In this article, we will not only describe what makes this island a hidden gem but also discuss where to stay in La Palma. Even though this island has an area of just 273 square miles, it is quite mountainous and will feel much larger when you arrive.
As one of the westernmost Canary Islands, La Palma is not as widely known as its larger sister islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Fuerteventura. In terms of tourism, La Palma definitely flies under the radar, but this actually works in favor of smart travelers.
The best areas to stay in La Palma are all very close to nature preserves, active volcanoes, and paradisiacal beaches; in fact, the entire island has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and this means that you can find plenty of ecotourism opportunities here.
Before we go into details about the wonderful places where you can stay in La Palma, let’s review some key information you should be familiar with prior to your arrival:
The Santa Cruz de La Palma International Airport (SPC) is the smallest in the Canary Islands, but it is served by about a dozen airlines that arrive from destinations located as far as Berlin.
There are some nonstop charter flights that tend to be pricier than the direct flights that connect through the international airport at Tenerife (TFN).
Many travelers who land at TNF make their way to La Palma aboard a ferry operated by tourism fleets such as Transmediterranea and Fred Olsen; this is a smart option not only because you get to save on transportation costs but also because the approach to the island from the sea is quite scenic.
Long before pop music queen Madonna recorded the hit song “La Isla Bonita,” this was the name given to La Palma, which the people of Spain and the Canary Islands consider to be the prettiest island in this part of the world.
Although there is a splash of Mediterranean culture in La Palma, there is a stronger Caribbean vibe for good reasons: this island is situated almost on the same meridian as Cuba and Hispaniola.
If you are familiar with the Spanish spoken in the Caribbean, you will hear similar accents when you stay in La Palma.
Many of the Caribbean customs and lifestyle come from the Canary Islands because this is where many settlers came from after the occupation of the conquistadors across the West Indies. In fact, cultivation of sugar cane, bananas, and tobacco are still important economic activities of La Palma along with rum distilleries.
With the above in mind, here is a brief rundown of the best places where you can stay in La Palma.
Where to Stay in La Palma: 12 Best Areas
1. Llanos de Aridane
The plains of Aridane is the urban center of the island; it is also the most popular place to stay in La Palma. This is the most populous area of La Palma, but it is home to just 20,000 residents.
As its name suggests, Llanos is a series of small valleys where you do not have to deal with steep hills when you walk around the small town. The coastline is not far from Llanos; even at the easternmost point near the mountains, the beaches are just five kilometers away.
You can’t go wrong when choosing Llanos as your place to stay in La Palma. Local bus transportation and van tours will connect you with all other areas of the island, and you will also find car rental agencies.
There is no train service in La Palma; the idea has been previously considered, but the challenging topography gets in the way. Renting a car is recommended because the network of roadways is in great condition and is quite scenic.
As previously mentioned, you will be able to find ecotourism activities no matter where you stay in La Palma. In Llanos, you can visit Barranco de Las Angustias, a prime sightseeing spot that offers breathtaking mountain views. You can also arrange a hiking trip to nearby La Caldera, which is a volcanic nature preserve.
Whereas some parts of La Palma have been shifting to local economies primarily dedicated to tourism, Los Llanos de Aridane still clings onto agricultural riches. Banana plantations surround the small city, thus lending a tropical vibe.
The majestic laurel trees in the Chica and Glorieta squares, which were designed by renowned sculptors, were brought to the island by conquistadors five centuries ago.
The Benahorita Museum of Archaeology features collections of artifacts dating back to the ages when North African clans settled on the island.
Llanos is where you will be able to find the greatest diversity of lodging options when you stay in La Palma. You can find dozens of hotels ranging from the luxurious to budget hostels for backpackers.
Long-term vacation rentals have been emerging in recent years; the most sought-after are conveniently located near the Trocadero shopping center, which is where you can find a farmers market that also offers handcrafts.
This small coastal village caters specifically to tourists looking for sun and sand vacations. If your idea of a perfect stay in La Palma involves an upscale beachfront hotel, Tazacorte will not disappoint you.
Virtually every hotel and long-term apartment in this beach town consistently gets excellent reviews. The two beaches in Tazacorte are blessed with black volcanic sand that is always cool to the touch.
The main beach can be seen from the balconies of many hotels, but there is also a hidden virgin cove with a gorgeous beach to the south.
Despite being a small place, Tazacorte packs a lot of entertainment in terms of oceanfront restaurants and bars; everything is stylish and feels like new because it was actually completed over the last few years.
Most of the beach resorts are ideal for families, but there are a couple of adults-only hotels.
Located in the northern part of the island, Barlovento is a small paradise for ecotourists and one of the most charming places to stay in La Palma.
This tiny village stands about 500 meters above sea level and is surrounded by mountains, but it actually overlooks the ocean.
