Why we decided to visit Tenerife from Gran Canaria?
On finding out that my aunt and uncle were intending to visit my other uncle in Tenerife, we just had to book a trip too! We hadn't seen each other for over eight years. They hadn't even met two of our four children! After all, New Zealand and Australia are a long way from the United Kingdom and Europe! One of my uncles has lived in Tenerife for over 14 years, and currently lives in the area of Costa del Silencio. My other uncle and aunt live on the seventh largest Scottish island, the Isle of Arran. From Arran my aunt and uncle operate their Arran Wild Walks business.
When you live on one Canary Island it would be crazy not to take the opportunity to visit another. We were keen to try out the ferry service after seeing them depart everyday from our balcony. In the past Paul and I had visited Lanazarote from the UK. We had booked one of those last-minute deals from the Teletext on the TV. Paul had also visited Tenerife before, but that was over 20 years ago!
Fast cat, slow ferry or fly?
After comparing the costs of flights versus the ferry for the six of us, we decided to have an adventure and take the ferry.
You can go to Tenerife from two ports on Gran Canaria (Agaete and Las Palmas) and arrive at either Los Cristianos or Santa Cruz. As we live near the port at Las Palmas we opted for that route. This meant that Naviera Armas was the company we would have to travel with. If we had wanted to catch the fast cat that leaves from Agaete, it would have meant a taxi ride (having to take two cars) which would have been an added expense. While the Fred Olsen fast cats do the journey in just 80 minutes, we opted for the slower ferry (2 hours and 30 minutes). Our thoughts were that the slower ferry would hopefully be a less seasick inducing option. Tom is the only one to have suffered seasickness in the past, but we thought that the slower trip would be gentler for him.
We travelled in November 2016 and booked less than a month before departure. When booking we weren't too flexible with dates as my aunt and uncle had only booked for one week. We also wanted to book from Tuesday to Tuesday so we could avoid travelling on a weekend. The Fred Olsen Fast Cats would have been between 300 and 400 euros for the 80 minute trip.
Instead our return trip for the six of us was €229.60. Children aged 0 to 3 years old are not allocated a seat as they are infants and therefore travel free. There were also no specified luggage restrictions and no security checks. We assumed this is because both islands are Spanish. It didn't matter for us anyway as we only had one large suitcase, a small carry-on and backpacks for the six of us.
SkyScanner quoted that our flights would have cost between €75 and €100 per person for a 30 minute flight. If you are flexible with dates you can search for a whole month and identify the cheapest dates to fly.
Our experience travelling with Naviera Armas
There were some issues with changing our travel dates when I realised we had booked to be away when the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) left Las Palmas for the Caribbean. I submitted a change request online, but I also ended up needing to make two phone calls over the next week in order to change the dates.
We opted for the early morning ferry, with a 7.30am departure. Fortunately we were able to collect the boarding pass/tickets the day before. This meant we didn't need to be there at 6am on the day of departure. So the day before we were due to leave I searched Google Maps to find the terminal office. I walked over to collect the passes (and to make sure we knew which terminal we needed to go to). It was a short 10 minute walk to the free ferry bus stop near El Muelle shopping mall. The cycle paths made wheeling our one suitcase a smooth ride. All the preparation meant we were able to relax and watch the sunrise as we waited for the ferry to depart.
Travelling light with a family of six!
A rather battered looking transit van came to collect our one suitcase (which weighed less than 25kg). You hand your suitcase over, get a ticket for collection and wonder where you'll find the van at the other end of the trip!
The stairs up to the ferry were hard work, plus there were internal stairs too. I did wonder if there was disabled access at all? On our return journey we carried a sleeping George up those four flights of stairs. No easy task - he weighs approximately 20kg!
