Tenerife is the largest of the seven inhabited Canary Islands. Part of Spain the Canary islands lie just a few hundred miles from the coast of Africa and have moderate temperatures throughout the year. Each island has unique and differing landscapes made from its volcanic origins. Tenerife has a few large metropolitan cities, Spain's tallest mountain, white, pink and black sand beaches and miles of banana plantations.
Arriving into the Tenerife North Airport and driving south, my first thoughts in the early evening dusk was that I just landed on an island that could have doubled as an open pit mind. Barren and ugly with lots of dirt, rocks and covered banana farms were all I could see from the freeway. I worried that my experience here would be unpleasant. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I was invited to the island for a conference on sustainability in travel by Biosphere Tourism and the city council of Arona. Arona is a district that has been certified as a global sustainable destination. As the mayors office, people and tourism department have worked hard to make the communities within Arona as in tune with nature as possible.
I had two days of conferences and one full day to explore. A short window to see a rather large island but if there is one thing I'm good at, its cramming in a lot of activities into a short time.
Where to Stay
I stayed in Costa Adeje right in the heart of Las Americas.
A great central location that puts you close to lots of restaurants, nightlife and activities. If you are looking for a mix of activities and conveniences this is a great place to book a hotel.
Without a doubt - rent a car. Be prepared to drive a manual car or pay a hefty increase in price for an Automatic.
In Costa Adeje there are a ton of car rental and motorcycle rental agencies.
There is a main highway that goes around the island, which makes it pretty easy to get around. The inland island is very hilly and you will find many steep inclines off the main highways. If you don't like heights or narrow roads stick to the main roads. I can count the times I have driven a manual on one hand, so my driving experience on Tenerife was a huge challenge and really stressed me out at times. After driving on the harrowing roads to Benijto Beach I also felt very accomplished.
Teide National Park & Spains Tallest Mountain
A National Park and World Heritage Site the area that surrounds Teide volcano is like a totally different world compared to the rest of the island. To reach it one must join a tour or drive up the mountain. From the beach lowlands you will pass through so many different microclimates before reaching the scrubby highlands that look a bit like California's Death Valley during super bloom. With rich and differing colors, huge outcroppings of rocks, many different types of plants and the ominous peak of Teide volcano ever-present. If you plan on hiking or visiting the top you will want to check the weather as the mountain has it's own climate which can often be very different from the coastal beaches.
Teide Volcano is the tallest mountain in Spain and it has a gondola which allows any nature of person to be able to ascend to just shy of the peak. If you wish to take the gondola go early and pre-purchase your tickets online. They have a separate entrance for online tickets and you won't have to wait in line. They open at 9 and if you go around that time you will beat the tour buses. To pre-purchase tickets visit their site: Teide Volcano
At 12,198 feet the air is thin at the top. The gondola is quick and I highly recommend it. Once at the top you can walk around on numerous trails. If you want to summit you have to prebook a slot as only 200 tickets to the summit are allowed each day and they sell out months in advance.
Visit the Dragon Tree
Also known as the Parque del Dragon the infamous dragon tree is the natural symbol of the island of Tenerife. This particular tree is the largest and oldest specimen of the species. A small entrance fee is required to view the tree which is located within a small garden park. There is also an old cave on the property called the Cave of the Guanches where you can view the ancient mummified remains of the original inhabitants of the island of Tenerife.
Drive to Masca
This beautiful area is located in the mountains on the West coast of the island. MAsca is a small town that overlooks some beautiful natural features. Stop in the town for a cactus lemonade and if you have time, head to the cast to check out the beaches here.
Hit the Water
This island boasts tons of different water activities from parasailing, and jet skiing, to full day and half cruises, whale watches and large party boat catamarans. I chose to go on a small sailboat for a 3 hour trip in the harbor off Costa Adeje. With just 6 other guests it was a relaxing trip. We saw several pilot whales and anchored for swimming, snacking and champagne drinking before heading back to port.
It's no surprise that Tenerife has many beaches. The wild thing, is just how different they all are however. There are the busy chair lined beaches of Costa Adeje, and the barren beaches of La Tejita, rocky nude beaches tucked into coastal outcroppings and hidden black sand beaches of the far north.
On my last evening I braved the treacherous and winding road to Benijto Beach. On the far northern end of the island this beach is located down a long footpath. The road itself dead ends at a bar, and if you are lucky enough to make it here you will not see another tourist for miles. I stayed for one of the most incredible sunsets of my life, and then one of the most harrowing drives I will ever experience.
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