As my plane slowly started landing at Tenerife South Airport, I took in vistas of a volcanic island fringed by black sand beaches, with the crashing Atlantic waves kissing the shore on every side.
It was a beautiful clear day, and I was just about to begin my second trip to the Canary Islands, where I’d be checking out some of the more unusual things to do in Tenerife.
Tenerife is a popular year-round holiday destination, particularly for British and German tourists who are seeking to escape the cold months of northern Europe.
Often, tourists descend on all-inclusive hotels in Playa de las Americas or another southern destination, lazing on the beaches and enjoying hotel pools for a week, perhaps spending a day at main tourist attractions like Siam Park but not visiting much more of Tenerife.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but the island is home to so much more.
And, if you want an adventurous holiday, full of some more cultural activities and epic landscapes, Tenerife’s waiting for you.
I thought I’d put together this list of unusual things to do in Tenerife to show you another side of the island!
Disclaimer: I visited Tenerife (for the second time) as part of the British Guild of Travel Writer’s 2022 AGM, and flights, accommodations and attractions were provided on a complimentary basis. All opinions remain my own.
Unusual things to do in Tenerife
Drink high-altitude wine
“We normally drink white wine in Tenerife island, as it’s a lot hotter here” we were told, as we stood on the side of the steep incline, in a high-altitude winery called Bodegas Ferraras.
It wasn’t easy to get here; the underneath of the minibus scraped on the road as the driver pressed hard on the accelerator pedal.
But it was worth the slightly arduous journey. Sitting 1,000 feet above sea level in a lava tongue, this enterprise produces delectable organic wines.
They make use of their fairly rainy but sunny climate to maximise vine growing time.
The vineyards produce red, white and rose wine tastings, along with mouthwatering cheese made with sheep, goat and cow milk.
You can do a tour around Bodegas Ferraras, where the passionate owners will explain the growing process and, of course, invite you to sample some of their delectable products.
See an intergalactic landscape at Teide National Park
“You might be thinking that it’s not the right weather for stargazing”, our guide noted, as our minibus accelerated up the road that wound uphill, towards the entrance to the Teide National Park.
The clouds were descending, surrounding the vehicle, and the brave driver could barely see a metre in front as she drove around the ominous mountain roads.
We’d left the comfortable Hotel Botanico on a rainy evening, thinking that we wouldn’t have much luck in the Teide National Park.
“But don’t worry!” our guide remarked. “We’re going to one of the highest areas of all of Spain – in fact, Teide is the highest mountain in Spain.
We aren’t going to the peak, but we’ll be higher than the crowds”. He chuckled to sighs of disbelief “trust me, on this island, this happens a lot!”.
He was true to his words, and before long, we were plunged into an otherworldly landscape.
The rocky Teide National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it looked exactly as I’d envisage Mars, with orange and red scenery, the sun giving the entire area an effervescent glow.
“Teide National Park is beautiful any time of day” we were told, “but especially right now. Climb up here and look at the sunset!”.
There are plenty of viewpoints in Teide National Park, and it’s a wonderful place to climb up to and enjoy the panoramic views.
You can also stick around for stargazing. Teide National Park is recognised as a “starlight destination”. Far away from light pollution, it is widely regarded as one of the best places to admire the night sky in the world.
Tip: Take plenty of layers as it can be very chilly (especially if you’re visiting Tenerife in winter!) and you’ll be standing still for a while!
Hike to the top of Mount Teide
If you’re looking for something more adventurous, think about taking a day trip to hike to Mount Teide peak, the highest peak in Spain.
This is a tough hike, so make sure that you’re well-prepared and have sturdy hiking shoes and hiking pants/ trousers.
If you don’t want to hike independently, plenty of tours run with experienced guides. You can read about such a tour here.
Do you want to get to the top, but don’t fancy the hike? Take the easy route – an eight-minute cable car! You can read more about this option and purchase tickets here.
Summit to the top and enjoy some amazing views over not only the Mars-like landscape but the incredible island. It’s a Tenerife bucket list experience that you won’t forget!
Tour a banana plantation
I’m bananas for Tenerife.
After its beaches, the Canary Island is perhaps most famous for its production of the fruit.
“Canary bananas are sweeter than others, but you won’t find them on the island very much” our tour guide explained. “We actually export them and import other bananas!”.
However, you can tour a banana plantation while you’re here in Tenerife. Learn about local Canary food and explore gorgeous nature with this tour.
A tuk-tuk will pick you up from your hotel on the Costa Adeje, taking you up towards the Caldera del Ray monument and a nearby banana farm, learning all about Canarian produce as you go!
Explore a volcanic tube
As we stood outside of Cueva del Viento, we each strapped a helmet to our heads before descending into the cave. “There are two types of cave in the world, lava and limestone” our guide Fran explained.
We hauled ourselves into the cave and turned our flashlights on. “Have you ever seen The Descent?” one of the tourgoers asked, as we looked around, our lights illuminating the tube.
In fact, the tour wasn’t like The Descent at all. As we ambled through the cave, Fran told us how it was formed, detailing some of the different animals and plants that survive here.
“I’m going to ask you to do something scary,” Fran told us after a while. We turned the lights off and the darkness engulfed us, as if a dark cape had fallen over our eyes.
After a minute, we turned the lights on and rounded the corner, where we finally found a natural skylight. “An old lady fell down this once” Fran explained, “but remarkably, she survived”.
I ambled forward and looked at the skylight. It was a long way down.
We hiked back through the forest, enjoying some beautiful views and learning more about the Canary Islands’ remarkable diversity of wildlife.
You can take tours of the cave that include an introduction, safety briefing and a nature walk through the area. Tours run year-round, so if you’re visiting Tenerife in winter, this is one to not miss!
