Santa Cruz de La Palma has always had an important port and a developing trade with the other Canary Islands, mainland Spain and the rest of the world. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Santa Cruz de La Palma Port was the third most important in the world, after Seville and Antwerp, in consequence of its sugar and wine trade, which forged strong human and economic ties between the island and the outside world. This led to the arrival of many settlers from numerous European ports (the Low Countries, England, Italy), attracted by a flourishing trade in agricultural exports.
Since the time of the conquest, a short pier had acted as a quay and was constantly under threat from heavy seas. But, like most other Canary Islands harbours, it was rebuilt several times due to storm damage often made worse by a total lack of protection from the prevailing winds.
Repair work was carried out several times in the 18th century, in 1728, 1739 and successive years, but reconstruction was not completed until 1735. In winter, the harbour was exposed to the strong NE and NW winds that whipped up heavy swells, crashing into the bay and severely hindering the safety and movements of skiffs and ships at anchor.
Since Columbus’s very first voyage, San Sebastián de La Gomera Port has supplied vessels and caravels transporting travellers en route to the Indies.The first berthing jetty was built in the 1960s and has since proven to be crucial for the good fortune and growth of the capital and the island itself.Though construction on a new port began in the 19th century, it was not completed until midway through the following century and until then San Sebastián de La Gomera made do with a small quay. Despite not offering much shelter, it rose to historical importance as a port of call for most of Columbus’s voyages in the 15th and 16th centuries and for other expeditions. In the early 20th century, La Gomera and El Hierro were the only islands without any form of internal communication or harbours for commercial operations.
La Estaca Port was declared of “General Interest” by order in May 1888. It was included in the Ministry of Public Works and an initial project was drawn up in 1909. After several ups and downs, work eventually got underway in 1914.
In the early 20th century, the harbour was located over a partially submerged sandbar, which was customarily used as a landing point. However, the advantage of the natural embankment made up for the difficulty of climbing the cliff that surrounded the harbour, which is why other natural jetties like La Caleta and Puerto Naos were also used.
The port had started out as a fishing cove and landing stage for agricultural produce, salt and lime from southwest Tenerife in 1523. At that time, the settlement consisted of four fishermen’s families, the founders of the modern town. However, the first wharf was not built until 1927 and the harbour was not officially declared a fishing port until 1964.
The modern infrastructure, situated in a natural bay protected from the prevailing NE trade winds was designed in 1969 and completed in 1974 and is now a state-governed port of general interest. 1974 was the year the first daily sea link was created with La Gomera, though Los Cristianos continued to function as a fishing harbour.