EVEN PRETTIER IS THE ARCH just outside the cave, which stands silhouetted against the bright blue of the shallow water.
Cave at El Salto.
There’s another gorgeous archway at El Tacarón, a dive-site a little way along the coast located just off the spectacular natural swimming pool that gives it its name. Descending a buoyline off the point, I follow my guide through a canyon of algae-covered lava before crossing the rocky seabed to return to the cliffs, where I poke my nose into the little caves that line the shore.
On the way I spot my first bull ray, a tantalising glimpse of what it must be like here when the megafauna come through in autumn.
I return to the pool at El Tacarón a few days later, spending the afternoon swimming in the chilly clear water (and very much feeling the cold after diving in a drysuit) and splashing around in rock-pools with my daughter.
While the island’s other swimming spots are at the mercy of fierce winter winds, this sheltered cove is swimmable every day of the year.
As afternoon turns to evening, we grill fresh fish on the public barbecue, before returning to La Restinga via the tortuous road through the volcanic badlands.
As far as post-diving excursions are concerned, El Tacarón is pretty much the only option, thanks to the extraordinary topography of El Hierro.
To get almost anywhere on the island, an extinct volcano the steep slopes of which drop straight into the sea, you have to go up and over, putting yourself at risk of decompression illness if you haven’t waited long enough after your last dive.
The single road out of La Restinga climbs to around 1200m over a distance of just 12 miles, with only the sleepy town of El Pinar at a low-enough altitude to be safe to visit if you’ve been diving that day.
So my partner Steve and I take turns to explore the island with our daughter on our non-scuba days. It works well for us because we’re tag-teaming diving and childcare anyway, but not everyone will be happy to be stuck in such a remote spot for the duration of their holiday.
With just a handful of restaurants, two supermarkets and a tiny beach, La Restinga gets boring fairly fast, especially when you consider that El Hierro offers some astonishingly beautiful drives, lovely walking trails through ancient forests and more than a dozen picturesque rocky bays and beaches for swimming. It’s an island you want to make time to explore.
Of the dive-sites close to shore in the Mar de Las Calmas, my favourites are El Salto and El Desierto.
Situated where the volcanic reef meets a “desert” of white sand stretching some six miles to the Punta de Orchilla,
El Desierto is home to what my guide, Iñaki Cayón from the Centro de Buceo El Hierro, claims is the largest population of garden eels in the world.