Tucked away on the lush, green island of La Palma, the capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma is a little gem waiting to be explored. It’s where history meets modern vibes, with its cobbled streets, colorful colonial buildings, and a laid-back island atmosphere that makes you want to stay forever. As the island’s capital, Santa Cruz is more than just a pretty face; it’s a portal to adventure, offering everything from jaw-dropping natural landscapes to starry skies that make you feel like you’re touching the universe.

Strolling through Santa Cruz de La Palma, you’ll quickly get wrapped up in its charm. The city’s vibrant buildings and detailed wooden balconies are like something out of a storybook, while its lively ports tell tales of an adventurous maritime past. Here, you can kick back with some local bites at a cozy eatery one minute, then be on your way to exploring the island’s volcanic wonders the next. Santa Cruz de La Palma is that rare find for travelers who crave a mix of relaxation and exploration wrapped up in an island vibe that’s hard to beat

Balconies in Santa Cruz de La Palma
Beautiful Balconies with Flowering Plants in Santa Cruz de La Palma – ©rh2010

Dive into the Archives

Santa Cruz de La Palma’s history is as rich and intriguing as its landscapes are beautiful. Way back in the day, around the 15th century, this little island port started its journey as a speck on the map, soon to become a bustling hub in the Atlantic. Thanks to its strategic location, Santa Cruz quickly became a vital pitstop for Spanish conquerors, traders, and adventurers setting sail for the New World. Imagine the stories those old cobbled streets could tell, from tales of prosperity to pirate attacks – yes, pirates! The city was such a hot spot that it had to fortify itself against pirate raids in the 16th century. We’re talking about real-life swashbucklers trying to get a piece of the island’s wealth.

But the tale isn’t just one of conflict and conquest. Santa Cruz de La Palma was also a melting pot of cultures, with clear influences from Spain, Latin America, and even Flanders, which shaped its unique architectural and cultural landscape. Those gorgeous wooden balconies and traditional Canarian houses you see? They’re like a stroll through history, showcasing centuries of architectural evolution right before your eyes.

Through ups and downs, including volcanic eruptions and economic shifts, Santa Cruz has managed to preserve its historical charm while keeping up with the times. Today, it’s not just a city with a story; it’s a living museum where every corner tells a tale, inviting visitors to step back in time while enjoying the comforts of the present.

Top Attractions

The city and municipality’s glorious past still lingers in the air. Travel back in time and get lost in Renaissance era churches, remarkable museums, and Flemish art pieces. Wander along its twisting back streets and admire the unique set of rustic balconies that are sure to brighten up a gloomy day.

Avenida Maritima

Avenida Maritima is the bonbon of Santa Cruz de La Palma. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and take in the riot of colors from brightly-painted houses. Soak in the wooden balconies adorned with a variety of blooming plants – which makes for a truly delightful sight. These nicely-preserved colonial homes are not open to visitors except for some that its owners transformed to charming little restaurants and shops.

Continue further south to the promenade. Here, visitors can enjoy the fresh sea breeze and stop at the Castle of Santa Catalina. This military fortification helped defended the city from the pirates and corsairs in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Camino Real

Camino Real is more than just the city’s main highway. Mostly cobbled, it is where the main shops, squares, and interesting buildings are. Wandering from north to south, it is not hard to gain an insight into the capital’s history and culture. After all, almost every structure on this street stands a testament to the centuries-old tradition of the Canary Islands.

Cobblestone Streets Santa Cruz de La Palma
A Walk Back in Time on Cobblestone Streets – ©acongar

Calle O’Daly

The quaint cafes, jewelry shops, and souvenir stores are what makes Calle O’Daly stand out from the rest of the city. This road, dubbed as the shopping street of Santa Cruz, is the perfect place to take back a little something of the island back home. It is also worth noting that the famous designer Manolo Blahnik hails from this city, so shoe-lovers are in for a treat. Overall, the immaculate cobblestone pedestrian street is perfect for a stroll anytime of the day.

