An accessible island upping its game
Like Majorca and Ibiza before it, Tenerife is finally succeeding in shedding its tacky chrysalis, and morphing into a sophisticated destination happy to hold its own in the company of high spenders, gastronomes and choosy golfers. That’s not to say the ‘old Tenerife’ has met its maker, it just self-perpetuates in the background while Michelin muscles into the restaurant scene, chic beach clubs claim bucket-and-spade territory, and boutique boltholes provide windows to the previously bypassed and greener side of the island.
If you’ve not been for a while, certainly take in the usual suspects of beaches, pools and party venues, but also make sure you allow time to journey from the resort areas to picnic in pine-infused forests, soak up the art, culture and iconic architecture of Santa Cruz, and find peace and solace along the paved coastal pathways on the quieter west coast.
Hot right now . . .
Joe Cawley, our destination expert, offers his top tips on the hottest things to do and places to eat and drink this season.
Island gastronomy is seriously hot right now, with Tenerife restaurants picking up Michelin stars like pebbles on a beach. Five of the island’s eateries are bestowed with the coveted award, but many more are vying for the honour. Try chart-risers San Hô (Av. Virgen de Guadalupe, 23; 00 34 922 75 79 00), Sauco (Calle la Fábrica, 5; 00 34 922 86 07 44) and Rosso Sul Mare (Av. de Las Gaviotas, 4; 00 34 922 78 23 74).
Mixology is big business in Tenerife at the moment. Have one of the island’s award-winning cocktail creators conjure up something unique and fruity at Sky Bar Zambra (Calle Fernando López Arvelo, 1; 00 34 922 98 71 77), Harry’s Bar (Av. las Américas, 5; 00 34 922 77 76 28) or Acanto Cocktail Lounge (Urbanizacion Poligono 8, 1; 00 34 922 72 47 81).
El Médano resort is fast becoming the in-place to visit in south Tenerife, both day and night. From beach yoga to painting classes, and scuba diving to kite-surfing, there’s always something to do in the daytime, while a sprinkling of bohemian chiringuitos (beach bar shacks) light up the night with impromptu live music sessions.
48 hours in . . . Tenerife
Start the day with a glass of brain-jolting barraquito coffee at the bohemian Veinte 04 Surf Cafe (Calle Hermano Pedro 2; 00 34 922 178 375) overlooking the main square in El Médano. Then take off your flip-flops and put soles to the sand. Plod past the morning yoga-meisters and third-age beach joggers all the way to Cafe Flashpoint (34 Paseo Nuestra Señora Mercedes de Roya; 00 34 922 176 111). Reward yourself with a healthy breakfast of yogurt, muesli and fresh fruit and spend the morning watching the windsurfers rig their boards for battle with the waves. If you get the itch to be active yourself, rent a surfboard from next door, or scramble up Red Mountain for mind-blowing views of the southeast shoreline.
Head around the coast to the fishing village of La Caleta for a long, lazy lunch of seafood paella at the elegant – though pricey – La Vieja (Edf Terrazas de la Caleta 1, Av Las Gaviotas; 00 34 922 711 548). Saunter down the road and grab a glass of something chilled while listening to an excellent live band at the laid-back Coqueluche beach bar (La Enramada Beach; 00 34 922 71 54 83). There’s nothing but blue ocean as the backdrop, but keep one eye on the sky; paragliders land literally right next to the tables and chairs.
When hunger strikes again, saunter along the ‘Golden Mile’ of Playa de las Americas, a nearly one-mile strip of bars, restaurants, and fashion and jewellery shops. After watching the fountains dance to classical music, take a seat at chic rooftop Bianco Restaurant (1/F, Safari Commercial Centre; 00 34 922 788 697) for a spot of contemporary Italian. Everything here is good-looking, especially the truffle linguine with pecorino cheese. Then spend the evening with a Cuba Libre for company at the in-vogue Magic Lounge Club (Mare Nostrum Resort, Av Las Americas; 00 34 922 751 669) across the road.
Avoiding the midday sun makes mornings the busiest time for golfing in Tenerife, so make sure you’ve booked a tee-time for an early nine holes on the Los Lagos course at Golf Costa Adeje (Los Olivos; 00 34 922 710 000), followed by an al fresco Italian lunch at the fabulous Restaurante Saúco (Calle la Fabrica 5, Alcalá; 00 34 922 860 744) on the Alcala promenade. Grab a terrace table, order the creamy, homemade tagliatelle with prawns, and watch the waves pounding the black volcanic rocks below.
Liven up with a stroll north along the prom and a dip in the rock pools just past La Jaquita beach. Then jump in your rental car, set the GPS for Teide National Park visitors’ centre, and head to the hills. Break up the journey with a quick tapas-on-the-terrace at the Restaurante las Estrellas (Carretera Boca Tauce 21, Chío; 00 34 922 850 906). Its décor might be uninspiring but the same can’t be said of its dizzying views.
Drive through the pine forests into Teide National Park, stopping to tilt your phone lens up at the colossal Mount Teide, the world’s third-largest volcano. If you have time, and the weather permits, you can take the cable car to within 200 metres of the 3,718-metre peak. If not, a snapshot from the visitors’ centre car park will do, then drive across the lunar landscape and wind your way down through sugar-cube pueblos spanning the TF-21 road.
