I was told by multiple people not to take this trip. Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa, is a common vacation spot among European, especially British, tourists. Peppered with all-inclusive resorts catering to frozen northerners ready to spend some quality sun-time lounging by pools drinking cocktails, to our friends, Tenerife didn't seem like our bag. But we found a Groupon deal, we were freezing, and we made up our minds to try it out.
We booked a room at Santa Barbara Gold and Ocean Club, a mid-range all inclusive condo community on the south coast of the island not too far from the airport. It was perfectly fine as a home base from which to explore the island but it is set apart from anything else - not near a town - with its own private black volcanic beach. When we travel, we like to stay somewhere with a kitchen so we can cook some meals and not have to eat out three times a day. We stocked up on groceries and still remember our breakfasts of black tomatoes with lemon juice, eggs, and a drizzle of Spanish olive oil fondly. Those tomatoes were out of this world flavorful and the olive oil so thick and aromatic.
Our first day was short so we decided to visit local town Los Cristianos to see Playa de la Amerias. The little city is beneath the imposing Pico del Tiede, the peak of the volcano that created this particular island. There are plenty of seafood restaurants along the beach.
We had decided to explore the entire island in our little four-day adventure so the next day we woke up early and headed up the east coast to Santa Cruz de Tenerife and up TF12 to hike in the rainforest. This drive is certainly not for the faint of heart. The roads are narrow and winding and there were more than a few times we had to back up out of the way of transport trucks. I closed my eyes a lot. If you can handle the heights and the drive, the views are totally worth it. From TF 12, we turned off onto TF-123 which snakes up through the rainforest. On the way to the trailhead, we stopped at Albergue Montes de Anaga for a coffee and an absolutely spectacular view of the valley below and ocean beyond. Anaga is a fairly decent sized hostel considering its location isolated in the mountains.
Our first stop after an hour long hike was in Benijo at El Mirador for some lunch. It's a cozy little seaside spot that boasts enormous platters of grilled seafood and the Canarian specialty, roasted potatoes with housemade mojos, green and red creamy, spicy sauces that go with everything! Let's be honest, food in Tenerife, though delicious and fresh, became mere vehicles with which to deliver these delicious sauces to my face. He had a huge plate of roasted cuttlefish and whole grilled sea bass that was to die for - and the view (above) is absolutely stunning.
Continuing on our way, we decided to drive through La Laguna on the way back and wandered the streets of this charming little town. In the square, there was a street fair taking place and I had a great time taking photos of all the street art.
The next day, we decided to do the more southern end of the island. We knew we didn't want to miss Mount Teide. At over 12,000 ft, this active volcano is the tallest peak in Spain and the peak and park surrounding it were designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. Tenerife island itself is a micro-climate. The southern side, dried by harsh Saharan winds, is arid and rocky while the northern side is graced with the moisture-filled tradewinds that keep it cooler and wet. There are plenty of beautiful beaches, many of which are black sand beaches and perfect for swimming. The water surrounding the island is some of the clearest I have ever seen and deep blue.
During the winter, El Teide can be covered in snow because of its elevation. This picture, taken from the southern side of the mountain shows how dry and desert-like the island can be. Driving through the ancient crater reminded me of West Texas. Drive over the mountain and this rocky and barren terrain gives way to thick, lush pine forests.
From Teide we drove to Puerto de la Cruz to lounge on Playa Martianez, a beautiful city beach with black sands. The water here is a bit rough so there is a break. It was lovely to take a dip here before continuing on our way.
Next stop, Icod de los Vinos, is a sleepy town on a gentle slope from Teide to the sea. The name is derived from the grape vines grown here from the 16th century. The town itself is wonderful just to walk through. It seemed like everywhere we walked we could see down to the sea below.
Wander around, drink some local wine, eat some more mojos and find the legendary dragon tree purported to be 1000 years old! Nearby is the beautiful Plaza de la Pila.
Our last day we drove to Playa de los Guios, a harbor in Acantilados de los Gigantes to view the giant rock formations that give the town its name. This is a wonderful town in which to stay with its stunning views and many restaurants along the cliffs. It was my favorite place because, as we wandered down to the harbor we were talked into a boat trip out to Playa de Masca, a beach only accessible by boat or by a hiking through the canyon which is a 5-hour hike round trip. We didn't bring our hiking gear so the boat ride was perfect. On the way there, it hugs the cliffs of Los Gigantes, until it stops at Masca where passengers can disembark and swim in the little bay. While it looked to be about 40-60 feet deep, the water was so clear you could see straight down to the bottom.
The boat then took us out into deeper waters to see the marine life. We were lucky enough to spot 2 pods of dolphins and a minke whale! Definitely a highlight of the trip!
There's lots to do in Tenerife, so if you find yourself booking a trip to an all-inclusive, I highly recommend renting a car and doing some exploring while you're there!