When you stay here, be sure to hike up the Roque de los Muchachos peak, where you can take incredible photos to post on Instagram. The entire area is densely forested; plus, La Fajana swimming spot consists of a lagoon that has been converted into a swimming hole atop ocean cliffs.
There are only a handful of hotels and country lodges plus a few pubs and restaurants in Barlovento; however, the experience is unforgettable, particularly if you can book accommodations with a panoramic view of the ocean.
The prices are extremely reasonable, and you will not have to travel far to get to the beach.
4. El Paso
Similar in size to Los Llanos but with more mountainous terrain, El Paso is a larger city where you can find history, ecotourism, gastronomy, and very charming places to stay in La Palma.
In the 19th century, El Paso was an important trading post with a vibrant textiles industry.
The elegant Castilian architecture of El Paso has been lovingly maintained through the decades, and it is clear to see that this used to be a prosperous city.
You will find just as many lodging options here as in Los Llanos, but they are bound to be more affordable.
There are a couple of hostels, but you would be better off staying at rural lodges near La Caldera nature preserve. Nice views of the mountains and volcanoes can be appreciated from virtually all hotels.
You may want to ensure the rooms you book offer air conditioning if you plan on visiting during the summer months.
The small nightlife district of El Paso consists of lively taverns where you can enjoy local wines and tapas that feature locally made farmers cheese as well as “papas arrugadas,” wrinkly potatoes topped with a spicy sauce that evokes Caribbean flavors.
Located in the northwestern tip of the island, Puntagorda is one of the classiest places to stay in La Palma. This part of town feels isolated and magical; it is highly recommended for couples because of its incredible views of the starry nighttime skies.
Puntagorda is right on the coastline, but the nearby beaches are only for exploring and not for swimming. The winds and currents here can be treacherous; plus the beaches are very small spots of golden sands at the bottom of majestic cliffs.
Even though most vineyards in La Palma are cultivated in the south, most of the local wines are served in Puntagorda, and they beg to be tasted.
This is a good place to enjoy local cuisine at fine-dining restaurants or at scenic bistros that provide sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.
As for accommodations, you can expect to pay more, but it will be worth it because the hotels are mostly new and offer amenities such as large terraces where you can lounge in the afternoons as you enjoy the sunset.
6. Breña Alta
The Breñas of La Palma refer to a couple of expansive regions of rugged scrub land located south of the capital port city of Santa Cruz. Breña Alta has a small section of coastline but it is mostly mountainous.
The lower Breña has the greatest share of beaches. Although this part of the island is mostly residential, there are about a dozen hotels that many tourists gravitate to when planning their stay in La Palma.
If you have sun and sand in mind for your trip, Los Guinchos beach is where you will find a resort-like experience; this is not a large coastal district, but it offers amenities such as bars and restaurants with direct view of the ocean.
You may even get to spot a couple of celebrities since they are known to visit here from time to time.
Seasonal resident who spend more than a few weeks in La Palma will find that the Upper Breña has a few long-term vacation rentals ranging from beach studios to country lodges.
Since this is a more upscale part of town, the accommodations tend to be nicer; nonetheless, they are reasonably priced.
7. Breña Baja
The Lower Breña of La Palma is home to the small SPC international airport. Air travelers whose vacations only last a few days may find it convenient to zip from the airport to their Breña Baja hotels, which are largely located along the beaches.
Even if you arrive by ferry, you can get here in no time thanks to the dependable bus and taxi services.
Compared to the Upper Breña, this coastal district has a lot more to offer in terms of traditional tourism. This town, which used to be mostly agricultural, has turned into a major tourism district.
What is interesting about Breña Baja is that its gradual upward slope from the beaches to the mountains ensures that most tourists will enjoy views of the sea from the rooms they book.
If you choose to stay in a hotel located on the western end of Breña Baja, you will be closer to nature preserves and farms, and you may still get terrace views of the ocean.
There are no hostels here; however, the budget hotels close to the beach offer lodging at very low prices.
8. Santa Cruz de La Palma
As should be expected from a seaside capital in the Canary Islands, Santa Cruz offers a little bit of everything. This is a great place to stay in La Palma.
Even if you choose to stay elsewhere on the island, you should make it a point to visit Santa Cruz, particularly the Avenida Maritima sector where many hotels are located.
You can find a few backpacker hostels in Santa Cruz, but they are not located near the main tourism or nightlife districts.
Modest and budget hotels near Avenida Maritima and other pedestrian boulevards provide more value, comfort, and convenience for just a few more euros; plus, they are much closer to the beaches.
Other lodging options include boutique hotels, modest inns, and quite a few long-term vacation rentals converted from elegant mansions. Despite being a capital city, you will not find international hotel chains because this is a relatively small place.
The tourism activities of Santa Cruz begin at Avenida Maritima, which is blessed with very charming and colorful architecture; it feels like a miniature version of Havana that has been lovingly maintained for centuries.