We took on-board our umbrella stroller as a seat for George in case the ferry was full - it wasn't! (This is the stroller we got free from Newcastle airport - must share that story one day.) Also, we took with us a small in-flight size suitcase with food and a change of clothes for everyone (just in case of vomits or other accidents). The three older children had their backpacks with sticker books, cameras, tablets and toys. Additionally, we had our backpacks that held a nappy bag, food and laptops. Not bad luggage wise for a week's vacation for six people. I do love our packing cells. Particularly like that we can each have one in a different colour for ease of packing.
Naviera Armas Ferry
Our Gran Canaria to Tenerife ferry had a great seating area. It had six seats including a bench style seat around a table, with a four-seater table in a bay window. The ferry wasn't busy so we spread out - most other passengers sensibly gave us a wide berth! On the return journey we had a different ferry and the seats were all in groups of three, so we took over a few in one area. It was busier, but still plenty of room for everyone that wanted to sit near a window and see the view.
Tom and I had taken seasickness tablets an hour before departure, as we were the most likely to suffer nausea and/or vomiting. We will not miss those ginger tablets as they are really hot! I managed to find some children's liquid medicine for motion sickness from a pharmacy in Tenerife for the return journey. This was more palatable. The trip was quite calm but there were still some pale faces. A visit outside gave us a good blast of wind and this was a pretty good cure along with constant eating!
Gluten Free Provisions on Board the Ferry
Because we had skipped breakfast in favour of snack bars, fruit purees and biscuits on board I got close to running out of the food I had packed. Constant eating seemed to be a good distraction from the slight nausea we were feeling, so I ended up buying a gluten free brand of crisps called Munchitos. I also bought some more water as we drank all the bottles we had brought on-board.
Feeling brave I ordered our refreshments in Spanish - "seis agua con gas y dos cafe con leche". The coffee serving was small and in a tiny paper cup with no lid - fun when staggering in a rolling fashion back to our seats! There was a larger cafeteria area but I didn't investigate too much as it looked pretty heavy on the bread for breakfast fayre. Alternatively, there were cakes and sandwiches at the small bar area that was near us. We could have had beer and a chocolate doughnut for breakfast if we fancied a gluten and sugar fest!
Arrival in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
One problem with arriving in Santa Cruz is that the port is almost an hours drive from our destination of Costa del Silencio. Online searches provided really expensive quotes for taxis - being well over €250 for a round trip (more than we paid for the ferry tickets). This is where knowing a local really paid off. My uncle was able to book us a ride in a private van for €100 return with a friendly local from Liverpool. The van was a bit battle worn and the interior was well loved, but we had no complaints given the price. Our Safe Ride 4 Kids travel car-seat jackets were used again. I really must write a post about them as they have been amazing!
As we arrived in port it was raining, but the beautiful double rainbow and dolphins playing in the wake really made up for that! The two youngest fell asleep in the back of the van - well it had been an early start to get up for the 7.30am ferry!
Townhouse, Costa del Silencio
As requested I had texted our holiday rental landlord on arrival and again 10 minutes before we arrived. After many phone calls and text messages our host eventually turned up. We had booked through holiday lettings (a Trip Advisor company) for a weeks accommodation in Costa del Silencio. NB Trip Advisor link is an affiliate link and will take you to images of the townhouse we rented in Costa del Silencio.
Three bedrooms, balcony and volcano view!
The townhouse was split over two floors. There was one twin bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge on the ground floor. Upstairs there was a double bedroom, bathroom and separate room with a sofa bed. However, the sofa bed was broken, and I couldn't get it to lay flat. A text to the Russian owner resulted in the complex handyman arriving very quickly and fixing it. One of the parts of the bed was bent so he removed that part, took it away and straightened it, then came back to re-attach the part. On our departure I left the bed down rather than risk breaking it by putting it back in to a sofa!
The balcony had an outdoor table, nine chairs and the most amazing old charcoal barbeque that we did use once for a family dinner. Unfortunately, the complex had closed the pool due to re-tiling, which was a shame.
