Tenerife is both the largest and the most popular of the seven Canary Islands. Although it’s part of Spain, you’ll find it situated in the Atlantic Ocean just off the west coast of Africa.
The sub-tropical climate and year-round sunshine makes it the ideal destination at any time but it’s particularly perfect if you fancy escaping the UK’s colder and drearier months in search of some winter sun.
This Canary Island attracts more than 10 million visitors a year. You’ll find so many things to do in Tenerife, from the unique coastline to the breathtaking interior, which makes it perfect for all ages and especially popular with families.
Tenerife at a glance
Tenerife boasts a unique blend of both Spain and Africa due to its location – this is particularly apparent in the island’s way of life and the cuisine. It’s also known for its dramatic scenery with Mount Teide, a dormant volcano and Spain’s tallest peak, dominating the centre.
The resorts all have something different to offer visitors. There are the busy and most popular resorts such as Costa Adeje, Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos as well as the vibrant and lively capital, Santa Cruz and the former capital and historic city of San Cristóbal de la Laguna.
Intrigued? Find out what you can expect during a holiday to Tenerife.
Travel advice when visiting Tenerife
Tenerife tends to be a safe destination but, as with any country, make sure you have travel insurance just to be on the safe side. It’s also important to keep your wits about you and leave any valuables you can either in the safe or keep them on you at all times.
One of the perks of this country is that it’s very hot throughout the year and enjoys long hours of sunshine. However, this means that whenever you visit, you must make sure you wear a high factor sun cream. Remember, a breeze can be deceiving – even if it feels a little cooler, don’t forget to keep the cream topped up and wear a hat and sunglasses.
It may be the largest island but you can easily travel around it in a day. You might find it beneficial to hire a car so you can explore the island, from the coastline to the rugged landscape of Teide National Park and Mount Teide, at your own pace.
Alternatively, you can travel by bus, taxi or tram. These green buses are called guaguas by the locals and will take you across the island. It’s worth buying a bono-bus which is a pass that will save you around half the cost. The taxis are white and run on a meter although it is possible to negotiate a fixed price, especially if you are going on a day trip. The tram’s main line runs between Santa Cruz and La Laguna – which takes around 40 minutes with 21 stops.
Average accommodation costs
Tenerife is known as one of the more affordable holiday destinations. The average cost of accommodation is €42 per person per day.
Best things to see and do in Tenerife
The last thing you want to do is visit a new country and miss the best activities it has to offer. It is easy to reach any part of the island from wherever you are staying, so you don’t need to miss anything you really want to do. Here are just a few things you should definitely plan into your itinerary.
1. Siam Park
You’ll find Europe’s largest waterpark right here in Costa Adeje. It is Thai-themed and boasts more than 18 slides and attractions for the whole family. Relax on the lazy river, experience the wave pool or adrenaline junkies can head for the Tower of Power. This vertical drop will take you from a height of 28-metres at speeds up to 50mph, before passing through a shark aquarium.
2. Whale and dolphin watching
The waters between Tenerife and neighbouring island La Gomera are home to around 21 species of whales and dolphins. Book a boat trip for a day out on the ocean and the chance to see these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. Several trips depart from Los Gigantes and Los Cristianos. As you bob over the waves and look out on the glistening water you might spot orcas, baleen whales, blue whales and bottlenose dolphins, as they dive up to the surface and then disappear beneath it again.
3. Teide National Park and Mount Teide
Mount Teide, in Teide National Park, is one of two World Heritage Sites on the island. The dormant volcano is situated in the heart of Tenerife, reaching heights of 3,718 metres with a 30-mile circumference and has a lunar-like landscape. The snow-capped summit can be reached via a cable car, and boasts panoramic views of the island. On a clear day you can see as far as Gran Canaria and La Gomera.
The best beaches in Tenerife
You’ll find some of the best beaches in Spain on this Canary Island. The pleasant temperatures all year round, ensure you can make the most of the island’s beautiful stretches of coastline, whenever you visit. As well as golden soft sand you’ll find unique black sand beaches.
Playa de Las Teresitas
Playa de Las Teresitas is one of the best beaches on the island. This slice of paradise is situated just outside of the capital Santa Cruz. The Anaga Mountains provide an impressive backdrop to this mile-long golden sandy beach. You wouldn’t know it from looking at it but this palm-tree lined, unspoilt stretch of coastline is man-made with sand imported from the Sahara. As well as swimming in the calm waters, you can have a go on a stand up paddle board.
Playa de la Tejita
Situated alongside the Montaña Roja Nature Reserve you’ll find one of the largest natural beaches in Tenerife. The red volcanic crater provides an interesting backdrop to just over half a mile of black sand. This is a protected natural area as well as an idyllic spot for sunseekers and perfect for watersports. The wind here provides the ideal conditions for surfing. The beach at the base of Montaña Roja is nudist friendly.
This black sand beach is situated in Puerto de la Cruz. It is split into three sections and dates back to the 1990s when César Manrique designed it. This northern beach is backed by colourful flowers and plants in lush green gardens, intercepted by pathways, waterfalls and stone walls. From it you can see Mount Teide.
Exhilarating excursions in Tenerife
A trip to Tenerife wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the former capital, San Cristóbal de la Laguna which you’ll find near Santa Cruz. This ancient city is a World Heritage site, home to stunning architecture and religious buildings including the neoclassical cathedral, the convents Santa Catalina and Santa Clara and the Palaces of Nava and Salazar.
If you would like to see more of the Canary Islands during your holiday you can visit neighbouring island of La Gomera from the south of Tenerife. Take a 40-minute boat from Los Cristianos. Here you’ll find Laurel Forest which is ideal for hiking.
You can also easily get a ferry over to Gran Canaria from Santa Cruz in around 80 minutes. This is the third largest island and one of the most popular. Here you’ll find beautiful beaches and a lively atmosphere.
