Tenerife is the largest and most populated of the Canary Islands. About 5 million people visit each year, making it one of the most important tourist destinations in the world. Thanks to its warm weather, many holiday makers return year on year to indulge in all-inclusive resort breaks. While this is by no means a bad way to spend your hard-earned leave, your list of things to do in Tenerife could be far more exciting if you’re open to a bit of adventure. Tenerife’s tourism board is keen to promote a whole host of sporting pursuits and cultural events, and the following are my top picks.
1. LEARN TO WINDSURF
Tenerife has ideal conditions for learning wind- and water- based sports – in particular windsurfing and kite surfing. Tenerife Kitesurf is a watersports centre based on El Medano beach about 20 km east of Playa de las Americas. Run by Sofia Rodriguez – an ex-professional windsurfer and pioneer of the recent kite surfing movement – an hour-long windsurfing lesson comes at a very reasonable €40 per person. Kitesurfing courses cost €395 per person, take nine hours and come in three three-hour sessions: ‘on the beach’, ‘in the water’, and ‘in the water with the kite and board’. Their instructors have a great sense of humour and are very patient. They speak multiple languages, show you theory with easy-to-understand diagrams, and are on hand to answer any questions you might have about their sports and equipment. The managers are also planning to open a hostel very soon.
2. TOUR THE VOLCANIC LANDSCAPE BY MOUNTAIN BIKE
Nicknamed the ‘Island of Hell’ by the Tour de France competitors who train there, Tenerife is formed of some challenging topography. Those who really want to push themselves head from sea level all the way up to El Teide peak, reaching an altitude of 2300 m. Closer to the coast, you’re still likely to encounter some steep inclines, so its important to be in relatively good shape. Still, with big climbs come beautiful views and an overwhelming sense of achievement.
3. GO WHALE AND DOLPHIN WATCHING
It’s a little-known fact that Tenerife is actually one of the top places in the world to go whale and dolphin watching. As someone who exhibits the worst possible luck when it comes to spotting our flippered friends, I can vouch for this. Although I was limited to just one afternoon on a dive boat, we came within metres of several large pods. Pilot and sperm whales are resident species, while dozens of other cetaceans pass through on their annual migration. The southwest coast is the best place to go, with plenty of tours leaving from the ports of Los Cristianos, Puerto Colón and Los Gigantes. Some last just a few hours, while others take a full day and include opportunities to swim. They range from budget (around €20 to be part of a large group) to extreme luxury (€700+ for private charter of a sailboat).
4. CATCH SOME WAVES
Tenerife has been described as the Hawaii of Europe, thanks to its great breaks and warm weather. Water temperatures are usually in the 20s and there are a good selection of world-class surf spots. While some of the beaches are a little rocky, this topography produces great barrelling waves. To lessen the effort of reaching the sea, it’s best to head out during high tide or to choose a black sand beach instead. North of the island, conditions are best for surfing during the winter months, while the south has beaches to suit beginners through to pros all year round. Renting a board should set you back around €20 a day, while lessons start from about €30.
5. PADDLE IN THE CALMER WATERS
If you prefer a slower pace, then stand up paddle boarding might be just your thing. When the sea is calm, you can take boards out on guided trips along the coast. With some routes covering 10 km or more, it’s a good workout for the arms, as well as fantastic balance practice for budding surfers and windsurfers. There’s also the added bonus that sometimes you can see sea turtles coming up for air.
6. HIKE IN TEIDE NATIONAL PARK
One of the unmissable attractions of Tenerife is Teide National Park. This impressive UNESCO World Heritage site is home to a huge active volcano. In the centre of Tenerife, its sheer size, impressive geological formations and slightly cooler climate make it an ideal location for trekking and rock climbing. Despite being one of the most visited national parks in Europe, it’s surprising how few people venture away from the roadside viewpoints. By following one of the signposted trails you can easily find peace and solitude. The more adventurous might even consider camping overnight or staying past sunset to observe the night’s sky from one of the world’s best stargazing locations.
7. SCUBA DIVE WITH STING RAYS
Considering it’s lacking the tropical coral reef that appeals so strongly to most divers, Tenerife’s marine environment far exceeds expectations. There are dive sites where you’re virtually guaranteed to see sting rays up close, while octopus, eels and the occasional nudibranch make regular appearances too. Regardless of which species you see, diving in Tenerife is always enjoyable thanks to its otherworldly volcanic geography, including huge submerged basalt columns. Throw in a ship wreck or two and you’re bound to come away with a big smile on your face. To top it off, currents are weak to moderate, the viz is great, and you’ll never need a dry suit.
8. SPEND A DAY AT SIAM WATER PARK
According to TripAdvisor, Siam Water Park is the best in the world. It also holds seven world records, including ‘biggest statue of a dragon’, ‘largest manmade wave’ and ‘longest lazy river with largest increased elevation’. Showcasing the most diverse selection of slides of any waterpark, you can expect to see light shows inside tunnels, as well as tunnels that pass through aquariums filled with sharks and rays.
9. SAMPLE SOME SEAFOOD
Grilled meat and seafood are popular choices in the Canary Islands, and one of the top restaurants in Tenerife according to locals is a little place called El Cine, located in Los Cristianos Harbour. Some of their best dishes include octopus, cuttlefish, prawns and traditional salted potatos called papas arrugadas. Arrive early evening to guarantee a table.
10. ENJOY THE SUNSHINE AND PARTY
No matter how active you like your holidays to be, you’d be a fool not to self-indulge a little too. Playa de las Americas has a huge selection of affordable hotels with gorgeous swimming pools, and there are plenty of bars, night clubs, shows and karaoke bars to keep you entertained in the evening. For something more authentic, Tenerife is also home to the world’s second biggest carnival after Rio. Held in February each year, it incorporates an opening parade, street dancing, themed fancy dress, fireworks, and (last but not least) the funeral procession of a gigantic paper sardine.
My weekend in Tenerife was part of a complimentary trip organised by Thomas Cook Airlines UK, who invited nine adventure bloggers to try out various sporting activities across the island. Thanks also to my dive buddy Florine from World Adventure Divers for the photo of the ray.