One thing that was a little concerning was that even though the complex was fully fenced we still had bars on all downstairs windows and locked metal security gates on the front door and balcony doors! Apparently, the local thieves target the ground floor apartments, but despite the obvious security measures we saw no hint of trouble. The TV in our townhouse only had Russian and Arabic channels, but it did have a USB port so we could watch movies. Our children enjoyed the deck of cards, chess set and local radio station.
The view from our balcony of the volcano Mount Teide was amazing, when not obscured by clouds!
Surviving Gluten Free in Tenerife
We were in an area called Costa del Silencio, and we had a couple of small supermarkets within walking distance. A SuperDino and a slightly larger HiperDino. The supermarkets did have the black labels for gluten free we were familiar with from Gran Canaria. However, the availability of gluten free produce was minimal in both supermarkets. No pizzas, bread or pasta. We always stay self-catering as eating out for six, three times a day becomes expensive very quickly. There were options for gluten free bacon so the kids were happy with bacon, eggs and baked beans for breakfast. One day my uncle did drive me to a larger supermarket where I stocked up on a few essential supplies so we could have a couple of family dinner evenings.
The area caters for a large number of tourists which was obvious by the large chiller sections full of imported beers. Strongbow cider was on special - 2 cans for 2 euros = bargain! Gluten free beer was available, along with a good selection of local and imported wines and spirits.
Eating Out Gluten Free in Costa del Silencio
We ate regularly at my Uncle's local Tapas bar, which is called Leo's. The owner, Leo, was a vibrant and friendly hostess who may have spoilt us just a little, and to her credit, before she knew we were family! During our week, she treated us adults to free Schnapps, the children to some delightful red coloured 'shot' and of course ice-cream. I discovered barraquitos - oh my! A barraquito is a coffee comprising: milk, espresso, condensed milk and Licor 43 topped with a bit of lemon peel and cinnamon. The food was wholesome and not over-priced. Leo even bought us a box of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, because we couldn't eat the ones that came with the coffees.
One day we discovered it was Leo's birthday (all the customers sang her Happy Birthday in Spanish) and Lily asked me if we could get her a card. I hadn't brought any of my Phoenix Trading stock with me so I had to buy a card from the supermarket. The local British Card & Candy shop was closed as it was a Sunday. Leo cried tears of happiness when we gave her the card and a box of chocolates!
Best Gluten Free Fish'n'Chips
One day my Uncle suggested we ask if the local, British owned fish'n'chip shop in Costa del Silencio could cater for us. It was the best decision we made! The owners said they could make us a coeliac fish batter and all the chips were gluten free anyway. Plus they cooked up a whole chicken for the children to have with chips.
To tell the truth, this was the best gluten free fish we have had since going gluten free over eight years ago! In the past we have ditched the soggy or crumbly batter and just tried to rescue the fish, but this batter made from chickpea flour (gram flour) was amazing and the cod was fantastic.
Best value meals in Costa del Silencio
When not eating at Leo's or at home we followed the advice of family and ate at '3.60' - so called because of the 25 dishes on the menu that cost just €3.60. They were not tapas sized dishes either, so they were great value. We washed it all down with the house wine of course! I had rice with chicken and vegetables, the children had chips or risottos. At the end of the meal there were clean plates all round. There are a lot of restaurants, cafe and bars in a very small area in Costa del Silencio. It is a largely residential area full of locals, holiday homes and second homes for many expats. The majority of tourists are English, Spanish, German, Dutch or Belgian, and menu translations are readily available.
Eating Out Elsewhere
Unfortunately Paul was recovering from his first gout attack in years and was unable to walk very far, so we didn't explore the area too much. One lunch we had ventured as far as Las Galettas where there are lots of beachfront and seafood restaurants. The traditional British tourist is well catered for with all-day breakfasts. Breakfasts are good because our three year old loves his bacon, eggs, chips and beans! Unfortunately, no restaurant we chose was able to offer gluten free bread as an option. Sadly it doesn't seem from our brief stay in this area that gluten free is well-catered for. It was nothing like Malta where gluten free, bread, pasta and pizza were widely offered in restaurants.
