I last set foot on the island of Tenerife 22 years ago, just a young thing back then, working on cruise liners that would regularly call at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the port of the island’s capital.
With only limited shore time extensive exploration wasn’t really an option. Fast forward to 2020 and I’m back, albeit in the middle of a global pandemic but in a window of permitted travel.
Just under six million people visit this volcanic gem every year, I suspect this has to do with the year-round sunshine thanks to its location, vibrant resort life, familiar Spanish hospitality and the beautiful contrasts of its natural landscapes.
Flying into Tenerife South (TFS) we picked up a hire car at the airport, it’s incredible value here, 10 days 4×4 hire cost just £150, we used thrifty.com though TUI holiday extras. We headed south to the Costa Adeje (meaning: coast near the town of Adeje). Playa Paraiso is the resort, quieter than neighbouring Los Cristianos and one that’s seeing the development of large hotels including Hard Rock Tenerife.
My hotel is the Riu Buenavista (meaning: good view) they weren’t wrong, the sea views are magical, even La Gomera, Tenerife’s neighbouring island can be seen. This recently refurbished allinclusive met all my needs, good rooms, several dining options and five fantastic pools. It’s November and 25°C+ sunshine, first stop, that infinity pool…riu.com.
Enough lazing it was time for exploration, we head for Mount Teide, a Tenerife icon and active but dormant volcano. Standing a colossal 3,715m it’s the third-highest volcanic structure in the world after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Roads are good here and self-driving entirely possible if you don’t mind steep climbs and hairpin bends, for non-drivers and the more cautious, tours are plentiful, from day trips to hikes and stargazing adventures try volcanoteide.com. Approaching Mount Teide National Park, the roads begin to climb, the landscape greener than I expected. Now at some elevation, the weather changes, thick cloud, fog, and rain now appears, we are now driving through the cloud… but suddenly sunlight appears, and we emerge into baking hot sunshine and a completely new landscape. Surely this isn’t the same island, rocky and lunar like with cooled giant molten lava trails a reminder of the last time Mount Teide erupted in 1909.
A little frazzled by the heat we head for refreshment, Restaurant Papillion, one of the only open refreshment stops near Mount Teide’s peak, wild west in style with a sunny terrace. Devouring a very generous portion of apple cake and ice-cream we are set up for the onward journey, a recommended stop. Starting the downhill journey home, we find the need to stop several times simply to marvel at the views, I particularly loved being above the clouds, it’s been an incredible day.
A new day and a new adventure, we head north, first stop ‘Los Gigantes’ simply meaning ‘The Giants’, enormous cliffs rise from the sea, colossal structures and what better way to view than the convenient cliff edge café just steps from the Mirador de los Gigantes view point.
Moving on we head to recommended stop Garachico, a pretty but unlucky town that was once the islands richest and most important port. Sadly, in 1706 tragedy struck as Montana Negra erupted sending rivers of molten lava through the streets and into the harbour rendering the port unusable. Further tragedies followed but luckily residents did not flee, and the town remains perfectly preserved, tourists flock to see the harbour and its unusual lava rock pools, gorgeous.
All-inclusive is so convenient but as a foodie, I do prefer eating local and Playa Paraiso has a few good options. Wanting to eat ‘Canarian’ we headed to highly rated Confiesate Antonia a neighbourhood tapas place. Garlic was the theme, large juicy king prawns in garlic oil, toasted bread with aioli (garlic mayo) and Moroccan chicken with Canarian potatoes and Mojo sauces (more garlic), a truly delicious experience. Insta: @confiesateantoniatenerifesur
After a few lazy days, we were off to see our next giants, giants of the sea. Around one-third of all whales either reside or pass through Canarian waters, four resident and 24 migratory species and opportunities for whale watching are abundant. Wanting to avoid unethical operators we chose montecristocatamaran.com who operate luxury catamarans with just 12 passengers from pretty Puerto Morelos, the expert crew onboard safely located the wildlife for a fantastic experience.
The same evening, we headed to nearby resort Los Cristianos which hosts a popular beach and a large selection of bars and eateries offering incredible value. We head for highly rated Restaurant Abordo restauranteabordo.com specialising in seafood, our seafood platter of lobster, king prawns and calamari was just divine.
As the end of our trip neared one last adventure beckoned, again north, first call Puerto de la Cruz, a rich green landscape and historic botanical garden with incredible giant plants. Lastly, we head to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the islands capital, running short on time we wander around the quaint Old Quarter, spot parrots in the city park and again head for refreshment. The best places are always tucked away, and Gonzalo’s of street Dr Allart is indeed that. Specialising in regional cuisine we ordered a Tabla Mixta (mixed table/platter) featuring smoked goats’ cheese, fig jelly, olives, walnuts, serrano ham and sliced roast pork, absolutely divine, a perfect ending to a perfect adventure. Insta: @gonzalos_bar_rest