Yachting in the Canary Islands: A captain and crew guide
Last updated: 15/03/2017
An archipelago consisting of many islands, the larger of which include Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, the Canary Islands are a popular year-round destination for yachts and superyachts. Despite the small area of the seven main islands (7,447 km2), the Canary Islands collectively have very diverse landscapes, including long sandy beaches, spectacular cliffs, deserts and more.
Yachting Pages spoke to Alfaship Shipping Agency to create a handy guide for captains and crew to follow when cruising the Canary Islands, offering tips and advice on locations, prices, and more.
Yachting in the Canaries
For a long time, the Canaries have been seen as a convenient stocking-up and jumping-off point for Atlantic crossings, but gradually, more people are beginning to discover and enjoy them as a cruising ground in their own right.
They are culturally European, with direct flights regularly scheduled to many destinations across Europe, and more recently to the USA, yet they offer year-round cruising in the sunshine thanks to the exceptional climate.
All of the islands are close together making it only a day’s sail between each of them; cruising through offers a tremendous opportunity to see all of the islands at your own pace. Sailing the coast is the best way to take advantage of volcanoes, forests and the high cliffs that the islands are famous for.
When do superyachts visit?
According to Alfaship, approximately 60 superyachts a year visit the Canary Islands. The typical Canary superyacht season is spring or autumn, with many yachts visiting between March and April, or November and December.
Marinas in the Canary Islands
To cater for this, there are over 30 ports and marinas able to accommodate boats of any length. Most of these ports and marinas offer modern state-of-the-art installations with a wide range of services, including on-board catering, hull cleaning and repairs, restaurants, security guards, cranes etc., delivering everything that is necessary to supply the boat and its occupants without ever having to leave the port.
Popular superyacht ports
Las Palmas and Santa Cruz
The most active and popular ports with the widest range of facilities are both Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with docks available in the very centre of both cities.
The marina and port facilities are seen as an ideal crew change destination, since both islands have international airports, and a Port Borders Immigration office. The facilities include all services and commodities to suit even the most luxurious of today’s superyachts. Road transport links are also good, with a highway running around the islands.
La Gomera, Lanzarote, Puerto Calero and Rubicon
There is also a very active, new marina in San Sebastien, the capital of La Gomera, which is the second smallest of the seven larger Canary Islands, and a well-known base for sailing boats for Atlantic crossings, similar to the two marinas of Lanzarote: Puerto Calero and Rubicon.
Fuerteventura, La Palma and El Hierro
These destinations also have well-known marinas, but limited technical services and flight connections when compared with the two main superyachts bases of Santa Cruz and Las Palmas.
Marina and berthing costs
Costs for berthing in the Canary Islands are consistent with the rest of the Mediterranean. According to Alfaship, berthing for a 57m superyacht with an 11m beam would cost a total of roughly €38.19 per day in a marina, and €269.45 per day at commercial piers in port.
Security in the ports and marinas of the Canaries is all of a similar standard, with 24/7 site security and CCTV in operation. Both the Las Palmas and Tenerife ports comply with the ISPS ports.
The Canary Islands is also home to Marine Armor System, a security company who design and provide a new automatic system, which shields the most vulnerable areas on all varieties of vessels in just a few seconds.
For berthing, superyachts must always obtain permission and instructions from Tenerife or Las Palmas Port Control. Even when given permission to proceed, a careful watch must be maintained at all times with due regards for other vessels.
The Harbor Pilot Launch will assist if necessary, guiding you in. Additionally, a call to the Marina is compulsory for berthing instructions.
Where to get fuel
As part of the yachting facilities and services, the main superyacht bases are all equipped with a fuel supply station. Some are supplied by truck, others from petrol station directly to the ship. In other words, it’s usually easy to arrange fuel when in the Canary Islands, with many bunkering locations available. Fuel prices are in line with general tendencies of the European market.
What’s popular for crew?
Since the Las Palmas and Santa Cruz marinas are in the very city centre of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, there are many bars, clubs, restaurants, shops and shopping malls nearby their dock. Both these hubs offer plenty for yacht crew to do during any time off or break.
There are many other activities that are also easy to come by on all islands, such as fishing, diving, sea sports, golf, tennis, climbing, trekking and more.
For technical assistance, there are nearby facilities to Las Palmas, Santa Cruz, Puerto Calero and Pasito Blanco Marinas, where services such as hoisting and repairs, fuel, local DIY stores and shipyard facilities can be found.
Maintenance/crew/passengers attendance, chandlers, provisioning, local markets, supermarkets, laundry, accommodation, transport, post, dentist, private clinics, are all also available nearby to the above marinas.
Other marinas in the Canaries do have many of these services but the products/services are a little more restricted.
Yacht supplies and provisions
Alfaship explained that all supplies and provisions that might be necessary for a superyacht can be easily obtained. Since the Islands are international tourist destinations, almost all international brands are available as yacht supplies and provisions.
The customs process in the Canary Islands is relatively straight-forward, as Iryna from Alfaship explained, “The customs process is very smooth and short as all agents are used to preparing the required procedures prior to arrival / departure to earn time and make it as easy as possible for all clients.”
Visas and registration
There are no special visa procedures to be carried out if all passengers are in transit status. Copy of visas for non-EU citizens will be required prior to arrival for Immigration information only.
Transit Schengen visas are processed for non-EU-disembarking crew if required in the ports of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas. Immigration control of non-EU embarking crew / guests is carried out by the Port Border Office.
Tourist attractions and excursions
With 257 kilometers of beaches, the Canary Islands have much to offer in terms of attractions and sights.
Tenerife is the largest and most populous island of the Canary Islands. Tourist attractions here include anything from the extravagant and famous nightlife, to whale and bird watching. There are also nature parks, such as Loro Parque, meaning "Parrot Park", which has a collection of 3,000 parrots. Other attractions in the park include alligators, chimpanzees, jaguars, penguins, porpoises, killer whales, sharks and tigers. Alfaship claimed that it is considered as one of the best parks in Europe, voted second in the world by Trip Advisor in 2015.
Siam Park (Tenerife Aquatic Park) opened its doors in 2008 as one of the most spectacular water parks in Europe, and was considered to be the best water park in the world by Trip Advisor in 2015.
Tenerife also has the highest elevation in Spain, playing host to a World Heritage Site that contains the third largest volcano in the world from its base, El Teide. With a height of 3,718m, Teide is the most visited national park in the world.
Gran Canaria has the biggest city of the Canary Islands, Las Palmas. Maspalomas is one of the most famous tourist resorts, and this island is considered to have some of the best beaches in Europe (Playa del Ingles, Las Canteras, etc.). Gran Canaria has had nearly 50% of its territory declared as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, including gorgeous mountains and beautiful villages.
The most northeasterly of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is famous for its volcanic landscape with around 300 volcanic cones present on the island. The island has a low-key approach to tourism with the traditional architecture of the island's towns taken into consideration.
The architecture of Lanzarote was heavily influenced by the artist César Manrique, who was from the island. Manrique created works here and across the other islands, including the Jardin de Cactus; an amphitheater-shaped garden with ten thousand cacti and stone sculptures where a 26-foot-high (7.9 m) cactus sculpted from metal is located at the entrance.