Most restaurants have a disclaimer stating that their menu options may include any of the major allergens and to ask staff for advice when choosing dishes. Some restaurants have symbols next to individual options while others just have the disclaimer. I prefer to be able to order straight from menus especially when having to order in another language.
Bus to Los Cristianos
Another place we visited was Los Cristianos. We got the bus from Costa del Silencio one day for lunch and a walk around. It cost €1.50 each way per person (under four years old travel free). Again there were lots of choices for food, but gluten free menu options were not always obvious. We sat down at the cafe (pictured below) for a drink, but the children decided they were hungry, so we ordered chips!
After a walk along the beach front, where there were more cafes, restaurants and tourist souvenir shops, we found a playground. The children spent an hour here just being kids and burning off all the sugar from the soft drinks! Language barriers don't seem to be a problem for the children with German, English and Spanish all playing alongside each other. There were no public toilets so I just took the children into the nearest cafe - the staff were no problem.
Sports Bar Los Cristianos
We had a lunch of wholesome food at the English run sports bar. Whilst we were there it started to rain heavily. Luckily we had chosen the only outside table where the canvas roof didn't leak! The box of toys was a welcome distraction for the youngest children so we opted for another cider to wait out the worst of the downpour!
It was only about 20 minutes by bus from Costa del Silencio to Los Cristianos. Had Paul not had gout we may have explored a little more on bus system - maybe next time!
Spending time with family!
The night before my aunt and uncle had to say goodbye to Costa del Silencio and return to the Isle of Arran we had a family buffet style dinner. We made gluten free pizza (using wraps as bases), salads, pasta bake, sausages & burgers, and crisps, all washed down with a few beers. Efforts were made to try and get a photo of all the kids with my aunt and uncle before they left! Ummm....this was the best we could get! It is so hard getting everyone looking at the camera at the same time!
Tenerife to Gran Canaria by Ferry
Our return trip back to Gran Canaria left at 4pm, a much later departure than our early morning start for the first ferry trip. Unfortunately we had to leave our townhouse in Costa del Silencio by 10am as there were new guests arriving the same day. So we headed to Leo's for drinks, lunch, ice-cream, cider, barraquitos and Schnapps of course! It was fabulous preparation for a ferry ride with kids! There were lots of hugs and tears when it came time to leave.
Our taxi got us to the port of Santa Cruz in plenty of time for checking in and boarding. The check-in area was a large hangar style building with awful run-down toilets, there were no toilet seats or paper! A coach full of people arrived as we were waiting to get our suitcases loaded. A few of these people were quite rude and barged us out of the way to get their bags loaded first. Consequently, we had to wait longer than we expected to get our one suitcase on the luggage van. Fortunately, we knew which seats we wanted on the ferry so we walked fast to the steps. A crew member checked our passports before boarding along with our boarding passes. Once again there were no luggage checks!
It was not the same ferry!
The seating was not the same, as I said before it was in groups of three, but the playground was a little bigger and not taped off. Our children had fun watching 'The Croods' in Spanish whilst sitting in the ball pool! The ferry was much busier this time with more passengers but we still managed to find window seats. We decided to try the wine. It was a little expensive at two euros for a tiny bottle and served with a very classy plastic beaker. I did consider just using a straw if it was rough! The children enjoyed their gluten free pic'n'mix from the British Card and Candy Shop in Costa del Silencio. Again, we fared well with a smooth crossing and no vomiting! The liquid anti-nausea remedy we all took was much more palatable than the spicy ginger tablets from our first trip.
Gorgeous Sunset taken from Naviera Armas Ferry
A special treat as we drew closer to Gran Canaria was the spectacular sunset. The sky was on fire! I'm going to end this post by sharing a couple of photos with you. Thanks for reading and please, we would love you to sign up to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook.