The largest of Spain's Canary Islands, Tenerife with its massive Teide volcanic peak is a nature lover's utopia. It's also famously one of the top resort destinations for Europeans who flock to its big beach properties lining the southern coast.
However, those looking for alternatives, specifically a discreet luxury experience or a small historic hotel, have plenty of choices around the island. The same holds true for sampling Canarian cuisine such as the signature papas arrugadas, or wrinkled potatoes, and the green or red sauce called mojo made from paprika and coriander. As phylloxera never arrived in Tenerife, a diversity of wines are found within five denominations as well.
Sitting on the southwest slopes of the great Teide volcano where it meets the sea in the Guía de Isora area, the Ritz-Carlton, Abama is huge for sure; its 459 rooms and suites are spread over 400 acres that merge with the banana farms that surround it.
The hotel’s main building, the rose-colored Citadel, is Moroccan inspired, while its central koi pond reflects Asian design elements. With rooms facing both the volcano or sunsets over the sea, it's a win either way for guests. A series of leafy avenues on the slope are lined with villas. And therein lies the genius of the Ritz-Carlton, Abama: You can take a golf cart to get around the vast terrain, but just walking through the quiet gardens is a delight in itself.
Guests will find plenty of activities as well to be sure, from the 18-hole golf course to a wellness spa with a hydrotherapy pool. Among seven pools, two of them are seawater, with the one by the clifftop El Mirador restaurant being adults only. Renovated in June, the open-kitchen, open-air venue serves its dishes such as seabass ceviche in artisan bowls.
Nine other onsite restaurants include celebrated chef Martín Berasategui's two-Michelin star M.B, as well as the new Kabuki under chef Ricardo Sanz which carries a Michelin star of its own.
Those looking for some of that famous Tenerife resort vibe, its beach promenades, high-end shopping and bars and lounges, will find it all literally just outside the doors of the year-old GF Victoria Hotel in Costa Adeje. The light and bright property whose rooms and balconies look over an enormous central pool area has lots of fun features, such as the rooftop bar's glass pool that seems to hang right over the street.
And for all of Tenerife’s resort vibe, the visitor looking for historic properties and proverbial quaint coastal towns will find them islandwide. In La Laguna in the north, the aptly-named La Laguna Gran Hotel was once a manor house and tobacco factory. The small hotel with rooftop views of the town's church spires also hosts the Michelin-starred Nub restaurant.
The north coast town of Garachico was once a vital and wealthy city in the days of the colonization of the Americas; that is, until the lava flow from an early18th-century volcanic eruption put an end to the port. Today, it’s still chock a block with colorful old historic houses, many of them former mansions belonging to noble families.
The Hotel San Roque is right out of a design dream book, with furnishings that follow the works of Rennie Mackintosh and Josef Hoffman. Contemporary art fills the hotel, such as a series of eyes by artist Carmen Calvo that stare down at you from the watchtower stairs. Suites have sea view terraces, including one that spans three floors. One of the hotel's two courtyards has a pool in its center.
Likewise set in a former noble mansion with a tile roof, the hotel La Quinta Roja on a large plaza in the middle of town has a leafy courtyard in which guests can enjoy cocktails while live bands perform. The twenty rooms on two levels are modest in design, but wrap around the historic courtyard.
Up in the rugged lands above the famous and towering Los Gigantes coastal cliffs, a centuries-old rural house is now a small inn. The rooms in La Casona del Patio are in volcanic stone and wood and reflect the estate's origins. Travelers passing through the area often just stop for a meal at its rustic restaurant whose 17th-century kitchen with a traditional wood stove still stands. The house's Canarian rabbit in garlic sauce and smoked pork can also be enjoyed, as the restaurant name suggests, on the patio.
Located 4,000-feet high on the slopes of Mount Teide, the Finca Ecológica Alma de Trevejos in the area of Vilaflor village makes its own wines and cheeses on its working farm filled with goats, pigs and fruit trees.
Located on one of La Laguna town's pedestrian streets, Tasca el Obispado is as traditional as it gets with Canarian wines and jamón Ibérico enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Well before you peruse the menu at Régulo, the restaurant’s old three-story noble house in Puerto de la Cruz will make you drool with its fountain, wooden balconies and balustrades that wrap around a central courtyard. As you’d expect in a former fishing village, Régulo serves plenty of fresh octopus and prawns. In the late-19th century, Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast was Tenerife’s first real tourist center, based on health and which hosted the likes of Agatha Christie.
Way up in the rugged north of Tenerife at the old fishing village of Taganana, Casa África is a seafood restaurant with long communal tables that is as delightfully bare bones as it gets. In addition to the down home cooking, guests come for views of the stunning coastal mountains plunging into the sea.
For the ultimate experience in Canarian cooking, island visitors can book a session in the Costa Adeje resort town with Cook & Taste Tenerife where chefs Juancho and Virginia will have you mastering a handful of recipes in their high-end kitchen. Savoring your own tapas dishes of fish balls in wine sauce and octopus salpicón is the best wrap up to your Tenerife sojourn.