It feels like summer just won’t come. Beat the sleet and book a trip to Tenerife, Canary Islands today! Desperate for temperate above 5 C, I hopped on a plane to Tenerife to escape the real world. Often seen as a hotspot for pensioners and parties, I discovered a softer side to Tenerife filled with adventure, break taking ocean backdrops, and gelato – so much gelato.
Here’s my step-by-step guide to booking your next Break in Tenerife!
Flying to and from Tenerife is rather cheap since the south is such a tourist hotspot. I would recommend that you fly into Tenerife South Airport (instead of north) as there are more deals and willing taxis surrounding that area.
I paid £70 return for my flights with British Airways. I flew out of Gatwick at 6 am so that’s probably why the flights were so reasonable. However this did require us to take an Uber to the airport so I would say the transport costs ended up being £100 return. Still, not crazy expensive!
We stayed with Art Villa Nautilus during our time in Tenerife and I can not recommend this hostel enough! Art Villa Nautilus has lush dorms and friendly staff, with amazing knowledge of the island and all it has to offer! Roxanne (my sister and travel buddy) and I turned up to the island with just an idea of what we wanted to do and Tony – the hostel manager – was able to lay out all of our options based on personal recommendations. This completely transformed our trip as we were originally convinced by the Trip Advisor “Top things to see” recommendations.
Top Tip: For heavily saturated tourist hot spots, use alternative recommendations (like bloggers!) instead of Trip Advisor, because TP will be a reflection of the type of people who visit most. (I.e. pensioners, party people, etc)
Initially, we had strategized to visit predominantly the southwest side of the island based on Yelp/Trip Advisor, but Tony and the gang at Art Villa Nautilus sorted us out with local recommendations around the island.
If you’re wary about hostels, you can absolutely put your mind at ease when it comes to Art Villa Nautilus. Roxanne and I slept in a group dorm and there was:
- Clean sheets, towels, and pillows provided
- Comfortable bedding/mattress
- Clean amenities and bathrooms
- Lockers to keep your possessions safe
- An electronic gate to keep the entrance and surrounds safe
- Kitchen and space to cook or store food
If you’re driving, there’s free overnight parking up and down the block.
What absolutely MADE my experience in Tenerife was the car we rented. Because there’s so little public transportation on Tenerife, we would have been at the mercy of the public bus… which came every hour… but instead, we hit the open road whenever we pleased! I made a rookie mistake and booked my car on the wrong day – WHOMP – so we paid a premium to get a car from Sixt at the airport on the day of without a reservation.
Instead, I would recommend booking through Expedia since their hotline and service processes (in case you need to change anything) is SUPER friendly and helpful.
We paid £200 pounds for 4 days
for an automatic Smart Car
with two drivers (Age 26 & 19)
We filled up the gas 2x (full tank = £25)
Tips for driving around Tenerife
Largely, driving around Tenerife is pretty easy. There are a couple of major highways that loop around the island, meaning that it’s definitely possible to drive all the way around in about three-to-four hours if you’re short on time.
First things first, Tenerife is a Spanish island so they drive on the right-hand side, same as the US but the opposite side to the UK. So, for many of you coming over from the States, you don’t need to worry about adapting to the other side of the road and trying to get to grips with turning across traffic on the wrong side!
Despite the fact that it’s a pretty small island, there can be a lot of traffic on the main highways, especially TF1, around rush hour, so try to avoid traveling at this time unless you like spending your vacation in gridlock. This isn’t just because of the amount of tourists and locals, it’s also because a lot of locals still drive like the island isn’t full of people.
The prevailing two types of drivers in Tenerife are people who crawl along like everyone’s got all the time in the world, or those who speed around and honk everyone impatiently. With this in mind, you might find a lot of drivers who don’t use their indicators, or forget that they’ve left them on, as well as drivers who drift across multiple lanes – trying to hit the racing line.
When it comes to parking, it’s increasingly becoming a nightmare to find a spot, especially around the main towns, popular trailheads, and tourist beaches. If you’re planning on driving around the island as a part of your vacation, make sure you book a hotel or Airbnb with parking included or available. It’s definitely at a premium!
One of the nicer things about driving around Tenerife is the gas price. It’s one of the lowest in Europe which is insane considering it’s an island. We barely spent anything on gas and we explored pretty much the entire island. After driving around mainland Europe and the UK, these gas prices were definitely a welcome sight.
As with anywhere, don’t leave valuables in your car. Tenerife is largely a safe and tourist-friendly island, but that doesn’t mean that it’s totally free from crime. Be sensible and take your valuables with you! It’s common sense and it’ll save you a lot of heartbreak further down the line as well as having to deal with insurance both for the car rental and with your travel insurance for the contents!
I’ve put together a FREE Google Maps driving tour through the coast and mountains of Tenerife. Designed to be completed in 2 days, it’s the ultimate driving tour for those who want to see the best that Tenerife has to offer – with a blend between touristy things and stunning backdrops all woven in.
Included on the map, you can expect to experience:
- Tourist hotspots
- Forest/Volcanic backdrops
- Incredible beach destinations
- Hidden gems
I’ve separated the map into North Tenerife and South Tenerife driving tours, both leaving from Art Villa Nautilus. Tenerife is a pretty big island, filled with stuff to do, so I wouldn’t try and do both in one day! If you don’t want to check out the map point by point, you can check out the itinerary and stops below.
