We went to Lanzarote in October last year, mainly for a pilgrimage around the César Manrique sites but I love to swim in the sea and Lanzarote was amazing for that. There were four beaches we tried which were easily available since we had a hire car – but one was a very straightforward walk from our Costa Teguise digs.
I am very short sighted, so for a while I have been using goggles with lenses in – when I’m sea swimming alone, this is literally the only way of ever finding my clothes again. My eyes are -12 and the strongest lenses available are -8, but this is easily enough to make a huge difference. Goggles like this are easily available, including on Amazon.
My main concern with the goggles is just not getting lost or losing my glasses, but in Lanzarote there was an unexpected benefit in that you could also immediately see the amazing sea life. There were tropical fish everywhere we swam, immediately available to see in all of the beaches, right around the swimmers legs. It seemed a lot of people were oblivious, just getting on with usual beach/sea horseplay and not looking below the water. But every beach also had its share of snorkelers around the rock formations checking out the variety of stripy and bright flashed tropical fish. Perhaps next time I’m headed to a similar location, I’ll be packing an optical snorkel mask – not something I knew existed but also cheaply available on Amazon!
I also have very fair skin and I hate sun cream so almost all of the times we were taking our tops off on beaches were late in the day – 5pm and onwards – so pretty successful in avoiding sunburn while swimming.
Playa del Caleton Blanco
The first beach was the first day. After check in we just drove for a bit to see what we could see, and Playa del Caleton Blanco was in the north east of the island. There are informal car parks on one side of the main road, and on the other, a mix of volcanic rock and dazzling white bays. There’s any number. It’s a completely wild place with no shops or toilets, and as we came there late in the day there were only a handful of other people there. There were any number of bays to choose from, all shallow, calm and gentle. It was a struggle to get to waist depth, but plenty enough water to dunk your hair in and as soon as you looked under the waves there were fish to see.
Again late in a day after visiting cultural sites, we made our way to Playa Famara, on the north coast under the cliffs that are home to the Mirador view points including the Manrique resort one.
This beach is famous for surfing, and there is a little sort of shanty town here full of surfers, and space to park your camper van. The vibe here is very different. There’s at least a mile of sandy beach with parking and a small supermarket at one end. The days we were there there were red flags flying, but it didn’t stop a small army of surfers, so we went in the sea too. Swimming is tricky here, it’s more one of those beaches for jumping up and down in enormous waves. But the sea and the wind are warm so I was happy to jump in the surf for hours. I didn’t really put my head down into the sea to see the sea life as I was too happy just bobbing around.
Playa de Papagayo
Our itinerary had taken us south in the island, and although this was still a drive away, nowhere is really far on Lanzarote. This looked good from googling, but on arrival it was slightly offputting. There is parking but it is a long way away from paved roads. You have to follow bone shaking rough roads for a few kilometers, and the only indication you were on the right track is that there were a lot of people doing the same. As we were again late in the day for a typical beach trip, most of the people were leaving but there were quite a few in the same direction as us. At one point we passed through what felt like a toll booth – I think if you choose a more normal time, you have to pay, but in the early evening everything was shut up and we just drove through. If there is a charge, I think it’s an astonishingly reasonable €3 a day
The unmetalled roads led to a busy car park followed by a path up to a headland, what turned out to be a series of headlands with bays and beaches down steep paths in each one. There were miles of this beginning to be visible, with different sorts of beaches. The further ones seemed to have fewer people and bigger waves. At the top of the cliff there’s a small and busy restaurant with outdoor tables. We didn’t eat, but it smelled good.
From the headland looking down into the beach I had huge waves of feeling how fortunate I was. This struck me as a world class, tourist brochure cover beach. Golden sand, luscious waves, lots of swimmers. I think this would be an amazing place to stay and watch a sunset.
We walked the headlands a bit for photos then went down to swim. This beach had a strong slope so it got deep quite quickly, and you could easily be swimming out of your depth just a few metres from the shore. Again there were a lot of fish to see with snorkelers above them highlighting where everything was.
Playa del Jablillo
The final beach was one closest to our accommodation – easily walkable. We’d walked around it after dark on our first night and not been super impressed. It’s right outside a noisy ziggurat hotel with some sort of pool entertainment and the noise from that (karaoke? bingo?!) wafted from the bar over the beach.
So it was a bit of surprise to read that despite the close encroachment of holidaymakers, this beach too is a magnet for tropical fish and snorkelers. There’s an artificial reef partially closing the bay which creates a safe place to swim but which has also made it a great home for the wildlife. One side of the bay to the other is just over 200m, most of it properly deep, which, it turns out, is a bit further than I can comfortably swim there and back.
In the peak of day you can hire sun loungers and parasols and presumably there’s some kind of drinks service, but by the time we got there this was closed for the day. There are still a few miles of beach front businesses nearby with all sorts of bar and food offers.