Motor on to the historic quarter of La Orotava to see ye Tenerife of olde. At the Casa de Los Balcones (Calle San Francisco 3; 00 34 922 330 629) you’ll find traditional Canarian crafts, and the typical carved wooden balconies adorning 17th-century mansions.
Before it gets dark, take the TF-5 motorway past the north coast clifftop towns of La Victoria and La Matanza, dropping through historical La Laguna and into the island’s capital, Santa Cruz. Indulge in some late night shopping along the Calle del Castillo, take in an exhibition at the contemporary, low-slung Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (Avenida de San Sebastian 10; 00 34 922 849 090); TEA for short, or catch a musical performance at the iconic Auditorio de Tenerife Adán Martín (Avenida de la Constitución 1; 00 34 922 568 600).
Work up an appetite ambling the cobbled streets around Calle Nuria, then bag some late-night eats at the creaky-floored Restaurant La Hierbita (Calle El Clavel 19; 00 34 922 244 617). Call ahead and try to book an upstairs table by the window for the best people-watching. Set menus are the only option and provide great value, starting at under £18 a pop (with wine), including choices such as fresh fish, entrecote and Galician black pig’s foot.
Where to stay . . .
Royal Hideaway Corales Suites, a slick all-suite hotel, has a cavernous James Bond-type lobby and innovative volcanic-chic styling. The contemporary quarters have fully equipped kitchens, plus living rooms, and monster ocean-view terraces, many with private pools and sundecks. The food is equally favourable: themed buffets include top-shelf options such as cracked lobster and cooked-to-order steaks, as well as a pizza and pasta station and fresh fish aplenty.
Suites from €270 (£240). Avenida Virgen de Guadalupe 21, Playa La Enramada; 00 34 922 757 900.
Sun, solitude and sub-tropical surroundings are on offer at Jardin de la Paz on Tenerife’s rugged north coast. It sits high on the slopes of Tenerife’s most verdant area, near the vineyards of Tacoronte and beaches at Puerto de la Cruz. Individually styled studios and apartments afford privacy by neatly positioned shrubbery and resplendent sea views. A sauna facing the sea can be booked for private use at no charge, plus there are two outdoor pools with surrounding sundecks, and massages and beauty treatments are available on request.
Rooms from €220 (£190). Calle de Acentejo, 48-52; 00 34 922 578 319.
Hotel Rural Finca Salamanca has a tranquil, secluded and rural setting on an avocado plantation – formerly used for cotton, coffee, tobacco and bananas production – with extensive botanical gardens in Tenerife’s unspoilt Guimar Valley. It has been built in hacienda style using locally sourced volcanic stone and teak wood, and features patios, terraces, an elegant swimming pool, and quiet nooks aplenty dotted around the bounteous grounds and gardens. With nightlife not running to anything more than stargazing and a game of bridge, this is the perfect de-stress getaway.
Rooms from £63. Crta El Puertito N 2; 00 34 922 514 530.
What to bring home . . .
Salsa mojo, that red or green dipping sauce served with pretty much everything in Tenerife, is also available for purchase in jars from any supermarket. When packing, make sure you double-bag it to avoid inadvertently tie-dying your holiday clothes.
A sun-faded surf T-shirt from El Cabezo Surf Shop (Calle La Graciosa, 2; 00 34 922 17 73 78) in El Médano. Even if you didn’t venture on a board while here, it looks cool back home. Nobody needs to ever know the truth.
When to go . . .
As Tenerife has a spring/summer climate all year round, there is no bad time to visit. You are most likely to see some rain, particularly in the north, in November and February/March. High season is January to Easter. Flights from Britain are more plentiful and cheaper in the winter months whereas hotel prices are at their highest. With warm, sunny days and balmy nights, September is one of the nicest months to visit and prices have not yet hit their seasonal high.
Know before you go . . .
Local laws and etiquette
Tipping is optional. In restaurants, 10 per cent is usually enough. For taxis, it’s acceptable just to round up.
The unfortunately named Titsa bus service is reasonably priced and serves most parts of the island in a more or less reliable fashion.
Taxis are generally safe and low-cost, though confirm the fare with the driver before you commit. See previous note about tipping.
Driving is relatively straightforward in Tenerife, though watch out for drivers putting their left indicators on; it doesn’t always mean they’re going to turn left, it’s sometimes a way to warn cars behind that the traffic ahead has slowed or come to a standstill.
Greetings between locals are generally a kiss-on-each-cheek affair.
Be aware if you rent a car – fines can be issued for wearing inappropriate footwear (flip-flops), or driving without a shirt on. Seatbelts are compulsory, front and back.
Take heed of any coloured flags on beaches; currents can be dangerous in certain areas, even on the resort beaches.
Joe Cawley has been living on the island since 1991 when, for want of anything else to do, he bought a bar and restaurant before becoming a full-time author and travel writer.
Experience Tenerife with the Telegraph
Telegraph Travel’s best hotels, tours and holidays in Tenerife, tried, tested and recommended by our Tenerife experts.