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Tenerife may be better known for its fun beaches and warm winter weather, but this popular Canary Island destination also has loads of history and culture. Colonial-era towns like La Orotava and La Laguna offer a wonderful dose of South American-flavoured ambiance to balance out the plethora of beach activities and nightlife along the coast. Tenerife is a joy for driving, with excellent highways and scenic rural roads providing endless options for a cruise. Some of the island’s top natural attractions and coolest little towns are only really accessible with a car rental, a popular choice with many holidaymakers.
Who to Book With
It’s never hard to find a car hire company on Tenerife. Most of the international firms, such as Avis and Europcar, are represented, along with local outfits like Goldcar. Many of them have offices at the two airports, while the capital Santa Cruz is also a good place to pick up a rental. Due to the high volume of visitors that rent vehicles on Tenerife, it’s advisable to go online and book early to avoid higher rates and a thin selection of cars.
Best Time to go
Tenerife deserves its nickname ‘the island of eternal spring’ because the weather seems looped in that perfect temperature band of 21°C in winter and 27°C in summer. It doesn’t rain much here either, making Tenerife a reliably good beach destination virtually all year round. The biggest tourist crush comes around the New Year season, Easter break and European summer holiday months. It’s preferable to visit on the edges of these peak travel periods if possible.
Need to Know Essentials
You must show these documents when you pick up your car rental:
- A valid EU or UK driving license or International Driving Permit
- A second form of photo ID
- The credit card you used to book the rental
- A print-out of your rental confirmation if possible
The entire island of Tenerife is connected via two fast toll-free highways, the TF1 and TF5. They encircle almost all of the island, providing quick easy driving access from point to point. There are also miles of narrow, winding rural roads that lead into the less-developed interior. Some of these little roads can be dodgy in spots, but there are no major challenges for anyone with good driving skills.
Parking can be an issue in the centres of popular spots like the capital Santa Cruz and resorts like Las Americas. Street parking is very elusive, but there are ample car parks that are free to use if you can find them. Ask your hotel concierge for directions to the big lots at Puerto de la Cruz, the Santa Cruz bus station and on the edge of La Laguna’s old town. Most car parks are located within easy walking distance of the town centre or big attractions.
For those visitors who don’t opt to rent a car, Tenerife has a decent bus system that covers most of the island and is operated by TITSA. The capital Santa Cruz also enjoys a neat tram service that runs around the downtown core. But with such excellent highways, this island is really the ideal place for car hire, which makes exploring Tenerife a more personal and flexible experience.
The TITSA bus network has two ticketing options. Passengers can of course purchase single-fare tickets from point A to point B for differing prices depending on the distance. Puerto de la Cruz to Santa Cruz costs around €5, while Puerto de la Cruz to Playas de las Americas costs around €9.
If you plan to travel around a lot, the best deal is the BonoBus pass, which costs either €15 or €30. The pass acts as a debit card, offering discounts of around 60 per cent on each fare. This pass is also valid on the tram in Santa Cruz. They can be bought at any bus station as well as most newsstands in the towns.
The capital Santa Cruz has a lovely tram system that runs to most of the useful and interesting sites in town. There are multilingual automated machines at every stop. Tickets cost around €1.30 for a single trip and €2.50 for a return trip. The BonoBus pass saves you €1.05 on each trip.
The taxis on Tenerife are white with a red or green light on the roof. You can flag one down anywhere on the island, or alternately look for taxi ranks around the major resorts and key sightseeing points in Santa Cruz. Most taxi companies use a standard fixed fare system between destinations, so there’s little need to fret over the cost.
TITSA runs all the buses on Tenerife. These bright green buses, called guaguas by the locals, are large, modern and cover virtually every point of interest on the island. The TITSA buses do not run local routes within the towns. Instead, they travel between towns on the island. Fares vary by location, but the BonoBus pass can save a lot on all of the routes.
Tenerife has such a diversity of urban and natural attractions that this is one island where having a car can really enhance your experience. Two fantastic highways cover nearly all the coast, except a small section on the west. It’s a breeze to drive between the main resorts like Los Gigantes, the colonial towns like La Orotava, and the capital Santa Cruz. The centre of Tenerife is dominated by the sublime El Teide volcano, which provides a whole other world of alpine hiking, biking, horseback riding and other outdoor adventure. Without a car rental, however, it will be hard to venture beyond the coastal resorts.
The Northwest Coast of Tenerife - Arguably the most stunning region, also boasts some of the best historic sightseeing to balance out the natural beauty. The route between the colonial gem of La Orotava and the secret beaches of San Marcos is a superb drive, especially on the way past La Coronal.
The Inland Drive - This is the road locals used before they built the big coastal highways. Hop on the TF24 and enjoy a memorable drive through forests of pine and eucalyptus with views over the sea on both sides of Tenerife.
Mount Teide - This is the star natural attraction on Tenerife, and for good reason. In winter it actually snows on the summit of Spain’s highest peak, which also happens to be the third-highest volcano on earth. As you can imagine, the drive to the crater is a stunner, particularly if you take the less-travelled route from La Laguna to Mount Teide.