Known locally as the ‘Land of Eternal Spring’, sun-seekers have been flocking to Tenerife for years in search of its world-class beaches and bars. But look a little closer, and this small Spanish island has so much more to offer.
The largest of the seven Canary Islands, Tenerife attracts roughly five million tourists a year- and it’s not hard to see why. From mountains to monkeys, night dives to nightlife, history, culture, festivals and fiestas… There really is something for everyone.
So where is Tenerife? Located roughly 100 kilometers west of Morocco, the island benefits from warm, sunny weather all year round. Strong trade winds off the Atlantic make it a world-class spot for surfing and windsurfing, whilst the (dormant) volcano at its center, Mt. Teide, provides one of the most diverse landscapes in the world.
Start your day lounging on a tropical beach, or hike to a hidden hilltop village and sample the local delicacy ‘papas arrugadas’ (‘wrinkly potatoes’). Maybe take in the stunning views whilst paragliding off a snowy mountain peak, or explore the coast by kayak and take a dive with turtles. Finish sipping cocktails on the sand before you dance the night away with the locals in a Latin bar.
Still wondering what to do in Tenerife? Then take a look below. To help you navigate this enchanting island, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best of Tenerife. Now all you have to do is get there and find somewhere to stay.
Here is a Google Map of all the places mentioned in this article, to help you plan your trip. Click the icon on the top left to filter by type – excursion, beach, attraction etc
Excursions and Day Trips
1. Mount Teide Volcano
Standing at nearly 4,000 meters, Mount Teide is the highest peak in Spain, and the third highest volcano in the world. Its three lookout points offer fantastic views of Tenerife and its neighboring islands. If you can haul yourself out of bed in time, we recommend getting up there for sunrise to witness the surreal spectacle of the mountain’s shadow stretching across the island. Bad weather? On hazy days the ‘sea of cloud’ below you is just as majestic and still well worth the trip. You can do guided walks to the peak (which take around 6 hours and are not for the faint-hearted) or take a cable car (€27 adults, €13.50 children). If you do fancy daring a visit to the mouth of the volcano, you’ll need to apply for a permit beforehand from the national park’s office in Orotava.
2. Teide National Park
For the ultimate Tenerife excursion, make for the Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited national park in Europe. From the luscious forests of the lava plains of La Esperanza to the lunar volcanic rock formations such as the Roques de García, it is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. The activities on offer are almost as varied as the landscape, and include walking tours, private jeep safaris, night-time star-gazing trips and winery tours.
3. Punta de Teno Peninsula
This rugged, rocky headland ten kilometers from Buenavista is the most westerly point on the island, and a great place to get away from the crowds and blow away the cobwebs with a bit of bracing sea air. Admire the active lighthouse perched precipitously on the rocks, or relax on the bay and enjoy stunning views of La Gomera, La palma and the Teno Mountains. A word of warning: Check the forecast before you go as the road there is closed in bad weather.
4. Los Gigantes Cliffs
Literally translated as the ‘cliffs of the giants’, these magnificent cliffs tower between 500-800 meters above the sea. The Guanches (Tenerife’s earliest settlers) referred to the spot as the ‘Wall of Hell’, and it certainly is a fearsome view to behold. Soak up the scenery as part of a day trip to Los Gigantes town, where you can also arrange snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddle-boarding and dolphin and whale-watching trips around the cliffs.
5. Masca Hilltop Village and Trek
The ‘lost village’ of Masca is a remote hilltop community nestled amidst dramatic mountain scenery. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and find the start of the Masca Gorge Trek, a 3-hour walk down to Masca Bay. From here you can brave the climb back up or book a boat trip back to Los Gigantes. Guided treks are available.
6. Hiking in the Anaga Mountains
If you’re looking for something off the tourist trail, head to to the Anaga Mountains in the north east of the island. Formed by a volcanic eruption 7-9 million years ago, this prehistoric mountain range is the oldest part of the island, and a trip here feels like stepping back in time to another world. There’s even a village (El Bailadero) named after a coven of witches rumored to have danced around fires there. Hike from Benijo to the Roques de Anaga, two rocky outcrops in the sea with geological and ecological importance, or try and find the elusive Roque de Bermejo boat community, only accessible by a three-hour hike.
