A giant Pinocchio jiggles above my head. Behind him, a feast of sharks, skulls, astronauts, and Snow White makes an appearance with her seven dwarfs. This spectacle runs for a kilometre above the glistening sand where the white horses crash against the shoreline enveloping the dark turquoise water. I’ve arrived in Corralejo with my adult children Mark and Nicole, for a week of winter sunshine and our dates align with the Fuerteventura International Kite Festival.
Families have camped out in tents for the day under the blistering sunshine and against the noisy background crash of the incoming waves. A cheeky devil rises above an inflatable car, Jiminy Cricket and a giant Venus fly trap flutters in the breeze. For the kids, tiny shoals of floating clown fish fly at their level where they can weave in and out touching and playing with the kites
Known better as the windiest Canary Island, Fuerteventura is also the oldest and caters for those who love the feel of soft sand between their toes. Unlike the other volcanic islands within the archipelago it has been over 4000 years since an eruption and the sand is pristine and white. With UNESCO sites and stunning unspoiled beaches, the flight time of less than four hours from Ireland brings us to some welcome sunshine in November. The temperature barely drops below 18 degrees Celsius and reaches a balmy 27 while we are at the poolside.
Year round this windy island is a haven for surfers, kite surfers and windsurfers during the day. At night these sport lovers can be found in Waikiki Beach Bar where the best view for the island’s drone show kicks off as part of the kite festival. Another popular spot where Mark and Nicole insisted I joined them for a bop was at Kiwi Bar, not for the faint-hearted, however I have to admit it did take years off their old mum. With an idyllic climate every season the windiest months are June and July, so it’s not a coincidence that the International wind and kite surfing championships are held then.
We checked into the Barceló Corralejo Sands, a family friendly hotel in a perfect location in the middle of the town. Waikiki Beach is a three minute stroll away as are many of the best bars and shops. But in our room we might as well have been miles away in our haven of peace with well catered for amenities to suit all tastes. Nicole and Mark tried out the conversational Spanish class and played a couple of ball games by the pool. The winter months attract empty nesters to the hotel but the kid’s facilities and pool area, spa and gym are well equipped and offer much for guests of all ages.
The main dining restaurant provides a buffet in the evenings with a huge choice of dishes and different themes nightly. There’s an option for bistro-style dining in A Poniente also in the hotel and a restaurant open to the public. Entertainment at night includes quizes and singing which don’t interrupt the hotel rooms. I observed the wonderfully helpful Tristin Di Pippo, guest relations manager, being given gifts on two occasions while we were there. He has created a wonderful welcome that keeps guests returning to Barcelo Corralejo Sands year after year. Our suite is large with a bathroom dividing the bedroom from a suite sofa that makes a comfortable second bedroom for Mark.
Sustainability is not just a message on the island, Barcelo actively offer ways that guests can protect the island with non-wasteful alternatives. The Spotify 4 minute shower is a novel approach to saving water. Mark tried it out and put his iphone up to the QR code and let Harry Styles song, Golden, play for 4 minutes while he showered. Being sustainable doesn’t mean scrimping on luxuries however and the hotel room had a mini bar with beer, water and wine for guests.
Most evenings we enjoyed the wide range on offer at the hotel buffet but we found a jewel on a small side street one evening offering Cajun food cooked in a one chef kitchen. InFusion, with a Louisiane style menu, is always busy so we booked our table in advance. The restaurant like some other local establishments only accepts cash, however when the bill came I thought it was for one and not three people. Many of the small bars down at the harbour front do a €1.50 bottle of beer at sundowners and two-for-one-cocktails at Happy Hour.
The old town is a charming labyrinth of passage ways with quirky stores selling unique and locally made trinkets. The beach at the old town is often decorated with fantastical sand sculptures and an opportunity to pose for that perfect insta snap next to the giant Corralejo Letters. Music Square is at the heart of the old town and a hive of activity every night, guaranteed to entertain any age group. As it was kite festival weekend a Coldplay tribute act came over from Gran Canaria and put on an electric show.
Fuerteventura is a safe place. At all times the mix of locals and tourists gelled well creating a laid back atmosphere – this might have something to do with the vibe of the surfers who come to the island to hone their craft. We took a drive to the west of the island and the popular town of El Cotillo which has some of the calmest and most peaceful coves perfect for swimming without large waves and strong currents. This beach is great for young families and the drive on the new roads linking all major resorts and towns is serviced by the bus too. We found an enticing restaurant at La Concha beach called Azzurro, with an Italian chef that dished up a meal fit for serving in Rome. Voted the most beautiful beach in Spain this town is lovely for a beach holiday but a lot quieter than Corralejo.
The one hundred kilometers of coast that runs along the west of the island are regarded a UNESCO Heritage Biosophere. Other buildings of historical and architectural value in the biosphere reserve include windmills and churches. With a smattering of small but informative museums there is much to amuse all the family. On the way we pass a barren landscape well suited as an other-worldly film location and used for one of the Star Wars spin offs in 2017. Fuerteventura truly draws inspiration and energy from the forces of nature. For decades the island has been harvesting resources from a mixture of year-round sunshine and powerful winds that work the solar panels and propel the turbines of the wind farms.
One of the best activities from Corralejo is to take a day trip to the island of Los Lobos (meaning wolves). Fuertecharter offers several itineraries that include a thrilling catamaran ride from Corralejo port. Seabream, grouper and small sharks can be found in between the rocks and crevices for the snorkellers on board. Once a habitat with sealions in abundance, Los Lobos island is now a haven for those seeking to investigate the unusual flora and fauna of the Canary Islands. The lighthouse keeper Antoñito el Farero and his family were the last remaining permanent inhabitants after 1968. His daughter Josefina Plá went on to be an important writer and artist in Spanish culture and spent most of her career in Paraguay. We pass a statue commemorating her as we arrive on the island with two large sealions sculpted from stone on the pathway. Being considered the wolves of the sea they give the island its name. It’s worth dropping in to the small information centre to learn about the nature that can be found and the history of the conquistadors that used it as a stopping point.
On Lobos, ochre tones kiss the volcanic rock on the beach from the sahara sands that have whipped in to dance along the shore. The water here is a vivid turquoise more reminisce of the Caribbean than the Atlantic. A group of kayakers pass us by – one of the most popular activities that passengers and day trippers can enjoy. Another highlight is the lunch of seafood paella that serves as a welcome treat for my pair after jumping off the catamaran and snorkelling in the crystal clear waters. I enjoyed the local wine which went down well while sunbathing on the deck.
The island of Fuerteventura boasts many natural attractions from its Starlight Reserve on the south of the island to the endless beach dunes that stretch into the distant lilac hills in Corralejo. In practical terms the Canary Islands are the closest destination from Ireland to enjoy some much needed winter sunshine and I’ve been a fan of the archipelago for decades. Both Mark and Nicole enjoy different types of holidays, but when it comes to that much needed respite from the Irish climate they agreed that Fuerteventura was the perfect spot to fly your kite.
For more about Fuerteventura see www.visitfuerteventura.com
Direct flights from Dublin to Fuerteventura twice a week. To book visit aerlingus.com Fares start from €69.99 each way including taxes and charges.
Rates at Barceló Corralejo Sands start from €175 per night based on 2 adults sharing on a B&B basis. To book visit www.barcelo.com
Catamaran boat trips can be booked with www.fuertecharter.com