The Canary Islands are known around the world as Spanish islands full of an eclectic mix of sand, forest, volcanoes, and mountains. With near perfect temperatures all year long, Europeans flock to the island for some much needed R&R. When it comes to people who already have heard of them, they are usually written off as resort filled islands for vacation from the UK winters. In this article I’d like to highlight how the Canary Islands can be so much more than the resorts and beaches, making it a year round destination to explore.
Tenerife is the largest and most popular island in the Canary Islands, with thousands of locations to keep you busy throughout your holiday. While I would’ve liked to explore other islands surrounding it, I am so happy with my decision to spend a full week immersed in the life and culture of Tenerife, and I know I understand much more of the island now. Check out my detailed guide for where to stay and my favorite 4 activities on the island!
WHERE TO SLEEP
Resorts filled with thousands of tourist fighting over the best beach side chair are just not my thing. Tenerife has so many more options than just that. In fact if you leave Costa Adeje, you’ll see that there is so much more out there to choose from. I chose to stay in two different Airbnbs on the west and east coast.
One was a beautiful restored Canarian home, owned and restored by Xavier; an architect who created beautiful properties on a banana plantation. It was honestly such a well-made, incredibly unique experience. My favorite part being the bedroom window, that served as my reading nook. On the east coast we had the opportunity to stay in a cave; it was up a road off the highway, with a view over the water. Both were incredibly unique in their own beautiful ways.
WHAT TO DO
Beyond the accommodations, the activities reminded me of things you can find to do in Hawaii; a mix of so-called ‘touristy’ things and a mix of off-the-beaten path options as well. Sure, we did a couple tours, because I don’t own my own boat, so you kinda have to pay to get on one if you want to see whales and dolphins (which we did, and I highly recommend Freebird One). But there are also other companies that offer tours that many may write off as ‘too touristy’; I would suggest looking into them though.
1. SUNSET TOUR
I love sunsets and sunrises, who doesn’t, so any option of getting witness a sunrise or sunset in an epic location is my kind of option. And choosing between watching the sunset and stargazing and a morning sunrise was hard, but I wanted a sunset tour includes stargazing as well, so you can’t go wrong! We joined a tour with Travel Tenerife for their Stargazing Experience on Teide by Night, and I am sure glad we decided to go, since it was probably one of the most epic sunsets I have ever seen in my life. I have never seen a sunset from above the clouds like this; 1800m above sea level. And then the sky completely blanketed in stars; never in my life have I witnessed so many stars all at once. And we saw Jupiter, and not just as we see the stars, we saw it through a telescope where we were able to see the red lines on it (but some people with unrealistic expectations to be mad it wasn’t closer)! I will let the photos of our night speak for itself; I took far too many of course.
2.VOLCANO + OBSERVATORY TOUR
A pleasant surprise was how much I enjoyed our tour of the Observatory. It was done through a tour with Volcano Teide, because of course exploring it on your own doesn’t make sense, but it was really cool to be able to see what they do at an observatory during the day. The best part of the tour for me were the view of the ocean, and surrounding islands, and the ability to see the surface of the sun through a telescope. It’s not everyday you get to see what the astronomers see; I wish I could’ve gotten a photo of the sun’s surface.
There are so more to Tenerife than the tours though, as there are many hikes and adventures you can have without the help of a tour. My favourite hike, personally, was easily found by wandering right up behind our first Airbnb. The hike was a nice stroll through the mountainside, with a walk down the other side along winding roads down to San Juan de Rambla. If I had more time in Tenerife, I would’ve driven to other spots and explored more of these random paths but with one week and the need to relax a little, I didn’t get the chance., but I assure you, there are many hiking paths throughout the island. You can also drive yourself (rent a car; it’s so cheap!) to Teide National Park and go on hikes through the area. If you are not comfortable on your own, you can always book a hike through a tour company, such as the ones mentioned before. But it’s not always necessary.
And if you are a beach person, which most people are looking for in their trips I find, there are a plethora of beaches all over the islands; if you stay at an Airbnb, just ask the host for their recommendations. Locals always know the best beaches to go to. Xavier gave us directions to some incredible beaches but we just weren’t in the mood for laying on the beach during this trip. I suggest staying away from the south, and exploring any other part of the island and checking out the beaches there. That’s not to say the south is a complete waste. Los Gigantes is extremely beautiful, with great restaurants with amazing views. And it may be crowded, but heading to Masca after Los Gigantes was worth the crowds. There is a reason places like this attract so many people, with its breathtaking views; don’t forget to try the cactus lemonade!
Our trip to Tenerife was an incredible one. With similar things to do, similar sights to see as Hawaii, and absolutely unreal natural beauty to explore. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself.
Have you been to the Canary Islands? Share your own tips for visiting the island with our readers in the comments below. Read Next > How to Spend 3 Days on the Island of Mallorca