7. Drago Milenario Tree
No trip to Tenerife would be complete without a glimpse at the Drago Milenario (‘Dragon Tree’), the national symbol of the island. So-called because of its red resin, which looks like ‘dragon’s blood’ and is reputed to have numerous medicinal benefits, it has been revered by the local community for centuries. This particular tree, rumored to be 1,000 years old, is the oldest of the kind on the island. You can see it- alongside a collection of other endemic species- in the Parque del Drago Gardens (or stand in the square beside the Church of San Marco for a free vantage point).
8. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Temperate, crystal clear waters and fascinating volcanic rock formations make Tenerife a diver’s dream. The island has a huge range of diving centers offering various trips for all abilities, from introductory courses for children, PADI courses for pros or just boat trips for those who want to tag along but are afraid to dip their toes in. Brave a night dive into the depths, snorkel with turtles in Los Gigantes or explore a maze of underwater caves and shipwrecks. Or all three.
Parks & Attractions
9. Loro Parque Zoo
Loro Parque is a zoo with a difference. This 13.5-hectare attraction in the north of Tenerife boasts an aquarium with seven themed exhibits, a ‘Thai Village’, an orchid garden and an adventure playground for children. If that’s not enough to keep you occupied for the day, check out one of the sea life shows (featuring dolphins, orcas and sea lions) or get ‘up close and personal’ with birds from Asia and Australia in the Katandra Treetop Walkway. Open every day; tickets €34 for adults and €23 for children.
10. Siam Park
Winner of the ‘2015 Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice Award for Best Water Park’, Siam Park, a Thailand-themed water park located in the south of Tenerife, does not disappoint. Europe’s biggest water park is also home to the biggest artificial waves in the world (at over three meters high) as well as an artificial beach, river rapids and a sea lion island. Tickets are €34 for adults and €23 for children.
11. Las Águilas Jungle Park
Looking for things to do in Costa Adeje? Spend the day at Jungle Park, hanging out with big cats and monkeys, whizzing down a dry bobsleigh track or meandering along a rope walkway suspended in the trees. There are regular bird shows featuring birds of prey, macaws, talking parrots and horn bills, as well as a ‘sea lion encounter’ (€45 for 30-40 minutes). You can even arrange to have surprise photos taken of your loved ones whilst you concentrate on enjoying yourselves. Good old-fashioned fun for all the family.
12. Lago Martiánez
Make like Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and the Beatles and spend a day relaxing at César Manrique’s Lago Martianez, an incredible one kilometer stretch of artificial seawater pools, three beaches, gardens and terraces. Lanzarote artist Martianez has created a unique space that reflects the dynamic natural environment of Tenerife, complete with features like a ‘water volcano’ and a geyser. Everything here has been meticulously thought out and is fascinating to look at, from the upside-down eucalyptus trees (‘Las Raíces Al Cielo’, or ‘The Roots to Heaven’) to the solid blocks of undulating concrete that act as fitting tribute to the ever-present Atlantic (‘Monumento al Mar o a las Olas’, or Monument to the Sea or Waves’). Entrance is €5.50 for adults and €2.50 for children, but many hotels in the local area offer discounts.
Activities and Places to Visit
13. Garachico and Bajamar Natural Swimming Pools
For a bracing dip in the Atlantic, it doesn’t get better than the Garachico Pools in El Caletón. Created following the 1706 volcanic eruption, these lava rock pools are a great place to immerse yourself in nature without taking a battering from the elements. There are steps, walkways and diving points to ease you into the crystal clear waters, which are perfect for snorkeling (or just floating around admiring the views of La Culata Cliffs and the 16th century San Miguel Castle). A word of warning: the pools are cordoned off during high tide in spring and autumn. Bajamar Pools provides a family-friendly alternative, with two man-made saltwater pools next to the ocean and a sandy beach protected from the waves. Entrance is free and there is lifeguard supervision.
14. San Cristóbal de la Laguna
Another one on the endless list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to be found in Tenerife, the city of San Cristóbal de la Laguna is packed full of important historical and cultural sites. Marvel at the beautifully preserved mansions of the old-quarter, or swot up on your local knowledge in the Museum of the History of Tenerife (there is free entrance to the permanent exhibition on Fridays and Saturdays). For a taste of the ‘real Tenerife’, check out the farmer’s market at Plaza del Cristo. The town also boasts a lively student community and is known for its vibrant nightlife and tapas bars. Calle Herradores, a pedestrianized street filled with shops, bars and restaurants, is the place to be in the evening.
