Explore like a local: things to do in Tenerife

Tenerife is a diverse island, full of nature, nightlife, stunning beaches, and hidden villages. There’s a wide variety of hostels scattered throughout the island that fits any type of lifestyle: surfers, hikers, beach-goers, history buffs, and much more. When some people travel to Tenerife, they tend to stick to their resort and the beach. However, there is so much more to the island and it provides endless unique experiences. When I lived on the island, I tried to see every inch and see what it had to offer. From iconic drinks, and local cuisines, to lesser-known hiking trails, the island is so much more than what you may think. Here’s your guide to exploring the beautiful island of Tenerife and finding things to do in Tenerife.


Things to Know for Tenerife

Before you head off to Tenerife, there are a few things to know. Tenerife is loosely divided between the north and south, both of which have dramatically different terrains and climates. The north is lush and green with small local villages and black-sand beaches. The south is hot and dry with surf towns and dramatic cliffs.

The island has two airports: Tenerife North and Tenerife South. If you plan on exploring every inch of the island, a rental car is recommended. While public transit in Tenerife is good, having a rental car provides you with more freedom to see what you want when you want.

The island is full of unique towns that each have their own distinct personality and energy. Depending on how long you have in Tenerife, and what you plan to see, choose wisely for where you plan on staying.

  • Costa Adeje: Costa Adeje isn’t local by any means; it’s the biggest hub in the south of the island. That being said, there’s tons of accommodation available and you can reach the majority of the island within two hours. There’s great hiking nearby, tours available, stunning beaches, and tons of nightlife around.
  • El Medano: El Medano is a small surf town with one of the best beaches and views on the south side of the island. You have Playa del Medano followed by the iconic Montaña Roja, which perfectly captures the sunset every evening.
  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife: The capital of the island, Santa Cruz is the ideal place for those who want a bustling city atmosphere. Close to Anaga, Playa de las Teresitas, La Laguna, and the northern airport. Staying in Santa Cruz is the perfect mix between embracing nature and being a part of the island’s business hub.
  • Puerto de la Cruz: Puerto de la Cruz is a smaller, charming version of Santa Cruz. It has a few bars and cute cafes, but also tons of shopping and accommodation. Teide National Park and small villages are easily accessed from Puerto de la Cruz.

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Explore Small Towns

Beyond the four main hubs of Tenerife, there are tons of small villages scattered throughout. Los Realejos, Garachico, and Icod de los Vinos are all near Puerto de la Cruz and have strong cultures and histories. Garachico is filled with exquisite culinary experiences, where you can get the best octopus carpaccio from Bocados de Mar y Vinos. After, bask in the sun at the natural lava pools. Keep in mind that since it’s the north of the island, a hot sunny day is harder to come by than in the south.

Los Abrigos in the south — close to El Medano — is a small, local fishing village. Go to Los Abrigos early in the morning to pick up some fresh fish from the harbour and local fishermen. If you walk from El Medano to Los Abrigos, you’ll encounter natural rock pools and caves hidden along the beach.


Experience Canarian Wine

Since the island is so high above sea level, there are many different microclimates. With microclimates comes wine! Tenerife has vineyards throughout the north and south, producing unique, sweet wines. Tenerife is one of the few places that still produce ancient wine varieties.

These ancient wine varieties have survived plagues and insects due to the volcanic rock and remote location. From Icod de los Vinos to Tacoronte Acentejo to Valle de Güímar, all wines are unique in their own way. If you consider yourself a fan of wine, definitely book a vineyard tour and explore the different vines that the island has to offer.


Taste Local Cuisine

Many restaurants in the south of Tenerife are catered to the tourism industry. But, if you look closely, or up in the hills, there are so many restaurants that have local cuisine. For traditional, home-style cooking, visit Restaurante Candelaria La Cocinera in Garachico. They have the best pan-fried goat cheese and blueberry jam for a starter. The menu is short but incredible; it’s all hand-written from a few generations ago by the original owner.

Guachinches are typical Canarian restaurants serving authentic cuisine. In the north, there’s Guachinche Bibi y Mana, Guachinche Romance, and Guachinche Casa Gabriel, all of which are incredible and unique. Guachinches are scattered throughout the island.

Aside from the seafood and cheese, Tenerife is also known for the Barraquito. A layered drink of espresso, sweetened condensed milk, Licor 43, and frothed milk, it’s the perfect boozy coffee and midday pickup.


Swim, Snorkel, and Surf

There are so many idyllic beaches throughout the island. In the north, Playa de Benijo is the best way to cool off after a long hike. By Santa Cruz, Playa de las Teresitas is a white-sand beach that you can easily spend all day at. For a quiet, surf afternoon, check out Playa de San Roque near Anaga. If you’re staying near Puerto de la Cruz, Playa el Bollullo and Playa del Castillo are ideal for relaxing.

The south is full of beaches, from Playa de las Vistas, Playa de Fañabe, to Playa del Duque. However, La Caleta de Adeje, a small beach about a 15-minute drive from Costa Adeje takes the cake. The sand is the perfect temperature and the water is calm and warm. When I lived in Tenerife, it was only known by the locals.


Embrace Nature

You can’t go to Tenerife without embracing nature and going on some swoon-worthy hikes. Tenerife has incredible biodiversity and every hike will be different. The hikes in Anaga are out of this world, and at some point, may even make you a smidge emotional. While Pico del Teide is the go-to volcano for people, there’s also Teno. Teno rural park has tons of hiking trails and observation decks with panoramic views of the ocean. Not to mention, hiking in Teno is quieter than the trails in Teide.


Hopefully this guide will help you discover the best parts of Tenerife. No matter what time of year you go — the average temperature is 24 degrees — you’ll be guaranteed a good time.


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About The Author

Emily Reed

Emily Reed is a writer and content market from Toronto, Canada. A citizen of both Canada and the United Kingdom, Emily feels a sense of ease in both places. When not working, Emily enjoys a dry French Rosé, a sunset past 9:30, and the smell of a hot city in the middle of the night

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