Leaving behind the TF1 and the resorts of Costa Adeje, I head down what appears to be a deserted road except for the large building silhouetted against the skyline in the distance. As I pass the Bahia Principe Hotel on the edge of Playa Paraiso, I wonder how many of its inhabitants realise that just a short distance from their all-inclusive resort is another world. A world that steps back in time to what Tenerife must have been like before the invasion of tourists. If they did know, would they be bothered to walk the few hundred metres or are they happy with their piped music, pool activities and food and drink on tap?
I park the car by the tiny church that sits above the village and wander down the hill blinded by the turquoise sea and Yves Klein sky. I can no longer get closer as the car park has been churned up to prevent the illegal hippy campers leaving their vans during the summer months.
I didn’t fall in love straight away – El Puertito seduced me slowly. This is not an obvious beauty spot but the landscape grows on you even if nothing much grows on it. A cave dwelling built into the rocks, brightly coloured fishing boats bobbing on the bay and the small white houses clustered around the slim arc of black sand offer relative peace and quiet away from the bucket-and-spade brigade.
There are always a few locals at the bar cum fish restaurant even if the owner isn´t around, you can pick up a drink and leave the money on the side. The local constabulary pop round at lunchtime for their sandwich and a caña and the only outsiders are a few savvy tourists who have found that El Puertito is an ideal spot for scuba diving.
The bay is used by some diving schools and because the depth is only 3 to 12 metres, it is an ideal site for beginners. It is also very rewarding. I have heard tales of the odd turtle or two swimming up to eye the invader of the shallow waters they call home. It must be a fantastic experience, but I am not a swimmer so haven´t seen for myself nor have I seen the thriving population of sea horses, butterfly rays, bull rays, octopus and cuttlefish that are there in abundance.
For me, the attraction of the place is pulling a chair from the bar that spills out to the water’s edge where stuff the texture of cat litter gives way to fine sand. Here I can sit sipping my drink watching the spectacular sunset and dream….. reminiscent of the movie; hence, I call this my Shirley Valentine beach.
Have any hotel guests discovered this forgotten corner yet? Would they be truly disappointed to learn what traditional Canarian really is? I selfishly hope so because while they stay away or pop their nose in and then quickly disappear it means that my little corner of paradise remains virtually unchanged.