Tenerife Holiday Planning Guide
Tenerife is the largest and most populous of the seven Canary Islands. With its abundance of sun-warmed beaches, deep gorges, dramatic cliffs, dense forests, and lush valleys filled with thriving banana plantations, the island offers an impressive variety of things to do: snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing, hiking, and cycling. You can even spend your Tenerife holiday spelunking in the island’s volcanic caves and tunnels, among the largest in the world. Tenerife is also known for its nightlife, attracting thousands of weekend revelers from nearby European countries. The island is highly urbanized, though there are still pockets where visitors can enjoy the distinctive local culture and sightseeing at a slower pace.
Places to Visit on TenerifeSanta Cruz de Tenerife
: Known worldwide for its annual carnival, this lively port offers all the conveniences of a modern city, including an extensive selection of fine restaurants, shops, and hotels.Adeje
: One of the most popular places to visit on Tenerife, this small community straddles the foothills of the Teide volcano, offering a tranquil ambiance and pleasant weather throughout the year.Puerto de la Cruz
: An old port still retaining much of its fishing-village charm, Puerto de la Cruz draws visitors with its exquisite botanical gardens and cobblestone streets lined with attractive plazas and quaint cafes.Playa de las Americas
: Party capital of Tenerife, this busy resort serves as one of the most-visited vacation getaways on the Canary Islands, offering golden-sand beaches and a range of activities like scuba diving, jet skiing, and whale watching.Los Abrigos
: Situated on the island's southeastern coastline and known for its naturally protected harbor, this fishing village provides an idyllic setting for relaxing Tenerife vacations.Puerto de Santiago
: This quiet whitewashed village sits on Tenerife's rugged western coast and features bars, restaurants, and a small fishing museum. Costa Adeje
: Wholly dedicated to serving the thriving Tenerife tourism sector, this popular vacation area boasts a string of hotels, bars, restaurants, and apartment complexes, many located within walking distance of outstanding beaches.Arona
: Less than an hour's drive from the island capital, this city remains best known for its public park, designed by noted biologists and architects to shelter a collection of tropical palms and other plants native to this part of Tenerife.
Tegueste: Situated in the northeastern section of the island, this tiny village attracts tourists looking for a bit of peace and quiet on their vacation; many returning visitors to Tegueste own private villas with sea and mountain views.Los Cristianos
: Once a sleepy fishing settlement, Los Cristianos is now a major tourist destination in the south of the island, particularly noted for its fine beaches and dynamic nightlife.
Things to Do on Tenerife
Popular Tenerife Tourist AttractionsSiam Park
: For a daily dose of adrenaline on your Tenerife trip, visit this popular water park, known for featuring one of the largest collections of Thai-themed structures outside of Thailand.Loro Parque
: In addition to sheltering chimpanzees, tigers, sea lions, and alligators, this park houses over 350 different species of parrots, the largest collection of these birds in the world.Costa Martianez
: This manmade lake complex features eight individual pools, ideal for family days spent swimming and playing games.Volcan El Teide
: Conquer Spain's highest peak on your Tenerife holiday with a climb up this 3,718 m (12,198 ft) volcano, part of a national park and World Heritage Site.Abeque Turismo Activo
: Named after the surrounding cliffs, this tranquil town offers black-sand beaches and plenty of fine restaurants, as well as boat tours and scuba-diving lessons.Botanical Gardens
: Dedicated to the preservation of Macaronesian vegetation, this garden provides nature lovers with a comprehensive overview of Tenerife's indigenous plant life, housing a collection of tree species that once covered the entire island.Teide National Park
: Home to Spain's tallest peak, this park draws nearly three million annual visitors with its network of walking trails that traverses a landscape often compared to Mars.The Monkey Park
: If you're looking for some kid-friendly places to visit in Tenerife, head to Monkey Park, where monkey species from around the world live among tropical birds, lemurs, and iguanas.Masca Valley
: A hike through this picturesque valley offers spectacular views and bird-watching, as well as access to a small village filled with little shops selling local produce and crafts.
