There is no mistaking that Tenerife is an arid island – all volcanic peaks, lava and beaches covered mostly in black sand. You would be hard pressed, though, to notice this when staying at Bahia del Duque, the 5* hotel on the island’s south-west coast. There are endless pools (I lost count but you can choose between heated or not, sea water or fresh) and ponds, lakes, fountains, streams (with black swans and massive koi carp) all linked with the lushest vegetation.
There are dates palms and olives, cacti and rampant bougainvillea. Everywhere you seem to hear the sound of water mostly those plashing fountains but also, at times, the sound of the waves on the beach (not black here but the imported, golden kind).
I say Bahia del Duque (literally the Bay of the Duke) is a hotel but really it’s more like an entire village. The architecture is pleasingly Spanish colonial with steeply pitched tiled Canarian rooftops. It’s painted in ochres and creams, pinks and russets and features deep covered balconies and terraces to provide plenty of shade.
There’s a campanile tower with a clock that chimes the hours and an observatory (this is a good place for the night sky), not to mention a designated “romantic outlook”. There are bridges and steps made of the local lava and a choice of six or seven (another thing I lost count of) restaurants including Spanish, Italian, French, Japanese, “international” and some rather fine dining. They all open out on to terraces or form little cobbled squares and discreet corners – quite charming.
So, a word here about the food. This is clearly a spa column and there is (more later) quite a spa and other facilites on site but this is not the kind of place you will find yourself on a dietary regime. Quite the opposite, in fact. However, you can choose food here that is super-fresh, healthy and strongly Mediterranean. At the Beach Club restaurant (raised up on stilts above the beach), there is plenty of grilled seafood (a la plancha): sardines, calamari, gambas, octopus.
They make one of the best gazpachos I’ve ever tasted – the secret, I’m tempted to conclude, being gallons of olive oil. This, interestingly, was such a major ingredient here in most dishes that I think it had an effect of my skin which, in an otherwise dry environment, lost its own dryness and glowed with health.
The site itself is huge so even though there are 386 rooms, the place never seems full. Some are private villas, there are some vast apartments with their own terraces (complete with hot tubs and pavilions with day beds) and most rooms have a view of the sea. There is plenty for everyone to do, too. There are children’s activities making it a good family destination and you are just a few minutes’ walk from the beach, so ideal for paddling and sand castles. For the grown-ups, there’s evening entertainment, fantastic tennis courts (with some pretty professional coaching when I visited) and a big well-equipped gym.
This is all in a separate Bahia Wellness complex, a little – or perhaps at 6000 square metres, not so little – haven of tranquility. At its heart is a thalassotherapy (sea water therapy) circuit with a two-metre waterfall, hydromassage jets, bubble beds and seats, all with the therapeutic benefits of sea water taken directly from the Atlantic Ocean (but, thankfully, rather warmer). If you’re brave enough there’s a pretty icy cold water plunge pool and around the edges are “Experience Showers”, a Hammam and a Sauna, so ideal if you are doing alternating hot and cold to boost your immune system.
There are loungers arranged for privacy, a café with healthy foods and extremely luxurious changing rooms. It’s a peaceful spot, with olive trees and palms providing the shade – I could have stayed there all day. But, after spending a couple of hours between all these delights, I was quite relaxed enough for my massage.
Ana was my therapist and we decided that the best oil for me was going to be the detox one because, given I was indulging in the full thalassotherapy experience, it was seaweed based. Thankfully, though, it didn’t smell of seaweed and had other ingredients that I never quite got to the bottom of (I think there was a tree-based oil but quite a bit here was, as they say, lost in translation). This, of course, was not the point. Rather it was that Ana gave a fantastic massage (quite a lot of manipulation and what would have been the odd ouch-moment if I hadn’t already been so relaxed after the thalassotherapy) and the smell was divine. My skin soaked up yet more oil like a sponge.
The spa facilities are extensive. There is plenty of physio and osteopathy, as well as exercise in water and Pilates – I think much of this is done with those tennis players in mind. There is personalised Thai massage, Kinesis and yoga, while the hotel offers lots of free classes for guests – Aquagym, LBT, Abs classes, various kinds of dancing. The whole of the wellness centre is laid out over several levels with pathways and gardens open to the sky.
Now, I am not a sun-bather but blue skies and warmth are something of a delight during northern Europe’s miserable winter months. Temperatures here even in January rarely slip below the low 20s and rain is a rarity. We sat outside for dinner every evening. All this and it’s just a little over four hours away. It must be the perfect escape from those post-festivities blues.
Bahia del Duque is part of the Tais collection. For more information, including details of the Wellness Universe, Holistic Rituals and 360degree Immersions, please visit www.thetaishotels.com.