Tenerife’s dramatic volcanic landscape is dominated by Spain’s tallest peak, Mount Teide, which cradles lush forests, quaint old villages, and scores of gorgeous beaches.
Following a 20th-century metamorphosis, the largest of the Canary Islands turned into a buzzing tourist hotspot brimming with cosmopolitan resorts, a rumbling nightlife, and a delectable culinary scene.
The island’s natural wonders, manmade attractions, and year-round sunshine offer countless things to do in Tenerife to suit every type of traveler.
Here are some of the best Tenerife attractions and things to do on your next Canary Islands vacation.
Laze on Stunning Beaches
Tenerife’s beaches span 41 miles of coastline and range from volcanic black-sand shorelines to sweeping golden swathes.
Head to the Blue Flag El Duque Beach on Tenerife’s southwest coast for its soft white sand, picturesque palm trees, and restaurant-lined promenade. At Tenerife’s north shore, which is known for its dramatic charcoal-colored volcanic beaches, try El Bollullo Beach, near Puerto de la Cruz, accessed via dozens of steps that have been built into the rocky cliffs.
Closer to the capital, check out the mile-long stretch of beach at Las Teresitas. Relax on the picture-postcard sand and swim in the calm water, which shifts from light turquoise to an intense deep blue. This family-friendly beach is well-equipped for daytrippers with facilities that include bathrooms, showers, a beach bar, water sports, and sun loungers with shades.
Marvel at Santiago Calatrava’s Auditorium
The Tenerife Auditorium offers a year-round program of opera and performing arts shows. The multifunction space is also home to the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra, which performs in the 1,600-seat opera house.
Reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House and New York’s Oculus (also designed by architect Santiago Calatrava) because of its curvaceous white form, this modern Tenerife attraction redefined Santa Cruz’s waterfront when it was unveiled in 2003.
With shows scheduled during the day and at night, watch a musical performance or join a guided tour to learn about this modernist masterpiece. Feeling hungry? Stop for a bite to eat at the on-site bistro and enjoy its crowd-pleasing Atlantic Ocean views.
Scale Spain’s Highest Peak
The core of Tenerife is the snow-dusted Mount Teide, which rises 12,198 feet above sea level, making it Spain’s highest peak. Teide is an active volcano—the last eruption was in 1909—and forms part of the 47,000-acre UNESCO-listed Teide National Park.
Climbing Mount Teide, or at least part of it, is one of the top things to do in Tenerife. Pass the island’s dense pine forests to reach the rugged Martian-like landscape around the volcano’s base. There are several cactus-strewn hiking trails to reach Teide’s summit, though you’ll need a permit to get to the very top, which you can book online in advance.
For a more leisurely lift up the slope, jump on the cable car and climb 3,555 meters above sea level. Wear comfortable walking shoes and pack a sweater as it can feel chilly up top.
A highlight of reaching the upper station is a tour of Teide Observatory, which features the largest solar observatory in the world. In operation since 1964, the Teide Observatory has seen world-leading researchers make groundbreaking discoveries, including the fact that the sun has its own frequency and pulsates like a heart every five minutes.
Sip Wine at Island Wineries
While Tenerife’s wines aren’t particularly well known outside of the Canary Islands, make a point of getting better acquainted with their blends during your visit. Although there are five designations of origin (DOP) on Tenerife, many of the island’s wineries are found in the Anaga Peninsula.
Ripened under the shadow of Mount Teide, Tenerife’s grapes are naturally rich in minerals with a volcanic character. Embark on a jaunt to the bodegas of the northeast, including Bodegas Alvaro, and wrap your palate around the local varieties.
Delve deeper at La Casa del Vino, a wine museum with a tasting room located on a hairpin bed in El Sauzal. Housed within a historic 17th-century hacienda, La Casa del Vino affords breathtaking views of the jagged north coast thanks to its lofty location.
If you’re a wine lover, pick out a bottle—you’ll receive a discount with your entry ticket—to add to your collection back home.
Discover Europe’s First Whale Heritage Site
Pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins are among the resident marine life that lives off the southwest coast of Tenerife in the Tenerife-La Gomera Marine Area—Europe’s first Whale Heritage Site and only the third in the world.
Dolphin watching is one of the best things to do in Tenerife and according to the Canary Islands’ tourism authority, you have a 95 percent chance of spotting these majestic mammals, as well as 21 other types of marine species including the blue whale, in these Atlantic Ocean waters.
Look out for an operator with a Blue Boat logo, which certifies that they follow strict environmental regulations to ensure the health and wellbeing of the region’s marine life, and jump on a guided tour from Los Gigantes, Puerto Colón, or Los Cristianos, on the island’s west coast.
Bring your camera and capture the remarkable sight of dolphins and whales frolicking in the waves.
Explore La Laguna’s Old Town
If Mount Teide is the geographical center of Tenerife, then San Cristóbal de la Laguna is the island’s cultural heart.