Planning a Tenerife Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Tenerife with Kids
Many of Tenerife's seaside destinations enjoy a reputation as hotspots of rambunctious nightlife, so it's understandable that the island doesn't instantly spring to mind for family vacations. Nevertheless, this island paradise offers plenty of activities for both children and parents. Consider starting your family's Tenerife tour in Puerto de la Cruz
, where kids can explore a zoo sheltering both native and exotic animals. If you're traveling with teens interested in kitesurfing, don't miss El Medano
: one of the world's finest kitesurfing locales, this town also offers access to a protected natural reserve known for its unusual volcanic origins. To add a bit of history to your Tenerife holiday, wander the streets of San Cristobal de La Laguna
, a World Heritage-listed town widely regarded as the cultural capital of the Canary Islands. From there you can take a short tram ride to Santa Cruz de Tenerife
, where a number of museums and flea markets await.
Things to Do on Tenerife with Kids
If your family comes to Tenerife for the sun and sand, it makes perfect sense to devote most of your time to the island's outstanding beaches, like Playa de las Vistas
and Playa de la Arena
. These beaches provide plenty of opportunities for a range of water sports and boat tours, which remain the best way to see the island's diverse coastline. To get the kids out of the bright sunshine for a while, add some museums to your Tenerife itinerary. Kid-friendly options include ARTlandya
, where the family can learn how to make a doll, and Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre
, a good place to find out more about the island's natural history. Work out any restlessness with a trip to one of the island's amusement parks, such as Aqualand Costa Adeje
Tips for a Family Vacation on Tenerife
Tenerife boasts plenty of accommodations located within walking distance of some of the world's finest beaches, which means that you'll have no trouble finding comfortable lodgings suited to your family's needs and budget. To get away from big crowds and noisy seaside parties, consider booking your room a bit farther from the water. Smaller settlements on the unspoiled west coast provide a good base for day trips the entire family can enjoy on foot or by car. If you want the kids to pick up some of the island's culture, plan your Tenerife itinerary with local fiestas in mind. Keep young travelers amused by mixing indoor attractions with outdoor fun. Boasting Spain's tallest mountain, Tenerife offers some of the finest hiking terrain in all of Europe. Take advantage of the island's picturesque landscapes and prepare the family for an exciting outdoor adventure by making sure everyone brings suitable walking shoes and has ample sunscreen.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Tenerife
Cuisine of Tenerife
Thanks to its favorable geographic location, Tenerife enjoys access to some prime fishing spots; naturally, fish remains the staple food on this and other Canary islands. You can try a range of local fish dishes during your Tenerife holiday at the island's award-winning restaurants, many of which you'll find in Costa Adeje
. If you don't like to dress up for your meals or want to expose your children to local cuisine, explore the island's family-run eateries. These small establishments offer an authentic atmosphere and affordable meals cooked in simple, traditional ways. Look for Tenerife's famous wrinkly potatoes, usually served with meat and fish. Red mojo sauce made with a mixture of hot and sweet peppers accompanies many local dishes and serves as a spicy bread dip. Tenerife also exports cured goat cheeses, most produced by small farms near La Orotava
. Gourmands may want to add a winery tour to their Tenerife itinerary; the island's wine-growing areas include the picturesque Orotava Valley
Shopping on Tenerife
Locally produced cheeses and wines certainly make excellent edible souvenirs of your trip to Tenerife, but if you want something easier to pack, scour the island's street markets for local handicrafts. A good place to start is Mercado de Nuestra Senora de Africa, where you'll find not only the usual tourist trinkets, but also fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables. If you prefer snazzy shopping malls to noisy street vendors, head to Centro Comercial Plaza del Duque
. Most of the island's bigger cities contain similar shopping centers, offering merchandise to suit every traveler's budget and needs. For a slightly different shopping experience, explore Tenerife's smaller settlements and artsy neighborhoods. One of the island's most colorful districts is La Ranilla
, the site of frequent workshops and markets organized by local artisans.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Tenerife
History of Tenerife
Pushed up from the ocean floor by powerful volcanic forces, Tenerife is probably over 30 million years old. Despite its advanced geological age, the island's earliest known human settlements date back to about 200 BCE, when cave dwellers called Guanches arrived from North Africa. Archaeologists have unearthed remains of these ancient island inhabitants at several entries into the Cueva del Viento
, a huge complex of underground lava tubes. A trip to this site may well be the highlight of your Tenerife tour; Museo de Historia y Antropología de Tenerife
also gives you an excellent overview of the island's rich history.
