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Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car

BLOG POST: Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car

With a week to spare before I started a new job, Mr Fletche and I scoured the internet for good last-minute deals. And that’s how we found ourselves on our way to Tenerife. But were we content to lie on the beach/by the pool every day, soaking up the Canarian sun and drinking garishly-coloured cocktails?  Were we heck.  Instead we hired a car and traversed the island.  Here are our top tips for 8 great places to visit in Tenerife – with or without a car.

* We based ourselves in Costa Adeje on the south east of the island. Costa Adeje is adjacent to other popular holiday resorts Playa De Las Americas and Los Cristianos *
** This post may contain affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Take a look at my disclosure policy for more information**

1. Anaga Mountains

The Anaga Mountains are in the North-Eastern part of Tenerife. We took the TF-1 along the south and east of the island, driving through the capital Santa Cruz before heading north on the TF-12 into the mountains.  This was our first experience in Tenerife of winding roads, sharp peaks, plunging ravines and mist-filled forests above the clouds.  It’s a very lush, green area; not what you expect when you seen what appears to be a barren landscape from the aeroplane on landing.

There are roads that lead you miles out of your way, ending in nothing but a pretty little village.  Like the TF-123 to Chamorga. We speak from experience. If you want to get to the refreshing waters and volcanic beach paradise, you’ll need sturdy hiking shoes, good lungs and a bagful of stamina. None of which we’d packed that day. Facilities wise, there’s not much for visitors, but we did stop off at the café at Albergue Montes de Anaga for a quick drink and toilet stop.  It has a terrace with particularly spectacular views of the mountains, forests and sea.  There’s also a visitor centre at Cruz del Carmen if you are approaching from La Laguna on the TF-12.

Anaga without a car? Many parts of the region are accessible by public transport. There are a number of buses from the island’s capital Santa Cruz to Anaga. The #947 goes to Chamorga in the North-East, which is a popular hiking spot.

The Anaga Mountains, one of the Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car
Parque Rural Anaga, Tenerife

2. San Cristóbal de La Laguna

This historic little city is full of narrow cobbled streets and alleyways flanked by buildings of many colours. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was the capital of the island until 1821. It’s home to the Canary Islands’ only University, which gives this old town a youthful and lively vibe.  It nestles at the foot of the Anaga mountains, yet is only 20 minutes by car from Santa Cruz.  It’s also handy for the island’s Northern airport, just 3km away on the TF-5.

La Laguna without a car? There are frequent buses from Santa Cruz to La Laguna as it’s something of a commuter hub for those that work in the capital. From the southern resorts, it’s about 70-90 minutes to Santa Cruz by bus. The #110 and #111 leave frequently throughout the day.

Exploring the colourful streets of La Laguna, one of the Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car
Exploring the colourful streets of La Laguna

3. Santa Cruz de Tenerife  

The bustling capital of Tenerife is located at the foot of the Anaga mountains.  From the southern resorts it’s an easy drive up the TF-1 straight into the heart of the city.  We didn’t explore much of Santa Cruz, only visiting briefly after our trip to Anaga and La Laguna. It would definitely be worth dedicating a whole day to properly discovering the beach, parks, architecture, shopping, culture and dining options.  The lido of César Manrique Maritime Park also looked like a great place to cool down after pounding the city streets.

Santa Cruz without a car?; Buses from the southern resorts (110, 111) run every 30 minutes and take 70 – 90 minutes; from Puerto de la Cruz (102,103) they run every 30 minutes and take 40 – 55 minutes.  There are trams which run throughout the city, single journey tickets are currently €1.35.

The Auditorio de Tenerife, Santa Cruz
The Auditorio de Tenerife, Santa Cruz
Parque Maritimo Cesar Manrique, Santa Cruz
Parque Maritimo Cesar Manrique, Santa Cruz

4. Los Gigantes:

Los Gigantes means quite literally “The Giants”. And the dramatic cliffs which plunge into the Atlantic can certainly be described as such, protecting this small resort from any nasty trade winds whilst providing a highly photogenic backdrop.  There’s a viewpoint as you approach the town on the TF-454 – the Mirador Archipenque – which gives a fantastic view of the cliffs.

We found the best place to enjoy sunset was Playa de los Guios, a small black sand beach nestled underneath the cliffs. In fact, Los Gigantes has some of the best beaches in Tenerife.  The marina is lovely, but views of the cliffs are somewhat obstructed by the harbour wall.  There are some nice little bars and restaurants around the quayside, and we enjoyed a huge paella here, staying in the town until well after dark. Making for an interesting drive back along the winding and dark roads before reaching the better-lit TF-1.