Plaza España

Sitting on the north of Calle O’Daly is the palm-shaded Plaza España. The square, regarded as one of the most remarkable Renaissance architecture in the archipelago, also serves as the nerve center of the city. It houses some of the most prominent buildings including the impressive 16th-century Town Hall. On the other side are the historic Church of El Salvador and a beautiful bronze statue of Manuel Diaz in the middle.

Insular Museum of La Palma (Museo Insular)

Step back in time at Museo Insular, an excellent museum housed in a former 16th-century monastery. Wandering around, visitors will find a diverse range of exhibits from Guanche skulls to impressive shell and coral collection. The museum also holds galleries of 20th-century paintings and contemporary art.

The Naval Museum (Museo Naval)

When in Santa Cruz, it is hard to miss the full-size ship that looks stranded. But this ship, a replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria, is the Naval Museum. It features a permanent exhibition of ancient maps and sailing knots. Also, the museum retells interesting stories revolving around the sugar industry on the island during the Spanish conquerors’ time.

Santuario de la Virgen de Las Nieves

Take an easy hike north of the city to see La Palma’s primary object of pilgrimage. Santuario de la Vigen de Las Nieves boasts fabulous baroque interiors. It’s Mudejar-carved ceiling, crystal chandeliers, and eye-catching sculptures are the precursor to the Virgin Mary herself. This 14th-century figure is the oldest religious statue in the Canary Islands. Sitting peacefully on an elevated spot surrounded by greenery, the area also offers splendid views over Santa Cruz.

Getting to Santa Cruz de La Palma

To explore the vibrant streets of Santa Cruz de La Palma, nestled at coordinates 28.6835° N, 17.7642° W, you’ll likely start your journey from one of La Palma’s entry points or major towns. Whether you’re coming from another Canary Island or directly from a town on La Palma, getting to Santa Cruz can be an adventure in itself, offering a glimpse into the island’s diverse landscapes and welcoming communities.

From Los Llanos de Aridane

Driving: Start on LP-2, then LP-3, heading east towards Santa Cruz de La Palma. Follow the road as it winds through the mountains, offering stunning views along the way. After about 35 kilometers, continue on LP-101 to reach the city.

Public Transportation: Take the bus line 300, which provides direct service from Los Llanos de Aridane to Santa Cruz de La Palma. The trip takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on traffic and stops along the way. Check the latest schedules and stops to plan your trip.

From Tazacorte

Driving: Begin on LP-2, heading northeast out of Tazacorte. Continue on LP-2, followed by LP-21 and LP-3, following signs for Santa Cruz de La Palma. After about 40 kilometers via LP-101, you’ll enter Santa Cruz de La Palma.

Public Transportation: Take bus line 110 to Los Llanos, then switch to bus line 300 to Santa Cruz de La Palma. Remember to check the current bus schedule for the most up-to-date information.

From Santa Cruz de La Palma Airport

Driving: The airport is conveniently located just south of Santa Cruz de La Palma. Drive north on LP-5, continue on LP-2, and follow the signs directing you to the city center. The drive is short, about 8 kilometers, making Santa Cruz de La Palma easily accessible for those arriving by air.

Public Transportation: Bus line 500 directly connects the airport to Santa Cruz de La Palma. This is a convenient and cost-effective way to reach the city, taking 15 to 20 minutes. Be sure to check the bus schedule upon your arrival for the most current information.

Best-Rated Hotels and Apartments

The only major port on the island is in Santa Cruz de La Palma. Thus, it is the usual first or sometimes the only stop on visitors’ itineraries. Its beauty is enchanting at every corner. As such, it is no wonder why those who’ve set foot on its streets don’t ever want to leave or wish to stay a little longer. It’s a good thing the city has an extensive list of excellent accommodations fit for every visitor’s need.

Hotel San Telmo

This stunning 2-star hotel is set in a beautifully restored 17th-century building. One of the best boutique hotels in the city, it only has eight rooms that make for a more intimate experience. Admire the contemporary decorations of the chambers, some have balconies overlooking the flower-filled gardens while others have ocean views. The property also serves daily breakfast and has a bar where drinking is allowed all throughout the day. Book Now!

