12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Tenerife
Authors Michael and Lana Law enjoyed an extended visit to the Canary Islands in the fall of 2022.
The wonderful island of Tenerife has things to do for everyone. Fantastic beaches, towering volcanoes, theme parks, and historic small towns make a trip here a delight.
The island is teardrop shaped and dominated by Volcan Teide, the third-highest volcano in the world. Miles of beaches are located in the far southern point, and dense pine forests full of hiking trails run along the spine of the island.
Getting to Tenerife is easy. Flights arrive from northern destinations in Europe almost on a minute-by-minute basis.
Discover the best places to visit on the island with our list of things to do on Tenerife.
1. Teide National Park
One of Europe's most spectacular volcanic landscapes is a short drive from the resort areas of southern Tenerife. The massive Teide Volcano towers over everything at an astounding 3,715 meters. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is not to be missed.
A fantastic and fun day can be had by renting a car and exploring the park. You'll find yourself wanting to stop and explore the shockingly barren landscape. Highlights include Teide Volcano, views at the Mirador de Boca Tauce, the weird and wonderful rocks at Los Roques de Garcia, and the unique area around the Queen's Shoe.
A highlight for many people is taking the cable car to the top of the volcano, one of the top tourist attractions on Tenerife. The modern and efficient cable car zips you up to the top in eight minutes flat. At the top, you'll enjoy panoramic views of the lunar-like terrain below, and if it's clear, the island of Gran Canaria and La Gomera off in the distance.
Renting a car can be difficult in peak season, and parking at the attractions can be challenging. If you'd prefer not to drive the twisty roads to the top, consider a Mt. Teide and Masca Valley Tour, which includes all the top sights park (except the cable car).
No matter what option you choose, be sure to bring warm clothes and sturdy shoes. It can be shockingly cold and windy in the park and especially at the summit of the cable car.
2. Tenerife's Beaches
What kind of beach is your favorite? Does it have black sand or tan, is it large or small, busy or deserted, wavy or calm? Does it have amenities? All these and more are the tough decisions that you'll be faced with when planning your beach day.
There's no need to worry too much about making the wrong decision. No matter where you end up, the beaches are wonderful places. Many people faced with all these decisions decide to go to multiple beaches to sample something different each day.
All that said, the general consensus is that the beaches around the Maspalomas dunes are the best on the island. The golden sand runs for miles, the huge dunes behind are perfect for exploring, and a bustling tourist town nearby caters to every need you may have.
3. Siam Park
One of the most popular attractions on the island for families, Siam Park is all about good times in water. Try any of the amazing waterslides, or zip down the Mekong Rapids with your three closest friends.
Still need more adventure? Rip through the Vulcano or go blasting down the Tower of Power. Those less inclined to speed should float down the Mai Tai river.
A must-do is the giant beach with manmade waves perfect for surfing, boogie boarding, or just splashing about. Those with young children can let them loose in the Lost City, a water-filled wonderland.
Save money with a combo ticket to Loro Parque but note it is on the other side of the island from where most people stay. Siam park offers a free shuttle service from points along the Costa Adeje.
Address: Av. Siam, s/n, 38660 Costa Adeje, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
4. Meet Animals at Loro Parque, Tenerife
A sister property to Siam Water Park, Loro Parque is another excellent thing to do as a family on Tenerife. Visitors young and old can't help but be impressed by the sheer number of interesting and entertaining animals in the park.
One of the few remaining killer whale shows in the world takes place here, and the sheer power of these creatures as they jump and splash around the pool is astounding. In addition to the whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, and birds all perform as well. This non-stop entertainment will have even those with the shortest attention span fully engaged.
As well as the shows, 35 different animal enclosures are home to capybaras, coatis, pandas, gorillas, white tigers, hippos, and many more unique and interesting animals from around the world.
A fascinating aquarium is a must-see when visiting. Take a stroll through the tunnel that goes right through the massive tank. Seeing the sharks, rays, and hundreds of other fish effortlessly glide by is enthralling.
Loro Parque is located on the western side of the island. They offer a free shuttle service from the Costa Adeje area.
Address: Av. Loro Parque, s/n, 38400 Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
5. Monkey Park
If you are looking for that perfect tropical location photo with a monkey or parrot on your shoulder, the Monkey Park should be your go-to location. Hundreds of monkeys are in residence here, and if you purchase the feed, the ones that are available to interact will suddenly become your best friend.
In addition to the ever-entertaining monkeys, over 100 guinea pigs, ring-tailed lemurs, iguanas, a huge crocodile, snakes, and a colorful assortment of noisy birds make up the critters in residence. Admission here is a bargain compared to the theme parks.
Address: Camino Moreque,Llano Azul,17 Tf662 Km 2, 38627, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
6. Drive to Masca
One of the must-see towns on Tenerife is Masca. This small village is located in a spectacular valley that looks like it's been ripped right from the Hawaiian Islands.
It boggles the mind that this place can even exist, situated on a volcanic spine in the middle of a valley that extends to the ocean. The town itself is definitely worthwhile; however, the road to get there is a challenging and slow drive.
A seemingly never-ending series of twists, turns, switchbacks, and harrowing drop-offs greet the driver and possibly the slightly terrified passenger. Several spectacular viewpoints are located along the way and are well worth the stop.
