Top 10 things to do in Tenerife

Eloise Barker

Title photography by AlexanderNikiforov

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Although it’s within touching distance of the African continent, Tenerife has its own fabulous, self-contained spirit. This is where Lord Nelson lost his arm fighting against the Spanish fleet in 1797, but you might just lose your heart to this wild island if you visit now. Discover the best things to do in Tenerife.

1. Enjoy the coastal life at Costa Adeje

At Costa Adeje you can have a typical sun loungers and sundowners holiday. This wildly popular area of Tenerife’s south coast is rife with tourists having a great time. The popular Las Americas area has plenty of familiar UK shops and restaurants, plus there are plenty of great surf spots nearby. Children will enjoy Siam Park – a Thai-themed water park fringed by other attractions. Adults can unwind at the merry parade of visitor-friendly seafront bars. In the evenings, this is Tenerife’s premier nightlife hub. Come 2am, famous Veronica’s Strip is swarming with revellers sporting for a dance. Join in at your own risk.


Sticking to the southern section of the island? Head to Los Abrigos, a town that’s famous for seafood thanks to its tireless fishermen. Dine on fresh white fish with thick wedges of lemon, then spend the afternoon catching the sun on Las Vistas beach.

2. Go to the top of Mount Teide

The highest mountain in Spain (though it’s closer to the African mainland than Europe), dramatic Mount Teide dominates Tenerife’s skyline. And the summit is easier to reach than you think. An impressive cable car takes you from sea level to a viewpoint a stonking 3,555m above sea level. If the weather’s good, you’ll be able to see the surrounding Canary Islands. With its high altitude and clear skies, the vivid volcanic landscape of the Teide National Park has perfect conditions for athletic training, and Olympic cycling teams that come here train in droves. Try to keep up.


If cycling on the mountain seems too exhausting, book yourself into a sunset tour and drink a glass of champagne from the viewpoint. Watch as the sun sets, and as it does, spot the shadow of the volcano creeping over the sea.

  • Surfer in Tenerife. ©Stanislaw Pytel.


    There are plenty of surfing beaches in Tenerife. Try the popular Playa de las Americas if you’re staying in Costa Adeje – this beach has everything – and everyone knows it. Book flights to Tenerife.

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3. Go for lunch in a Guachinche

For a lunch that’s as authentic as they come, make sure you dine in a Guachinche at least once during your Tenerife holiday. Marked out by a hand-painted sign, these makeshift restaurants are often situated in the family home, where you’ll be served a simple, hearty meal. Try Guachinche El Chupete on the road to La Laguna, where your meal will come with a great bottle of local wine: perhaps a pale Malvasia or a bold young red that will stand up to a meaty casserole.


If it’s local wine you’re after, why not tour a vineyard? You can spend a whole day at Bodegas Monje: a morning out by the vines and tasting the wines; then lunch, or a cookery class to learn how to make the island’s famous mojo sauce.

4. Study the skies at Teide Observatory

Tenerife is one of the best places for stargazing in Europe. On many nights, you can clearly make out the Milky Way – a wide, glittering streak across the night sky. There are a number of great viewing platforms around the island, including one at Masca, and one in Mount Teide National Park. At Teide Observatory you’ll clap eyes on the largest solar telescope in Europe. You don’t have to stay up late into the night to enjoy the view. Join a tour of the observatory and you’ll be invited to see solar flares and sunspots on our nearest star.


Stargazers should wrap up warm. Night temperatures on high altitude platforms will be a shock after the beach.

  • A pilot whale comes to the surface in Tenerife. ©Photononstop / Alamy Stock Photo.


    You can spot pilot whales off the coast of Tenerife. The second largest species of dolphin after orcas, they’re strange-looking creatures, with bulbous ‘pot-shaped’ heads and remarkable intelligence.

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  • Papas Arrugadas with traditional sauce – the local dish. ©Stanislaw Pytel.

    Find your mojo

    Tenerife’s famous mojo sauce, served here with wrinkly Canarian potatoes, is made with red peppers and paprika. Have a gastronomic holiday in Tenerife.

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  • Las Vistas beach, near Costa Adeje. ©YAY Media AS / Alamy Stock Photo.

    The view at Las Vistas

    The tawny sand at Las Vistas goes golden in the sun. This popular beach is safe, clean and has plenty of facilities. Bag an umbrella and chill out.

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5. Get lost in the Anaga Mountains

If you want to hike, and hike properly, then head to the Anaga Mountains. Remotely located on the northernmost tip of the island, the dramatic area has its own temperamental microclimate. Expect mist, rain and bursts of dramatic sunlight. The peaks are straight out of Jurassic Park – some of the rocks are thought to be a geologically young seven million years old – and bristle with ancient laurel forest. Lace up your rugged walking boots, trek down the tracks to the black beaches nearby such as Benijo Beach; then trek back, wet swimming trunks hanging from the back of your rucksack. If you get hungry, stop for lunch in an ancient cave: La Cueva is a hidden restaurant near Punta del Hidalgo.


