Your vacation guide to Tenerife, Canary Islands

Oct 16, 2021

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United Airlines has expanded service to make it easier for those who live on the East Coast to get to Tenerife. The largest and most populous of all the Canary Islands, Tenerife has no shortage of beautiful beaches, charming villages, epic hiking spots and family-friendly activities. Whether you’re hoping to wine taste and explore on your honeymoon, visit water parks and hike volcanoes with your family or simply have a getaway filled with sunshine and cocktails with friends, Tenerife is the island for you.

This guide will help you curate your trip in full, from tips on getting there and where to stay to advice on what to do, see and eat during your Canarian vacation.

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Playa de Las Teresitas. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

And, if you aren’t quite sure if Tenerife is the right island for your visit, check out these guides, which may help you choose another island right for you:

Getting there and around

Tenerife is home to not one, but two international airports. There’s Tenerife Norte (TFN) and Tenerife Sur (TFS). As each of their names suggests, Norte is located in the north of the island in the capital of Santa Cruz. The Sur airport is located near the southern tip of the island, closer to popular resort areas such as Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas and the Costa Adeje.

United Airlines has unveiled an expansion of transatlantic routes, including service from Newark, New Jersey to Tenerife Sur airport three times per week. The route launches on June 9, 2022, aboard a Boeing 757-200.

Most visitors coming from European destinations will want to fly into the south airport. However, if you get an amazing deal for the north airport and are planning on renting a car, it’s about a one-hour drive to some of the more popular resort areas in the south.

Car rental on the island is essential if you’d like to explore. That being said, if you’d prefer to permanently park yourself in a beach lounger at your all-inclusive hotel, you may not need one.

Where to stay

In general, most visitors will want to stay south, mainly because the weather is often sunnier and less windy in this area of the island. The west side is also popular for travelers. For all the tourist amenities, consider areas like Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas and the Costa Adeje.

If you’re looking to explore Tenerife’s wineries, tour the capital of Santa Cruz or hike in Anaga Park, you could consider a base in the north of the island.

Most of the tourist-catering resorts mentioned below are located in the south and west of the island. If you’d prefer a more local stay, consider a home or apartment rental in the north of the island. Santa Cruz has all the amenities of an urban oasis, while San Cristóbal de La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has colorful, vibrant homes reminiscent of the Caribbean or Cuba and a gorgeous cathedral. Wine-lovers should consider the rolling hills of Icod de los Vinos.

Despite the pandemic, a few new hotels have opened on the island. Notable is Hotel Riu Buenavista, which opened in June 2020. The all-inclusive property from the Spanish hotel giant RIU is located in Adeje, in the southwestern part of the island. The resort offers beachfront accommodation and is steps away from Playa de Ajabo. All-inclusive amenities include a children’s playground, the Aqualand waterpark. The historic El Duque Castle is a short distance away.

Those with Marriott points should consider the Ritz-Carlton Abama (Category 6, requiring 40,000-60,000 points per night) and the Sheraton La Caleta (Category 5, requiring 30,000-40,000 points per night). Both of these luxury hotels offer gorgeous views of the sea, with amenities such as saltwater pools and fitness centers.

(Photo courtesy of the Ritz Carlton Abama)

Another beachfront option is the Hard Rock Tenerife, featuring three swimming pools and the Rock Spa. The H10 hotel brand has a few hotels throughout the island apt for both families and couples traveling together, such as the H10 Big Sur and the H10 Costa Adeje.

(Photo courtesy of the Roberto Lara Fotograpfia/Hard Rock Tenerife)

Finally, the Melia Palacio de Isora is another luxury option, with a special floor called the Red Level for Families.

