Recreational craft dock at the marina below Los Gigantes cliffs. This is popular port for whale watching in the straits between Tenerife and La Gomera.

Recreational craft dock at the marina below Los Gigantes cliffs. This is popular port for whale watching in the straits between Tenerife and La Gomera. (Jack Handley, Handout)

The boom in vacationers lying on those sands started some 50 years ago when the Canaries became known for bargain package tours from Europe. But in the last 10 years an upscale trend has powered the construction of luxury resorts. Of 251 hotels on the island, 22 are five-star resorts.

Among those are the Abama Golf & Spa Resort, built on a hillside in Moroccan style with nine pools, a beach in a hidden cove and Michelin star restaurants; Gran Melia Resort, with special activities for adults and children and a lake-size infinity pool overlooking the ocean; and Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque Resort, which reflects Canary Islands architecture of the 19th century and is set on a wide Atlantic beach.

Naturally, seafood is a favorite here, but be sure to try a delicious Canaries specialty: boiled potatoes with red or green "mojo" sauce that generates both heat and flavor. Shakespeare reportedly praised the local wines. I agree with his recommendation.

As in Florida, theme parks boosted tourism here. Among them are Thai-themed Siam Park, the largest water park in Europe, and Loro Parque, alive with killer whales, dolphins, sharks, penguins, gorillas, tigers and jaguars.

But departing Tenerife, I saw one last highlight from the plane that you could never see in Florida. It was magnificent Mount Teide looming in the distance and framed by a cloudless blue sky.

If you go

A few things

The Canary Islands are on about the same latitude as Orlando, Fla. They enjoy a year-round spring/summer climate, with more than 300 sunny days and temperatures averaging 68 degrees in winter and 84 degrees in summer.

Spanish is the native language, but English is spoken in most tourist areas.

The currency is the euro.

Staying there

Parador hotel in Teide National Park, www.parador.es, then click on Canadas del Teide Parador

Abama Golf & Spa Resort, http://www.abamahotelresort.com

Gran Melia Resort, granmeliapalaciodeisora.com

Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque Resort, bahia-duque.com

Some hotels near beaches start at $50 a night (depending on season), and luxury resorts start from $200 up a night. Meals may be included.

Cost of round-trip cable car ride on Mount Teide: 25 euros or about $32.75. telefericoteide.com.

Rental car rates start at $160 a week for economy models with stick shift; automatics are more. Tenerife has six rental car firms. Gas is in liters, about $5.60 a gallon.

Getting there

Flying to the Canaries means trans-Atlantic to Europe and then changing planes. Among airlines flying to Tenerife are Iberia, airberlin, Aer Lingus and British Airways.

Eating there

Expect to pay a bit more for food than in the States. A midrange three-course meal for two averages about $40. McDonald's? A combo meal is $7.50.

Information

For more information, contact Tenerife Tourism at webtenerife.com or Canary Islands Tourism at turismodecanarias.com.

ctc-travel@tribune.com