Parador de La Palma

Set in glorious isolation on the hillside of Breña Baja is Parador de la Palma, an oasis of rural tranquility. This traditional Parador is proud of its friendly and efficient service, comfortable rooms, good food and an air of colonial grandeur. The exterior is adorned by wooden balconies, and there is an open patio garden that overlooks the city of Santa Cruz and the Atlantic Ocean. Book Now!

Apartamentos La Fuente

For those who prefer convenience and proximity than serviced rooms, Apartamentos La Fuente is the place to be. Located in the city’s main pedestrian street, this complex is just a stone’s throw away from restaurants, bars, and shops. It also offers free WiFi, cozy rooms, and a rooftop sun terrace. Unfortunately, this four-story building does not have elevators, so guests will have to endure climbing up and down with the use of stairs. Book Now!

Must-Try Dining Options

The port city of Santa Cruz features a wide variety of food choices featuring the most mouthwatering dishes of the island. There is a multitude of not-to-miss dishes, including papas arrugás con mojo (boiled salted potatoes) and bienmesabe (sweet made from egg yolks, ground almonds, and sugar). All these can be washed down with delicious, high-quality local wines.

Cafe in Santa Cruz de La Palma
Enjoying Coffee On a Lovely Day – ©tasfoto

La Placeta

Just off the bustling promenade in the old town of Santa Cruz, La Placeta is a charming restaurant that has quickly become the go-to spot for those in the know. With its inviting ambiance, exemplary service, and a menu that skillfully walks the line between upscale and comfort food, it’s no wonder patrons keep coming back. The tapas selection is nothing short of impressive, featuring standout dishes such as mussels with mojo, papas arrugadas con mojo (wrinkly potatoes with mojo sauce), and a delectable vegetable and shrimp crepe with bechamel sauce. For those looking to start their meal with a bang, the fried goat cheese with tomato jam and the langoustine come highly recommended.

Chipi-Chipi

Locals and travelers alike flock to Restaurante Chipi-Chipi for a taste of authentic Canarian cuisine. This eatery boasts a menu that’s a love letter to the island’s flavors, with dishes like the succulent veal chop and the perfectly grilled cabrito (baby goat) stealing the show. Not to be overlooked, their patatas abrigadas (salty wrinkled small potatoes), grilled goat’s cheese with mojo, juicy half chicken with papas arrugadas, and the delicately prepared cod with onion, each dish invites you into a world of rich flavors and hearty satisfaction.

La Lonja Restaurante

La Lonja Restaurante, on the scenic seafront of Santa Cruz, is housed in a beautifully preserved old building with an open courtyard where the ambiance is as delightful as the food. More than just a tapas place, La Lonja prides itself on serving meticulously prepared dishes showcasing the richness of local and international cuisine alongside an impressive selection of local wines. For those looking to dive deep into the island’s flavors, the Iberian ham croquettes, perfectly pressed suckling pig, arroz Cardoso, and uniquely prepared tuna teriyaki are absolute must-tries. And for dessert, the panna cotta of coffee with red berry mousse offers a sweet finale that’s both memorable and satisfying.

Travel Tips

To make the most of your visit to this charming Canary Island city, consider these tips:

Pack for the Climate: La Palma enjoys a mild, subtropical climate. Bring lightweight clothing for the day, warmer layers for cooler evenings, and a waterproof jacket, as the weather can change, especially if you plan to explore the higher elevations.

Respect the Siesta: Like many places in Spain, some businesses in Santa Cruz de La Palma may close for siesta in the early afternoon. Plan your shopping or dining accordingly to avoid inconvenience.

Explore on Foot: The city’s compact size makes it perfect for exploring by foot. Wander the cobblestone streets of the old town, admire the fascinating colonial architecture, and discover hidden gems around every corner.

Learn Basic Spanish Phrases: While many island locals speak English, especially in tourist areas, learning a few basic Spanish phrases will enhance your experience and show respect for the local culture.

Stay Eco-Friendly: La Palma is known for its breathtaking natural landscapes and commitment to environmental preservation. Respect local guidelines for conservation, especially when hiking in natural areas or visiting protected parks.