At the end of your ride, have a delightful lunch on a scenic patio. Book ahead to get a prime seat. A good place to visit, with wonderful views, is La Fuente Restaurant.
Although the distance on the map is short, the actual drive time is much longer, so plan accordingly.
7. Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a great spot to explore. This modern city is home to some of the best museums in the Canary Islands including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Nature and Man and a must-visit for culture vultures.
If, after spending some time at the beach, your resort wear is looking a bit shabby compared to the scene, the retail shops in Santa Cruz de Tenerife will get you looking your best in no time flat.
For a classy evening out, dress up and dine at one of the city's more sophisticated restaurants followed by a performance at the spectacular Auditorio de Tenerife.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
8. San Cristóbal de la Laguna
For a taste of real Tenerife, plan a trip to the beautiful little town of San Cristobal de La Laguna. A historical gem and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town is a relaxed place, with pedestrian streets and wonderful architecture dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Join the locals as they stroll with their families up and down the wonderfully restored streets, stopping here and there for a snack, full meal, or a cup of coffee while catching up on the latest gossip.
See as much or as little of the town as you like, but one place definitely worth stopping by is the Iglesia de Nuestra La Concepción. This parish church predates much of the city and was built in 1496, when San Cristobal de la Laguna was the main capital for all the Canary Islands.
For a deep dive into the city's history, swing by the History and Anthropology Museum. You'll find it in the Casa de Lecaro, first constructed in 1593.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in San Cristobal de La Laguna
9. Go Dolphin & Whale Watching
The rich waters off the southern coast of Tenerife attract a variety of whales and dolphins all year. Keen (and very lucky) spotters can see sperm whales, Eden's whales, and pilot whales right from land along the Costa Adeje. In addition to these three, another 18 species of dolphins ply these waters.
For a better chance of seeing these majestic creatures, you'll need to get out on the ocean, and the best way to do this is to take a tour. Tours range in quality. One of the best is the Tenerife Whale and Dolphin Cruise from Los Cristianos. On board, professionally trained crew members will help you spot these sometimes elusive denizens of the deep.
10. Drive the Spine of the Island
Need a break from the beach and crave adventure? A full-day drive along the spine of the island checking out the best natural sights and a historical town is just the ticket.
This route forms a giant loop and starts in the southern resort areas. Head north along the expressway bypassing Santa Cruz de Tenerife and heading to Anaga Rural Park. Drive up the twisty road through the park to the Mirador Cruz del Carmen lookout and enjoy the fantastic view. Feeling active? Take the short but intense Sendero de los Sentidos trail.
Return down the same twisty road and follow the signs to the Old Town area of San Cristobal de La Laguna (La Laguna). Soak up the history as you stroll the narrow streets being sure to swing by the beautiful Catedral de San Cristobal de La Laguna. Put a checkmark next to that attraction and recharge with a cappuccino on a sunny patio while admiring the 17th- and 18th-century architecture that envelops you.
Now it's time for some full-on nature. Leave La Laguna and head along Highway TF-21 and ascend upwards, eventually emerging in the forests where you'll find massive pine trees. Be sure to stop at the amazing viewpoints (miradors) along the way.
A number of delightful hiking trails through the forest are located along this stretch of highway. Stop for a quick stroll and do a bit of nature bathing.
The road keeps climbing, and the forests transition to a bizarre lunar landscape dominated by the massive Teide volcano. Take the cable car to the top if you want, or for something more sedate, book a table at the Parador Nacional for a late lunch and soak up the views of the volcano. Additional hiking trails can be found in this area and range from easy strolls right through to steep climbs up the side of the volcano.
11. La Orotava
La Orotava is a National Historic-Artistic Site and a wonderful place to wander around. The colonial town is full of stately old homes, many of which have beautifully carved wooden balconies. This bucolic scene attracts artisans from around the world who have opened interesting galleries and shops full of one-of-a-kind items.
As you wander through the town, be sure to see the Casas de los Balcones, dating from the early 17th century. Step inside and tour the museum and gallery of traditional Canarian crafts and needlework.
Another highlight of a visit is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, dating from the 16th century. This ornate Baroque church is known for its two bell towers. Those with a green thumb will definitely want to visit the Hijuela del Botánico, home to more than 3,000 colorful tropical flowers.
Nearby in Puerto de La Cruz is a fantastic botanical garden that is also well worth visiting. The massive ficus tree is stunning. Admission is a bargain at only three Euros per person.
12. Go Kiteboarding, Winging, or Windsurfing
The best spot for kiteboarding, winging, or windsurfing on Tenerife is Playa del Medano. This legendary spot has been drawing legions of watersports enthusiasts for years and is a stop on the PWA world windsurfing competition tour.
Three kilometers of soft black sand, consistent wind, and beautiful views make it a perfect spot to get out and get active. Hardcore windsurfers should head to Cabezo, just around the point. But be aware, this is an advanced location. The location is best when the wind is from the east-northeast.
Kite shops, windsurfing shops, and surf shops line the boardwalk at the back of the beach, giving the place a fun and convivial feeling. A good restaurant to recharge your energy stores is the Café Flashpoint, home to incredible breakfasts and strong coffee.
The town of El Medano is low-key and not touristy, catering more to locals than the international traveler. If you aren't into the windsports scene and want to just hit the beach, head to the north corner of the beach where it's calm and protected.