I know, I know. You’ve might already raised your eyebrows, cause isn’t Tenerife supposed to be sort of outdated and overrun by tourists? Well, I have a slightly different story for you. In fact, I was very positively surprised when visiting the island for the first time in January this year. I brought me little family with me, and this (long) post is the result of our holiday. Happy reading!
Traveling With a Toddler
Let me start by saying that isn’t a sponsored post. My family and I went to Tenerife with all expenses paid by ourselves, and I’m glad we did, cause that gave us the freedom to explore the island exactly as we pleased. Anyone who has ever traveled with a toddler knows how important flexibility is, cause you know… toddler gets driving sick, toddler gets hungry, toddler starts crying. You never know what might happen – even if you try your best to plan for it – and so, it’s safer to implement some free space and flexible solutions during the holiday.
When that being said; yes, I was eager to finally visit Tenerife when it felt like everyone else in the world had been! Honestly, I also had my doubts. Since the 1950’s, The Canarian Islands have been a hot spots for tourists, and especially Gran Canaria (the sister island of Tenerife) is known for its “mass tourism”, which has now become a problem. Would my family and I really like to spend one of our only holidays together in a place like this? I was to be surprised.
Villa Rosalva: A Corner Of Paradise
There are two airports in Tenerife; one in the South and one in the North. We flew directly to the Southern airport, which took about 5 hours from Berlin. Upon arrival, we rented a car and drove all the way up to our hotel in Puerto de la Cruz. Last-mentioned is one of the bigger towns, but shouldn’t be confused with Santa de la Cruz, which is the “capital” of the island. It’s generally said that the Southern part of Tenerife is warmer and drier while the Northern part is more windy and “fresh”. In other words; the North is perfect for surfing, and I’d go for that any day, as it can get very hot in the South – especially during summer. If you’re traveling with children, I can only give my warmest recommendations to a stay in or around Puerto de la Cruz.
There are plenty (!) of touristy hotels all over the island, so we deliberately chose a hotel with a charming, local feel, just a few kilometers from the city center of Puerto. “Villa Rosalva” is actually more of a guest house than a hotel, which meant that we had our own little kitchen and private terrace. The owner is German, and both her and her staff were incredibly friendly and helpful throughout our stay. We even had our laundry done and a bread basket delivered every morning.
The main clientele here wasn’t families with children, but we still felt very well-received and had a great time staying there for two weeks. Breakfast is included for €15 per person per day. My favorite things about the villa? The lush garden, the pool area, the direct view to Teide (the vulcano) and all the quiet little corners, where one could read books and just enjoy the calmness.
Staying at Villa Rosalva meant that we didn’t experience the touristic vibe – apart from when we went sightseeing in Puerto and the other major tourist spots on the island. And sightseeing is probably something you’d like to do once you’re here; not only because there’s actually a lot to see, but because more than a week on Tenerife without doing anything might make you a bit nuts. After all, it is an island.
Volcano Hiking In The Teide National Park
The landscape in Tenerife is stunning and probably what surprised me the most. The natural blend of rocky mountains, valleys, beautiful beaches and lush parks sets the island apart from its sister islands. The icing on the cake is the Teide National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it should be at least one of the reasons why you come to Tenerife. I could easily dedicate an entire post to this park and its raw and “out-of-this-world” natural beauty, but instead I’ll sum up for you here, why you should consider doing a hike to the volcano. Even if it means getting up at 6.30AM!
With its nearly 4 kilometers, Teide is the highest mountain in Spain, but if you measure it from the ocean floor, it’s the third highest volcano in the world (7,5 kilometers!) Now, if you have a thing for mountains like me, that should be reason enough to go! Teide is majestic, and around it lies the national park, which first opened in 1954. Prior to our holiday, my grandmother had told me that her and my mother visited the national park in the early 1970s, which of course only added to my curiosity to see it. More than 40 year later, I stood on the same ground with my own little family. We first had to drive one hour up the mountain though, which our son wasn’t too happy about! But once we got to the national park, everything was forgotten! It reminded me of a moon landscape, and the higher you went, the more moon-like it became. We didn’t go to the top (for this, you need a professional guide to accompany you), but our 3-hour hike in the park was good enough. There’s a classic Spanish taverna close to the park, where everyone seemed to make a pit stop for lunch, coffee or a souvenir. After this point, it’s only you and raw nature – and it felt incredible! Temperatures can drop quite a lot in those altitudes, so remember warm clothes and comfortable shoes if you’re planning on going. The entrance to the park is free.