The shopping district at Anselmo Perez Street will lead you to Calle Real, where you will find plenty of restaurants, cafes, and pubs with outdoor seating. The nightlife district is closer to the ferry terminal, and it provides the most excitement in the island.
9. Puerto Naos
This former fishing and trading port has been transformed into a sleepy beach town that is separated from Llanos de Aridane by a small mountain range.
Residents of Llanos are known to plan weekend getaways at Puerto Naos during the summer, which is when you may not be able to find too many available rooms.
Without a doubt, the black sandy beaches of Puerto Naos are the main attraction. When the surf meets the dark volcanic sediments of the beach, the reaction between saltwater and minerals results in great amounts of effervescent foam.
Unlike the northwestern tip of La Palma, the seas are calmer and ideal for swimming during various months. The main beach is called Puerto de Naos, but there are others to the south such as Playa Chica.
There are a good choice of hotels and vacation rentals to choose from in Puerto Naos; quite a few are located just steps away from the beach, but seasoned travelers will tell you that country lodges near the banana plantations are more comfortable, charming, and affordable.
You can find a couple of hostels away from the beach, but you may also want to consider the rural bed & breakfast options instead of the beachfront hotels, which are moderately priced.
10. Fuencaliente de La Palma
Staying in Fuencaliente, a small coastal town in the southern tip of the island, is a must if you are interested in geology. The term “caldera,” which describes the hollow ground left after a volcanic collapse, was coined right here.
Volcanology researchers are known to stay in this town because it offers easy access to both live and inactive craters. If you make Fuencaliente your vacation home in La Palma, be sure to book a hiking excursion to a nearby volcano.
You’ve probably noticed that we have not mentioned all-inclusive beach resorts in this article; there really aren’t that many in La Palma, but you will find two in Fuencaliente, and they are both spectacular.
Even if you do not stay at these upscale resorts, you can still find many accommodations closer to the mountain forests.
Fuencaliente is perfect for ecotourism fans and hikers; aside from the two aforementioned beach resorts, most of the hotels are country inns, and they happen to be very well-appointed, so you should expect to pay a little more.
There is no nightlife and only a few restaurants and cafes, but they all serve local gourmet dishes.
The western shores of La Palma are emerging as hidden ecotourism gems of the Canary Islands, and this is where you can find Tijarafe, a town south of Puntagorda that is very rural even by this island’s standards.
You will not find neighborhoods or residential communities in Tijarafe because zoning is different in this section of La Palma; instead, dwelling structures are separated by farmland and wooded areas. The same goes for hospitality spaces, which means that there is no main tourism district, only villages.
Tijarafe is for ecotourism lovers who enjoy activities such as hiking, sightseeing, exploring virgin beaches, and tasting farm fresh products such as wine, cheese, and craft beer.
The only accommodations are bed & breakfast homes, country lodges, and rural inns, but they all offer plenty of charm and comfort. You can choose between hidden lodges and coastal homes that have been converted into rural hotels with a nice view of the ocean.
A couple of small beaches are reasonably accessible, but most of them are rocky coves that are better off exploring with local guides. One notable attraction is Poris de Candelaria, which is a small village built inside a cove with a dramatic view of the ocean.
12. Los Cancajos
Located between Breña Alta and Breña Baja, just south of Santa Cruz, Los Cancajos is a coastal resort district that used to be a fishing village.
Its location midway between the ferry port terminal and the SPC international airport makes it very strategic for visitors, many of whom are European scuba divers who spend weekends exploring the underwater lava spits that shaped the western coastal seabed of La Palma millions of years ago.
Scuba diving is just one of the tourism activities you can enjoy in Los Cancajos. The beach is the main attraction thanks to its ecological Blue Flag designation; the locals love these beaches and coves so much that they routinely comb the gray and golden sands to remove rocks and pebbles caused by erosion.
When you explore the amazing cancajos, which are coves, you will understand why they were settled by ancient North African tribes.
Many families consider Los Cancajos one of their favorite holiday spots for various reasons. First of all, the reef formations created by volcanic eruptions form a natural barrier against heavy surf and strong currents, thus making it safer for swimming.
Second, local hoteliers go out of their way to make their rooms comfortable for families staying with children.
Most tourists immediately go for beachfront resorts, which are not as spectacular as those in Fuencaliente, but there are some very interesting opportunities in the country lodges located in the outskirts of the district.
Discovering the rest of La Palma is easy when you stay in Los Cancajos. The local bus service will take all around the island, and you will be able to visit botanical gardens, island parks, nature preserves, volcano routes, and more.
The main pedestrian boulevard of Los Cancajos offers quite a few restaurants serving local and international cuisine, and there are many shops that you will find convenient if you are staying at a long-term vacation rental and plan on preparing your own meals.
Finally, you really need to try the seafood restaurants here because the fresh catch is brought from nearby piers.