Food and drink in Tenerife
Tenerife is known as the culinary capital of the Canary Islands. The islands most authentic cuisine can be found in the north of the island or inland.
Expect many meals to come with Papas Arrugadas – or wrinkled potatoes. The islands potatoes are known for their flavour due to the volcanic landscape and are among the most popular food here. These are boiled in salt before being roasted. They tend to be finished with mojo – a popular sauce in the Canaries. If you see this called mojo picon, it is a slightly spicier version.
You’ll also find stew on the menu which tends to be made from meat and local vegetables such as Puchero Canario – one of the most popular.
Seafood is readily available, especially around the coastal towns where fresh fish is caught locally. Lobster, crab and oysters are all on the menu in Costa Adeje where you’ll find the very best of this cuisine.
One of the most traditional and oldest ingredients on the island is Gofio. This is a toasted flour made from wheat, corn and barley which is created in working mills on the island. You’ll find this in both sweet and savoury food.
To wash it all down, you’ll be drinking wine that comes from the number of wineries on the island that produce both white and red.
If you are looking for nightlife then head to the island’s party capital, Playa de las Américas. Here you’ll find hundreds of bars and nightclubs where bright lights and pulsating music fill the air and enable you to dance from dusk until dawn, every night of the week. Nightlife is centred around The Patch, Veronica’s strip and Starco.
The night tends to start at Starco before the crowds head to Veronica’s, where the drinks flow and the dancefloor is open until the early hours of the morning.
The Patch is ideal for those looking for a slightly quieter night out. You won’t want to miss Tramps, known as the King of Clubs, it hosts world-famous DJs from 10pm until 6am.
If you visit in February, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the second largest carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro, takes place in the lively and vibrant capital, Santa Cruz.
Shopping in Tenerife
From large shopping malls and high street stores to boutiques and markets, there are plenty of places in Tenerife for a spot of retail therapy. The capital, Santa Cruz is one of the best places for shopping on the island but Playa de Las Americas is a close second.
Here you can wander along Avenida de Las Americas, which is known as the ‘golden mile.’ Among the shops that line this road you’ll find boutiques selling brands such as Armani and Versace.
Siam Mall is situated in the south of the island in Costa Adeje and is where you’ll find many Spanish brands we know and love such as Zara, Mango and Pull & Bear.
Tegueste Market is one of the best in the Canary Islands. Browse more than 30 stalls and you’ll find a wide range of food produce as well as arts and crafts.
Tenerife culture and art
This island is home to some of the most fascinating museums. You won’t want to miss the Museum of Nature and Man in Santa Cruz which dates back to 1958. This is where you can find out about the island’s original inhabitants, the Guanches. Explore the exhibitions and artefacts, including the mummies, which you’ll noticed have been particularly well preserved.
Also in Santa Cruz, you’ll find the Municipal Museum of Fine Arts. The building itself is impressive. But, step inside and you can see work by Canarian artists that date from the 16th to the 19h century.
Outdoor adventure in Tenerife
Tenerife has the perfect climate for outdoor activities and plenty of hours of sunshine each day to make the most of it. The varied and volcanic landscape is ideal for hiking and cycling. You’ll find a number of trails to choose from, all of which are against a beautiful backdrop that enable you to keep going for hours at a time.
Of course, you’ll want to explore the famous Mount Teide National Park. Roques de Garcia is one of the most popular spots, particularly for night hikes. The hike itself last around three hours, is just over two miles and perfect for stargazing. You may also like to wander through the volcanic Las Canada Caldera while you are in this park.
If you enjoy hiking then you might also like to head for Teno Rural Park, a protected natural landscape and the greenest part of the island.
There is plenty to do out on the water too, take a boat or kayak out along Los Gigantes rugged coastline or head to Los Cristianos to board a glass-bottom boat. This is the perfect place for snorkelling and diving – under the surface you’ll discover the colourful and inquisitive sea life as it darts in and out of the vibrant coral.
At the entrance to Teide National Park in Las Lagunetas, you’ll find the largest treetop adventure in the Canary Islands – Forestal Park. Here you can swing through the trees, crossing bridges and taking zip wires to move from one to the other.
The island also offers perfect conditions for paragliding, surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
You can easily fill your itinerary with some of Tenerife’s most popular and famous attractions. However, it is worth heading to some of the lesser-known parts of the island too, so you can see the side that isn’t as touristy.
Astronomical Teide Observatory
Did you know that Tenerife is one of the best places in the world to see the universe and stars? The world’s largest solar observatory is figuratively and literally overshadowed by Mount Teide but it is well worth a visit. Peer through the telescopes and if you’re lucky you can even see the Milky Way.
The Pyramids of Guimar
In the east of the island you’ll find the town of Guimar, which is home to a ethnographic park and six rectangular pyramids. You’ll hear various theories about the origins of these pyramids, some believe they were just stones piled up by farmers. They reach heights of 12 metres and are formed of lava stone. Once you have explored the pyramids there is also a museum and gardens.
Garachio used to be one of the island’s most popular towns and a main port until a volcanic eruption in 1706 that covered the town in lava. This did, however, form natural rock pools that can be swum in today. The picturesque town also retains an authentic charm and serves up some of the most delicious fresh fish on the island.
Best times to go to Tenerife
Tenerife is a year-round destination. Due to its location, just off the west coast of Africa, it is sunny and hot right through the winter months. The lowest average temperature is in January and February when it is 22°C. The highest average temperature is in July, August and September when it is 28°C. The best time to go is May and June when it is hot without being unbearably so and it busy without being overcrowded.
Now you know what there is to do in Tenerife, you can start planning a trip to see this beautiful Canary Island with your own eyes.
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