Visit Local Markets: For an authentic local experience, visit the city’s markets. It’s a great way to support local artisans, sample fresh produce, and find unique souvenirs.

Stargazing: La Palma is one of the best places in the world for stargazing, thanks to its clear skies and minimal light pollution. Don’t miss the opportunity to observe the stars, either on your own or by joining a guided tour.

FAQ

Heading to Santa Cruz de La Palma or simply curious about what this captivating Canary Island city has to offer? Look no further! Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help travelers navigate and make the most out of their visit to this enchanting destination.

What is the best time of year to visit Santa Cruz de La Palma?

The best time to visit Santa Cruz is between April and October when the weather is pleasantly warm and there’s less chance of rain, making it ideal for exploring the city’s beautiful streets, beaches, and natural landscapes. This period also coincides with several local festivals, offering a glimpse into the island’s vibrant culture and traditions.

Do I need to rent a car?

While renting a car to enjoy Santa Cruz de La Palma is not strictly necessary, having one can enhance your experience, especially if you plan to explore beyond the city limits. The island’s public transportation network is reliable but may not serve all remote areas or align with your schedule. A rental car offers the freedom to discover hidden beaches, mountain vistas, and quaint villages at your own pace, making it a worthwhile option for adventurers and those looking to dive deeper into La Palma’s natural beauty.

Can I go hiking around Santa Cruz de La Palma?

Absolutely! Santa Cruz is an excellent base for hiking enthusiasts looking to explore the island’s stunning natural landscapes. The surrounding area offers a good variety of trails that cater to all levels of experience, from leisurely walks to challenging treks. The most popular ones are:

EL Planto – Las Nieves – Velhoco – Las Tierritas (moderate)

Mirador de la Concepcion (hard)

PR LP 2.3 Barranco de la Madera (hard)

PR LP 3.1 Miranda – Tenagua (hard)

Santa Cruz de la Palma – Refugio de El Pilar (hard)

Santa Cruz de la Palma – Los Sauces – Barlovento (hard)

PR LP 2 Camino del Lomo del Lance (hard)

Other notable routes, albeit slightly farther from Santa Cruz, include the path to the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, with its breathtaking volcanic landscapes, and the Los Tilos forest, renowned for its lush laurel canopies and waterfalls. Remember to wear appropriate footwear, carry enough water, and check weather conditions before setting off on your hiking adventure.

Are there any specific local customs I should be aware of?

Yes, there are. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Greetings: It’s customary to greet people with a friendly “hola” (hello) and to say “gracias” (thank you) as a sign of politeness. In more formal settings or when meeting someone for the first time, a handshake is common. Two cheek kisses (starting with the left) are typical among friends or acquaintances.

Siesta Time: Many businesses and shops close in the early afternoon for siesta, typically from 2 pm to 5 pm. Plan your activities and shopping around these hours.

Meal Times: Meal times in Santa Cruz de La Palma, as in the rest of Spain, are later than what many travelers might be used to. Lunch is usually around 2 pm to 3 pm, and dinner often doesn’t start until after 9 pm.

Tipping: Tipping is customary but not mandatory, and a small gratuity in restaurants and cafes is appreciated.

Dress Code: When planning to explore churches or religious sites, it’s respectful to dress modestly, covering shoulders and knees.

Festivals and Public Holidays: Participating in local festivals can highlight your visit, but it’s important to show respect for local traditions and customs during these times. Public holidays might also affect the opening hours of shops, museums, and attractions, so checking in advance is a good idea.

Being mindful of these customs will not only help you blend in but also ensure a more authentic and respectful experience during your stay in Santa Cruz de La Palma.

A Place Where History and Arts Meet

There is a plethora of reasons to fall in love with Santa Cruz de La Palma. Declared as a Property of Cultural Interest, this city is where history and arts meet and harmoniously blend together. Its rich past translates so well with its beautiful colonial architecture and style. Also, the quaint restaurants, vibrant shops, and excellent holiday rentals add up to its appeal. Whether guests are into soaking up some stories from the past or wanting artsy inspiration to fuel their crafts, they are sure to be entranced by this La Palma jewel.