15. Golfing in Tenerife Sur
For golfing holidays in Costa Adeja, look no further than Golf del Sur Tenerife. Nestled between the Las Cañadas National Park and the Atlantic Ocean, this 27-hole complex boasts fantastic views of the sea, La Gomera and the Adeje mountains. In case you’re so blown away by the scenery, the black volcanic sand bunkers remind you where you are. With a driving range, putting green, tennis courts, shop and restaurant, this place has everything you need to enjoy a few rounds of golf with friends. 18 holes from €57-86, 9 holes from €35-51.
16. Auditorio de Tenerife
Dubbed the ‘Sydney of the Atlantic’, The Auditorio de Tenerife has become the island’s architectural icon, and is the most photographed view in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The brainchild of architect Santiago Calatrava Valls, the ambitious structure features a huge wave-like arch that appears to defy gravity. It becomes particularly impressive at night when it is lit with bright white light. Home to the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra, it also has ballets, dance shows, musicals, operas, comedy and gospel concerts. You can grab tickets for as little as €5.
17. Mirador de Humboldt Viewpoint
“I own that I have never beheld a prospect more varied, more attractive, more harmonious […] than the western coast of Tenerife”. Apt then, that this fantastic viewpoint should be named after Alexander von Humboldt, who penned these words after an inspiring visit here in 1799. Lying on the northern edge of the La Orotava Valley, the vantage point takes in the sea, sloping valley and the snow-capped Mt. Teide. It’s still relatively unknown to tourists, so go now. It’s open daily and has a lovely cafe, restaurant and a shop.
18. Kitesurfing and Windsurfing on El Médano Beach
Thanks to some hefty trade winds blowing in from the Atlantic, El Medano is one of the best surfing and windsurfing spots in the world, and has played host to several worldwide competitions. The town is conveniently located beside the two largest natural beaches on the island, Playa Tejita and Playa Grande, and has gained a reputation as the most laid-back of Tenerife’s resorts -think beach shacks and happy hippies. If you’re new to the waves but fancy your luck as a pro rider, there’s a huge range of schools to choose from offering lessons for all abilities. Red Rock Surf will even attach a Go Pro to your board so you can capture the moment you crash into the oncoming waves.
19. Teresitas Beach in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Lying just a 20-minute drive from the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Teresitas Beach is perfect for those looking for a bit of respite away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s one of the few beaches in Tenerife to have yellow sand, and though it’s busy at the weekend, visit in the week and you’ll be sure to find space to stretch out and sunbathe. Join in with a volleyball game or a yoga class, or simply sit back and relax in one of the seafood restaurants lining the beach.
20. El Bollullo Beach in La Orotava
Not as easily-accessible as some of the other beaches in Tenerife, Playas Bollullo is great place to get away from the crowds. You can drive there from Puerto de la Cruz, or brave a 40-minute walk along the coastal path through a banana plantation. You can reward yourself when you get there with a drink and a snack in the beach bar and restaurant.
21. Playa de las Americas Beach
Playa de las Americas enjoys year-round sun, and as a result has quickly become one of Tenerife’s most popular resorts. The four beaches, Playa de Torviscas, El Camisón, La Pinta and Playa del Bobo, are all well-served by the town and have great facilities. With calm waters and yellow sand, they are perfect for sunbathers and paddlers alike. Scuba diving, windsurfing and jet-skiing are all on offer, as well as whale and dolphin cruises and even submarine trips to the seabed.
22. Playa el Duque Beach in Costa Adeje
Known as the classiest of Tenerife’s beaches, Playa el Duque is lined with boutiques and swanky tapas bars. The beach itself has a relaxed, calm atmosphere, and the town is largely made up of 4 and 5* hotels. If you fancy treating yourself, this is the place for you. Playa de las Americas is only a 15-minute drive away for when you’re ready to venture back into reality.
23. Playa Paraiso Beach in Costa Adeje
The yellow sand beach of Playa Paraiso has been recently renovated, and is an ideal place for snorkeling and diving due to the clear waters along this rocky stretch of coastline. Don’t leave without a trip to the popular saltwater lido (€6 each or €12 for a family ticket).
