Rebecca Underwood discovers what Tenerife has on offer.
Tenerife, at 785 square miles, is the largest of the Spanish Canary Islands, and continues to attract hordes of visitors from all over Europe.
Those seeking a comfortable snooze on a sandy beach, and yearning to be soothed by a warm, tropical climate, will be richly rewarded. A number of South Tenerife’s golden sand beaches, including Fañabé, Playa del Duque, Torviscas and El Médano have achieved the coveted Blue Flag status (awarded by the Foundation of Environmental Education).
For ardent explorers, there are lush forests, arid deserts and the majestic Anaga Mountains, which are located in the northeast of the island, occupying the greenest part of Tenerife and reaching up to 1024 metres.
Another popular site is Mount Tiede, an active volcano, which forms part of the Teide National Park, covering 47,000 acres. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, Mount Tiede attracts more than three million visitors annually. Novice hikers, heading for the Teide National Park, which stretches across the centre of the island, may consider starting off at the El Portillo visitor’s centre and embark on the relatively easy 5.3 kilometre trail to Cuesta de La Fortaleza. Take the opportunity to discover some of the most common plants including brooms, laburnums, summit roses, catmint and flixweed. Admire the towering Canarian pine trees and as you pass by La Fortaleza, pause for a while and admire the stunning scenery.
Prior to your expedition, stock up on supplies, and head for the Mercado La Pepa, an indoor food market, located on the top floor of the Passarela Oasis Shopping Centre on Avenida San Francisco in Los Cristianos. Select your food from a large number of food and drinks businesses, including a wide range of vegan options, and then make your way to the open air terrace to sample some goodies. I ordered papas arrugadas, the national dish, which consists of wrinkled potatoes served with mojos (tasty paprika and coriander sauces), and Tenerife’s national speciality coffee, the Barraquito, which is made with condensed milk, espresso coffee, frothy milk, lemon zest and Licor 43, Spain’s most popular liquor. Served in a tall clear glass, to display the layers of ingredients, this blend of flavours is simply scrumptious.
I settled in Los Cristianos, one of Tenerife’s most popular holiday resorts, which is located on the south coast. A leisurely stroll along the promenade, beside the bustling harbour, reveals a host of opportunities for beach babes, including scuba-diving, snorkelling, water-skiing, jet-skiing, fishing charters, kayaking and canoeing.
For a more leisurely encounter with the briny and the opportunity to spot some of the world’s 79 species of dolphins and whales (21 of these species inhabit Tenerife’s waters), I opted to embark on Mugen, an impressively sleek lined 45ft Bavaria sailing boat with a beam of 4.35 metres, which is docked at Los Gigantes, only 30 kilometres away from Los Cristianos. The beautiful vessel, which is only five years old, holds a highly skilled crew of two and a maximum of eight passengers. Sailing on the glittering blue waters, and comfortably seated on the back deck with three fellow passengers, I sipped on a glass of chilled sparkling wine and devoured a platter of fresh fruit, followed by a selection of delicious sandwiches. We were fortunate to spot a playful pod of bottlenose dolphins and then a couple of short fin pilot whales. Other ocean residents, which may surface, include loggerhead and green turtles, finback, beaked, humpback and sperm whales, mantas and tunas.
Tenerife offers an extensive selection of hotels but for those who prefer more space, holiday rental apartments offer guests the freedom to choose their own way of life rather than adapting to a hotel’s time table. Homeaway.com provides a wide range of rental properties from high end villas and apartments to middle range properties and there are options for those on more limited budgets. I selected a middle range apartment, located within a small complex on the outskirts of Los Cristianos and within walking distance to a taxi rank, the local bus station, supermarkets, and the pedestrianised promenade, which leads to Playa de las Amèricas. The facilities on the complex include a large swimming pool and a separate children’s pool with towering palm trees providing shade. The apartment features two bedrooms, one bathroom with a shower, an open plan kitchen and a comfortable lounge. The balcony, furnished with a table and chairs, provided the ideal spot for dining.
For those who prefer to dine out, Restaurante El Cine, located on Calle Juan Bariajo, near the harbour is just the ticket. This bustling casual restaurant is a real gem and I was delighted to see that most of the tables were taken by local people including members of the local police force. I selected the succulent fried octopus, served with a choice of Canarian sauces and accompanied by a cool glass of local wine. I was embarrassed to admit that a stray glob of sauce had landed on my clothing and I asked the waiter for a damp cloth. In seconds flat he produced an aerosol spray of ‘Quitamanchas’ and I was relieved to know that this incident was a regular occurrence.
Passing by again on a Sunday lunch time, I noted a long meandering queue of locals waiting patiently for a table; surely the highest accolade.
For a ‘trendy’ dining experience, the Monkey Bar and Grill, located on Avenue de las Amèricas, offers an outstanding level of comfort and service. The décor follows an African theme with interesting artworks and fabrics displayed and the ‘alfresco’ dining option provides diners with the opportunity to take part in the popular sport of ‘people watching’. I selected the delicious bone-in, char grilled 35oz Ribeye, and accompanied by a glass of Pintia Toro, the flavours were sublime.
And, for an exceptional dining experience, head for Casa Fito, located on Carretera General del Sur in Chimiche, which is approximately 30 kilometres from Los Cristianos.
The grilled Chateaubriand beef tenderloin, served with a glass of Viñátigo Ensamblaje Tino, is a first class dish. And as we raised our glasses for a toast to the talented chef, the lyrics of a popular song, written in 1931 by Erell Reaves, came to mind ‘Lady of Spain I adore you, right from the night I first saw you, my heart had been yearning for you, what else could any heart do?, Lady of Spain’.
Top tip – tours, transfers and getting around
For more information on daily whale watching cruises and/or private charters, visit thirdelementcharters.com
Purchase a travel card for the local bus company, which offers a punctual and efficient service. For more information visit titsa.com
For a reliable airport transfer service in Tenerife, Kintasur Bus offers an ultra-modern minibus with capacity for up to 16 passengers. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0034 690 27 47 76.
Top tip - holiday accommodation
For more information on the featured accommodation (property no. 8249881) and other properties all over the World, select the most trusted company for holiday rentals and visit homeaway.com
Top tip - travel to Gatwick and return
You can save, on average, 43 per cent by booking in advance with Trainline versus the cheapest non-advance fares. For more information download the Trainline app or visit Trainline.com
Top tip - flights
Take advantage of a punctual and reliable service from London Gatwick direct to Tenerife South. Opt for business class which includes a guaranteed window or aisle seat, a separate cabin providing more privacy and comfort, a generous luggage allowance (2x32k) and access to BA’s London Gatwick lounge. Fly the flag and visit britishairways.com