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Although Arrecife houses one-third of Lanzarote's population (146,000), it exudes a leisurely island energy, unlike bustling Santa Cruz or Las Palmas. Real talk: It's not an especially pretty city, and some Canarians will even tell you to skip it altogether, but it does have some of the best shopping and nightlife on the island. It's also a practical place to crash before an early-morning departure or after a late-night landing. The coastline is strung with line after line of rocky reefs (in fact, "reef" is what arrecife means in Spanish). While you're here, don't miss its two castles or its inland saltwater lagoon, Charco de San Ginés, where there's a gorgeous fleet of small fishing craft. A stroll around the backstreets near the lagoon gives you an idea of the old Arrecife. The local Playa del Reducto is a good place to squeeze in some beach time if you’re spending the day here.

From Arrecife, you can walk or bike to Puerto del Carmen along the 12-km (7½-mile) seafront promenade, which takes in lovely stretches of golden sand and views of the Ajaches mountains in the south. Stop for a bite to eat in Playa Honda, and take the bus back if you’re not up for the return trip.

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