When I was researching places to go from where we currently live, in Niamey, Niger. I needed something affordable and relaxing, but with more to do than just lying on a beach all day. I came across flights to the Canary Islands. As a North American, I had never really heard much about the islands, as only one person I knew had ever gone. But it seemed like a pretty hot destination for people from Europe, mainly the U.K. Admittedly I booked my trip before really doing any research about it, and once I started planning what to do, I found it hard to find any good resources. It got me worried. Most of the information I found when doing an initial search highlighted the island as a resort filled, and not very authentic.
After digging a little deeper, I was able to find out a bit more information, but I was still worried I just booked ourselves a vacation to somewhere filled with British tourists and the only thing to do was eat and lay on the beach. Not that there is anything wrong with any of that, it’s just not our idea of travel.
After now having spent a week in Tenerife, I can honestly say it is completely underrated. There is so much more to this little island than the resorts that take up one area of it (Costa Adeje, in case you are wondering). Here are some of the highlights for me.
If you read my blog already, you know I am a fan of Airbnb (my thoughts on it can be found here). I just prefer a more authentic experience of the places I visit, and I have had such good experiences that I don’t see myself going back to staying at hotels, if I can help it.
When looking up accommodations for Tenerife, there were many to choose from. But as usual, I needed to find the most unique. And I found it, but there were two to choose from and I had a hard time deciding between them. Since we had 8 days, I decided why choose? Let’s try both.
The first half of the week was spent in an incredible property owned by Xavier. He is an architect and all around lovely human being. He restored old canary houses, into beautiful places to stay. I was blown away with the details, such as taking the old doors and making them into the kitchen and coffee tables in the house. Every detail was so well thought out and perfect. He had three houses on the property, which was a banana plantation and we were able to pick any of the veggies growing on the property whenever we liked. And bonus, he even dropped off some fresh eggs one day for us while we were sitting outside reading.
Xavier’s property was situated in between Puerto de la Cruz and San Juan de Rambla. It was the perfect spot to feel like you were experiencing the real Tenerife. Not a resort to be seen, just the vast ocean on one side and mountains on the other. You could watch both the sun rise and the sun set from the property, though we walked out out to the street for the sunset when we were around for it.
The house had everything one could need, two beds, two bathrooms (with a shower next to window to make it feel like you are showering in nature), a kitchen with every appliance necessary, and even a TV, which we didn’t use but was nice to have the option. Don’t even get me started on the beautiful patio he created. If there wasn’t so many things to do in Tenerife, we could’ve spent our whole time relaxing at the property.
(Airbnb link found here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12502546)
The second place we stayed was a cave. Now I have stayed in some pretty cool places but a cave? I couldn’t resist booking it. And Kerensa and Steppe did not disappoint. The space they have created just outside of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is absolutely unique and amazing. They have a few different options, with a couple caves, a yurt and another beautiful casita.
The cave we stayed in was the perfect amount of space for my partner and I. Inside there was a bed, a table with two chairs, and even electricity. Outside of the cave, not too far a walk was a little kitchen and a full bathroom. Everything you could possibly need for your stay; and more, there was even a pool (too cold to use when we were there) and a lovely space to do yoga. But the view from outside the door of the cave was the thing I cherished the most. Enjoyed watching the sun set right outside our door.
The drive up to the cave was not for drivers uncomfortable behind the wheel, as it was along thin roads going up some steep hills. I enjoyed the drive, as the only way to have experiences others haven’t is by doing things others won’t. And I am glad we decided to endure the drive to stay at this incredible place. We didn’t spend much time there but wish we could’ve spent more.
(Airbnb link found here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2523758)
I am not a huge fan of tours as a way of seeing things, if it is adventures I am able to plan and have on my own. But there are definitely times when booking tours makes sense to see things you might not otherwise be able to see. Tenerife is a perfect example of this.
The first tour we did was the Stargazing Tour with Travel Tenerife, I wrote about the entire thing here, as it deserved it’s own post. But to sum it up, we watched the sunset at 1800m above sea level, and then got to see a sky full of stars; the most stars I have ever seen in my entire life. Not only was it a beautiful tour, it was educational. The tour guides were so informative and told us all about the stars, constellations, and that.
Our second tour was a short one up to the observatory with Volcano Teide. It is one of the top observatories in the world. A lot of people would overlook this as something to see during a trip but I highly recommend a visit. If not for just the view from up there, then the learning experience. The tour involves a short video explaining what they do at the observatory and some information about the sky (I won’t ruin it for you, go learn for yourself).
