If your idea of a perfect day in port includes ambling along winding cobbled streets, browsing offbeat craft shops and watching the world go by from a street cafe, Santa Cruz de la Palma is an ideal destination.
The city is the capital of La Palma, the most northwesterly of the Canary Islands. On the island, the town is sometimes referred to -- confusingly -- as just La Palma. To further complicate the name game, the island itself owns many titles, too: Its full name is San Miguel de la Palma, but it's also known as La Isla Bonita y Verde, "the beautiful green island."
Whatever you call La Palma, often found on transatlantic itineraries, you'll find fine Spanish colonial houses with elaborate balconies and bougainvillea-draped white frontages -- and one of the world's largest volcanic craters. The Caldera de Taburiente measures nearly 17.5 miles across and nearly half a mile deep, and because it is home to rare animal and plant life, it has also been designated a national park.
La Palma is a volcanic island, just like the rest of the Canary Islands, and some of La Palma's dramatic volcanoes are still active. The island was claimed by the Spanish in 1493, and both human remains and ancient utensils indicate that the island has been inhabited since pre-historic times.