Pro tip: Early riser or not, go catch the sunrise from the national park! It’s a magical experience and definitely a must-do when visiting Tenerife!
The Traditional Canarian Towns
Renting a car is a must if you’re planning to do a bit of sightseeing on the island. Once you do, you’ll find that there are plenty of things to experience! The capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is worth a quick visit, but I honestly didn’t find it so intriguing. Instead, I’d recommend you to go explore the smaller, traditional towns. My favorites are:
- Garachico: said to be the most picturesque town in Tenerife, Garachico oozes of traditional, unspoiled Canarian culture. Prepare to meet more tourists here around lunch time – otherwise, this is a calm town.
- Icod de los Vinos: this little town was one of the first to be established after the Spanish conquest in 1496, and today, one can find several shops, restaurants and even a decent beach. Its famous landmark is the Dragon Tree (El Drago).
- La Orotava: my favorite town of them all! Although La Orotava certainly has a town-vibe to it, it seems quite big with its hearty selection of shops, restaurants and cafés. It’s said to be Tenerife’s most stylish town!
- Puerto de la Cruz: not a traditional Canarian town as such, but home to a vibrant restaurant and night life scene. There are lots of tourists in Puerto, but the nice beaches and relaxed atmosphere makes up for it!
- San Cristobal de la Laguna: Also known as “La Laguna”, this cute town offers the perfect blend of tapas, shopping and cafés! It’s considered to be the cultural capital of the Canaries.
Pro tip: Enjoy a traditional lunch or dinner at Los Compadres in La Orotava; a family-owned restaurant with a lot of heart space and history. Here we are with Juan, the owner of Los Compadres.
Life Is a….Beach!
Tenerife equals long, sandy beaches and ocean views as far as the eye reaches! But did you know that many of the most popular beaches are actually man-made? The traditional “volcano” beaches with black sand still exist though, and I recommend you visit both! Staying in Puerto de la Cruz on the North coast, we obviously spend more time on the beaches in this area, which are also tremendously popular amongst surfers. There’s almost always a good wave to catch! One of the most popular beaches here is called Playa Jardin and it’s not only great for swimming and surfing, but also for sunset-gazing! Come well in advance though, as it can get quite crowded.
El Bullollo was our favorite. On the outskirts of Puerto, this beach is pretty much untouched with beautiful black sand and majestic waves. Yes, the waves can get quite big and the currency is strong, so it’s not ideal for children. Still, it’s worth a visit, even if it’s just to catch a sunset! To reach El Bullollo, one has to go down many stairs, so make sure you’re wearing good shoes! Once you’re there, grab a drink or a snack at the small beach tavern.
Pro tip: You can enjoy a coastal hike from Puerto to El Bollullo. It takes about 30-40 minutes and the scenery is stunning! Once you reach the beach (and before climbing down all the stairs), I can recommend you to have lunch or early dinner at the restaurant ‘Bollullo Beach’, from where you can enjoy the spectacular ocean views. Our son didn’t really enjoy the views as much as we did, but the staff is (child)-friendly!
Playa de la Teresitas is another great beach to consider. It probably offers the brightest and finest sand in all of Tenerife. There’s an artificial reef, which attracts colorful fish and the area is ideal for paddling, snorkeling and relaxing.
I won’t go into details with the Southern beaches, as we didn’t really try them out, but let me give you one last beach recommendation: Playa de Antequera. This is a true “hidden gem”, as it’s only possible to reach the beach by foot or by boat. No formalities – just raw, untouched nature especially loved by local surfers.
The Canarian Cuisine of Delight
In all honesty, I wasn’t intrigued by the cuisine on the island. Or put in another way; I wouldn’t travel to Tenerife solely for the food. Don’t get me wrong; there are many traditional gems (see my recommendation for the tavern in La Orotava above), but the overall level of gastronomy didn’t excite me. The “tourist tapas” are everywhere to be found, and unfortunately, it’s quite easy to spot the negative effects of heavy tourism on the island. Lack of quality when it comes to restaurants, for example. We enjoyed being able to cook in our small apartment, and grocery shopping here is still quite inexpensive compared to many European destinations. There are plenty of Lidl’s and Spanish supermarkets scattered all over the island, but find a local food market if you can. I found this list of Farmer’s Market’s, in case you’re curious.
