ultramarathon racers were not expected until approximately 2pm but the finish line was already heaving with people waving inflatable Transvulcania branded clapping sticks and moving to the top reggaeton tracks piped over the loudspeakers – the party had started without us! But this was only another stop on our Transvulcania route. With the elites not yet at the finish line we could catch their performance twice by grabbing a taxi down to the harbour town of Tazacorte (Puerto de Tazacorte).

Puerto de Tazacorte provided us with a colourful place to have a drink or two while watching the Transvulcania

Puerto de Tazacorte was to be our first aid station, we found seats in one of the many busy beach side al-fresco bar/restaurants and took some much needed refreshment as we awaited the cheers to signal that the first of the runners would be passing by. Our refreshments of choice were frosty cold Dorada pilsner beers and mojitos in handy take-away cups as there seemed to be no rules against street drinking. Fun fact! In some ultra-marathon races some runners drink beer at aid stations as part of their nutrition! (Nutrition in this sport means try and get as many calories in to barely keep equal with the amount being expended!) The Puerto de Tazacorte is the last aid station for the ultra-marathon runners before they round out their race by doing a final 5km climb to another 350m of altitude again – just when they thought they were through with big climbs and descents! It’s also the finish line for the marathon distance runners in this race and there were some heartwarming finishes where young children darted out from behind the barriers to run alongside their knackered marathon finisher parents.

The mountains of La Palma made us tired just looking at them…

The quaint streets of the capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma – see our list below for more info on this cool little town.

Watching the race favourites come through really got the adrenaline going. Then the Aussie we came to cheer for, our brother/brother-in-law and second-time Transvulcania runner Nic Errol powered by us to make his final ascent to the finish line. We made a quick ascent ourselves grabbing another 10 minute taxi back up the steep road to Los Llanos. By this time the elites had come through the finish line but even with one hundred finishers already through the party was still in full swing and we had to jump some barriers to find a good spot to catch the photo finish of our Aussie. Having taken in his bleeding cuts, scratches and sunburn we felt terribly tired for him and resolved to await his joining us at a nearby Venezuelan owned al-fresco bar full of other race finishers, supporters and locals. Here they served Dorada Especial – a premium lager version of our previous favourite Tenerife produced beer the Dorada pilsner. We didn’t think there was anything too especial about this beer as compared to its pilsner brother except its higher alcohol content clocking in at 5%… We’d earned it! We’d done a grueling day of 6 hours journey and spectating from one side of the island to the other across its volcanic centre from the overcast coolness of altitude down to the searing heat of the beach. The runners had earned a beer too, the top male finisher clocked in at just over 7 hours running the 73.3km course since 6am… all in a day’s work!

The look on his face says it all…

The Transvulcania race takes the entire day, for some runners our hotel was keeping the dining room open for dinner until 1am! We got back for dinner by 8pm after a half hour taxi across the island. We had a couple more days on the island after the race for our much needed recovery, this allowed us to take in a little of the other delights the Isla Bonita (beautiful island as it is known in Spanish) had to offer. Aside from the eye-opening experience that is watching and cheering on the Transvulcania (or heaven forbid participating yourself!) here is a small list of our top picks in La Palma. If you’ve been to La Palma and/or seen the Transvulcania we’d love to hear your top tips in our comments section too!

If you’d like to know more about the Transvulcania and/or get a more technical perspective of ultramarathon running check out the official Transvulcania website here – and to follow runner extraordinaire Nic Errol and his (long!) runs around the globe, check out his blog here.

Until next time, Salud! (Cheers) Erin and Ryan.

Our top picks for La Palma:

The island’s capital city has something for everyone! Take a long walk through the cobblestoned historic centre built in the early 1500s. Boutique shopping abounds on both sides of this picturesque walk and when you inevitably work up a thirst there are cute bars in squares along the walk. Alternatively, head back down to the beach side promenade that stretches the same distance which has alfresco cafes across the road for taking in gorgeous beach views. Although only home to a resident population of 43,000 this is still a fairly multicultural town with plenty of food and drink offerings to reflect this and it was here that we were finally able to find a Guinness too. Although not on tap, the cafe owner was a clear fan and aficionado of guinness as he used Guinness Surger Plate to surge a canned Guinness to taste almost on par with a real one!

The beautiful promenade of Santa Cruz de La Palma

This small resort town about 15 minutes drive north from the airport has several pristine black sand beaches with attractive hexagonal basalt breakwaters to gaze out upon. Above the beaches is a small line of family owned tapas restaurants/bars. There is a nicely paved promenade walk and if you head south towards the airport you will come across a natural channel in the volcanic rock which with strong tides creates excellent spouts of water as waves come through the channel to crash up against the rocks to a height of 5 metres plus.

The volcanic black sand beaches of Los Concajos

Although we didn’t have time, in the north of the island in Barlovento you can find the natural formed bathing pools of La Fajana which come highly recommended from a fellow Transvulcan spectator. Concrete platforms have been laid over the naturally occurring rocks with stairs so that you can access the crystal waters below. The rocks also provide a good degree of natural shelter from the tidal patterns of the ocean making them safe and easy to swim in.

What do you think, how would you go running the 74kms of track in the La Palma Transvulcania? Comment below!

Want to know specifics?
If you’d like to read more about any of the places we have stayed, ate, drank or partied, check out the Reviews link in the main menu at the top of the screen.

Ryan & Erin
Follow Us

Ryan & Erin

Founders at Downbubble Travels
Erin Hardie and Ryan Platten are teachers, travel writers and photographers/web admins from Perth Western Australia. A mutual love of travel and trying new flavours brought them together (til death do they part!). They have created this blog after having each travelled to over fifteen countries individually before joining forces. They now seek to bring a little taste of the places they go to the walls of others (please pin us!) and to share information with other travel lovers!
Ryan & Erin
Follow Us


Related Post

A little of La Palma and a lot of what it's like to spectate the Transvulcania Ultra-marathon race on this gorgeous isle of the famed Canary Islands.