(Photo courtesy of the Melia Palacio de Isora)

What to do and see

Beaches

What’s the top activity to do in Tenerife? The beach, of course! The island is full of both black sand volcanic beaches and stretches of golden sand, too. Here are some of the best:

  • For windsurfing, kite surfing and surfing: El Médano
  • For white sands, shallow waters and all the amenities: Los Cristianos
  • For white sands in the north: Playa de Las Teresitas
An aerial view of Teresitas Beach. (Photo by Artur Debat/Getty Images)
  • For windswept black sands: Playa de la Tejita
  • For a hidden gem: Playa de Abama
  • For restaurant and shopping options: Playa del Fañabe
  • For far-flung, northern black sands: Playa Benijo (spot monolithic sea rocks here!)

Adventure

Tenerife is ideal for anyone who loves adventure. Besides offering all sorts of water sports like diving and snorkeling, kite, wind and regular surfing, paragliding is a popular activity, as is canyoning on Tejina Mountain. You can also explore an ancient lava dome system of craters and caves at Cueva del Viento.

Hiking is another popular activity in Tenerife. The most famous spot to visit is one of the tallest peaks in Spain, the Teide volcano. There are many different paths of varying lengths and difficulties to choose from for a trek, and for those wanting a more relaxed experience, there’s a cable car that takes you almost to the very top.

Note that a trip to the top summit requires a permit, and it’s best to buy your cable car tickets well in advance for the beginning of your trip. Make sure to check the day of to see if the cable car is operating (it often shuts down due to weather conditions), and you can rebook for later in your trip if it’s not.

A hiker near Teide volcano. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

Anaga Rural Park is a verdant place to hike, taking you through twists and turns in varying microclimates past one-of-a-kind mosses and laurel trees. Make sure to take layers along here — while others may be sunning on the beach, it can be freezing and rainy in areas of this natural park.

Masca is one of Tenerife’s most beautiful mountaintop villages. Hike around the area, or simply drive through the Macizo de Teno mountains enjoy the impressive scenery. Certain hikes in this area will also give you views of Los Gigantes, towering oceanside cliffs on the island’s western side.

Los Gigantes. (Photo by Dominic Dähncke/Getty Images)

Family fun

Families will enjoy visiting the Siam Water Park and the Loro Parque zoo and animal adventure park. Families with older children may also enjoy quad adventures or stargazing experiences. Santa Cruz, the island’s capital, is also home to the Natural History Museum. The city also features many 15th-century buildings and palm-tree-lined squares ideal for a stroll on a warm, sunny afternoon.

What to eat and drink

Canarias cuisine is hearty and delicious. You’ll want to sample papas arrugadas (“wrinkled” potatoes in a delicious, tangy Canarian sauce, Mojo picón), a ropa vieja, a meat dish also popular in Cuba. Of course, you can’t go wrong with fresh seafood, either.

Papas arrugadas with mojo picón. (Photo by MEDITERRANEAN/Getty Images)

Make sure to sample some of the most traditional restaurants found in the north of the island, guanchinches. These no-frills restaurants may not look fancy, featuring simple foods with a limited menu, but are the heart and soul of the island. Traditionally, these restaurants also cultivated their own wine, so make sure to sample some. Some of the best ones to try are the colorful Restaurante Bodegón Casa Tomás, famous for its ribs in mojo picón sauce, o Los 3 Dragos (try the fresh cheese or stewed octopus).

Tenerife’s volcanic soil is ideal for wine cultivation. Some of the best wineries to visit are in the north of the island, like Bodegas Lomo, or Bodegas Monje. The latter offers a stunning outdoor patio where you can wine taste while admiring the sunset.

Vineyards on Tenerife. (Photo by Tomás Guardia Bencomo/Getty Images)

Bottom line

Tenerife makes for a versatile vacation spot: One where you can either lounge on the beach for days on end, explore caves, forests, beaches and beyond or enjoy wine-tasting and water parks.

With mild temperatures and sunshine year-round, there’s never really a bad time to visit, and there’s always plenty to do on this affordable island. Use this guide when planning your holiday to help decide where on the island you’d prefer to be based and what you’d like to do and see.

Featured image courtesy of Dennis Fischer Photography/Getty Images.

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