Holidays in Tenerife are often of the beach-to-bar variety, but dig a bit deeper and you’ll find national parks, sights galore and the island’s most bankable asset – top weather.
Tenerife - north and south
Out of all the Canary Islands, the biggest – Tenerife – arguably has the most going on. Travel to the island’s top half and you’ll find no end of greenery to get lost in – banana plantations, pine forests, you name it. Head south, meanwhile, and you’re in holiday central, with everything you could possibly want at your fingertips.
Buzzing beach resorts
Take Playa de las Americas. The top attraction in this purpose-built resort is the white-sand beach, but its waterpark, 18-hole golf course and string of places to dine out are the other plus points people tend to reel off. As for its buzzing strip of bars and clubs, it’s turned the place into a bit of a party Mecca. It's got some stylish new cafes and shopping centres, too. Next-door Los Cristianos, meanwhile, is home to two beaches, some sleek shopping malls and plenty of al fresco eateries. It’s the quieter of the two, but there’s plenty going on, including a busy Sunday market.
For proper peace and quiet, try Playa de la Arena on the south-west coast. It’s got a more traditional feel, spotless sands and some of the best tapas bars around. Equally mellow is compact Playa Paraiso, home to a really popular lido. And for a happy medium, go for Costa Adeje. A modern resort with Mount Teide as its backdrop, it’s got a clutch of chic shops and eateries to its name.
Things to See and Do in Tenerife
Tenerife is the biggest of the Canaries, and it certainly doesn’t hold back when it comes to beaches. Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas have man-made stretches, with sands shipped in from the Sahara, while places like Playa de la Arena and Puerto de la Cruz offer up black-sand beauties.
The big beach
The standout stretch is Playa de Las Vistas. It’s the largest of Los Cristianos’ 3 beaches and its sands have been given the Blue Flag stamp of approval. Families flock here for the calm waters and the watersport selection – think parasailing, pedalos and whale-watching trips. You’re sorted when it comes to lunch, too – the palm-lined prom is packed with cafés and kiosks.
The secret beach
On the flipside, if you’d rather have the sands to yourself, head to Playa Bullullo. It’s a weekend hangout for the locals, but Monday to Friday you’ll find just a handful of other crowd-shunning sun-seekers. The beach is pretty rugged, with black sands, volcanic cliffs and crashing breakers. And there’s a ramshackle bar serving up ice-cold beers and seafood snacks if you get peckish. You can drive here, but the best way to arrive is on foot – it’s a 30-minute walk from Puerto de la Cruz through leafy banana plantations.
If big names are your game, make a beeline for Plaza del Duche in Costa Adeje. Here you can blow your budget on clothes, jewellery and diamonds from the likes of Cartier. For something more individual, try the boutiques near El Duque beach, which sell stacks of one-off frocks by local designers. In Playa de las Americas, head for the Safari Centre where stylish types flock to Armani and Hugo Boss.
Perfume is big business in Tenerife. You can smell the fragrance shops a mile off in Los Cristianos – there are several on each street around the town centre, where you can pick up everything from Chanel No.5 to Spanish brand, Loewe. You’ll get around 20% off thanks to the island’s duty-free status. Tenerife’s also a top spot to pick up strings of cultured pearls – try Tenerife Pearl in Armenime, a ten-minute drive from Playa Paraiso.
It’s not hard to hunt down a bargain in Tenerife – the whole island is duty-free, with anything up to half the price knocked off. Stock up on local wine and spirits at HyperTrebol in Los Cristianos. For something more local, food’s the name of the game. Head to one of the many HiperDino grocery stores across the island for award-winning Arico goats’ cheese and top-notch local honey – Miel de Tenerife is the best.
Costa Adeje is way quieter than its noisy neighbour, Playa de las Americas. Make your way to the San Eugenio district, where you’ll find everyone from pensioners to teenagers tapping their feet to live Spanish guitar music. And In Adeje village itself, there’s a stadium that’s hosted the likes of Adele and Akon. In Costa Teguise, there are plenty of bars to choose from on Avenida Islas Canarias.
Swing by the Veronicas strip in Playa de las Americas and you’ll be bombarded with clubs – it’s Tenerife’s party capital. You’ll spot plenty of bars with ‘2 for 1’ drinks offers, too. For a more Spanish flavour, drive an hour north to Santa Cruz – the upcoming Noria district is really hip right now. You can dance to the likes of salsa in the bars here.
Conejo al salmorejo
Locals have a bit of a thing for rabbit. Here, a big chunk of it is marinated in wine, vinegar, garlic and spices until the flavours have really sunk in. It’s then fried up in olive oil until it’s golden brown, and left to simmer on the stove for at least 4 hours. Stick your fork in and the meat just falls apart.
Tenerife mamas are big fans of this one-pot dish. It uses up whatever’s left in the kitchen cupboard – stuff like chicken, chorizo, and whatever veg is in season. The most important ingredient, though, is a big spoonful of sweet, smoky paprika. In restaurants you’ll find it rounded off with a pinch of saffron.
A few thousand years ago, Guanche tribespeople often cooked up a big pot of gofio, and it’s still going strong now. These days, it’s a smooth, creamy mix of ground toasted sweetcorn, cooked in stock and served with tongue-tinglingly strong escaldón onions. You’ll often find spicy sausages thrown in, too.
The residents of the town of Arico are chuffed to bits with their rich, smoky goats’ cheese – it topped the World Cheese Awards in 2008, and it’s become a favourite right across Tenerife. It’s coated in paprika, and is often served with a mild tomato salsa as a starter in restaurants around the island.
It’s not just the Caribbean that makes rum – the Canary Islands produce some fine stuff, too. The most lip-smacking is Ron Miel, a mix of rum and local honey – it’s usually taken neat so as not to dilute the nectar-like flavour.
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In resort terms, Costa Adeje is a relative newbie but it’s already a bit of an ‘It’-destination on Tenerife’s south coast. Backdropped by volcanic Mount Teide, it’s all 5-star hotels, high-end villas and luxury boutiques – the Beckhams are regulars here, apparently. It’s a fairly laid-back place, but you’ve got party-hard Playa de las Palmas next door plus one of the world’s biggest waterparks right on your doorstep.
Playa de la Arena
Resort-wise, Playa de la Arena is a bit of a quiet customer on the west coast of Tenerife. It doesn’t party hard like full-throttle Playa de Las Americas, 30 kilometres away – and, frankly, that’s the appeal. You get all the bars and restaurants you need without the non-stop pace. And with its craggy coastline and mountain views, the place looks pretty good, too.
Playa de las Americas
Set on Tenerife’s southwest coast, Playa de las Americas is the party capital of the island. Year-round sun and full-on nightlife pull in the Brit crowd, and the duty-free shops and golden beaches don’t do any harm either. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s the classy resort of Los Cristianos just next door, plus windsurfing capital El Medano a 15-minute drive away.
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