West Tenerife Driving Tour
First up, let’s check out the West side of this beautiful Canary Island. Here you’ll find some of the most breathtaking beaches as well as stunning mountain views. Let’s break it down!
Playa de los Cristianos
With stretches of fine and golden sand that squishes gently between your toes and plenty of loungers to go around, Playa de los Cristianos is the kind of beach you think of when you think about Tenerife. Interestingly enough, the sand on the beach itself is only partly from the area. The vast majority of the sand on Playa de los Cristianos is actually from the Sahara Desert, which is pretty insane when you think about it!
The nearby harbor shelters most of the beach from the Atlantic winds which means that the water is normally pretty calm. That being said, the further out you go, the more present a strong undercurrent is so be wary, especially if you’re not the strongest swimmer.
This amazing beach is perfect for a family day out with volleyball courts, a promenade to walk down, and bars to keep those holiday cocktails and beers flowing into the evening. Just make sure to pick your designated driver ahead of time!
Playa de los Gigantes
If you’re looking for a quieter spot, head around to Playa de los Gigantes. This grey sand and rocky beach is backed by giant cliffs that dominate the landscape. It’s a popular spot among the British tourists, and as such, you can find loads of pubs, bars, and restaurants around the area. The beach itself stays pretty calm and quiet though as tourists prefer the golden sands of Playa de los Cristianos.
One of the best things about Tenerife and the Canaries in general is the volcanic activities on the island which makes it a super varied place to visit. Hike the trails around Montanas Negras, otherwise known as the Black Mountains due to the voolcanic soil. This sweeping cross-country hike or cycle will bring you up the side of the el Teide volcano. There are a ton of different circular routes in the area, so depending on your fitness, love of hiking, or amount of time that you have to play with, you can hike anywhere from about 3-4 miles to up to 10 miles in this area. It’s worth it, the views are spectacular.
Charco del Viento, La Guancha
Tenerife is full of amazing swimming holes and rocky outcrops, but Charco del Viento in the La Guancha area has crystal clear waters, surrounded by volcanic rocks with a whole host of natural pools. It’s definitely a popular spot to go swimming, with a pebble beach running alongside the pools. You can look out over the ocean, take a dip, and refresh yourself after a long day of exploring Tenerife and driving around the island. It’s especially stunning if you can get there around sunset.
North Tenerife Driving Tour
If you want to hit up the North side of Tenerife, there’s plenty of amazing sights to explore. Let’s dive in with my short self-drive itinerary.
Playa de Las Teresitas
As one of the most beautiful golden sand beaches on the island, it’s no wonder that Playa de Las Teresitas is a tourist favorite. Get here early to get a prime spot where you can spend the day lounging in the sun or paddling in the calm waves. With over a mile stretch of sand, there is plenty of space for loungers and you can take advantage of the bars and restaurants that are nearby. Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, rinse off the sand in the beachside showers and head back to the car.
Mirador Cruz Del Carmen Observation Deck, San Cristóbal de La Laguna
If you’ve ever seen a panoramic shot of Tenerife from the center of the island, then chances are that they were taken at the Mirador Cruz Del Carmen Observation Deck in the San Cristóbal de La Laguna area. This popular viewpoint can be accessed by car if you want to just pull over, take in the views, and grab a snap for the Gram, or you can hike up the beautiful trail, enjoying the views as you go. Whichever you choose, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the el Teide volcano as well as panoramic vistas across the island and surrounding oceans. It’s pretty magical!
Charco De Jover, Camino Playa de Jover, San Cristóbal de La Laguna
Want to go swimming surrounded by Canarian beauty but don’t fancy going in the ocean? Head to Charco De Jover at Camino Playa de Jover, and you’ll find protected saltwater swimming pools that are away from the elements and rip currents that can be a bit dicey! While you sit back and soak, you can look out on breathtaking views of the mountains, volcanos, and shorelines that surround you. If you don’t mind a little bit of a walk, you can easily find waterfalls to swim near and get that perfect island experience.
Punta del Hidalgo
Punta del Hidalgo may seem like a sleepy coastal fishing village, but it’s one of the best spots on the island for surfing, hiking, and paddleboarding. If you’re looking to raise your heart rate and get your fill of adventure during your next island getaway, make sure this village is on your Tenerife itinerary. After a long day of adventuring you can watch a stunning sunset over the bay from the comfort of the natural pools.
So, if you’re thinking about heading out to this beautiful Canary Island, I’d say what are you waiting for? Tenerife is a little slice of paradise and has a little something for everyone. Whether you love lazing on the beach, hiking up volcanos, or exploring cute fishing villages that are filled with friendly people and old-world charm, there’s a Tenerife vacation that’ll suit your unique and bespoke needs. With the added bonus that it’s a Spanish island, meaning that it’s still within the Schengen Zone, it’s the perfect place for a sunny getaway – especially if you’re looking to escape the European Winter weather!
I want to hear more about your experiences in Tenerife! Comment below with your own tips and tricks to experiencing all that Tenerife has to offer. I’ll make sure to add them to my itinerary next time I visit and let you know what I think!