I spent two winters in Tenerife (one north, one south) and visited all corners of the island multiple times. Each place has strengths and weaknesses, and none is best for everybody. This is my guide to places to stay in Tenerife.
Short Answer: The South Is Best (for Most)
By far the most popular area and the best place to stay for most visitors to Tenerife is the three resorts in the south – Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas and Costa Adeje. They actually feel like one big town and it’s hard to tell where one ends and another starts. This place ticks most of the boxes:
- Best beaches – The three towns stretch for some 8km of coast and have numerous beaches, all white sand, some with good (but not too big) waves and others more family friendly and completely protected from waves. Lifeguards, toilets, showers, restaurants, water sports and other beach infrastructure are all there.
- Nightlife – Playa de las Americas (particularly its Veronicas strip) is the party capital of Tenerife. Even if loud pubs and clubs are not what you want, there are many other kinds of venues and restaurants offering entertainment, live music and sometimes dancing in a quiter and more mature atmosphere. Don’t worry about noise and the bad things which often come with nightlife – the resorts are huge and once you get 5 or 10 minutes away from the club area, you won’t know it’s there.
- Attractions – Particularly if you come with children, you probably want some more fun things to do besides the beach. As the most popular tourist area in Tenerife this place naturally offers the widest selection of water parks, theme parks and other attractions.
- Well-connected – It is less than 20 km from the Tenerife South airport, all of that on motorway. Playa de las Americas also has the biggest bus station in Tenerife (besides the capital Santa Cruz) and frequent bus connections to all parts of the island. Many buses stop in various places in Los Cristianos and/or Costa Adeje too, plus there are also local bus lines. If you want to rent a car, then again as the most popular tourist resort this place has the widest choice and the high number of competing providers means good prices.
Where Exactly to Stay in South Tenerife
While Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas and Costa Adeje as a whole are huge, diverse and cater to virtually all people’s needs, it is very important to pick the right place within this area that suits your own interests. These are the common rules of thumb:
- The young party crowd – central area of Playa de las Americas, obviously; some of the best beaches are right behind the clubs.
- Families with smaller children – Los Cristianos or the southern end of Costa Adeje have the most family friendly hotels, beaches and attractions.
- Mature couples or those looking for a quiter or a bit more upscale experience – the northern end of Costa Adeje has quieter beaches, more mature kind of nightlife, and more of the higher end hotels.
One more tip: Stay between the coast and the motorway. While you can find some slightly cheaper places behind the motorway, in most cases it’s not worth it, unless you are on a really tight budget. On the other hand, if the proximity of beaches and restaurants is not that important and you prefer to spend most of the time by the pool in your hotel, some of the hotel complexes higher up on the hill (particularly in Costa Adeje) offer wonderful views of the coast and the nearby island of La Gomera (with great sunsets too).
Other Parts of Tenerife and Their Strengths
Do the south resorts have any downsides or weaknesses? Sure. There are some kinds of travellers who may find other places in Tenerife more suitable to their needs.
If you come mainly for windsurfing or surfing (and you are more experienced), try El Medano, which is the resort closest to the airport, situated on the south-eastern (and the windiest) coast of Tenerife. However, if you are a beginner or looking for a basic surfing course, it is better to stay in some of the bigger resorts (either Los Cris / Las Americas / Adeje or Puerto de la Cruz in the north).
If you come mainly for authentic experience of local Canary Islands culture, then the big resorts in the south are not good – they have been designed mainly with mass tourism and comfort in mind (the only thing which is truly local and authentic here is the food in some of the restaurants – it’s delicious). For a more authentic Canary experience, there are plenty of picturesque little towns scattered along the coast (try Garachico with its white houses on black volcanic rocks). However, these smaller places often lack the great beaches and attractions (if you come with children, they may not like that).
Puerto de la Cruz: Where Tourists and Locals Mix
As a good compromise (a bit of both local feel and tourist services), try Puerto de la Cruz, the main tourist town in the north and actually the oldest tourist resort in Tenerife (its tourist boom began in the 1950’s). Generally, compared to the main resorts in the south, the visitors to Puerto de la Cruz tend to be more mature (there is a club scene in Puerto too, but it targets mainly the locals). Puerto also appears to be more popular particularly with visitors from German speaking countries and Scandianvia, with slightly less from the UK than the south.
Puerto has decent beaches, although they are black sand (if you mind) and have no protection from waves – may be too rough for small children (and actually for anybody) at times. There is a large seawater pool complex (Lago Martianez) right on the coast as an alternative. Puerto de la Cruz has its fair share of tourist attractions, primarily the famous Loro Parque (zoo featuring shows with parrots, dolphins, orcas, sea lions and other animals).
It is also a good base for exploring the Teide National Park – there is a very nice road with several great miradors (viewing points). Puerto itself offers wonderful views of the Teide, so good that getting a hotel room facing away from the sea might not be that bad.
One downside of Puerto de la Cruz, and the north coast in general, is that it may be slightly colder and have slightly less overall sunshine hours than the south (particularly in winter), because the winds and the clouds come to Tenerife mostly from the north-west and get stopped by the high mountains. That said, having spent several months living in both Puerto and in Playa de las Americas, I personally feel the difference in weather, while true, is a bit overstated in the guides. There is more than enough sunshine in Puerto even in winter.