Also, it’s always recommendable to try out the local delicacies. Drop in at a traditional tavern and spoil your taste buds with not only Spanish, but real Canarian treats. Our favorite delicacies in Tenerife are:
- Papas arragudas con mojo: …or “potatoes with sauce”. How can such a simple dish taste so divine?! Potatoes boiled in very salty water, drained and tossed in sea salt. Then, dipped in a spicy red salsa called ‘mojo rojo’ or the green version ‘mojo verde’.
- Pimientos de Padrón: a special variety of peppers fried in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. A super delicious treat either before dinner with a glass of wine or simply as a tapas. Beware though! Once in a while, you can sink your teeth into a particularly hot one, which will blow your head off! But most often, the Tenerife variety is mild and soft. They say that’s because of the local soil.
- Queso asado: if you’re a cheese lover, this one’s for you! A simple delight of smoked goat’s cheese either lightly fried or baked in the oven, enjoyed with hot red salsa (mojo rojo) or drizzled with honey. Yum!
- Churros de pescado: fish in batter with aioli (garlic mayo) – what more can you possibly ask for?! This was love at first sight for me, especially because I do love a well-made portion of fish’n’chip – and this is just a tad bit more elegant.
- Croquetas: another simple yet very delicious treat from the Canarian cuisine. Croquetas are basically crispy coated balls filled with anything your heart desires, e.g. ham, white fish, potato, chicken, tuna or spinach.
Tenerife With Children
The Canary Islands in general are ideal for child-friendly vacations, and of course, Tenerife is no exception. I’ve heard from several that Tenerife might actually be the preferred island when it comes to this – simply due to its natural beauty and exceptional flora and fauna. Our son was only 12 months at the time of our holiday, however, even he found all the animals fascinating 🙂 Based in that, I can recommend you to visit the following places with your child(ren):
Monkey Park: It’s the smallest zoo in the world and a breeding centre for endangered primates. No feeding allowed, but you can easily spend an hour or two observing these cheeky monkeys (including your own one) 😉
Loro Parque: I was impressed by this park, which we unfortunately didn’t visit, but heard so much about. Impressed because of their animal protection and conservation programs – and the fact that they accommodate more than 350 different parrot species alone! The park also has a stunning aquarium and shows during the day, which will undoubtedly entertain the entire family. Don’t worry – this is not a tourist trap setting out to earn money on behalf of the animals. They’ve won several awards for their protection and educational programs.
Siam Park: Named the world’s best water park and donated by Thailand’s royal family, and it almost feels like you’re entering a different world when you walk through the gates. Only suitable for bigger children, but will keep everyone entertained for a day.
Museum of Science & the Cosmos: For any little Astronaut to-be, this interesting museum in Puerto shows exhibitions of the earth, the sun and the universe – and there are several interactive exhibits as well. Best suited for bigger children.
Play and relax in the parks: We encountered so many little parks with playgrounds and play facilities for smaller children. Sometimes, you gotta keep it simple and what better way to take in the Canarian way of life than spending time with local children and sipping a coffee from the nearby coffee shop?
Tenerife continues to be one of the most popular and loved island holiday destinations in the world, but if you stay clear of touristy places such as Playa de las Americas (which was literally build for tourists in the 1960s), you can easily get a sense of the Canarian culture.
Being able to explore the “lesser known” areas of the island made our trip unforgettable, and I’m certain I’ll come back at some point – perhaps to see another sunset at Teide?
Tenerife is so much more than what you often hear, and I’d choose this island over the other Canarian islands if I had too. Traveling with children here is easy and hazzle-free. The Canarians are very friendly and outgoing – and they love children!
No matter the season, the weather is usually mild and pleasant. Average temperatures swing between 15-25 degrees Celcius – however, it rains a little more in winter and summer’s are usually very hot.
Over to you: have you ever been to Tenerife? Or are you planning to go? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!