Tenerife: Absolute Must-Dos
The largest of the Canary Islands is jam-packed with exhilarating adventure, breathtaking beauty and intriguing culture around every corner. Though still a relatively tiny island, it might take a couple visits to capture all of the top experiences it has to offer. Planning these activities will make any trip more than worthwhile.
Explore Teide National Park
Though most traveler’s impressions of Tenerife are sun, surf and sand, it’s hard to miss the world’s third tallest volcano in the middle of the island. There, beneath the volcano named Mount Teide, lies Europe’s most-visited national park and where adventurers from around the world flock. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Teide National Park welcomes over three million visitors per year to its beautiful volcanic landscape of over 47,000 acres, and it features a cable car that will take guests nearly 12,000-feet above sea level.
Rent a car
For Americans, driving in a foreign country can seem like a daunting task. However, Tenerife is a part of Spain, which means driving and the steering are done on the same side of the car and road as in America. There is no Uber or Lyft on the island, so taking yourself everywhere you want to go is the easiest and most cost-effective option.
Order a Barraquito
Like most European countries, espresso is the norm when it comes to coffee. Tenerife has their own unique twist called a Barraquito – a layered mixture of milk, coffee, milk foam, sweetened condensed milk, liquor and cinnamon. The restaurant Cofradía de Pescadores in Puerto de la Cruz serves a dynamite Barraquito if you’re craving one on the north part of the island.
Sail on the open sea and watch for whales and dolphins
Unlike in America where seeing a whale or dolphin on a watching tour is a shot in the dark, it’s almost guaranteed in Tenerife. Pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins have made permanent homes in the waters off the island, and orca whales, blue whales and others are known to pass-through during specific times of the year. Only certain boat charters have specific credentials to get close to the whales and dolphins though – Big Smile Charters is one of them, and they offer private sunset sailings with dinner and wine included. Added bonus: they like to use an underwater microphone connected to speakers, so you can hear the whales and dolphins communicate!
Indulge in the local culture
One of the best things about Tenerife are the people and their culture. The island is known for its easy-going citizens and atmosphere, which when combined with the safety, gastronomy, and history it’s known for, it’s easy to see why tourists from around the world love hanging out in not-so-touristy areas of the island. Though the main language is Spanish, you will find that most people there speak English, making afternoons and nights on the town for dinner and drinks a no-brainer.
Plan a day at Siam Park
Whether you’re traveling with kids or are a kid at heart, don’t leave Tenerife without having a blast at the Thai-themed water park Siam Park. This water park has been rated #1 in the world by TripAdvisor for 2018, and continuous additions and improvements year-after-year makes it abundantly clear why. The park features an enormous wave pool, tubes that go through shark tanks, a lazy river, a food court (yes, they have alcohol, too) and private villas. Pro-tip: cut down on wait time and upgrade to a Fast Pass that will allow you to skip every line.
Dine like a local
Tenerife is big on seafood (spoiler alert!) and the local, not-so-touristy restaurants are where you’ll find the best eats. In the south, La Masía del Mar in La Caleta has some of the biggest lobster you’ll see and family-owned restaurant La Hierbita in Santa Cruz has a fish and meat platters you’ll need to order. For non-seafood fanatics, natives are big on goat cheese and potatoes - both sourced from the island that are some of the most delicious parts of any meal there.
Visit Loro Parque
Aside from under the sea, you won’t find much wildlife in Tenerife. Unless you take a visit to Loro Parque, that is. Like it’s sister-attraction Siam Park, this park has also been highly-favored by TripAdvisor in 2018, as they were rated #1 zoo in the world. Loro Parque started as a parrot refuge but quickly expanded to other species as founder Wolfgang Kiessling began saving the lives of many animals, including multiple orca whales from SeaWorld. The zoo is credited with saving nine bird species from extinction, and you can catch all types of entertaining and educational exhibits and shows with animals throughout the day.
Taste the local wines at a winery
Dining in Spain and the rest of Europe is typically accompanied by a glass or bottle of wine. In Tenerife it’s no different, and their wine can go head-to-head with some of the best and come out on top. Like other wineries on the island, Bodegas Monje Winery uses Tenerife’s volcanic soil to their advantage when growing their grapes, which makes for a unique taste with the finished product. Bodegas Monje has been family owned and operated since 1750, and you’re able to get a tour, tasting and a view at their winery.
Rejuvenate with a Canarian Traditional Massage
With Tenerife being a big leisure destination, it’s common to find a spa or wellness center in most hotels and accommodations. Not every spa offers the Canarian Traditional Massage, but you won’t regret getting one with your stay at the Hotel Botanico in their Oriental Spa Garden. You are covered head-to-toe with a volcanic earth wrap and aloe vera sourced from the island, followed by a massage and hot volcanic rocks. There’s no way you can walk out of there without feeling like a million bucks.
Tour both the north and south parts of the island
A big mistake many travelers make when visiting Tenerife is sticking to just one part of the island. That’s all well and good for a relaxation visit, but if you truly want to experience what this island has to offer, you’ll want to see the north and south parts of the islands, which are two completely different worlds. The southern part of the island has only been developed within the last 50 years due to booming tourism, so the north will give tourists a much more historical and localized feel. A highway that circles nearly the entire island makes it easy to travel between north and south.
Try the native sauces
Calling all foodies – unless you’ve been to Tenerife, you’ve probably never had the joy of tasting two delicious spreads native to the island. They’re called Mojo Sauces, and traditionally come in either red or green. These are mainly due to the use of red or green pepper, but multiple other ingredients make these a tasty addition to have with bread instead of using butter. They can be found at just about every restaurant on the island.