The top things to do in Tenerife


Eloise Barker

Title photography by Westend61

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NOVEMBER 2017

It’s within touching distance of the African continent, but Tenerife has its own fabulous, self-contained spirit. It’s where Lord Nelson lost his arm, it’s where you’ll find surprising history, tawny sands and a star-studded night sky.

Sand, slides and sea safaris

Black or yellow? Black sand or yellow sand, that is. Tenerife has both in spades. The black sand of the north is the more ’authentic’, the south shamelessly imports golden grains for visitors to enjoy. On the southern side, at Costa Adeje you can have a typical sun loungers and sundowners holiday and enjoy the merry parade of visitor-friendly seafront bars. The main attraction in the area is Siam Park – a Thai themed water park haloed by other attractions. It’s great to visit with kids. Looking out to sea from Costa Adeje, you’ll see there are plenty of whale-watching tours setting off. Embark on one and you’ll have almost guaranteed sightings of native pilot whales.

Windsurfers head to the breezy southern side of the island which is sheltered enough from the waves for the sport. Punta Brava in the north or Playa de Las Americas in the south have the best breaks for surfers. Lucky Playa del Medano is great for both sports. Sticking to the shore? A stark red mountain overlooks the beach. Climb it for the view.

Where to stay: 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. Older children get personal X-Boxes at the Teen Spirit club, rooms have massive flat-screen televisions and adults can enjoy the famous Children of the 80’s party.

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Tenerife is one of the best places for stargazing in Europe. Look up at the massive empty crater of Mount Teide and the starry night sky beyond. It’s all easier to reach than you think.

  • Surfer in Tenerife. ©Stanislaw Pytel

    Beach breaks

    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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Seek out the small towns

The capital of Tenerife, Santa Cruz, has a modest scattering of attractions, a stunning auditorium and a relaxed atmosphere. But the smaller towns of Tenerife are even sweeter. Many towns are the seat of old stories; the town of Drago has an ancient tree and tragic Garachico is plagued by a stormy history. La Laguna is Santa Cruz’s little sister next door. Here you’ll find lovely tapas bars under crumbling roofs. A treacherous road trip into the wilds takes you to the tiny outcrop of buildings at Masca, the most picturesque settlement on the island. 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.

When Agatha Christie visited, the wild northern seafront of Puerto de la Cruz wasn’t swimmer-friendly, but now there’s a series of lava-sculpted pools on the seafront where you can bathe in peace. Ranilla, the old fisherman’s quarter, has had a facelift, too, and is now full of street art. Puerto de la Cruz’s Inland neighbour, La Orotava, is comprised of a series of beautiful Baroque buildings. You can explore a number of towns in a day – one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner?

Where to stay: San Roque

San Roque is an adults-only boutique hotel in the heart of Garachico. It’s absolutely charming, with just 20 rooms set around two courtyards of a seventeenth century mansion. Plus, one of the courtyards holds a heated swimming pool.

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  • A Pilot Whale comes to the surface in Tenerife. ©Photononstop / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Surfacing

    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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Reach for the stars

Tenerife is one of the best places for stargazing in Europe. Look up at the massive empty crater of Mount Teide and the starry night sky beyond. It’s all easier to reach than you think. An impressive cable car takes you from sea level to a stonking 3,000 metres up – be prepared for altitude, go on a clear day and take extra layers. If the weather’s good, you’ll be able to see the surrounding Canary Islands. Go on a sunset tour and drink a glass of champagne on the summit. Watch as the sun sets, and as it does, spot the shadow of the volcano creeping over the sea. Then descend to an observatory, where experts will set up your telescope. Look out for signs of the zodiac, and count craters on the moon.

Where to stay: Ritz Carlton Abama

The Ritz Carlton Abama has a luxury tour that whisks you to Teide Observatory and the largest operating telescope in Europe. Back at the hotel, there’s a great golf course and two Michelin-starred restaurants.

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  • 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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Get active on the island

With its high altitude and clear skies, Tenerife has perfect conditions for athletic training, and the Olympic cycling teams come to train in their droves. Try to keep up – bike through the vivid volcanic landscape of the Mount Teide park. The island affords cinematic views that make exploring an utter pleasure. If you want to hike, head to the Anaga Mountains for peaks straight out of Jurassic Park and enjoy lunch in an ancient cave at Punta del Hidalgo. With a pair of rugged walking boots, trek by foot down the tracks to the black beaches that surround Macizo de Teno.

If you’re in the south, visit paisaje lunar. Wander through pine forest and under almond trees until you get to a strange crop of rock formations that looks like something out of Dune. If you want to go further afield, there are plenty of ferries that will take you to La Gomera. Cross a deep-sea trench where dolphins and whales feed, to a quiet island that offers a fantastic view of Mount Teide across the sea.

Where to stay: Melia Hacienda del Conde

The adults-only Melia Hacienda del Conde is near the Teno mountains in the north west of Tenerife, so it’s great base for explorers. It’s ringed by a fantastic golf course, secluded in beautiful sub-tropical surroundings. It’s only a fifteen-minute walk into the town, Buenavista.

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Beyond the tapas bars

If you like to get to know an area by its bottles, head to a Guanchinche. Marked out by a hand-painted sign, these makeshift restaurants are often in the family home. You’ll be served a simple, hearty meal centred around a bottle of local wine. Look out for Canarian sweet wine and pale Malvasia. Whet your appetite for local dining at Guanchinche La Chupete on the road to La Laguna. The classic Tenerife dish is papas arrugadas and mojo sauce – simple potatoes slathered in spicy sauce. A cookery class to make your own is a popular stop on the tourist trail. If you’re feeling more adventurous, look out for cactus lemonade or barbequed cochino nero.

Vineyard tours are another great way to make lunch into an event. Bodegas Monje is a great place to wine and dine, or you can pick up your own picnic from the food markets in Santa Cruz. For dinner, dine on fresh white fish with thick wedges of lemon at the harbour town of Los Abrigos. Sweet-toothed travellers can pick up the island’s famous small, sugary bananas fresh from the plantations, or sample local banana liquor.

Where to stay: Baobab Suites

Baobab Suites has great rooms for families. This modern hotel, decked in all white, has trendy apartments, two heated outdoor pools and an on-site restaurant.

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