Our seven-day trip to a lush Spanish island.
If you have seven days and you’re looking to explore a destination to the full, give Tenerife more than a passing glance. It’s a part of the Canary Islands situated off the northwestern coast of Africa. Owned by Spain, the archipelago was formed by volcanic eruptions. Tenerife, pronounced ten-eh-ree-fay by the locals, is the largest of the Canaries with a diverse topography including sprawling forest land, black sand beaches, a formidable volcano called Mt. Teide (tay-day) and steep mountains that give you a leg up to the most breathtaking vantage points.
We never [read: try not to] book trips on the fly. Sure, serendipity can yield memories that leave you beaming years later, but it can also lead to wasted money and/or missed opportunities. Alas, if you’re into planning ahead, much of what you’re about to read is a: “do as we say, not as we do” overview of our week in Tenerife. We ended up stumbling on a lot of amazing destinations but we could have just as easily been subjugated to the tourists spots because we didn’t adequately sketch out our days. More on that later.
It was 2:30 a.m. Jan. 7, 2017 - the morning we finished moving out of our South Florida home. Next stop was six months in Ireland. The problem was: as American citizens we were only allowed to stay in the country for three months at a time, which meant that during our stay abroad we would be forced to galavant off to somewhere close by in Europe for a week to break up the visit. Bummer. Plus, it was necessary to show proof of our plans to leave Ireland while speaking to immigration at the airport.
Using Google Flights, I selected a March date - three months into our Ireland trip - and clicked destination: anywhere. Trusting our middle of the night judgment we scrolled past landlocked spots (ocean was a necessity), cities we’ve already visited, and destinations that were totally off the map given our budget (maybe next time, Thailand).
A friend of ours once raved about his hometown on the island of Tenerife, so when we saw the locale on the list and the price was right, we booked two tickets, printed the itineraries to show the Irish immigration officer, and made a mental note to text said friend in about a month regarding our impending travels. Looking back, this may have been the only reason we were let into the country. The stress was real.
I have to admit, the very first time we heard of this Spanish island was in an Ed Sheeran song. He sings of a girl’s eyes, the same tantalizing blue of the Tenerife Sea. So, except for a couple of cursory google searches and singing along with Ed, we knew very little about the island. After two and half months of scarves, coats, and frozen toes, we would have given our left arms for some uninterrupted sun but we weren’t motivated to plan for some reason. Perhaps it was a new kind of brain freeze.
Our Tenerifian friend graciously gave us pointers about the island: there were no real dangerous places to avoid, the popular tourist beaches were in the south, and (most graciously of all) we could stay with his family. (AirBnBs are aplenty in Tenerife as well as hotels, and since you’re staying on an island, you’ll be hard pressed to find accommodations without ocean views.)
We packed light. At the time, we were members of the ‘strictly carry on’ echelon of travelers. My two pair of jeans, plus Gabbi’s two pair of jeans meant at least four days of pants. Leggings, some tops, a couple of shorts, and bathing suits made up the balance. We carried coats, which we were advised to take along just in case.
We arrived on a Thursday evening for our stay based in Candelaria. Renting a car seemed like the most independent option for us since we didn’t trust our handle (or lack thereof) of Tenerife’s public transportation system nor our command of the Spanish language.
The terrain was breathtaking, a desert-like, mountainous California, with views of the ocean with every eyeful. We took the ringroad/highway to the McDonald’s restaurant where we planned to meet our friend’s cousin and follow her to our accommodations.
You know that scene in Inception? Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page are traveling in his dream world. As they’re walking around buildings and through streets, Page’s character bends the dimension of the street, which suddenly appears to be directly on top of them. As they continue walking, they bridge the change in dimension by walking up at a 90-degree angle. Following our new friend in our rental car was identical. Winding through tiny two-way streets, around curves with sheer drops past measly bollards, and up inclines that convinced us we were about to flip backwards culminated in one of several points in the trip where I chastised myself for crossing the line of being too adventurous. Be more careful with your life, Alex or at least with Gabbi’s.
We recovered, laughed it off, met the entire family, and retired to our private wing of the home for the night.
Skipping the tourist hotspots like the famous zoo Loro Parque (let’s just say Blackfish left an impression) and Playa de las Americas (a resort area chock full of visitors), during the next six days, we aimed to get up early, plan loosely, and stuff our eyes with as much as daylight could spare. We never grew used to the vistas, were rarely underwhelmed, and barely relaxed. See our timeline below.
Day 1: Grocery trip, Masca hike, Los Gigantes ferry
Day 2: Churros and cafe con leche by the water, La Orotava, Puerta De La Cruz
Day 3: Igueste de Candelaria
Day 4: Taganana and Benijo beaches
Day 5: Corona Forestal, Mt. Teide, La Orotava, Icod de los Vinos
Day 6: Anaga Rural Park, Candelaria
Day 7: Flight back to Dublin