With misty forests, soaring volcanic cliffs and eerie craters – and 600 miles of trails – unspoiled La Palma is catnip for hikers. It’s the “it” island for hiking in the Canary Islands.
I love hiking, so naturally I wanted to step out for a day of La Palma hiking when our cruise ship visited the island.
While the Seabourn Odyssey offered a great guided hike on La Gomera, it didn’t offer a hiking excursion on La Palma.
So that meant searching online in advance for the best hike on La Palma that we could do – that would also get us back to our ship in time.
For us (my mother and I), a DIY hiking tour turned out to be the best option.
La Palma hiking
Upon arriving in La Palma, we popped in at the Tourist Information Center by the cruise port entrance for maps and information. Then we set off to catch the #300 public bus.
Caldera de Taburiente National Park – tops on the list of things to do in La Palma – with Canary Island pine forests and great hiking trails.
It was a public holiday, so the buses weren’t as frequent as normal. No matter. The bus came eventually. And we found ourselves at the national park’s Visitor Center.
From there, we caught a taxi (as do most visitors) for the 10-minute ride up to the park’s La Cumbrecita viewpoint to start our hike.
Recommended reading: Canary Islands Cruising: See the Secret Side of the Canaries
Caldera de Taburiente, La Palma
And oh, what a view there was at the top!
Caldera de Taburiente is the largest erosion crater in the world – five miles in diameter. It was created from water erosion around a volcano that blew up some 2 million years ago.
Encircled by towering peaks more than a mile high, the crater cradles an abundance of waterfalls and gullies, flowering plants and trees.
At this elevation, clouds can roll in and and sometimes block your view. But we were lucky, enjoying clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The only clouds were like spoonfuls of whipped cream crowning the tops of the mountains.
A walk in the park
There are several trails within the park.
We picked the loop from Mirador de la Cumbrecita (“mirador” means lookout in Spanish) to Loma de los Chozas to Mirador de los Roques, then back to La Cumbrecita.
This short loop (about two-and-a-half miles) would offer the most bang for our buck in the time we had.
From the La Cumbrecita viewpoint facing the caldera, we turned left. The first stretch of the wide dirt trail is virtually flat, going slightly downhill. Information signs explained the geological features along the way.
After about 20 minutes of walking, we reached the triangular viewpoint of Lomo de las Chozas.
There really are few words to describe the views of the jagged sculpted mountains that fan out in front of you here. Just drink it all in – the sheer awesomeness of nature at its wildest.
I shivered with goosebumps as I gazed at the incredible scene.
At this point, many visitors turn around and go back to the paved La Cumbrecita parking lot.
We turned right to follow a much narrower trail (maybe three feet wide) cutting across the mountainside to the Mirador de los Roques site.
Another awe-inspiring viewpoint! We found a couple of rocks to sit on and munched on our ship-made sandwiches we’d brought along.
From there, the return stretch to La Cumbrecita is a zig-zag path uphill, perhaps a 15-minute hike.
Back at the top, we waited for the return taxi, along with another couple who had also hiked in the park. It took a while, but one did come. And at the Visitor Center, the public bus arrived on schedule for the ride back to the cruise port – and we returned to the ship in good time before it set sail from La Palma.
All in all, a fabulous La Palma hiking day! And it was fun to get out by ourselves and experience a little slice of the island the way we wanted.
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Caldera de Taburiente hiking: How to DIY
You don’t need to take an organized tour or cruise ship excursion to explore Caldera de Taburiente National Park. It’s quite easy to visit the park and hike there on your own (most cruises don’t offer hiking tours in the park).
Recommended reading: Seabourn Odyssey Review: What’s Luxury Like on Seabourn Cruises?
La Palma bus:
The #300 bus is the public bus to to Caldera de Taburiente. The bus stop is a couple of blocks from the cruise port by the BP station. Buses normally run every 30 minutes.
Travel time to Caldera de Taburiente National Park:
Total travel time from the cruise port at Santa Cruz is about an hour – 45 minutes by bus on a winding scenic road, then a 10-minute taxi ride to La Cumbrecita.
Taxi to La Cumbrecita:
The taxi ride between the park’s Visitor Center and La Cumbrecita costs the set price of 9 Euros, no matter how many passengers. Hikers often share a taxi, so see if you can share a ride with other waiting hikers.
At Mirador de la Cumbrecita, there’s a small paved parking lot and a taxi stand. A taxi usually runs back and forth between the park’s Visitor Center and La Cumbrecita, but you might have to wait a while.
If a taxi doesn’t show up at La Cumbrecita for your return trip, you’ll have to walk back down to the Visitor Center through the pine forest beside the road – not hard, just a bit of a slog (about five miles).
Instead of taking the bus, you could organize a taxi from the cruise port to the national park’s Visitor Center, but you can’t count on finding a taxi for the return trip back to the cruise port. You might have to arrange for your taxi to wait for you while you hike, at a cost of about 30 Euros an hour.
Once you reach La Cumbrecita, there are no services or facilities. Be sure you pack water and snacks or lunch.
La Palma map
I’ve pin-pointed the Visitor Center for Caldera de Taburiente. (You can zoom in or out on this Google map.)
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All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except where noted)