Family fun in the sun

I HAVE a theory.

You can sum up any holiday in one sentence. Distill it down and communicate its essence. Observe. France at 15: French exchange; French kissing; French loaves. Mexico at 25: surf boards, VW camper van, refried beans. France at 35: hot chocolate; hot tub; hot ski instructor (though none at the same time, obviously).

Lanzarote at 36: Active family holiday. Say no more.

As parents, one of us may be slightly more athletic than the other. One of us has run a marathon. One of us has no problem getting up at 5am on a bitter January morning and voluntarily jumping on a surf board in the Atlantic Ocean. One of us cycles the Ring of Kerry. For eh, fun.

And the other one of us can type really fast and is a genius with a tortilla and a tin of refried beans, ok?

We wanted something a little bit different for our family holiday this year. You can’t really beat the Canary Islands for winter sun, manageable flight time and family-focused activities. So we decided on Lanzarote, flights from Cork, high chance of sunny climes, and good value for money.

As newbies to the island, our research uncovered Club la Santa, on the north-west coast of the island.

This resort specifically caters to active families and with two boys who love riding bikes, swimming, boating and re-enacting the fight scenes from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we decided to give a go.

Club La Santa makes things really easy. All classes and equipment are free of charge, working on a token basis. You get a full timetable of everything that’s available when you check in — there’s over 30 sports and so many facilities we didn’t get around to them all.

On the first morning, we headed down for breakfast and a section of the restaurant was reserved for the Belgian Olympic team. “I am possibly out of my depth here,” I pondered as I went back for another round of bacon on chocolate croissants. But actually, there is something for everyone — from the professional athlete to the amateur wannabe like me.

Husband did a duathlon and biked and surfed a lot, I joined the yoga classes, step aerobics, and loved the early morning walks/pretend jogs I did around the lagoon. As a family, we made the most out of the crazy golf, the giant chess board and the huge pool area.

Although we probably shouldn’t have been there, we also got great craic out of the boxing ring. It was full-sized and initially a huge buzz for the five-year-old and two-year-old. Their mother’s insistence on reenacting Rocky Balboa V Ivan Drago dampened their enthusiasm somewhat. They were just cross they never got to be Rocky.

There’s also beach volley courts, an Olympic pool, a 5-a-side and weight-lifting areas. We took advantage of the bike rental most days to ride into La Santa town for a stint in the playground and an ice-cream. We had squashed a balance bike in the suitcase for the 2-year-old only to find they had them on offer too.

All the equipment was top of the range and very easy to access. The lads went windsurfing in the lagoon a couple of times and we went canoeing too. The 5-year-old loved Thursday’s Playtime treasure hunt, all the kids dressed up as pirates and searching for the clues that led us to the hidden treasure. Sweets. Arrgh, twas a fine hunt, so it was.

You do pay extra for some things: husband availed of Guru basic bike fit for €49. It’s a one hour session for road bikes; they do a body and posture analysis and correct your saddle height and positioning — he found it beneficial for his training.

We found ourselves quickly getting into a routine: every morning we took turns venturing out for the 8am gymnastics session around the pool. They’ve been doing the same routine for 30 years, 15 minutes every morning, and it was fabulous. On three levels dads with baby joggers are gathered with elderly sinewy marathon runners, giggling teenagers — all following the direction of a member of the Green Team as Ennio Morricone’s theme from Once Upon a Time in the West wafts through the air.

There are 40 trained instructors, making up the Green Team — they do everything from supervising the children’s playtime to evening entertainment to renting the bikes. My Welsh yoga instructor was serving drinks in the bar that night. The bar where I was ordering a sparkling water. A diet sparkling water, I swear.

Club La Santa is very self-contained, but we did want to check out the rest of the island too. We rented a car and hit the road. As avid Octonaut fans, we wanted to check out the Submarine Safari in Puerto Calero. It was super. The kids — and us, to be fair — got a great thrill, stepping down into the bowels of a real-life submarine. It dives 25m and we got to see trumpet fish, eels waving from the sea bed, a real wreck and a friendly diver who gave us all a thumbs up. The kids still talk about it.

Another day we made the trip to Rancho Texas near Puerto del Carmen. This was a fun day out. We trekked around the park first, looking at crocodiles and white tigers and taking in the parrot show, then hung out in the splash park. This was perfect for the 5-year-old, not so much for his younger brother who was too small for the big slides.

Another trip I’d highly recommend was to Jameos del Agua. This incredible sequence of caves was built into a sheet of volcanic rock by local artistic hero César Manrique (you’ll see his influence everywhere on the island, they’re mad for César, so they are). There’s a species of blind albino crabs in the caves that thrilled our little adventurers

It was a great family holiday, ticked all the boxes for us and with the Ironman qualifications on there in May, I might be out there again. Yoga is part of an Ironman, right?

Flights

Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly from Cork or Dublin to Lanzarote. We went Aer Lingus because the flight times suited us better. www.aerlingus.com or www.ryanair.com

Accommodation

Club La Santa is offering one bedroom sport apartment for €575 or €144 per person, based on two adults and two children up to the age of 14 sharing the apartment at the moment. This is for seven nights travelling any date between May 29–Jul 2, 2014. For other offers and pricing see www.clublasanta.com.

Travelling with children

If you’re travelling with smallies, I’d recommend requesting a cot and high chair for your apartment when you’re booking. There are also three babyjoggers available in the Bike Centre but they are very popular, so get in early to stake your claim. You can rent them for free for a maximum four hours per day.

Also rackets, balls bikes and more are available in children’s sizes — don’t bring anything!

Nappies, baby food, sun cream and all the other bits you’ll need are available in the supermarket on site.

What to do

Submarine safari in Puerto Calero — a little tip, you get 15% discount if you book online. www.submarinesafaris.com. Normal prices are €55 for adults and €35 for children. Children under two won’t be allowed on board.

Racho Texas is well worth a visit. It costs €19 for adults and €14 for children — including two-year-olds. www.ranchotexaslanzarote.com.

Jameos del Agua. This stunning complex appeals to all ages. www.discoverlanzarote.com/jameos_del_agua.asp

The food

We opted for the full board option because it just makes sense with two little dudes. Restaurant Atlantico had everything you’d expect at a good quality buffet, the kids especially loved helping themselves to the ice-cream bar, but it’s worth trying the other restaurants on site too — you get a discount if you’ve opted for the full board option with Atlantico. La Casa Restaurant was lovely and you can order take-away pizza there for a treat. Steak and Sushi was the other option we tried – the kids weren’t mad for the sushi but there were other offerings to keep them happy. It’s right next to the stage too so it’s handy to chill out and watch the evening entertainment after dinner.


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