Try Canarian food
From tapas to paella, Spanish food is underrated; and virtually every town, city and island in the country is a hub for food. The Canary Islands are no exception.
There are so many delicious Canarian dishes.
Traditional food includes Canarian potatoes with a delicious mojo sauce, fresh fish, high-altitude cheeses, Garbanzada a lo Canario which is a hearty stew, churros del Pescado which is a version of churros that is almost like battered fish and of course, lots of red and white Tenerife wine.
We had a delicious local lunch in Agustín y Rosa in Icod de Los Vinos, which is a completely local eatery, serving typical food of the Canary Island with a warm atmosphere.
Dive into an underwater Cathedral
As the Canary Islands have the warmest water temperature in Europe, you can scuba dive throughout the year.
One of the best sites for scuba diving is La Catedral, a rocky shelf that was caused by a volcanic eruption.
It was given its name because it resembles a cathedral when you gaze at it from the inside!
Stay in town for the Tenerife Carnival
Drums graced our ears as we finished our pudding.
Dancers entered the room in a line, each participant grinning from ear to ear. Every dancer was dressed in bright clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in Rio – but of course, this isn’t Rio at all.
It’s the Tenerife Carnival, which is the second biggest carnival in the world.
The Tenerife Carnvial is nothing short of spectacular.
The second biggest carnival in the world, it’s a fiesta of colours, sounds and dances.
We weren’t visiting during carnival season, which usually takes place in February each year, but we were treated to a spectacle during our last dinner party – and it definitely made me want to return for more!
Laze on a black sand beach
I know I said that this is Tenerife beyond the beaches, but many of the shores on the island are completely different to those that you might be used to.
These are black sand beaches, which are full of the original black sand of Tenerife.
In fact, all the beaches used to be this colour, until they were covered with golden sands, imported from the Sahara Desert and other Mediterranean countries.
Playa Jardin is in Puerto de la Cruz and is one of the most popular black sand beaches in Tenerife.
Go whale watching with a 95% chance of seeing marine life
Of course, whale watching is quite a touristy activity – but have you ever gone on a catamaran boat trip with nearly a 100% chance of spotting something?
And it’s completely ethical – a lot of boat companies around the world feed the marine life, but the channel between Tenerife and La Gomera is home to an abundance of food for whales.
This gives you the 95% chance of seeing them!
We boarded a catamaran in Playa de las Americas, which sailed from the harbour to the whale lookout spot.
“I’ll turn the motor off now” the boat captain advised as soon as we arrived “to respect the whales – we’re in their home after all”.
Soon, we saw flashes of silver on the horizon, which gradually increased in size, before we saw a full-sized, detailed creature coming up for air and putting on a show for all to see.
After we’d spotted whales to our heart’s content, the boat took us to a nearby swimming spot where we jumped into the inviting – but chilly – water and enjoyed views of the stunning coastline.
Visit the Scandal dinner show
The Scandal Dinner Show is definitely one of the most unusual things to do in Tenerife!
Marketing itself as “stunning in every way”, the dinner show is a mix of burlesque dancing, acrobatics and music.
You can purchase tickets for the Scandal dinner show, enjoy the acts, a delicious four-course meal and sumptuous unlimited wine.
Enjoy the music, be entertained by the acts, and have one of the best nights in Southern Tenerife!
Explore the northern towns
The majority of tourists head to the popular tourist resorts near Tenerife South airport, a region that’s home to brilliantly blue skies and gorgeous beaches.
But it’s actually quite an unforgiving climate, with little rain, making it challenging for locals to live here.
In fact, most of the towns on the south coast of Tenerife are very touristy, whereas, in the north, you’ll find charming villages and colonial towns with colourful historic buildings, delectable local cuisine and lush green scenery.
- Puerto de la Cruz: This is where the first tourists to Tenerife came. It’s a beautiful town, with beautiful greenery surrounding the beaches.
- Icod de los Vinos: This is a beautiful village in the north of the island, famous for its wine festival where people go careering down a steep street and crash into the cellars at the bottom!
- Santa Cruz de Tenerife: The capital of the island, this vibrant city has one of the most important harbours in the Canaries.
Enjoy sports and adventurous activities
While this isn’t one of the most unusual things to do in Tenerife, the island is a playground of activities and attractions to enjoy while you’re on this Canary Island – and many tourists don’t realise this!
In Tenerife, you can enjoy surfing, paragliding, scuba diving and sky diving.
Check out GetYourGuide for the full list of incredible Tenerife activities!
Listen out for the whistling language
Keep your ears open as you explore Tenerife – you may hear their unique whistling language!
“My father is from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and he taught me it” our guide, Laura, told us after she demonstrated how to whistle “Bienvenidos a Tenerife”, to which somebody from up the road had whistled a response.
“My mum’s actually from Madrid, but she learned it when she came here – she wanted to hear what me and my dad were saying! It’s not used that much in Tenerife, but it’s more popular in La Gomera”.
La Gomera is the neighbouring island to Tenerife.
While nowadays, residents of the island communicate using their smartphones, all children must learn their ancient whistling language at school and it’s been recognised as a cultural heritage language by UNESCO.
The island has deep gorges with steep sides, the perfect location for sound to carry. In previous centuries, the whistling language was invented to enable people roaming around the island to communicate.
You won’t find the whistling language as much in Tenerife, but do listen out for it while you’re here!
Are you ready to check off the most unusual things to do in Tenerife?
From Mount Teide to the underwater world, the Canary Island of Tenerife is brimming with adventure.
Sure, the island has beautiful beaches and fantastic resorts, but with bountiful hiking trails, mouthwatering traditional food, lava pools and unique diving sites, it’s worth heading out of your all-inclusive hotel and seeing what adventure you can find.