Image credits: Tenerife Tourism Corporation

Think you know Tenerife? Resident Joe Cawley offers the inside track

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Oh yes, Tenerife. You think you know Tenerife. It’s like that quiet colleague you’ve worked with for years. Everybody thinks they know Tenerife – what he looks like, how he dresses and what he’s good at. But delve a little deeper and this Canary island will reveal a side that may surprise you.

It’s only in the past decade that Tenerife has revealed its true personality to the UK market, through billboard advertising, travel features and specialist holiday product, such as the walking packages offered by the likes of Inntravel and Headwater.

The range of holidays now available in the Canaries – from hiking, biking, sailing and adventure sports to cultural breaks – seems evidence that the island’s metamorphosis from its simple kiss-me-quick cocoon into a cosmopolitan destination of vast variety is complete.

Along with neon and sand, the spotlight is now shared with forest walks, hidden villages clinging to the edge of canyons and volcanic monuments that can be explored inside and out. UK visitor numbers to the island for the first six months of this year increased by 3.6% year on year to 825,500. The south still accounts for the vast majority, but the less-touristed north also saw growth, including the capital, Santa Cruz, which was up by a whopping 31%.

These days, instead of drawing comparisons to Blackpool but with added sunshine, Tenerife is better described as the Florida of Europe, featuring world-class attractions, chic eateries, five-star fairways and surprising discoveries off the beaten path – but all without the need for an eight-hour flight or a jet-lagging time difference.

Tenerife’s sunshine-on-tap and subtropical flora are in the GMT time zone, and just a four-hour flight away.

Flights are on the increase too. British Airways started flying to Tenerife from Gatwick at the end of March, and Ryanair has started a winter departure from Doncaster Sheffield this month.


Take a close look at a visitor’s map of Tenerife and you’ll see that the sandy resorts are just a gateway to an amazing array of options. The beach resorts occupy the south and southwest tip of the island, promising wet-and-wild fun at the world-famous Siam Park, dazzling nightlife in downtown Las Americas, swanky shopping on The Golden Mile and golden sands offering every imaginable watersport. A smaller version appears in the north by way of Puerto de la Cruz with its botanical gardens, Loro Parque wildlife attraction and seafront lido.

Pass through a dividing line of pine forest, and visitors cross into the volcanic interior, with its vertiginous cable car rides, moonscape hikes and petrified rivers of twisted lava.

The mountain range’s northern slopes promise vineyard tours, wine-tasting, Technicolor flora, the picture-postcard town of La Orotava, and the underground cave networks near Icod de los Vinos.

The northwest tip provides utter seclusion. Here, holidaymakers can journey from hamlet to hamlet along forest pathways, where they’ll find the Shangri-La-style lost village of Masca and the cliffs of Los Gigantes that plunge vertically into deep waters where fabled giant octopuses reside.

The linked cities of Santa Cruz and La Laguna are a hotbed of history, museums, galleries and urban parks.

Dining and nightlife are as varied as the sights, from international restaurants to pavement and plaza cafes and waterfront cocktail bars.


Selling Tenerife nowadays is not just a question of choosing the right hotel for your client to park their suitcase before setting up camp on the nearest beach. It’s about matching more-specific needs that might combine traditional holiday pursuits with other interests.

For customers who like walking or mountain biking, the north may be a better bet than the south. If they’re looking for peace and quiet away from the crowds, point them towards hilltop towns like Vilaflor or harbour towns such as Garachico.

If they’re part of the green scene there are nine golf courses in Tenerife (a 10th is planned on the west coast) plus an option to island-hop for the day to the dazzling tropical fairways of Golf Tecina in La Gomera (35 minutes by fast ferry from Los Cristianos).

While the vast majority of visitors to the main resorts of Costa Adeje, Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos still might prefer to spend most of their days prostrate on the sand, there are plenty of one-day get-up-and-go options beyond the shops, bars and restaurants nearby.

By hiring a car, in 20 minutes they can swap the tourist environment for the pastoral tranquillity of timeless villages where locals still congregate in laurel-shaded plazas to chat about the island evolution that has thankfully passed them by. Within half an hour they can picnic in pine forests and half an hour later stand in arid desert-land at the foot of the world’s third-largest volcano, Mount Teide.

Alongside tickets to the island’s theme and waterparks, ticketing specialists sell excursions that allow clients to get a closer look at the island’s charms. New for Attraction World is a Kayak Adventure (£36 per adult, £18 per child), taking visitors out for a paddle along the picturesque coastline near Playa Paraiso to the fishing village of El Puertito, where they’ll swim, maybe spotting turtles and dolphins. Do Something Different offers a trip on a submarine (£47 per adult and £28 per child) and a jeep safari to Mount Teide and Masca (£44 per adult and £22 per child).



Tenerife is not short of accommodation, and there are many styles. The Bahia del Duque started a trend for stupendous five-star resort hotels in upmarket Costa Adeje when it opened in 1993 and is still a European leader when it comes to packaged pampering with its butler-serviced rooms and villas, and immaculate, shaved lawns. Since then a handful of other big guns have ridden into town, including the Abama Golf & Spa Resort and Gran Melia Palacio de Isora further along the west coast. Prestige Holidays will feature the latter’s adult-only Red Level area for the first time in its dedicated winter Canaries brochure.

On a smaller scale, the Hotel San Roque, the island’s first real boutique hotel, shines a light in the unassuming fishing town of Garachico on Tenerife’s north coast, providing avant-garde accommodation for those who like to get away from it all.

Other smaller hotels are gaining ground in the popularity stakes, particularly those in rural locations such as Vilaflor, Icod de Los Vinos and La Orotava, which cater to the growing number of hike or bike visitors and those who just want sun and solitude.

City breaks too can be accommodated in hotels ranging from the newly revamped Iberostar Gran Mencey in Santa Cruz to cute cubby-hole guesthouses such as La Asomada del Gato in the heart of old La Laguna.

And for serious surfers – wind, kite or board – there’s only one place to send your clients: the buzzing and bohemian surf-dude town of El Medano in the southeast, still relatively undiscovered by British holidaymakers.