The largest Canary Island, Tenerife welcomes 10 million visitors every year with its year-round sunshine, famed nightlife, and stunning volcanic landscape.
Seen as a home away from home by the hoards of Brits who head there every year, the southern beach resorts of Tenerife offer golden beaches, all-night partying, cheap booze, and a fry-up in the morning before the live televised football starts again in the bars.
Yet the rest of Tenerife is a diverse island full of natural wonder, fantastic food and family-friendly activities. From the stunning volcanic environment of Mount Teide National Park to the milder northern coast, this is an island that has so much more than its reputation might lead you to believe.
Teide National Park
One of the abiding memories of arriving in Tenerife is the summit of Mount Teide poking through the clouds as you approach the island after the four-hour flight from Britain. It might not always seem like it in the photos, but Teide is Spain’s highest mountain and the National Park created around the volcanic crater is one of the top hiking destinations in the country.
Even if you’re on a simple beach holiday, don’t miss the opportunity to see the incredible landscapes just an hour’s drive from the golden beaches.
Although organised coach trips are available, hiring a car is absolutely the best way to explore the National Park. Rental rates and petrol are both relatively cheap on the islands and it’s the best value option, especially if you are two or more people.
Whereas the area around the base of the cable car gets uncomfortably crowded, having your own transport allows you discover the quieter corners of the park where the hiking trails can be almost deserted. If you want to take the cable car, arrive early as capacity is limited in both the car park and the cable car itself.
For those wanting to hike to the summit, this must be booked in advance as only a set number of hikers are able to make the journey every day.
Playa de las Americas
The granddaddy of the Canary Islands’ beach resorts, Playa de las Americas is swamped with British tourists (with some Germans and Scandinavians thrown in too) throughout the year. These visitors are served with a seemingly endless supply of British pubs, cafes, supermarkets and tours all geared towards the British lifestyle. There’s something to be said for this kind of holiday but if you’re after a true Canarian experience you won’t find it here, with pie and chips far more common than papas arrugadas.
The centre of the action for Brits is the strip of bars and nightclubs known as Veronicas, towards the northern end of the resort just a few steps from the beach. Watch out for the overly-keen flyer teams who frequent the area, as they will do everything they can to get you in the doors. Free shots are usually on offer, but you can expect the insults to fly if you walk on by.
Families are well-catered for in Playa de las Americas with many hotels providing kids clubs and/or activities for children throughout the day, along with children’s pools and games rooms. For those just wanting to enjoy the sun, several all-inclusive resorts allow for easier budgeting and pure relaxation. A couple are even adults-only, which could be just the thing if you are a childless couple wanting some peace by the pool.
Puerto de la Cruz
Although the grand dame of Tenerife resorts has its share of bars aimed squarely at Brits, it generally looks a little more upmarket. Popular with a more elderly demographic as temperatures tend to be slightly lower than the red-hot southern playas, the resort is known for its lush green landscapes and nearby fruit plantations.
The Old Town retains a Canarian character with narrow cobbled streets and a traditional harbour popular places to spend a lazy evening. Catching one of the regular orca, sea lion, dolphin or parrot shows at Loro Parque is a popular family activity.
There are a couple of other places in Tenerife that despite being resort towns, still retain some Canarian character. Los Gigantes is one of those. Named after the enormous cliffs (Los Gigantes in Spanish for The Giants) that surround the villages of Los Gigantes and Puerto de Santiago. It makes a great day trip from the craziness of the beach towns
Getting to Tenerife
It’s very important to understand that despite its small size, Tenerife has two international airports. Formerly known as Los Rodeos, Tenerife North Airport (TFN) is seven miles west of the island’s capital, Santa Cruz. Primarily used for domestic flights between the other Canary islands and to/from mainland Spain, the airport is also used by some low-cost airlines.
Formerly known as Reina Sofia, Tenerife South Airport (TFS) serves the southern beach resorts and handles more than 9 million travellers every year. Easyjet, Jet2, Norwegian, Ryanair and Thomson are some of the airlines that serve this airport from the UK.
Getting around Tenerife
Hiring a car is the best way to enjoy the unique scenery of Tenerife, and an absolute must if you want to leave the perimeter and head inland. Rental rates are some of the cheapest in Europe. Book in advance for the best rates at the airport, but as long as you have your driving license and a credit card, hiring a car in most resorts is not a problem.
If you don’t drive or want to take it easy, the island’s bus system is perfect for visiting the major beaches and for a day trip to the capital. Plan your trip using the English language website of the bus company Titsa. Fares are low while the travel cards are good value if you plan on travelling by bus on more than one day.