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The drama of volcanoes that erupted millions of years ago can still be felt on Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands. Located off the coast of West Africa, Tenerife’s profile is defined by the foreboding outline of Mount Teide, the third-tallest volcano in the world at 12,198 feet. But fear not, it’s dormant. These days, the island’s gorgeous beaches, historic towns, and plentiful natural attractions compete for travelers’ attention. You’ll find several photo-worthy black-sand beaches in the southwestern part of Tenerife near Costa Adeje, one of the newer beach resorts and reportedly a celebrity hotspot. The Carnaval celebration in the capital city of Santa Cruz is second only to that of Rio de Janeiro; for two weeks before Ash Wednesday, thousands of revelers in colorful costumes dance in the streets until the sun comes up.
Tenerife has two international airports: the older, smaller Tenerife Norte Airport (TFN), near Santa Cruz, and the larger and more modern Tenerife Sur Airport (TFS), which is close to Playa de las Americas. Both are well connected to transportation options — namely the public bus. The island is small, so you’ll likely be at your destination in under an hour. You don’t need a car to get around, but if you want to explore every last secluded cove, you may want to rent one (or a scooter). Otherwise, chartered excursions, cabs, and buses will get you where you need to go.
With very little rainfall and temperatures that hover between 70 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, there’s hardly a bad time to visit Tenerife. But given that the crowds peak in summer, spring and fall are the best times to book a vacation. In the spring, you’ll be greeted by daytime highs in the 70s, not to mention a greater chance of spotting migrating whales. The water is swimmable most of the year, with temperatures peaking around 75 in summer and dropping to around 65 in the coldest months of winter. Evening lows can hit 58 in February, so pack a light jacket to ward off the ocean winds during Carnaval.
If you’re looking for the quintessential Canary Islands beach-party vibe, head to the beaches along the southwestern coast of Tenerife. For a more subdued experience, opt for Costa Adeje or venture up the island’s eastern shore. With more than 40 miles of beaches to explore, you’re bound to find the right fit.
Tenerife’s capital city is home to architectural gems like the Baroque-style Church of the Immaculate Conception, the island’s most popular beach, and endless people-watching at the central Plaza de España.
There are two ways to experience Spain’s highest peak: You can spend five or six hours hiking it, or opt for the cable car, which gets you to the top in just eight glorious minutes.
Book a boat tour for a chance to glimpse the orcas, dolphins, humpbacks, and even the occasional blue whale known to hang out in the temperate waters off the Tenerife coast.