Tenerife: Beyond the beaches
From whale-watching adventures to wine routes and slides through shark tanks, our Travel Editor goes to the beaches (and beyond) in Tenerife.
Set the mood
"This is as close as they get!" our guide shouts, casting off his cool for the unedited enthusiasm of a seven-year-old.
Sailing off the cliffs of Los Gigantes, at the southern tip of Tenerife, our boat (losgigantes.com; from €20pp) has caught up with a pod of short-finned pilot whales. Breezing from port to starboard, clearly visible at up to several metres underwater, they offer a breathtakingly close encounter. Breaching the surface, I can see their blowholes open and close.
I came to Tenerife expecting party-goers and package holidaymakers, but here is wildlife of a different order. "It doesn't get better than this!" our guide gushes. I wholeheartedly agree.
Tenerife is the biggest of the Canary Islands, and of course boasts its fair share of boozy resorts and English breakfasts. Year-round sunshine makes it a peachy destination for golf, walking and biking too, however - and don't make the mistake of thinking the entire island is Lanzarote-like in its volcanic barrenness. Yes, Mount Teide is magnificent, but the north could be on an entirely different continent, with its lush valleys and laurel forests.
The capital, Puerto de la Cruz, feels like the polar opposite of Playa de las Americas. Lago Martiánez, a series of seaside swimming pools designed by Canarian star-chitect César Manrique, sits on its rim, within touching distance of the surf.
"O knight thou lackest a cup of canary: when did I see thee so put down?" So asks Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's comedy, Twelfth Night.
Though the Bard may have been familiar with Canarian wines, 21st century visitors are often surprised to find Tenerife's arid landscape boasts the largest wine-producing area in the archipelago. There are several wineries (bodegas) to explore along Tenerife's Ruta del Vino (facebook.com/rutasvyin). It's a great afternoon out, and you can re-stock the self-catering wine rack en route.
Siam Park, Tenerife
Loro Parque (loroparque.com; €33/€22) and its killer whales are better known, but for my money, Tenerife's best family day out is Siam Park (siampark.net; €34/€23). This sprawling, Thai-themed waterpark is as mainstream as it gets - boasting a 12.5-million litre wave pool, white sand imported from Portugal and some awesome waterslides, including the Tower of Power, a vertical drop from 76 metres that delivers a stonking sense of Zero-G before shooting you through a shark tank. No, seriously.
A few tips, though: Wear sunscreen (splashing about distracts from the rays, turning you salmon-pink); bring flip-flops (the paths are burning hot for bare feet); and invest in a fast-pass (at €15, you can skip the queues all day).
Tenerife is a long flight for a sun holiday (up to 4.5 hours) and like any other popular resorts, places like Playa de las Americas can get messy late at night in peak season. The key to the Canaries is picking your spot, and your time. There's plenty of room for everyone.
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) fly direct from Dublin and Cork to Tenerife. Ryanair also flies from Shannon, and the island is widely served by Irish tour operators.
Independent Travel (01 539-7700; travel.independent.ie) has flights plus seven nights at the 3-star Florida Plaza Apartmentys in puerto de la Cruz from €374 as we publish - book here.
See hellocanaryislands.com and spain.info for more.
Low taxes in Tenerife mean that alcohol, tobacco, perfumes and many other products are available at attractively lower prices than at home. Bear in mind, however, that the usual duty-free and VAT restrictions apply to any goods brought back into Ireland.