Tenerife is amazing! Even if the flight is expensive, the island is not. The weather is great, even if the north was a bit chilly. Don’t be discouraged from learning that you either need a car or patience for the Guagua, aka bus. There’s something for everyone on this island.
It was December in Madrid and I decided to escape the cold winter by visiting my first Spanish island. I’ve heard great things about the weather in Tenerife and how it has microclimates, making it always beach weather. The more research I did, and the more advice I received, the more I realized this trip wouldn’t be as easy as in other cities in Europe. In this case, I wouldn’t get to know the city, and see all that is worth seeing with a walking tour. There is no metro in the island, only “guaguas”, buses. These are reliable but since they connect long distances, they don’t run as often as city buses in big cities.
They’re so different it almost seems like two different islands.
The island is divided by the north and south side. They’re so different it almost seems like two different islands. Sometimes, I even forgot I was still in Spain, especially in the south, which is overflowing with tourists from England, Ireland, and Russia.
Near the center of the island lies the biggest attraction of Tenerife, its volcano Teide, which you can see from almost any point on the island. This in itself, is a day trip or a few days trip if you are into hiking. Check out my blog post on Teide for advice on how to visit this volcano.
The Best of Northern Tenerife
The neighborhood of La Laguna is a must when visiting the north side of Tenerife. It’s a short 10 minute drive from the North Tenerife Airport. You can get a taxi from the airport. It shouldn’t be more than €11. If you land in the southern airport but prefer to start your trip in the north, here’s how to get from South Tenerife Airport to La Laguna:
1. Take the 111 guagua (bus) to Santa Cruz. It costs approximately €9.
2. About an hour later, arrive at the bus station in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Take the 015 bus to La Laguna.
3. It’s a 15-minute walk to the Cathedral, a centric point in La Laguna.
You can quickly explore the center of La Laguna on foot by going around Iglesia de Concepción and admire the colorful aesthetic of the buildings. You’ll also discover stunning street art decorating different areas of the neighborhood. There are so many restaurants and cafés in the area that your only concern will be deciding on one.
At night, I really recommend El Rincón de TinTin, this is where the locals go enjoy craft beers from all over Europe at an affordable price. Some nights you’ll be blessed with great live music. I was lucky to have heard an amazing blues band.
La Laguna is also known for its great hiking paths and because of it’s proximity to the beach of Las Teresitas. This beach is a 20-minute drive from the center of La Laguna. The beautiful contrast of mountains and the beach reminded me of home in California because of the succulent plants growing next to palm trees. I also recommend driving or hiking up to the viewpoint, El Mirador Las Teresitas for awe-trucking views, especially during sunset. It reminded of the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
Another short drive from La Laguna or Santa Cruz is Puerto de la Cruz; a stunning beach, popular by its black, volcanic sand, and lively boardwalk. This area is a bit more touristy and the restaurants and bars had an older crowd. Still, the exfoliating black sand was impressive, but I’m sure it gets really warm by absorbing all the sun rays in the summer.
Garachico is a small but pretty town known for its natural rocky pools, which were created by lava from the volcano. It is worth visiting if you have the time. La Caleta, is another rocky beach worth checking out, but not somewhere where you could lay down in the sand since it’s rocky.
La Orotava, is one of the cutest Spanish towns I’ve seen. You can do a DIY walking tour in about two hours. We started the day by parking near the houses then walking to the tourism office. There, we were provided a map with many landmarks that were walking distance from each other. Among them the Jardin Victoria, the museum Casa de los Balcones, and amazing ocean views from Molino de Gofio. From La Orotava we drove up to Santa Ursula, less than 15 minutes away. We were hunting for the famous “guachinches”, which are the best places to eat in this area.
Eating at a Guachinche is the most local thing you can do in Tenerife.
The Best of Tenerife’s Food
Eating at a Guachinche is the most local thing you can do in Tenerife. These are small restaurants in people’s houses. They have a set menu based on what they fished that morning and they’re located near the town of La Orotava, in Santa Ursula. There were also a few in La Orotava. I recommend a car for this trek since it’s high up in the mountain. There are many Guachinches in the area, the best way to decide on one is to ask a local. We heard several recommendations but opted for the only one opened on January 2nd.
Seafood is popular in Tenerife for obvious reasons. You can order a grilled-Mediterranean style fish, or bathed in sauce. Rabbit seemed to also be a common dish in the north. The most iconic side dish is “papas arrugadas”, these are boiled potatoes with “mojo”. Mojo is a very delicious sauce that goes amazing with many things, especially seafood. There’s the green one, which has cilantro, garlic, oil, and other spices. The red one tends to be spicier. Every restaurant seemed to have their own mojo recipe, encouraging us to try all of them. I apologize for not having any food pics, but my mind was focused on only one thing whenever food arrived. You gotta trust me that everything was delicious.
The Best of Southern Tenerife
Costa Adeje is a popular destination in south Tenerife because of its abundance of beaches, as well as shops, restaurants, and bars. Definitely a very touristy area. Never had I seen so many Irish people gathered together in the same place. Not even in Dublin! My friends and I walked into “Temple Bar” in Tenerife and we were the only two black haired people in that pub. Everyone assumed we were locals despite our American accent. This was definitely a first.
We had a great time in Costa Adeje but we didn’t get to meet any locals in this area. Expect the same all over Avenida de las Americas, which is a popular strip that despite the tourist prices, it wasn’t as expensive as other large cities in Spain. You’ll find many British pubs and if you’re looking to dance the night away, there are also many clubs in the area, among the most popular ones are Papagayo Beach Club, TIBU, and Envy.
Los Cristianos is another lovely beach frequented by tourists. It’s walking distance from Costa Adeje and Playa de las Americas. If you have a car or the time to take a “guagua” to Los Gigantes I truly recommend it. The trip was simple, it cost roughly €4, and took about 30-40 minutes one way. We hopped on a big green bus from Playa de las Americas to the Los Gigantes bus stop. The cliffs, aka “Los Gigantes”, are huge and beautiful. I suggest walking up to the viewpoint, El Mirador Archipenque. It is possible to hike around the cliffs, but a tour guide is recommended if you’re not an experienced hiker.
This whole neighborhood has many family-owned restaurants with authentic and delicious “mojo” recipes. We met the owner of El Pescador, an authentic Canarian restaurant with ocean views. He spoke about how he’s related to every staff member in the restaurant and how he’s daughter is teaching Chinese in the U.S. Quite an interesting experience. He definitely made us feel like another member of the family.
La Gomera is the closest island to Tenerife and can be visited in a day. You can easily see it from Los Cristianos beach in the south of Tenerife. The ferry departs from Los Cristianos port and arrives, an hour later, at La Gomera. Two companies connect both islands: Fred Olsen and Armas Naviera.
TL,DR… Tenerife is amazing! Even if the flight is expensive, the island is not. The weather is great, even if the north was a bit chilly. Don’t be discouraged from learning that you either need a car or patience for the Guagua (bus). There’s something for everyone on this island, so I hope you’re able to visit and enjoy every moment just like I did. Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for updates on travel pics & tips!