While Tenerife may be a popular holiday destination for British tourists, it seems to be somewhat underrated. Other than around La Américas, we felt like we had this wild island almost to ourselves. Scattered with prickly pears and marked by deliciously windy roads, not to mention the giant Teide volcano looming over it, Tenerife is truly a place to discover. We left for the airport with cacti-shaped stars in our eyes, vowing to come back!
What to do
Rent a car
Although we did see quite some buses all around the island, renting a car is a must if you only have a few days. We rented from Plus Car who don’t have an office at the South Airport. They did, however, have someone waiting for us despite it being 1 am when we arrived. Plus Car were the cheapest all included rental company (full coverage insurance and second driver) for the little Panda we got. Although the car could have done with some TLC (the clutch was on its last legs), it did the job. Bear in mind that a lot of the inner roads twist and are quite narrow, so get a smaller car than you normally would if you’re not used to it.
Stay in an AirBnB*
Despite there being many hotels all over the island ranging from budget to 5-star, to me nothing beats the comfort of having your own kitchen. The apartment we stayed at in Callao Salvaje had a wonderful view on the black sand beach and waves below. It also offered the jagged contrast of steep cliffs from behind which the sun would come up beautifully every morning.
During breakfast in La Américas, we immediately reckoned this tourist-mecca was not the place for us. We looked up must-see beaches and came upon El Puertito. The tiny, windy road down to the beach is lined with prickly pears and ramshackle tents, leading us to not expect much. But boy are we glad we drove on! El Puertito beach sits in a lovely bay and was quiet on our first day, but also offered us some prime snorkeling grounds when we returned.
Speaking of which, you cannot go to El Puertito or Tenerife without checking out the underwater world! El Puertito has a diving center, the name of which we never got, where they offered the full diving equipment for 35€. They let you keep the fins, mask and tuba for the entire day for snorkeling. This place also rented out kayaks if that’s more your thing. Sadly, we didn’t get around to diving here but absolutely wish we had! I recommend following the little path behind Bodegon Pepe y Lola until you get to some rocks with a ladder going down into the water. We spotted some beautiful fish here and had a great evening snorkeling and swimming around.
Tenerife is small enough that you can probably drive around the entire island in a day, but I’d recommend taking it slow and stopping along the way. The roads on the island and extremely well maintained and we had no trouble at all getting around.
The route “starts” at the popular Los Gigantes cliffs. They are a sight to behold, but depending on the people and the weather may not be worth a long stop.
From there, make your way up the windy mountain roads towards Masca, stopping along the way at various viewpoints. Watching the buses (even full tourism coaches!) zoom around the tiny roads will make your heart race. You will expect the worst at every turn, but the drivers’ skill is mesmerizing!
Head back down via the El Palmar “pie slice” which looks exactly as it sounds: a hill that appears to have been cut into pie slices, with deep cracks running through it.
Continue on the coastal road to the Garachico tidal pools and try to snag a table near the edge of the terrace of the El Caletòn restaurant. This will afford you an uninterrupted view of the tidal pools and the beautiful coastline. Then head to the pools for a refreshing, post-lunch dip.
Head back up to the El Teide National Park. Our poor little rental Panda nearly didn’t make it up the steep back roads, but they are worth the struggle! You’ll see the cacti slowly being taken over by pines and the temperature will drop significantly. Close to the top, you will be greeted by what can only be described as a Mars-like plateau of red sand and rocks at 2.000+m altitude. If memory serves, robots were tested here for the exploration of Mars.
The way down is equally as dramatic with lava rock fields and stunning, jagged cliffs in the background. A Silent Hill-esque fog accompanied us for part of the way down which just added to the ambiance!
Finally, if you have the time I recommend leaving a bit earlier on your way to the airport (Tenerife South) and taking Route TF-28. Set your GPS for the airport and drive until your GPS says you’ll be at the airport at the time you need to be. Along the way, stop at the cooperatives which make wine from the small, local grape producers and have a taste of Tenerife wine. If you can, drive on to the little white chapel on top of the hill. It overlooks old tomato terraces on one side and the island’s coastline on the other.
Tenerife is full of what looks like beautiful hiking routes, but we unfortunately could not find much (free) information online. We were lucky to have a hiking guide in our AirBnB* though, and headed towards Montaña Blanca for a hike. This led us on lava rock paths strewn with vibrant green pines towards the majestic El Teide volcano and back down.
Where to eat
We mostly made our own food and bought wine and nibbles for our sunset apéritifs (and I mean, how could we not with that view?), but below are a couple of places we really enjoyed during our stay. Sadly, I didn't manage to get pictures of most of them.
Breakfast at Villa Cortes was a "first day of the holiday" treat, and what a treat it was! The setting was beautiful with the dining room in a partly open courtyard with trees, warm yellow walls and a view on the colorful hotel rooms above. I was recommended the omelette and it did not disappoint. Just watching the cook skilfully pulling together my omelette was a treat in and of itself, and that was even before I sunk my teeth into its deliciousness! Their breakfast spread held anything you may desire and their service was on point, as you'd expect from a five-star hotel.
Our AirBnB was right around the corner from a bunch of restaurants and we decided to stop at The Prince. The lady waiting on tables was very friendly, spoke perfect English and made a mean white wine sangria which I highly recommend (I mean, we went there for dinner twice in 4 days!). Their garlic shrimp starter was also delicious as was the broiled fish with bacon and spinach potato purée.
This restaurant sits right in front of the tidal pools of Garachico and therefore did not seem very promising, but we are very happy we stopped here! Try their grilled fish and enjoy a fresh, local beer while people-watching.
This little beach bar on El Puertito is the perfect location for a refreshing drink and an ice cream. It looks pretty ramshackle, but their tapas are supposed to be among the best in the area and the people who ordered food behind us seemed to really enjoy it.
*This link will get you 35€ in travel credit if you've never used AirBnB before and I'll get a little something to put towards future travels.