Tenerife, the largest and most populous island in the Canaries, has been popular with tourists from the UK and Northern Europe since the 1890s! Tenerife is nicknamed "Island of Eternal Spring", and with good reason. Trade winds stop this tropical island from getting too unbearably hot, but its latitude means sunshine all year round.
With around five million visitors per year, it's a destination that certainly caters to the tourist trade, but there are plenty of hidden gems to be found for those willing to explore. Santa Cruz is the capital city, with many resorts in the hot, dry south, such as Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos. The variety of spectacular scenery means that you might need to pack your hiking boots as well as your bikini! Or, for the culture vulture, there are a wealth of museums and arts events to sniff out.
A Bounty of Beaches
If you love the feeling of sand between your toes, Tenerife has a fabulous variety of beaches. Black volcanic sand, wild coastal waves, or sheltered golden bays, it's possible to find some seaside fun for anyone. Many resorts are right by safe and clean beaches, but if you're on an odyssey to find your own private paradise, there's plenty to explore.
Playa de Benijo is only a beach at low tide, otherwise, you can enjoy the Atlantic Ocean crashing over the rocks. Playa de Las Vistas is a safer, calmer beach, with plenty of facilities nearby for those looking for a relaxed day on the sun lounger. Mesa del Mar has the famous black sand, or for an authentic Canarian experience, try the bijou fishing village of El Peurtito for its colourful fishing boats and a taste of local life.
If you want to try your hand at watersports, there are plenty of snorkelling, windsurfing and kayaking hire shops, and dive centres are plentiful. Find plenty of surfing around Playa de Las Americas and Los Cristianos in the south, or less touristy areas near Puerto de la Cruz, Bajamar and La Laguna in the north. For those of us who love to go further out in the ocean, charter a boat for romantic sunset cruises, or watch whales from a speedboat while a marine biologist teaches you about the incredible diversity of sea life here. You can even take an underwater safari on the yellow submarine!
Tenerife is an island with active geology, and Mount Tiede is its highest volcanic peak. Surrounding this majestic mountain is a national park where you can marvel at strange rock formations and lava flows. To get the best view, you can hike or take the cable car, but to get to the very top you need a special permit as only 100 people are allowed to the summit every day. There are facilities nearby, including a wonderful terraced bar with stunning views of the peak, and even a museum on the north side of the mountain.
The popular western resort of Los Gigantes is the start point for another adventurous trip. You can get dropped off at the beach for the Masca Barranco (Gorge) walk, an adventurous hike up to Masca town. The glorious views are accented by the aroma of herbs and flowers, and tough scrambles over boulders are rewarded with the sight of Masca, known as the most beautiful village on the island. For those who don't fancy an arduous walk, drive up the road with its famous hairpin bends.
Unless you prefer organised tours, driving is essential to getting around the island for the more adventurous. Fortunately, it is easy to hire a car at the airports, with internationally recognised brands readily available. Take care, however, to keep your valuables safe as it is common for rental cars to be targeted while you're at the beach, or even taking a selfie at a rest stop! You can also try a "bono bus" ticket to get cheaper fares on local public transport to save the pennies and feel like a local.
There are plenty of museums in Tenerife, with many such as the Museum of Fine Art in Santa Cruz. For some options off the beaten track, try the doll and teddy museum of ARTlandya in Santa Bárbara. Housed in a restored farmhouse, this collection of eerily realistic dolls sits is in a beautiful garden below the Teide volcano. Or, take a couple of hours to visit the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Candelaria. Home of the "Black Madonna", you'll be as fascinated by its architecture as you will by the strange story of the statue's discovery, washed up on the local beach! On the side of the Candelaria Plaza is a line of bronzes representing the island's original inhabitants, the Guanches. In La Orotava to the north, you can observe local artisans handcrafting their works in the Casa de Los Balcones, and admire the 17th-century architecture.
Culture in Tenerife also includes plenty of festivals and a huge carnival around February or March, with all-nighter street parties and parades. Santa Cruz is the centre of this particular fiesta, but every historic town on the island hosts a "romeria" during the year. Locals dress in traditional outfits and draw hand decorated ox-carts through the streets while handing out local delicacies and free wine! Apart from these, there are also plenty of free music events featuring local stars and even some hush-hush gigs from international groups.
Food, Drinks, and the Nightlife
The tourist trade means there are plenty of bars, and you can dance until dawn in a nightclub, or watch the football in British or Irish-themed pubs. Great for some easy-going fun and live entertainment acts, if you want to try something more local, there are plenty of intimate and authentic places to grab a cocktail or even a Michelin starred bite to eat (although you might have to book well in advance). Although Spanish wine is not frequently lauded for its quality, the volcanic slopes of the Canary Islands are perfect for sun-drenched vineyards that produce plenty of characterful wines.
Find fish and chips or kebabs in almost any tourist area, or tuck into some beautiful seafood in a smaller restaurant. Expect tapas, of course, but you can also find specialised local dishes like guiso (stews), the spicy Mojo sauce on papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) and garbanzas (chickpea stew). Almost every palate is catered for, although you may find it a little harder to get gluten-free or vegan foods.
A year-round destination of choice, Tenerife is a great option. Have you been? Share your experiences with us!