At first booking, I thought why would I want to go to an observatory during the day? What is there to see? Well there is much more than you would expect. The guides take you on a tour of the area, seeing the different buildings and instruments they use to look at the sky. One of the coolest parts of the tour was looking through a telescope at the surface of the sun. It’s hard to describe just how cool it is to look through a telescope and see the surface of the sun.
All in all, it was a really cool experience, and for such a small price, it’s definitely worth it. We drove ourselves, as we had a rental and wanted to explore during our drive, but they offered a drive from certain areas around the island.
Things to Do/See/Eat
First of all, rent a car. Not only is it super cheap ($100US for the week if you drive stick) but it’s so much easier to get around and see stuff, and stay in cool places like I explained above. I’d rather spend the money on renting a car, and doing things on my own then booking tours and paying for taxis. Though there is a really good bus system them, that I researched before deciding on a car. Either will do, but car definitely makes it easier, especially if you want to stay in the cave.
Second, there are so many cool places to hike and explore. The first place we explored was right behind our first Airbnb. There was a trail up the mountain, that lead to a town up there and we took the road back down and ended up in San Juan de Rambla, you could also do it the opposite way. Xavier, our Airbnb host, is the one who recommended we do the hike and we are so thrilled that we did. It was full of breathtaking views and just interesting to wander thorough mountainside and into a town and follow the coast back to our place.
Literally anywhere you go has amazing views in Tenerife, but one of my favourites was Los Gigantes. It was such a cool town, with great vibes. We were only there to catch our ride for our tour (but got stuck there after for the night because of our own stupidity) and spent the morning there wandering around. We had some paella and steak at the restaurant, Los Acantilados Grill Steak House. It was a great meal with a great view, and not to mention great service. It was definitely more touristy than where we were staying but hey we are tourists. Ain’t nothing wrong with seeing what others want to see, there is usually a reason it’s popular.
Masca was probably one of my favourite places to go. If you don’t have a car, there are many companies doing tours there. But if you have a car, and are fairly comfortable behind the wheel, you can easily get there and explore yourself. The drive is up and down winding roads, that barely fit two cars. Any time a bus comes towards you, you get a little worried that you will end up in an accident, but you don’t. Parking was the worst part, to be honest; there isn’t much. And after driving past cars parked at any part of the road they could, we settled on a bend in the road that had a shoulder we could stop at; and then we walked to the town.
When in Masca, try the cactus lemonade. Lemonade is my favourite drink, above anything else. A good lemonade is hard to find. Cactus lemonade isn’t necessarily better than a regular one, but it was fairly delicious. I read mixed reviews online but it is so subjective. Try it and find out for yourself.
Take a boat ride to see whales and dolphins. All wildlife is unpredictable, so there is never a guarantee of seeing anything. But we took the Freebird One boat, and they say 99% chance of seeing pilot whales and 60% chance of seeing dolphins. We were able to see a few pilot whales during our boat ride. None of which I was able to capture as they jumped out of the water, never had to be so quick with the camera. But the boat ride was lovely, aside from the whale spotting. Unlimited drinks, and even a sandwich for a snack. Worth the money, and there are so many companies to choose from that you can book ahead or just find one on the day you want to go.
There are a ton of beaches, none of which we actually spent any time at. We walked by some in Costa Adeje that were packed with people, before and after our boat ride, but we didn’t feel like swimming and we aren’t much for laying on the beach. But if that’s what you are looking for, there’s plenty of that all over the island. Each part of the island has it’s beaches, depending on what kind of beach you are looking for.
A visit to San Cristobal la Laguna would be a good choice, if you are into authentic cities. We spent an afternoon wandering around the streets, just taking it all in. It is one of the oldest towns there and you get a real feel for the canary island vibes. And of course you have plenty of tapas restaurants to choose from. We wandered around for ages trying to narrow down which one to sit at, as limited outdoor seating made it tricky. We eventually settled for San Cristóbal Gastrobar and it was my favourite restaurant of the trip. I wish I could eat tapas and drink sangria all the time.
If you are a fan of getting tattoos, we also stopped by Santa Cruz Tattoo to get a small tattoo each. After looking at their Instagram I wish had planned for a bigger tattoo. The work they produce is beautiful. But alas I merely got a baobab tattoo on my finger. I highly recommend this shop if you are in the area.
All in all, Tenerife is a beautiful island, that I truly believe to be underrated. Sure, it can be the equivalent to the places most people from Canada go in Mexico or Dominican, full of resorts and all that. But truthfully it felt like I was in the European version of Hawaii. With it’s volcanoes, beaches, sea life and just beautiful hikes with amazing views, but with the European twist of colourful coastal houses. If you don’t believe me, go see for yourself.