Los Gigantes without a car? It’s about an hour by bus from the southern resorts to Los Gigantes. The 473 takes the scenic TF-47 through some of the towns closest to Los Gigantes, including Alcala, La Arena (with its black sand beach) and Puerto de Santiago.  From Puerto de la Cruz, it’s either a trip over the mountains in the North-West on the 325 which runs every couple of hours, or a more circuitous route around the north and east of the island.

The Marina, Los Gigantes, Tenerife
The Marina
Sunset, Beach, Los Gigantes
Playa de los Guios: A great spot for sunset at Los Gigantes

5. Mount Teide National Park

We intended to get to Mount Teide early, to catch the first cable car of the day to reach Spain’s highest peak. Except we found the ever-changing scenery of Parque Nacional de las Cañadas del Teide so fascinating that we didn’t find ourselves nearing Teide until almost noon.  At which point it was teeming with visitors, with tour buses and rental cars overspilling from the car parks.  So we contented ourselves with continuing to explore the national park.

As you drive through the 47,000 acre national park you pass through alpine-like forests, before emerging through clouds to a lunar landscape. We drove up via the TF-21 from the south, taking this road all the way through the park to Puerto de la Cruz in the north.  The formidable 3,718ft volcano dominates the skyline from all directions, reminding you exactly how this amazing landscape was created.

Mount Teide without a car? There are two bus routes covering El Teide. The 342 goes from Costa Adeje and the neighbouring resorts to Mount Teide, and the 348 from Puerto de la Cruz. The bus fare includes the cable car tickets; the cable car charge will be refunded if it doesn’t operate for some reason.

Mount Teide National Park, one of the Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car
Mount Teide
Mount Teide National Park, Tenerife

The spectacular landscape with Mount Teide in the background

6. Puerto de la Cruz

Puerto de la Cruz is the main resort in the North of the island – and it’s a tad less “Brits Abroad”. It has a beautiful promenade which reminded me a lot of the Riva in Split.  Like Santa Cruz, there is a lido complex overlooking the seafront, and a kilometre-long black sand beach.  It’s also in close proximity to the popular Loro Parque, famed for its huge collection of parrots and the biggest dolphinarium in Europe.

We visited for a late lunch after spending much of the day at Mount Teide National Park but you could easily spend more time here.  It’s accessible by car from the Autopista North (TF-5), or from the south you can take the longer, windy cross-country route on the TF-21 via Teide and through La Orotava valley – but be prepared to be distracted by the beautiful scenery!

Puerto de La Cruz without a car? From the southern resorts you can get Bus 343 from Los Cristianos or from Tenerife South Airport, which goes directly across the island to Puerto de la Cruz.  The journey takes around 1 hr 45 minutes.  Alternatively, you can travel from Santa Cruz – several buses take the 45 minute journey to the northern resort.

Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife
Puerto de la Cruz

7. Garachicho 

Garachicho has suffered a bit of bad luck in its history.  Once a wealthy little fishing town on Tenerife’s north-west tip, it fell foul of storms, fires, floods and Bubonic plague. The final straw was when Montaña Negra erupted in 1706 and engulfed the town.  However, this lava flow created a number of enticing natural swimming pools which mean this off the beaten track town is now well on the tourist trail.  Beyond El Caletón though there are gorgeous cobbled streets to explore and a picturesque town square. We can highly recommend the understated Casa Juan on Calle Martinez de Fuentes for an authentic Canarian tapas experience.

Garachico without a car? Bus 460 goes from the southern resorts to Garachico – at 2.5 hours it’s a long but very scenic drive. It only runs three or four times a day so be sure to check the schedules before you set out. More frequent are buses to Santa Cruz; there are a number of buses to Garachico via Puerto de la Cruz.  All buses change at Icod de los Vinos bus station for the final leg.

Garachico, Tenerife
Piscinas naturales de Garachico el Caleton – naturally formed swimming pools
Garachico, Tenerife

8. Masca Valley. 

The drive to this spectacular hamlet nestled in a valley is not for the faint-hearted.  More often than not, we were perched precariously on a steep hillside, or climbing over a blind summit at a 45 degree angle, or slaloming around the ever-changing switchbacks.  And sometimes all three.  At the same time.  But it’s worth the effort.

The village of Masca is tiny. You feel like you’ve left modern civilisation behind, yet it is still prepared to greet all the tourists that descend on it each day.  For those who fancy a hike, it’s a 4.5km long trek from the village down to the ocean.  Seemed a bit of a palaver to do that, get a boat to Los Gigantes and then get a bus or taxi back to Masca to pick up the car, but with a bit of planning its certainly doable. And this will take you to one of the most spectacular beaches in Tenerife. We drove from Garachico to Masca via the TF-436 from Buenavista, stopping at the lovely Mirador de la Cruz de Hilda for a drink.