Following the arrival of the Guanches, Tenerife remained isolated from the outside world for over a thousand years. In the 15th century, the island fell into Spanish hands and gradually grew into an important hub of international commerce. This development made the island subject to repeated pirate invasions. But pirates weren't the only aggressors: in 1797, the British navy under Horatio Nelson attacked Tenerife in the infamous Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Having lost several hundred men, and himself wounded, Nelson withdrew under a truce. If you're interested in the island's military history, add Museo Histórico Militar de Canarias
to your Tenerife itinerary.
By the early 19th century, Santa Cruz de Tenerife served not only as the island's main port, but also as the capital city of the Canary Islands. The thriving city was the Canaries' main urban center until the 1920s, when Spanish administrators divided the archipelago into two provinces. After that, Santa Cruz remained a provincial capital, its enterprising citizens strengthening economic links with the Americas. Foreign visitors began arriving in the 1890s, aiding the development of Tenerife's tourism sector.
In the 1950s the difficulties of the post-war period caused an exodus of thousands of the island's inhabitants, most of whom emigrated to Cuba and Venezuela. In a reversal of fate, the second half of the 20th century brought many affluent Latin Americans back to the island. Arriving as tourists, these people brought with them influences that are still noticeable in the island's music and cuisine. Find out why so many tourists choose Tenerife as their holiday getaway by exploring the island's beaches, like Playa de las Teresitas
and Playa Jardin
Landscape of Tenerife
One of the world's top hiking destinations, Tenerife features landscapes that include everything from sandy beaches and steep cliffs to dense forests, lush valleys, and deep volcanic caves. With so much to choose from, you'll have no trouble finding plenty of engaging outdoor things to do in Tenerife. The central highlands remain the island's principal feature, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Worshiped as a deity in ancient times, Volcan El Teide
is not only Spain's tallest mountain, but also one of the world's largest volcanoes. The easiest way to explore the area around this looming peak is through Teide National Park
, a World Heritage Site. Tenerife also features the famous Acantilado de los Gigantes
. Rising 500 m (1,600 ft) above sea level, this "Wall of Hell" is one of Tenerife's most-visited natural spectacles. After hiking the rugged terrain, rest your feet with a trip to Garachico, an unspoiled coastal area featuring a series of natural rock pools.
Holidays & Festivals on Tenerife
Tenerife observes a number of public holidays that keep banks and many businesses closed for the day, but the island's most important annual celebration remains the wildly popular Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
. Second only to Rio de Janeiro's massive street party, this event occurs in February and attracts visitors from around the globe. If your Tenerife vacation falls during this period, you can watch the celebration from the sidelines or join the thousands of people wearing elaborate costumes and dancing in the streets. Another notable holiday is the feast honoring the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the Canary Islands. During this August festival pilgrims from all over the island gather at Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Candelaria
, a major landmark drawing over two million visitors each year.
Tenerife Travel Tips
Climate of Tenerife
Known worldwide as the "Island of Eternal Spring," Tenerife boasts a pleasant climate that makes it one of the world's favorite year-round tourist destinations. Though climatic differences in rainfall and sunshine exist in various places across the island, Tenerife as a whole receives little annual precipitation and enjoys a hot summer season between May and September. If you plan your Tenerife trip for that time of year, expect approximately 11 hours of daily sunshine and an average temperature of about 25 C (77 F). Spring remains the best time for hikers, wildflower enthusiasts, and ardent surfers. Alternatively, arrive in October or November and you'll find milder temperatures and lower hotel prices. Tourists exploring the island during winter often experience sunshine along the coastline and inclement weather on Teide, where considerable snowfall sometimes closes down the entire mountain.
Transportation on Tenerife
Though you can explore most of the island using its network of public buses, the best way to enjoy sightseeing in Tenerife at your own pace is by car. You'll find plenty of rental agencies in all major towns, as well as at both of the island's airports. You can also take a taxi practically anywhere on the island, but keep in mind that this mode of transportation remains one of the most expensive ways to get around Tenerife. If you do rent a car, make sure it's equipped with GPS navigation before heading to remote wilderness areas. Although you're not likely to get hopelessly lost anywhere too far from civilization, a good map can save you time and keep you on the right track to a number of worthwhile points of interest.