I booked a last minute getaway to Tenerife last month (Nov 2021) with bae because from London it was one of the closest and most economical places with guaranteed sun for this time of year that I hadn’t visited yet. My expectations of Tenerife and the Canary Islands in general is that of a typical Brit abroad holiday area and whilst this is true for most parts, I have once again managed to find culture where most least expect!
From London Stansted, we flew with jet2 (my new favourite affordable airline) to Tenerife. Although the island has 2 airports, you are most likely to fly into the South. We had booked to stay in the capital Santa Cruz in the North, so the best way to get here was via bus 111 from the airport (1 hr journey). All their public buses (guaguas) are green and it is best to use their Tenmas card to tap in and out. This can be bought (for €2) and topped up at the stand outside the airport bus stop 32 for bus 111 and at all the main bus stations on the island.
Staying in Santa Cruz was like being in a typical Spanish city which I loved. There’s plenty to do but it’s not hugely geared towards tourists so you’ll be around more locals meaning some basic Spanish will be useful here. It’s in the North but weather wise, is the best in the area, closely matching the South where the resorts are – we enjoyed sunny 23+ degrees daily.
We stayed in AC Hotel Tenerife which is a Marriott hotel. It was such a delight to stay in, everything from the lovely reception staff, the perfect location next to Plaza de Espana (biggest square on the island and the whole Canaries) and walking distance from most things, the rooftop with bar overlooking the city and sea and comfortable modern bedrooms.
Things to do in Santa Cruz:
Walk around the city and enjoy it firstly! There are many squares to sit and relax in (Plaza de España, Parque García Sanabria, the area by Iglesia de la Concepción), parts of the old town which reminded me of old Havana, Rambla de Santa Cruz (one of the main walking streets) and even the port which can be enjoyed here.
Playa de las Teresitas – an artificial golden beach about 20 mins away from Santa Cruz. It’s one of the few non black sand beaches on the island. It’s the perfect place to sunbathe whilst staying in the city.
Visit some museums and galleries – there’s quite a few to choose from which give you an insight into the history of the Canary islands and current trends. I visited the art gallery TEA (Tenerife espacio de las artes) and MUNA (Museo de la Naturaleza y Arqueologia) – essentially the natural history museum looking at the archeology of the canaries and also history of the Guanche people.
Palmetum – this stunning botanical gardens transformed a former landfill site and now is an oasis of different trees and flowers from the tropics. From up here, you also get an amazing view over the Atlantic Ocean.
Mercado de nuestra señora de Africa – famous market with plenty of stalls, shops and a courtyard to chill in, all within a stunning building complex.
Tenerife auditorium – with its iconic architecture looking similar to the Sydney Opera house, this is the place to come for a cultural show or to simply enjoy the building.
Eat and drink
There’s plenty of cuisines to enjoy here including traditional Spanish tapas. We mostly ate out but sometimes ordered in from Glovo app (just eat also works here). Here’s a list of my favourites:
Rincon de am – there are a few branches of these around. They do so many breakfast menus for such good value.
Salon de Thé – perfect for brunch and some afternoon tea. Very aesthetically pleasing also.
La cuadro de palmero – tapas menu mainly. Popular with locals so worth booking if going on a weekend or go for an “early dinner” by Spanish standards e.g. before 8pm
Plato 18 – their tapas portions are big so start slow!
Bodeguita Canaria – another tapas local favourite.
La Ruta Grill – might as well be called all you can eat meat!! They have an American grill vibe and everything tastes so good.
Delhi Dargar – one of the best Indian takeaways I’ve had! The restaurant looked lovely to dine in as well.
Atlantis – very fancy looking place opposite Plaza de España – slightly more expensive than the places above but their fish was exquisite.
Jaxana – bougie Asian restaurant with the prettiest decor.
We spent many evenings on our hotels rooftop bar! Always a plus when booking accommodation.
La guiri bar – quirky bar filled with expats and a piano which someone will inevitably be playing. Please avoid sitting on the seats directly underneath the landings above as someone’s glass fell over my head!
Ramblas, Calle Noria and the whole area around plaza de Espana is perfect for finding bars/clubs.
Qué Mania for all the usual sweet treats
Cafetería Hespérides for authentic churros with dipping chocolate!
Beyond Santa Cruz
There’s so much more to explore in Tenerife and honestly a week wasn’t enough to do it all. There’s many hikes including near volcanos, boat rides, and other outdoorsy activities which I would love to do next time. Also there’s many other cities/areas to explore (which I would highly recommend incorporating into your visit). We did a couple of things outside Santa Cruz:
1 – Visited Siam Park, in Costa Adeje. It’s said to be the best waterpark in the world according to tripadvisor. What I do know is that it is so much fun, especially if you enjoy water rides and the adrenaline from them!
There’s also a couple of beaches to relax in once you’re done with the highs.
Bus 110 goes directly there from Santa Cruz (on the way back, I recommend you get the bus from the main station as it gets full quickly).
2 – Visited Loro Parque, in Puerto De la Cruz. This city is also in the North but more touristy with a resort feel amongst the city. It has many beautiful black sand beaches which are typical of the island due to being formed by volcanic ash.
Loro Parque is a huge outdoor zoo and sanctuary located here and is twinned with Siam Park so you can buy twin tickets (although they take your fingerprint for this so buy separately if you want to avoid that).
Why should you consider Tenerife as a winter holiday destination? It has warm sunshine due to its location off the west African coast, has so much going on its cities as I’ve talked about plus the usual resorts in the South and being the biggest canary island makes it unique in what it has to offer.
I had the best week there and would love to visit one day to explore more including its carnival which is the 2nd biggest in the world after Rio! Who knew!!