The British have had a long love affair with Tenerife, with around two million of us taking a holiday there each year. But this is no mere sun-soaked, fly-and-flop party island. The largest of the Canaries is popular for a reason, offering something for everyone, whether you are seeking out sunbathing and spas or cycling and culture. Here are ten reasons why its a failsafe destination for families…
1. Getting there is a breeze
With flights from more than 20 different UK airports to Tenerife South, you won’t struggle to find a time that suits your schedule. The four-to-five hour journey is perfectly manageable too, while the shared time zone with Britain means no jet lag.
The island itself has good roads and it only takes about an hour to drive from one end to the other, meaning where you choose to stay, you won’t be far from the plane. Although the major resorts of Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje are both about 15 minutes in the car. We pretty much sailed through the airport, picked up our hire car from Canarias.com in the car park directly outside and were beside by the pool an hour after landing!
2. Good weather is guaranteed
The Canary Islands are located off the north west coast of Africa (level with the south of Morocco) which means the temperature is warm whether you visit in January or July. Expect highs of about 22C in winter, rising to 28C in the peak of summer – the sea breeze means it never gets out of hand. There’s not much rain either, so you won’t need to pack a brolly.
3. Family facilities are easy to find
The locals welcome children with open arms and you’ll find families thoughtfully catered for at almost every hotel, restaurant and attraction. We stayed at Hovima La Pinta Beachfront Family Resort in Costa Adeje, which was renovated in 2017 to tailor the facilities to travellers with little ones and while on the surface, it feels very simple and functionally, we were impressed with all the little touches.
Every room comes with a kitchenette, separate bedroom and outdoor space, with the ground floor Apart Family having a themed bedroom for kids and direct access to the two swimming pools, splash park and playground. However, we opted for a first floor Apart Excellence with our toddler, with big sea view balcony to relax on and added extras like a turndown service and breakfast at the beach bar.
The spotlessly clean, nautical-themed hotel also offers a kids’ club, full programme of daytime and evening activities and entertainment for all ages, relaxed buffet and a la carte dining (with the loveliest staff) and easy access to Puerto Colon beach, which is within a very safe cove and has golden sand rather than black.
They’ve got everything from travel cots and highchairs to bottle warmers toilet training stools, too, and there was a beach bag with children’s toiletries, beach ball, sweets and colouring pencils waiting on the bed when we arrived. My toddler loved it.
Rooms from £150 per night. Find out more at hovima-hotels.com
4. Water babies will go wild
Siam Park in Costa Adeje is rated the world’s best water park by TripAdvisor and is even endorsed by the Thai royal family, who approved the traditional Siamese designs within its aquatic kingdom.
From water babies to thrill-seeking teens (and parents!), there’s fun to found at this pristine park, from the lounger-filled sands and hourly waves at Siam Beach to the adrenaline-inducing, 28m vertical plunge into waters filled with sharks and stingrays (luckily separated from you by glass) at the Tower of Power.
We liked relaxing on the Mai Thai River, the world’s longest lazy river, and the calm vibe at the new Coco Beach. It’s a smaller version of Siam Beach for little ones, opened to tie in with the attraction’s recent 10th birthday. It also has a laughter-inducing dancing fountain and climbing area.
You don’t need to worry about carting your kit everywhere either – there are rental lockers distributed around the park where you can leave valuables and pick up towels, plus shoe racks near all the rides. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants too.
Tickets €37 adults, €25 children 3-11 years, free for under-3s. Find out more at siampark.net
5. You can visit a volcano
The Canaries are volcanic islands and Tenerife is home to the spectacular Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain at 3,718 m tall and a dormant volcano! The peak is a national park, with landscape that ranges from mist-covered pine trees to eerie rocky plains, created by eruptions long ago. It’s probably the closest your child will get to walking on another planet and was used as a backdrop for films like One Million Years B.C. and Clash of the Titans.
There are lots of walks to be enjoyed in this vast natural landscape, while the cable car to the top of the peak is a must do. Just be aware that it is weather dependant and is best to book in advance to avoid long queues. It is also not advised for children under three due to the high altitude.
For little ones, head to the free to visit El Portillo visitor centre and check out the gorgeous botanical garden, which has buggy-friendly paths and beautiful native plants, not seen anywhere else. If you have older children, consider a sunset or stargazing tour, or specially guided family tour.
