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Is Puerto really flying the flag for its four beaches? 

Summer has officially arrived in Puerto de la Cruz

The one season when even the locals shed their outer layers and head for the beach, weather permitting that is, of course.

And there lies the problem, unless there has been a drastic improvement between my writing this and it appearing in print I think it is safe to say that Puerto has enjoyed one of its worst spring’s on record weather wise.

It has certainly lived up to that age old myth that it is always cloudy in Puerto de la Cruz and just think if this year is true to form we have a couple of months of ‘Panza de Burro’ still to look forward to.

Still, although it is a very British thing to do I don’t intend to write about the weather. No, this month I thought I would pass comment on the town’s beaches. We are quite spoiled for choice in such a small town with three to choose from, or four if you count the pebble beach at the Muelle, though that is primarily the preserve of local residents, although everyone is welcome, and to be honest it is probably the safest place to swim, protected as it is by the harbour walls, I would however be a bit dubious of the water quality.

So, I will concentrate on the three main beaches, Playa Martiánez, San Telmo, and the three areas which collectively make up Playa Jardin. Two of which have achieved the much coveted blue flag status for 2018. two out of three isn’t bad, and let’s be honest Playa Martiánez didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of receiving that accolade and nor will it until it is redeveloped, but don’t worry that is all in hand, the project is in the ‘pipeline’ and has been since 2008, so don’t panic it could happen anytime soon.

Playa Jardin regained the blue flag this year having lost it in 2017 for whatever reason, it was never explained, it became the elephant in the room, nobody wanted to talk about it. It was but a temporary blip, improve-ments made ensured the flag was regained, so no real damage done, hang on, what improvements? San Telmo retained its status in the small beach category, which was almost a certainty, having been completely redevelop-ed a few years ago; it hasn’t had time to de-teriorate yet.

Now for a bit more detail. Playa Martiánez has not been the same since they knocked down Cafe Columbus and replaced it with the two concrete and glass monstrosities masquerading as restaurants. Thankfully these didn’t stand the test of time and have since been flattened and in their place are two gardens with endemic plants, or at least that is the theory, but like so much else it was a low budget project, or at least I hope it was given the sparseness of the planting.

The beach itself has remained unchanged for years, with little more than a general tidy up carried out by members of the local equivalent of the youth training scheme. The Ayuntamiento are naturally wary of committing any money to the area whilst the aforementioned improve-ment project is still on the cards as that funding will obviously come out of some-one else’s budget.

Meanwhile Playa Martiá-nez waits as it has for the last ten years, which is a shame as it has seen a bit of resurgence in recent years even though it has no facilities to speak of. It seems to me it has become more popular year on year as the entry fee to the nearby Lago Martiánez complex has risen.

Obviously if don’t mind roughing it a bit, there are no sun beds on the beach, you can save yourself a tidy sum. Unless you want to swim, of course, then, if you haven’t got the use of a hotel pool, and with the red flag a common feature on all of Puerto’s beaches , you have no alternative to Lago Martiánez, or wait until the new Municipal Pool is built, another project lost in the pending tray .

San Telmo, the smallest of the three beach areas, a tiny rock strewn beach, a small swimming area protected by a harbour wall and a large sunbathing deck. This is a very public beach in the true sense of the word, with people lining the railings above, taking in the view. So if you are a bit shy at exposing your flesh, this beach is probably no for you.

Renovated as part of the whole San Telmo regeneration project it is still relatively new, and reasonable clean, but just give it time to adjust. Just take a look over the railings to the rock face below and you will see the litter and discarded fag ends are beginning to take over and if this is happening in San Telmo, which is the jewel in Puerto’s crown, what hope then for the rest of the town.

Playa Jardin, the beach area with most potential, three separate beaches stretching from Castillo San Felipe to Punta Brava, bordered by gardens,(hence the name) a promenade of sorts, with three beach bars cum restaurants dotted along the route. This is the most popular beach in the town and so it should be, but its potential is hardly tapped and like some much of the town it has been left devoid of maintenance for far too long.

Perhaps, I am guilty of having too high expectations. Perhaps from a tourist’s blinkered perspective, if the sun is shining, ok it is a bit rough around the edges, but who cares I am only here for a couple of weeks anyway, perhaps then everything really is ok.

But I don’t see it through their eyes, I see tired bathrooms, broken, cracked and faded signage (some still showing prices in pesetas) , bars where they are clearing tables in the middle of the afternoon, ready for an early close, a terrace overlooking the sea devoid of tables and chairs , obviously too far for the waiter to walk.

I see palm trees that haven’t been cut for years, dirty walkways, cracked steps, broken street lighting and sun beds in desperate need of a wash. I see Socorristas starting work at 11am when the beach has been busy since 9am, not everyone keeps Spanish hours. I could go on, but what is the point, and I am not the only one , there are many other forums full of complaints, however, complaints fall on deaf ears in this town, I really think they just don’t care.

There is a project to renovate the bathrooms and another to carry out landscaping to improve access for anyone with a disability, but I assume these projects, though already announced, are still in the planning stage, either that or they are in the every growing, projects pending pile

What about the Blue Flag standard they failed to achieve in 2017. Was there an inquest into the reasons why, definitely not a public one. So without an explanation you are left to make your own assumptions. There were certainly a water quality problem last year and there still is. Despite assurances that all waste water has been treated before being pumped into the sea, still treated only means it has gone through a process, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is clean. Stand above the beach at the Punta Brava when the prevailing winds are in the wrong direction and watch the slick of scum come washing in on the tide and draw your own conclusions

Playa Jardin was built in the 1990’s it is tired and it shows. I actually preferred the beach before, when you had to find a space between the rocks and the only facility was a tin shack for a bar. To describe it as basic would be an exaggeration; however, it didn’t pretend to be anything different.

Years ago Puerto was portrayed as a ‘sun all year round’ destination, a description that has been modified in recent years to having the climate of an ‘eternal spring’. No longer famed for its sea and sun attraction, it is now marketed as a much trendier sounding, centre of gastronomy and culture, or a sports and adventure holiday destination. What’s next I wonder, a centre of wellness, I wouldn’t be surprised, after all the original British visitors used to come to ‘take the air’.

However, the beach is still a major feature of a vast majority of tourists visiting Puerto that much is obvious, just look at how busy the beaches become when we do get a bit of sun. It is time Puerto de la Cruz gave visitors the facilities they deserve, or failing that, at least, make the best of what we have got. Or perhaps, everyone is supposed to head for Costa Martiánez.