Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, which are part of Spain, is the largest and most populous of the eight Canary Islands. The varied landscape of Tenerife includes mountains, beaches, volcanoes, and pine forests surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and there are many microclimates on the 785 square mile island with temperatures that can range from 85 degrees on the beach all the way down to 35 degrees in the mountains.
A few other pluses about the climate in Tenerife are that it’s the warmest destination in Europe during the winter with temperatures averaging between 65 and 70 degrees, so it’s hot enough to wear a swimsuit and to sit by the pool during the day, and the south of the island has dry, desert-like conditions with only 10 days a year of average rainfall. I visited Tenerife at the end of January, and one day I was sunbathing by the pool and the next I was hiking through snow-covered mountains.
Since the island has such a varied climate, it offers a wide selection of activities including parasailing, cycling, scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, trekking, and hiking. Historically, Tenerife was a stop for explorers, including Columbus, on route to America and played an important role in Spanish colonization. There’s a significant cultural heritage in the villages of La Laguna and Garachico and even a connection to Hispanic American culture waiting to be explored.
Here’s how I spent my winter vacation in Tenerife, and my favorite experiences on the European island.
1. A Private Tenerife Tour
Since I didn’t know that much about Tenerife and I didn’t want the expense or hassle of renting a car, I decided to take a private tour.
Pro Tip: Car rental companies in Tenerife have only a small fleet of automatic cars which are usually two to three times the price of renting a standard manual.
John Reid, owner of Tenerife Private Tours, is a native of the island (although his parents lived in Tenerife permanently, he was actually born in Great Britain because they wanted him to have dual citizenship) and speaks perfect British English and fluent Spanish. He gives personalized tours of the island in his car, and it was difficult to narrow down my choice with all the appealing options on his list. I decided on the 6-hour Volcanic Landscape tour that included Teide National Park because the park and the volcano were listed as the top two, must-do things when visiting Tenerife.
Before I took the tour, I communicated some of my needs, including that my partner and I liked to walk but are not into hiking, and that my partner gets vertigo on steep mountains and roads. During the tour, John was very in tune with my requests, and he took a much less mountainous road up to the park. And when we did scale some windier passages, he frequently asked how Vincent was doing.
We first drove through some scenic, small villages along the way to the park, and we stopped to view an ancient, tiered-rock terrace, built to control the rain falling down the hills. About 45 minutes later, we started the approach to the volcano and we were pleasantly surprised to see that some of the mountains were topped with snow (the temperature dramatically dropped and it was a good thing that John recommended we wear pants instead of shorts and also that we bring a jacket). There were many magnificent landscapes from pine forests to rock and boulder formations to cactus fields and red boulders, which reminded me of the national parks out west in the U.S.A.
At one point, John proceeded to break off a stem from a cactus plant and purposely pricked a cochineal beetle that feeds upon it to show us the scarlet red liquid oozing out of it, explaining it was used for red dye.
Our last stop was a charming restaurant on a cliff, El Rancho, where we enjoyed traditional Canarian specialties such as boiled, locally grown potatoes served with a tangy red sauce and an herbal green dipping sauce; a cod-based stew; and a hearty soup made with chickpeas, chorizo, and tomatoes. Tenerife Private Tours also offers wine and banana tours (Tenerife is famous for its locally grown bananas), sunset tours, mountain rock hikes, and vineyard and wine tours.
2. Distinct Tenerife Hotels
I wanted to experience different parts of the island, so I booked two different hotels.
Iberostar Grand El Mirador
I purposely planned my trip to coincide with my birthday, and to celebrate, I decided to splurge and stay at Iberostar Grand El Mirador, a five-star luxury hotel resort on the Adeje coast on the southern part of the island.
Our generously sized 500-square-feet junior suite was opulently decorated in a contemporary, Mediterranean style with a sitting room with wicker and upholstered furniture and a marble bathroom suite with a bathtub and separate shower room. Outside the room, there was a private terrace with two cushy chaises and a café table with two chairs. Our suite was part of a special section of the hotel, Star Prestige La Balconada, which included two open bars and food stations with unlimited drinks and snacks from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., complimentary butler service, and a private pool and sunbathing area with chaises and sunbeds with canopies.
The hotel faces the Atlantic and below the hotel, there are two public, sand beaches with chaises, towels, and umbrellas for rent.
There are three restaurant options at Iberostar Grand El Mirador. La Pergola, with an indoor dining room and an outdoor terrace, has the most versatile menu of the three restaurants, with two menu sections: The snacking menu has more casual food such as tapas, burgers, pizzas, and salads, and the more formal menu offers Mediterranean and Spanish dishes such as paella, gazpacho, steaks, and chops. For a more foodie and sophisticated experience, El Cenador has a haute cuisine tasting menu specializing in Canarian cuisine and locally sourced foods and produce.
Although Mynd Adeje, a new hotel that just opened in November of 2021, caters to millennials and LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), I still enjoyed the experience and didn’t feel out of place (in fact there were equally as many baby boomers at the hotel as there were millennials). The electronic check in where I had to type in all my pertinent information on a screen and scan my passport was certainly a new approach but not a problem.
Our double room on the fourth floor was 300 square feet and had a king bed, a desk, a 50-inch TV with international channels, a rain shower, air conditioning, and a much-appreciated set of outlets on both sides of the bed that had a USB port where I could charge my iPhone. The terrace, with two chairs and a café table, had panoramic views of the city, the mountains, and the beach.
On the sixth floor of the hotel is an extended rooftop bar, café, and lounging area with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, Teide Mountain, and La Gomera Island. Cocktails, beer, and local wine are served along with a snack menu on cushy lounge chairs and banquettes. We watched the sunset one evening while enjoying a local rioja wine and chicken fingers. There are also chaises and sunbeds for sunbathing and an infinity pool.
La Mesa restaurant has a health-conscious menu with a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes, with a blend of local and Spanish plates plus more familiar dishes such as poke bowls, burgers, and hummus. The sleek, contemporary design of the dining room has indoor and outdoor tables intermixed that lead out to the pool area.
Mynd Adeje has a large swimming pool with socially distanced chaises, a small beach area with sand and a volleyball court, three bars, a wellness area that offers facials and massages, and a gym. A public beach is a seven-minute walk from the hotel.
One of the best things about Mynd Adeje is its excellent value for the money. The basic double rooms start at 120 euros in the high season, November through May, and include a full buffet breakfast. Main dishes at the restaurant averaged 12 to 15 euros and the huge poké bowls with marinated salmon and fresh tuna, which were so enormous, we couldn’t finish them, were only 9 euros.
3. Diverse And Delicious Tenerife Restaurants
Almar is a delightful restaurant with a romantic setting on a second-story, open terrace overhanging the Atlantic Ocean. It serves a multi-ethnic menu with dishes such as salmon rolls, marinated duck rolls, steak tartar, filet mignon, and ceviche, and also serves a seven-dish tasting menu for under 40 euros.
A real find, El Taller is a small restaurant with a French chef and congenial Spanish owners and the menu features mostly tapas and sharing plates.
Pro Tips: United Airlines recently announced they are scheduling direct flights to Tenerife from Newark starting in June 2022. There are two airports in Tenerife and the main one is the south airport, which is closer to the beach resorts.
For more on vacationing in the Canary Islands, consider