Return tickets for the cable car from €27 per person, 2.5hr family tours from €37 per person. Find out more at volcanoteide.com
6. Fussy eaters to foodies are catered for
You will find the full range of international cuisine in Tenerife and plenty of supermarkets, meaning you don’t need to stress about packing a case full of provisions for picky children. But if you want to enjoy more local cuisine, the island is becoming increasingly proud of its homegrown produce, particularly native Canarian potatoes and banana. Both are smaller than the ones you get in the shops in Britain and packed with flavour.
Kids will also love dipping bread with in mojo – a oil and garlic sauce served with every meal. The red one (rojo) is flavoured with paprika and peppers and may be spicy, but the green one (verde) is coriander or parsley.
We had a delicious lunch at La Masia del Mar in Adeje, a family-run restaurant more than 40 years old specialising in seafood, which has a beautiful balcony area overlooking the water and a spectacular model ship taking pride of place inside. You can go up to choose your fish (we opted for parrot fish and bossi negra) – not for the squeamish but quite an experience.
Bodegon Campestra in Santa Cruz also comes highly recommended. It serves grilled meats, traditional Canarian foods and has an old-fashioned, wood panelled dining room. It’s also great value! Get there early as there may well be a queue.
7. There’s wonderful native wildlife
The Atlantic Ocean surrounding the shores of Tenerife is home to sea life like pilot whales, dolphins and turtles, which you can take a boat trip to see. We were lucky to spot all three on a three-hour sailing with White Tenerife, with our captain a fountain of knowledge about these creatures.
The trip also includes drinks and sandwiches, and there is a short stop in shallower waters along the coast for swimming. As a bonus, the rocking motion of the yacht also sent our normally boisterous toddler off to sleep! The trips take place daily, sailing out of Puerto Colon in Costa Adeje. The industry is also closely regulated by the island’s authorities, to ensure wildlife isn’t disturbed too much.
Three hour boats trips from €60 per person, €45 for children aged 2-9, free for under-2s. Find out more at tenerifeseacharter.com
8. And you can see some of the world’s most spectacular animals too
Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz started as collection of parrots more than 45 years ago but is now home to species from across the world, including rare and endangered animals.
Put aside a full day to explore the tropical, Thai-themed grounds (or even sign up to one of their Discovery Tours). We especially loved the gorillas, the new pygmy hippos, penguins and the Katandra Treetops avery, where you can climb up through the foliage to get a close up look at all sorts of spectacular birds like cockatoos and fruit doves.
There are also shows with the sea lions, dolphins and orcas (killer whales), if that is something you enjoy, and an area where you can find out more about the breeding programmes and see the scientists at work. There are plentiful good food options too – we were impressed by the authentic tapas at Casa Pepe.
Tickets from €37 for adults, €25 for children aged 6-11 years, under-6s free. Find out more at loroparque.com
9. High adrenaline adventures can be had
From watersports to cycling, Tenerife has plenty of activities for active and sporty types. Forestal Park in the scented pines of Las Lagunetas is perfect for adventurous families – a tree-top climbing experience with a choice of challenges for different abilities.
The three family courses are suitable from age five and comprise rope bridges and zip wires, rising to 13m at their highest. The three sections should take a couple of hours to complete and full safety kit and a briefing is provided, with a practice course to try out.
There are also six sports courses, which go up to 30m and have a 230m long zip wire, and should take about three hours to finish. These are suitable from age ten and 1.45m. It looks complicated at first but is a doddle once you get going – and lots of fun!
€22 for adults, €13 for children aged 5-12 (must be 1.1m or taller). Find out more at forestalparktenerife.com
10. Authentic Spain still lives alongside the tourist attractions
For all its tourist-pleasing attractions, Tenerife retains an authentically Canarian Spanish culture – which locals are becoming increasingly keen to share with visitors who want to see a different side of the island.
Head to the capital Santa Cruz and explore towns in the north of the island, which has a greener landscape and is where more of the locals live. Puerto de la Cruz still has the feel of a fishing village of old, despite being the home of Loro Parque, and banana plantation line the main road. Stop in Plaza del Charco for an ice cream or watch the waves at Costa de San Telmo.
A little along the coast is Garachio, which has a picturesque seafront and a charming natural pool to swim in. It’s a tranquil spot for a stroll and a world away from the bustle of the ‘gold mile’ of Playa de las Americas in the south.