For thousands of British holidaymakers, a trip to the Canary Islands in winter or early spring is a chance to escape to the sunshine, put their feet up with a paperback and a pint, occasionally cooling off in the hotel swimming pool.
Their most energetic pursuit is a stroll along the prom, comparing the low cost of drinks in the abundant bars.
But there’s a new and growing breed of tourist who use their vacations as a healthy break to top-up fitness levels. The Club La Santa in Lanzarote is their idea of paradise.
Built like an Olympic village, it accommodates up to 1,600 occupants looked after by 400 English-speaking employees.
It caters for 40 sporting activities and includes an athletics stadium with a 400 metre running track, three 50 metre swimming pools each marked into eight lanes, and two sports halls for handball, badminton, indoor soccer, squash and basketball.
Sited on the northern coast of the island, the club has its own exclusive water centre where guests can practice kayaking and windsurfing in a private lagoon. There is also a dance studio for yoga and aerobics enthusiasts.
For half-hearted fitness followers like me, the mere sight of the hardcore fanatics in action made me sweat. But you can do as much or as little as you like. It’s all included in the price.
There’s the added bonus that these Spanish-owned islands off the west coast of Africa have a winter temperature which ranges from the late 60s Fahrenheit to the mid 80s. There are seven bars and restaurants in the complex where you can unwind, a supermarket, laundry facilities and a hairdresser. A doctor and osteopath are also on hand! Work on building Club La
Santa was started in 1968 by a Spanish bank, but the project hit financial difficulties. For ten years it was abandoned and fell into disrepair.
It was rescued in 1978 by Danish travel entrepreneur Ejlif Krogager, who spotted its potential, refurbished the buildings and reopened the resort in 1983.
The original hotel offered 391 apartments with one-four bedrooms. In 2014, another 96 suites were added as the appetite for healthy holidays grew.
Outside the buildings look like a Spanish pueblo but inside they have Scandinavian style.
Brits are second in guest numbers with 28% behind the Danes (46%) but ahead of the Germans (10%). Among our most celebrated sportsmen to train here are world boxing champ Frank Bruno and Olympic sprinter Linford Christie. During my stay, the ages ranged from infants to octogenarians, but the majority were in that wide bracket known as middle-aged. Throughout the year more than half the guests are between 35 and 45 years old. The sexes are evenly represented. Various types of board are offered with self-service buffet meals available at the Restaurant Atlantico. For that special occasion and attentive service, El Lago provides cosmopolitan cuisine with spectacular views.
Last year, 68,472 sports tourists stayed at Club La Santa. Many of them were in training for the Ironman contest held in Lanzarote annually in May. Two thousand entrants compete for a first prize of 5,000 US dollars. For that they have to swim 3.8km, cycle for 180.2km and then run for 42km.
I satisfied myself with a personal best of 50 strokes around an 18-hole golf course. And let me tell you some of the obstacles in crazy golf can be tricky.
- Alan Hart was a guest of Club La Santa. Prices start from £644 for a one-bedroom apartment for seven nights which sleeps up to three adults and one child. For more info visit http://www.clublasanta.co.uk or ring 0161-790-9890. Jet2.com fly to Lanzarote from nine UK airports. Flights start from £74 one way. Contact http://www.jet2.com or call 0800-408-5599.