Sahara-style sands, a mammoth mountain and ample attractions – holidays to Tenerife are tailored to tourists.
Tenerife is the big sister of the Canary Islands family. It’s been leading the way in the sun, sea and sand business since the Seventies. And it definitely plays in the big league – as well as a bundle of sandy beaches, it can brag about hosting Spain’s tallest mountain and the second-biggest carnival in the world, after Rio.
Thanks to years of experience, this place knows what us Brits want. It’s put a lot of time and money into sprucing up its beaches. In Costa Adeje, they pulled white sand from the sea bed, while Playa de las Teresitas was made using golden grains from the Sahara. You’ve still got some volcanic, black belts, too – like the one in mellow Playa de la Arena.
Sunbathing’s not the only thing to do on Tenerife holidays. It’s also a great place to lace up your walking boots. Teide National Park is chockfull of hiking tracks, which wind between its craters, rocks and cacti. Plus, you can hitch a ride on a cable car up Mount Teide for go-one-better views. For even more green, hop on a ferry to Tenerife’s little sister, La Gomera, from Los Cristianos.
You don’t have to take it easy in Tenerife – the island’s packed with buzzing resorts to keep you busy. Playa de las Americas is a sure bet for shopping, clubbing and family-friendly attractions. Just outside of town, you’ve got Siam Park – a massive, Thai-themed waterpark. And an hour’s drive will drop you off in Tenerife’s old-and-new capital, Santa Cruz.
Things to See and Do in Tenerife
Tenerife is the biggest of the Canaries, and it certainly makes the most of its coastline, serving up hundreds of kilometres of sand. If you’re after the volcanic black-sand beauties that the island is famous for, then head to places like Playa de la Arena and Puerto de la Cruz. Over in Los Cristianos and Playa de la Americas, the sand is more your classic colour. They’re man-made, with golden grains imported from the Sahara.
The big beach
The standout stretch here is Playa de Troya. It’s the largest of the beaches in Playa de las Americas and comes loaded with beach games, and a watersports line up to rival the best of them. The water is calm here, too, so it’s ideal for families with little ones that want to swim. You’re sorted when it comes to food – the promenade is packed with bars and restaurants. And if you’re looking for a beach club, then you’ll have the choice of two – there’s one at either end, and they both host parties during the summer months.
The secret beach
If you like having the sands to yourself, head to La Tejita. It lounges at the bottom of Montano Roja and is Tenerife’s longest natural beach. Despite holding claim to that impressive accolade, it’s still quiet – even on a summer weekend, as not many people know about it. More often than not there’s plenty of space to throw down a towel for the day, and there’s even a little beach bar that’ll keep you topped up with drinks. You’ll find it a 20-minute drive from Los Cristianos.
Bargain hunting is a doddle in Tenerife, as the whole island is tax free, so pretty much everything is cheaper than at home. The supermarkets should be your first port of call if you fancy stocking up on local wine and spirits. But if edible souvenirs are more your forté, then make your way to an open-air market. They happen all across the island and you can pick up treats like Arico goats’ cheese, mojo sauces and honey.
Pearls are a big deal on this island, so it’s a great place to treat yourself to a pretty piece of jewellery, without tugging too hard on your purse strings. If you’re near Costa Adeje, pop in to Tenerife Pearl, in Armenime. You’re free to ogle the trinkets in their massive showroom at your own pace, but guided tours around the design studio are on offer, too. The accompanying talk will give you an insight into how pearls are created, and the different types available. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to pick your own oyster – you’ll get to crack it open and keep the gem that’s found inside.
Designer devotees will be in their element in Tenerife’s most exclusive shopping centre – Costa Adeje’s Plaza del Duche. After a spree there, you can go home armed with glossy shopping bags full of clothes, handbags and shoes from the likes of Givenchy, Prada and Celine. Plus, it’s home to the only Cartier shop in the Canaries. In Playa de las Americas, meanwhile, the fashion forward gather at the Safari Centre, where top brands have set up camp.
While Tenerife isn’t famous for low-key evenings, there’s definitely a decent does of options. The Costa Adeje district offers up oceanfront restaurants and pubs with live music. San Eugenio, on the other hand, goes for a more traditional vibe, with Spanish guitar music taking centre stage in its cocktail and wine bars. For something a little different, check if there’s anything going on at the Estadio Heliodoro Rodríguez López. This stadium in Santa Cruz has hosted the likes of Adele and Akon, so time it right and you could be bobbing along to a chart-topper.
There ain’t no party like a Playa de las Americas party. The island’s clubbing capital is the place to be if you’re looking for a big night out. Once you’re there, totter along to Starco, or the Patch, and you’ll be met with a string of clubs and bars. They all keep the drinks and the music flowing until the early hours. There are lots of deals on drinks, too, so you won’t have to break the bank. If that’s not your style, then head up to Santa Cruz, where nights out get a bit of a Spanish twist. Al fresco bars take over the town and salsa dancers from the clubs spill out onto the streets.
Locals make good use of the heaps of fresh seafood they have at their fingertips. One of the most popular dishes is sancocho canario – a fish stew that’s often served on Good Friday. For this, a big chunk of salty fish, like seabass or halibut, is boiled with sweet potatoes and served up with a spicy mojo sauce.
The name of this simple Canarian dessert translates to ‘it tastes good to me’, and it’s about as sweet as they come. Toasted ground almonds are mixed with a blend of sugar, whole milk and egg yolks, along with a generous glug of sweet sherry. The dessert is then cooled before being doused in cinnamon and served up with a dollop of ice-cream. Dessert fans, form an orderly queue.
Escaldón de gofio
It doesn’t get much more Canarian than this dish. It was first cooked up thousands of years ago by the Guanche tribespeople – the island’s original inhabitants. They prepared pots of gofio – a creamy mix of ground, toasted sweetcorn, cooked in fish-based stock and served with wedges of tongue-tinglingly-strong escaldón onions.
Pimientos de Padrón
Eating these little green peppers is like a game of Russian roulette. Padrón peppers are normally pretty mild, but every so often, you’ll bite into one that’ll set your tastebuds on fire. It’s obviously worth the risk though, as this simple but tasty dish has made its way onto tapas menus across the island.
Dessert wine, step aside. The Canary Islands have a new contender for your after-dinner tipple, and it’s lip-smackingly good. Ron Miel is a combination of rum and local honey. Leave out the ice – you won’t want to water down the flavour of this digestif.
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Costa Adeje's anchored on one of the most upbeat strips of Tenerife’s coastline. Big hotels link arms with the seafront, and the offering of cafés, restaurants and shopping centres will leave you spoilt for choice. Next door, there’s a spot of friendly holiday competition in the form of Playa de las Americas. This place plies its trade in pulse-pounding nightlife, live music and tip-top waterside scenery.
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
You’ll find Playa de las Americas in the sunniest part of Tenerife. It’s nabbed a spot on the south-western tip, which means it’s bang on for some winter sun. That’s not all it’s good for, either. This place deals in lots-of-laughs breaks, thanks to its mob of beaches, jam-packed strip and a giant waterpark.
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