Masca without a car? Half of the fun of Masca is driving the roads into and out of the valley; however there are (infrequent) bus services from the south.  Bus 460 will take you as far as Santiago del Teide, when you can change to the 355 toward Buenavista del Norde.  Many tourists opt for a tour, leaving an experienced minivan, bus or coach driver to handle the steep, sinuous roads. Viator has a number of options, including this one (affiliate link).  There are also numerous boat trips and water taxis from Los Gigantes which will take you as far as Masca beach. The hike to the town is then down to you!

Masca Valley, one of the Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car
More windy roads
Masca Valley, Tenerife
The beautiful Masca town and gorge – worth the scary drive

Driving in Tenerife: After finding European driving a doddle in Croatia, Mr Fletche was more than happy to pick up the driving reins in Tenerife.  We used Autoreisen, who were recommended on many of the car rental forums, and they were certainly easy to deal with and most importantly provided us with a great all-inclusive price for the week. The Autopista Sur (TF-1) provides a speedy route along the south and east of the island, with a similar route in the North (TF-5), from Santa Cruz across to Puerto de la Cruz. 

Driving inland is definitely a little more of a challenge, with narrow, winding, mountainous roads to contend with.  Particularly the roads in and out of Masca Valley, where cars cling precariously to a cliff face whilst tour buses and coaches come within a hairs breadth of a sheer drop. It’s all good fun. Particularly if you’re not the one driving. Parking in towns was generally quite simple, with free unrestricted street parking in many towns; we only paid for parking in Puerto de la Cruz and in Candelaria.

This post on the Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife also appears in my Most Popular Blog Posts of 2019 and 2020!

We were pleasantly surprised by the delights that Tenerife had to offer.  Away from the hedonistic Playa de las Americas, and the “Brits Abroad” vibe of the Costa Adeje resorts, it is a truly stunning island that we look forward to returning to soon.

BLOG POST: Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car

21 responses to “Top 8 Places to Visit in Tenerife With a Rental Car”

  1. […] time!  Rather than a day-by-day account (which would be a bit boring to be honest) here are my top 8 tips for places to visit in Tenerife if you’re tired of sun, sea, sand and […]

  2. […] Tenerife: I was determined to squeeze another quick holiday in before I started my new permanent role…so much so that I managed to defer my start date by a week… We intended it to be a relaxing week in the sunshine, and hiring a car maybe for a day or two but we ended up booking the car for the whole week and traversing every road and highway on the island.  Really surprised by Tenerife, it’s so much more than 2-for-1 shots, goldfish bowls and foam parties at Veronicas.   Where we stayed in Costa Adeje was a bit “Brits Abroad” and I think I’d definitely like to try Puerto de la Cruz in the North next time.  I did a blog about all the great spots you can discover with a rental car in Tenerife here. […]

  3. […] the blog: I wrote about all the great places you can get to in Tenerife with a rental car, and also made an impassioned plea to those people who stand outside restaurants and try to wrestle […]

  4. Well, it is all about timing in this world!! Your post is just what we need to read.
    We will soon be starting to plan our road trip which is going to be around Southern Spain – though it will in January and not in summer. Will have to reread this when we start to put ideas together. Thanks, Em 🙂

  5. Such great tips of a beautiful looking place. I like how you managed to write about it with and without a car, very clever!!

    • emfletche says:

      Thanks Debbie, it’s the first time we hired a car on this sort of holiday but it’s useful to know which places are and aren’t accessible by public transport x

  6. I have never been but this post makes it very appealing!

  7. What a beautiful island! And your photos are exquisite. I’m not too sure about driving on those twisty, mountain roads. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to that, but it looks like it was definitely worth it. Such variety with the mountains, beaches, quaint towns, and modern cities.

  8. Lisa Orchard says:

    I love it when people share their travels with all of us. This looks like an awesome place to visit. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I would like to go to Tenerife one day, the long-ish plane journey has been putting me off to be honest. When we’re away we always like to see all the sights, thanks for pointing them out 😄

  10. This was a well-structured post Em. Geographically AND logistically. Loved it. I feel like you’ve already provided me with a perfect opening statement when it comes time to present my case to my wife for our next destination (although to be fair, you’ve already given us quite a few amazing destinations to choose from, and so long as we can get our Spritz on, I think we’re gonna be just fine 😉 )

  11. thebeasley says:

    These are wonderful tips. I’m going to remember this post if I ever got to Tenerife. It’s always worth hiring a car on these Spanish islands, so you can properly explore all over. Lovely photos too x

  12. […] Where we could unpack, hang up clothes and put away our suitcases. Even Malta this year and Tenerife in 2016 were DIY, with each element meticulously […]

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