Top tips when visiting Tenerife
The biggest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife offers a surprising landscape and climate. The geographical position and the Teide volcano dominating the island give Tenerife its distinctive character and variety. It is also one of the most popular tourist destination of Spain.
Sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, exquisite flora, breathtaking mountains, desert dunes and above the clouds lava peaks … all these can be found in less than 3h drive from any point of the island.
Tenerife is truly an interesting island, but it is promoted mainly as a beach destination, which is not the only reason to plan your visit here.
As there are so many aspects to be discovered, we have made a list of tips and useful information that would help to fully enjoy your visit:
Tenerife is also known as the island of eternal spring. Although it’s warm throughout the entire year, the weather here is a mystery and the forecast is in general not that useful. Clouds are almost every day surrounding the volcano and can block the sun in different areas of the island. It is said that the North is generally cloudy and the South sunny. That is why most of the large beaches are in the South. Weather can change instantly and can become quite chilly. If you go to the beach always have at hand some cover up or warmer clothes, just in case wind and clouds take over the sun.
Renting a car
Distances in Tenerife are big and there are lots of places to explore, so renting a car is highly recommended. There are many rent-a-car companies and the prices are very good. Also, gasoline is very cheap here. Because the landscape is so diverse, we recommend getting a diesel car or one that would easily go up on the slopes of the mountain. You might struggle otherwise, especially if you want to drive to the Teide volcano peak. Parking is in general not an issue and the roads are very good.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Tenerife, from apartments to big all inclusive hotels. The good thing about staying in a resort is that you can quickly get to the beach if it’s nice and sunny. If you want to explore the island better, you can choose to stay somewhere in the middle of the island. There are some lovely traditional properties, like Finca Salamanca rural hotel in Guimar, which had also an excellent restaurant, with multiple awards winning chef and offering a complete dining experience. Staying in the middle of the island gives flexibility of easily visiting different parts of it, but has the minus that it will take a bit over 30 min to get to a nice beach.
Food and drinks
Volcanic soils are very good for producing local wine and Tenerife wines make no exception. So try the local house wines, in general they are soft and with rich flavors.
As for the local dishes, sea food is highly recommended, because there are lots of fresh products and also a rich variety of recipes. Besides the Spanish traditional ones we have found here Portuguese, Italian, Moroccan and even Peruvian dishes, all tasting delicious. Prices are in general reasonable and many places have a menu of the day which offers the best value for money.
What to pack
As mentioned, the weather in Tenerife is full of surprises. You should have something for each scenario: swimming and beach time, chilly evenings or days, warmer clothes if you want to visit the volcano. So a layered system works best and having a light jacket, cardigan or warm scarf with you is always a good idea. And if you forget them, do not worry because Tenerife is a good place for shopping.
Speaking of good shopping sessions, Tenerife benefits of reduced taxes and offers in general very attractive prices and collections. Also many big clothing brands have factories not very far (like Morocco), so the island is a good place to sell their products. We didn’t know that and had the luggage pretty full, so we couldn’t buy too many things, but we were very surprised by the prices and how nice most of the products were.
Evenings and nightlife
The evening/night life options differ a lot depending on the area. The tourist resorts are more animated and restaurants start service around 7 p.m., while in the smaller villages they tend to open and also close early. Check reviews for what you would like to do and don’t be afraid to go to small local places, because we have found some very nice tapas bars in non touristy areas, for example in La Laguna (pictured below) or Candelaria.
The South West coast offers a series of nice and large sandy beaches with all the facilities needed. The golden sand is brought from Sahara and it’s quite smooth. We liked Playa de las Vistas (pictured above, located between Playa de las Americas and Los Christianos) and Playa del Duque. We also tried other beaches in the North East, like Playa de las Teresitas, but we found the East quite windy. As for the North, we didn’t manage to go to any beach there because each time we passed by it was cloudy and chilly. The sea is not very warm, but you can still swim and the majority of the main beaches are protected from big waves. Even small towns like Candelaria have their own cute little beaches (pictured below). In our view beaches in Tenerife are ok, but don’t have too high expectations.
Visiting the Teide Volcano
A visit to the Teide volcano (3,718m / 12,198ft) is a “Must do” on the island and a very interesting experience. Even if it is a cloudy day on the island you can be sure you will have enough sun once you go above the clouds. You can drive to almost 2,400m altitude, from where there is a cable car to take visitors closer to the top (to 3,555m). The landscape will change in a spectacular way as you drive higher and higher. You will even reach a vast area of sandy dunes, like a desert above the clouds.
Our advice is to get to the cable car before 11 a.m., when buses with tourists come and it gets busy. Also, get warmer clothes/ layers to add, because on top the temperature is very low (only a few degrees). The ticket for a return cable car journey is 27 EUR/adult and the ride takes less than 8 minutes. Once on the top, visitors are advised not to stay more than one hour, due to the rarefied oxygen and freezing winds. The landscape is considered a geological treasure and it is truly breathtaking.
Driving to Masca Valley
The Macizo de Teno volcanic mountains are home to dramatic cliffs, spectacular views and are also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In this area (the North West of the island) you can find the Los Gigantes cliffs and beach, as well as impressive remote villages like Masca. The road through these mountains will surely raise your adrenaline, because it is very curvy and narrow, cutting through high peaks and deep valleys. The driver should be very careful and patient, because in many places there is only room for one lane, not two.
However, it is worth the effort because fairy-tale valleys, cliffs and villages will unfold, surrounded by lush vegetation, amazing flowers and magnificent trees. Masca is one example and we recommend to dress warmly here and have a break in one of the restaurants/cafes around, while admiring the beautiful nature. You can continue to explore the area by visiting Garachico, with its natural sea water pools, or the Dragon Tree in the town of Icod de los Vinos.
Another “Must do” in Tenerife is a day at Siam Park. It has been voted the best water park in the world and we definitely understood why. The ticket costs 37 EUR/adult and 25 EUR/child, but the park is really fun and special. There are lots of attractions in the park and we recommend starting with the easiest ones and continuing gradually to the most difficult ones, to make sure you enjoy all. The services in the park are wonderful and if the weather is not sunny and warm you can even rent a wet suit to keep you warm.
One of the best things about the park is that you don’t really see outside of it, so it really helps disconnect and just focus on having fun. If it is expected to be very crowded, although in our case it wasn’t, you can pay an extra 15 EUR for fast track or come very early/leave at 6 pm (the closing time). In the most crowded moments you can just enjoy the beach, bars or the lazy river, where there is plenty of space. In our case it was quite empty early morning and late afternoon, but we were not that lucky with the weather.
We hope these tips will be useful to fully enjoy Tenerife and make the best of each aspect it has to offer, irrespective of the surprising weather. And if you have additional tips or any other useful information you would like to share on the subject please write us or post your comment below. The more the better.