There’s an annual walking festival in Tenerife in late May. Organised hikes will help you navigate the teeming trails.

6. Cross over to La Gomera

There are plenty of ferries that will take you over to La Gomera, the little island off the south coast of Tenerife. You’ll have a fantastic view of Mount Teide across the sea as you cross over from Los Cristianos. In 40 minutes you’ll land at San Sebastian, the last port that Christopher Columbus checked into before his infamous Atlantic voyage. From here you can hike, or drive, to find the best views of Tenerife and the Atlantic. Ascend to the gardens that surround the hotel Parador de la Gomera to check out those famous Mount Teide views, or head over for lunch at Mirador de Abrante. This fantastic glass dining room is perched hundreds of metres above the sea and looks out over the cheery-looking village of Agulo.


Listen out for La Gomera’s famous ‘whistling speech’, known as El Silbo. Originally used by farmers to call to each other from great distances, it is still taught in schools.

  • A street in La Orotava. ©Ross Helen.

    Sleepy streets

    Explore La Orotava and, after your fill of traditional Canarian architecture, enjoy its peaceful botanical garden.

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7. Keep your eyes peeled for pilot whales

The wild Atlantic waters around Tenerife get plenty of passing trade from migrating dolphins and whales. However, bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins and sperm whales make the waters around the island their permanent home, feeding in the deep-sea trenches between Tenerife and La Gomera. Most tours to spot them operate from the southern end of the island, where sightings are practically guaranteed. Pilot whales are numerous. You’ll see them leaping in their pods, or even spyhopping: sticking their heads out of the water to examine objects of interest on the surface. Usually, that’s you and your tour – exploring the wonders of their natural habitat.


Some tours have been known to get too close to the whales’ quarry, which disturbs the local wildlife. Choose an ecological tour with an on-board naturalist and a small group.

8. Bathe in the rockpools of Puerto de la Cruz

When Agatha Christie visited back in 1927, the wild northern seafront of Puerto de la Cruz wasn’t swimmer-friendly. Back then, it was a quiet fishing town on the north side of Tenerife without many inviting prospects. But by the 1970s, a series of lava-sculpted pools were hewn into the rock. Known as the Lago Martianez, these pools are great in high summer, when the southern end of the island proves too hot. You can splash, float and watch the waves crash beneath you. Puerto de la Cruz is now a bone fide city, but you can still visit Ranilla, the old fisherman’s quarter. This area of the city has had its own facelift and is now full of street art.


You can explore a number of Tenerife’s great little towns in a day (one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner?) Puerto de la Cruz’s inland neighbour, La Orotava, is comprised of a series of beautiful Baroque buildings, and is definitely worth a wander.

9. Drive up to the picturesque village of Masca

A treacherous road trip into the wilds takes you to the tiny outcrop of buildings at Masca, the most picturesque settlement on the island. This little village is perched in the Teno mountains and is so remote that it was all but cut off from the rest of the island until a road was built in 1991. The village gets very busy with visitors between 11am and 5pm, as people gather to photograph the impressive mountain scenery, and hear far-fetched tales about historical pirate activity in the area.


There’s a three-hour trek down to a ‘pirate bay’ from the town, reserved for those who have a boat ride sorted for the way back. Not for the faint-hearted, check to see if the trail is open before you make tracks.

10. Spend a day in the capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital, has a modest scattering of attractions and a relaxed atmosphere. The city comes to life during carnival, however, with a parade that takes four hours (yes, four) to pass in its entirety. At any other time of year, this port city is a laid-back place to wander. The funky architecture of the Auditorio de Tenerife makes a great photo stop, and the new carnival museum is an entertaining diversion if the carnival itself isn’t in town. Pop into a couple of churches, then shop for Canarian delicacies – bananas, cactus lemonade and, of course, mojo sauce for your potatoes – at Nuestra Senora de Africa market.


It’s not often that a small town surpasses the capital. But in Tenerife it’s probably the case. Visit UNESCO-listed La Laguna, Santa Cruz’s little sister town next door, and the old capital of the island. You’ll find old Canarian-style buildings brandishing carved wooden verandas and cool courtyards. There are free hour-long walking tours. Find out times from the tourist office.


Hotel Hacienda del Conde

The adults-only Hotel Hacienda del Conde is near the Teno mountains in the north west of Tenerife, so it’s a great base for explorers. It’s ringed by a fantastic golf course, but it’s also just a fifteen-minute walk to the town of Buenavista.

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Ritz-Carlton Abama

Pink turrets, secret gardens and luxurious lodgings: the famously beautiful Ritz-Carlton Abama also has a great golf course and two Michelin-starred restaurants.

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The Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife

Three pools, a beach, multiple kids' clubs and shameless, get-stuck-in fun can be had at the Hard Rock Hotel near Adeje. Rooms have massive flat-screen televisions and adults can enjoy the famous Children of the 80’s party. The teen club offers Xbox and cinema – and plenty of sports too, to stop anyone getting square-eyed.

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