Exploring its Old Town is one of the best things to do in Tenerife. Located just outside of Santa Cruz, La Laguna was the first city established in the Canary Islands some 600 years ago and its grid-like plan was later used as a blueprint for other colonized cities in the Americas, including Old Havana in Cuba. Today, La Laguna’s pastel facades and historic buildings have earned the city a UNESCO World Heritage status.
Wander the extraordinarily beautiful Old Town, admiring the Neoclassical-style La Laguna Cathedral, Santa Catalina and Santa Clara monasteries, and the pretty Leal Theater. Stop by the Museum of the History of Tenerife to understand the economic and cultural backstory of the island.
Get lost in the well-trodden cobbled alleyways around the Plaza del Adelantado and pull up a seat at a local tapas bar on the neatly manicured Plaza de La Concepción to soak up the Old Town’s laid back vibe.
Indulge in the Island’s Culinary Scene
Tenerife is bursting with proud producers eager to show off their goods. Santa Cruz’s vibrant central market, Mercado Municipal Nuestra Señora de Africa, is a feast for the senses. Browse the colorful arrays of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and other local produce that feed islanders and supply restaurants and hotels.
Find a vendor offering a sample of the island’s famed salsa mojo, a spicy pepper-based salsa that is served with just about every type of savory dish on the island and will leave you wanting to take suitcases of the stuff home.
Tenerife is also famous for its guachinches, a typical establishment with local wine and traditional dishes that are served on leafy terraces, patios, and occasionally in private homes. Finish a hearty lunch with a barraquito coffee liqueur, which typically arrives in a glass to show off its pretty layering of coffee, coffee liqueur, and cream.
Tenerife also produces some exceptional cheeses and you’ll find plenty of tasty varieties offered alongside wine tastings around the island. Squeeze in a visit to the award-winning Montesdeoca Cheese Factory in east Tenerife, where you can meet the producer’s Herculean herd of over 1,000 goats.
Hike the Corona Forest Natural Park
Roughly 90 minutes from Santa Cruz, the verdant pine-filled Corona Forest Natural Park covers vast swathes of central Tenerife and swaddles Teide National Park. As the largest protected area in the Canary Islands, Corona Forestal Natural Park is one of the top Tenerife attractions for good reason, since it features some of the best hiking and biking trails on the island.
If you’re game for a ramble, pack plenty of water, stock up on bug spray, and put on your sturdy hiking boots to take off on one of the designated paths. Gulp down the fresh forest air and admire the towering Canarian pine trees, known for their thick, fireproof bark.
Corona Forestal Natural Park is also home to eucalyptus, cypress, and chestnut trees and 37 types of birds, including some unique to the Canary Islands. Keep a watchful eye out for the Canarian warbler and the Teide blue finch, along with native geckos, lizards, and bats.
Admire Traditional Architecture in La Orotava
A visit to La Orotava is one of the best things to do in Tenerife. Located on the slopes of Mount Teide in north Tenerife, this historic hamlet is packed with grand 17th-century houses, pretty squares, and gorgeous gardens.
Join a guided walking tour of La Orotava and see the city’s most prominent sights, including Casa de Los Balcones, which translates as “the house of the balconies.” It’s home to a museum that allows you to try on traditional Canarian costumes and a crafts studio, where you can pick up locally-made ceramics, paintings, lace, and other artisan products.
Stroll around the Old Town and soak up the wonderful ambiance with live music wafting from bars and central squares, including Plaza del Ayuntamiento de La Orotava. When you’re done exploring the colorful rows of houses, take a seat in Victoria Garden, which offers views over the city towards the ocean.
See the Parrots and Pink Flamingos of Loro Park
Loro Park is one of the most popular Tenerife attractions and one of the best zoos in the world. Known for its impressive collection of parrots, Loro Park houses the largest collection of parrot species on the planet.
Waddling penguins and pink-hued flamingos join parrots at the zoo, as well as a wide range of mammals, such as gorillas, lions, jaguars, hippos, and anteaters. If you’re a fan of flora, lose yourself in the tranquility of the Orchid and Zen gardens.
Several kiosks serve food and drinks and you’ll also find a number of restaurants just outside of the zoo in Punta Brava when you’ve had your fill of the park’s wildlife.
Take in the Panorama from Pico del Ingles
Roughly a 35-minute drive from Santa Cruz, on the northeast of the island, Pico del Ingles is famous for its sensational views that stretch as far as Gran Canaria and La Palma in the east and sky-high Teide in the west.
Trace the subtropical ravines and valleys of the Anaga mountain range, a UNESCO World Heritage Biosphere Reserve, and get a true sense of Tenerife’s stunning volcanic topography from the 3215-foot high viewpoint.
There are three options to reach Pico del Ingles. Hire a car and drive, grab a taxi, or jump on the local bus service. The usual bus route involves changing in La Laguna and takes roughly an hour from Santa Cruz. Check with the local tourist office for up-to-date timetables on the day you plan to visit. If you opt to drive, factor in time to continue onto the charming mountaintop village of Taganana, which is a further 30-minute drive along the TF-12 highway.
If you’re inspired to climb Mount Teide or tempted to try delicious local wines and cheeses, browse Celebrity’s luxury cruises to Tenerife and book your next vacation today.