24. Playa la Caleta in Costa Adeje
This lovely pebble beach is situated beside a quiet fishing village with several low-key restaurants and bars to choose from. It’s a great place for kids, as the calm waters are ideal for snorkeling and there’s ladders in several places where you can jump into the sea. You can walk here from Playa de las Americas and continue along the coastal path to discover several quiet coves, sandy beaches and Hippy Bay.
25. Playa de Benijo Beach in Anaga
You won’t find any sun loungers or umbrellas here. This wild, secluded beach in the protected area of the Anaga Mountain Range on Tenerife’s north east coast is not for your average day-tripper. Only accessible via a windy mountain road, this black sand beach is backed by cliffs and pounded by gigantic waves. Expect fantastic views of the Roques de Anaga on this blissfully secluded nudist beach, and experience Tenerife like the locals.
Nightlife & Events
26. Papagayo & Monkey Beach in Las Americas
Playa de Las Americas is Tenerife’s answer to Ibiza, and nowhere more so than Papagayo, the hottest beach bar in town. Cocktails and dancing are the order of the day in this swanky venue decked out with white sofas and palm trees. It wouldn’t be hard to forego the beach and spend all day here, as the place effortlessly moves from daytime chilled vibes to raucous party by night (cocktails around €7.50). Just 300 metres away is another firm favorite on the Playa de las Americas nightlife scene, Monkey Beach. Simply walk from your sunbed to the bar and enjoy fantastic views overlooking Playa Troya and La Gomera. Without doubt the best place in town to enjoy the sunset.
27. Blanco Bar & Limbo in Puerto de la Cruz
“Like Alice in Wonderland after a swig of the ‘Drink Me’ bottle” – a fitting description for Tenerife’s newest nightlife destination. Puerto de la Cruz has not always been the party-goers city of choice, but as a result has benefited from the freedom to develop away from the ‘booze cruise’ crowd, and is now home to a whole host of cool venues. Start your night with a live band, theater or comedy sketch in Blanco Bar, and wind up in Limbo, a rooftop bar accessible through an old colonial-style courtyard. Popular among the city’s young crowd, there’s always a serious party to be had here.
28. Calle la Noria in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Calle Noria is the place to be in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. You’ll feel like you’ve hopped across the Atlantic to Havana in this pedestrianized street filled with palm trees and brightly colored buildings. Extending from La Plaza de la Iglesia de la Concepción, the area is popular with the post-work crowd and is filled with cafes and restaurants serving the finest local cuisine. It’s easy to spend your whole evening here, sitting watching the street performers and wandering in and out of quirky bars until the early hours.
29. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival
Second only to Rio Janeiro as the most well-known and popular carnival in the world, the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is an eclectic mix of exotic costumes, shows, parades, and boisterous parties day and night. Get swept up in the hedonistic atmosphere of this most beloved celebration, where normal taboos disappear and everything goes. With a different fancy dress theme each year (past years have included ‘Bollywood’, ‘circus’, space odyssey’ and ‘magic’) the town explodes in a riot of color and creativity that has to be seen to be believed. The carnival is held every February and lasts for almost three weeks- but if you’ve still not had your fill, hang around for Piñata weekend, the closing weekend and the last chance to party. Until next year…
30. Romeria de la Orotava Festival
La Orotava Romeria festival (an annual religious pilgrimage) is one of the biggest in the area, and sees the whole community come together to create carpets out of flowers which are then used to adorn the streets and mark the route of the parade. Plaza del Ayuntamiento plays host to an enormous carpet covering over 900 square metres, made entirely out of different colored volcanic sand and depicting three different biblical scenes. The locals, decked out in traditional Canarian outfits, hand out free food and wine- remember your ‘vaso de romería’ (a wine glass held round your neck by a string) to make the most of the generous top-ups. Don’t miss this chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and witness a sight most tourists never see.
Spoilt for choice? Web Tenerife is a great resource if you’re looking for more information on any of the activities listed here, and Hello Canary Islands has pretty much everything you need to know about Tenerife and the rest of the Canary Islands.
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Cover photo via © Flickr Enrique Mendez