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If you think Tenerife's popularity began during the package holiday boom of the 1970s, think again: Brits have been visiting since the late 19th century. Today millions of tourists come to the largest Canary Island every year, drawn by its fine beaches and year-round sunshine – not to mention the promise of cheap holidays at the south coast's prime resorts. But there's another side to Tenerife too. Soaring Mount Teide sits at the heart of the island, and its foothills have become a magnet for hikers and mountain bikers, offering an otherworldly landscape of gnarled rocks, scrub-covered plains and forested canyons.
Much of Tenerife's package market is focused on a trifecta of resorts on the south west coast. They're all good bets for cheap Tenerife holidays, and the biggest and boldest is Playa de las Américas. Renowned for British bars and raucous nightlife, it nevertheless comes in an attractive package, with wide, gently shelving beaches and a backdrop of rugged hills. A mix of all-inclusive holidays and basic apartment stays – plus a couple of good local water parks – keeps both party animals and families happy.
Moving south, you can barely slide a playing card between Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos, but the latter is distinctly lower key. Palms line the streets, a wide promenade runs behind the beach, and the average visitor is more interested in eating out than passing out. That's also true in the more northerly Costa Adeje, which is slightly more affluent than its neighbours. With some five-star hotels and upscale all-inclusive resorts, it's a good spot for luxury Tenerife holidays. It's also a hit with golfers, thanks to the 18-hole championship course up at La Caleta.
Head due east across Tenerife's southern tip and you'll hit El Médano, where a slightly more exposed coast delivers perfect conditions for wind- and kite-surfing. It's still relatively built up compared to the north of the island, but dramatically quieter than the resorts in the south west.
Up in the north, beaches and bars give way to vineyards, colonial towns and rugged cliffs, culminating in the wild Taganana coast and the Pijaral forest. The coast here doesn't offer the same beach experience as the south; it's also worth bearing in mind that the climate is generally wetter, even though those trademark Canarian temperatures remain high. What you do get is a series of towns that balance tourism and authentic local life. Try El Sauzal, with its superlative clifftop views, or the larger Puerto de la Cruz, a fishing town with two black sand beaches.
While summer brings the best temperatures, there isn't really a bad time to go to Tenerife. Cheap holidays are available all year round, but the best value trips are in the shoulder seasons of May to early July and late September to November. Travel then for the perfect balance of keen pricing and warm temperatures – and if you're coming for hiking or mountain biking, you might even find spring and autumn preferable to the heat of high summer.
Between late July and early September the school holiday crowds arrive, bringing plenty of buzz to the big resorts but driving up prices significantly. The same is true of Easter, when the school break coincides with local celebrations.
You can pick up really cheap Tenerife holidays in the winter months. There's a little more rain, but temperatures are still pleasant, ranging from the mid-teens to the low twenties. It's a good option for travellers focused on culture or activities.
A week long party of lively parades and colourful fiestas, Tenerife’s legendary carnival celebrations give even Rio a run for its money. The festivities take place in island capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Every year, the picturesque historic town of La Laguna hosts this festival in celebration of one of Tenerife’s most important religion icons. It’s a great event to experience traditional food, drink, music and dancing.
How you get around Tenerife really depends on the kind of holiday you're planning. If it's a classic fly-and-flop on the south west coast, you can get by using taxis or public transport for your transfer, then local buses to reach nearby beaches and theme parks. If you're coming to explore the north coast or get into the wilds of Teide National Park and Anaga Natural Park, you can't beat the convenience of a hire car. See more on our Tenerife car hire page.
If you're staying on the north coast, bear in mind that transfer times from Tenerife South Airport – which almost all Tenerife package holidays fly into – can be significant, taking an hour at the very least. Your choices are long, winding mountain roads through Teide or going the long way round on the TF-1 motorway: most people choose the latter. Indirect flights to Tenerife North are available, and from there a taxi transfer to Puerto de la Cruz takes about half an hour.
Local buses – which Tinerfeños call “guaguas”, pronounced “wah wahs” – are cheap and reliable. You'll only pay a few euros for trips from Tenerife South to the big south west resorts. Buses leave every half hour until roughly 10pm, with a slightly less frequent service on weekends and holidays. The wider Titsa network serves towns and sights across the island, and has an English-language site with route maps and timetables. There is also a light rail system in capital city Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
If you plan to use buses or trams a lot, it's worth investing in a ten+ card, which you can buy at Titsa stations, vending machines and some shops. It works on a top-up basis, and can work out better value (and more convenient) for heavy users – but it's probably overkill if you only plan to make a few journeys.
Due to lower commission fees, Local exchange offices in the main tourist areas tend to offer better rates for changing money.
Tenerife is one of Europe’s premier star-gazing destinations. Marvel at the solar system with a night tour of Teide.
Be sure to try papas arrugadas, the wrinkly little potatoes synonymous with Tenerife’s food culture.