With year-round sunshine, slim chances of rainfall and crystal-clear azure waters buzzing with a rich variety of marine life, Tenerife has a lot to offer tourists seeking a place to relax and recharge.
That includes frazzled parents, desperate for some sun but not sure how their little darlings will cope on a long-haul flight. The largest of the Canary Islands is four hours flying time from London – with the promise of sun at the other end making up for constant snack requests, a thousand trips to the bathroom and repeated pleadings to stop kicking the chairs in front.
Blessed with four children under the age of eight, I was well aware I’d be outnumbered on the plane. I knew my youngest, at 16 months, would be desperate to use his new-found walking skills to cruise up and down the aisle. But I also knew what Tenerife had to offer in terms of sunshine, sea and space for complete relaxation, having enjoyed some winter sun there when my eldest child was one. Each day he’d happily gone off to the hotel’s baby club, giving me three hours to lie on a lounger and sleep, and my triathlete-loving husband plenty of time to explore the island and its rugged volcanoes on his bike.
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Now with children aged seven, six, three and one, childcare was a key concern. I spent hours researching hotels that had not just a kids club but a baby club too (some hotels only offer childcare for children over the age of four). I also anticipated that swimming with four little ones would be a challenge, so my goal was to find a hotel with a pool shallow enough for the toddlers to splash around in, and perhaps another pool where the older ones could have fun diving underwater. No easy task.
Having had babies back to back for seven years, my husband and I are continuously sleep-deprived so Tenerife’s party resorts of Los Cristianos and Las Americas aren’t exactly appealing. So it was to Costa Adeje and Guia de Isora, on Tenerife’s west coast, that we headed. These are quieter areas with less crowded beaches opening up to calm seas and natural rock pools. They’re also dotted with restaurants serving up traditional Canarian cuisine and freshly caught seafood restaurants – rather than the English Breakfasts and Irish pubs that you might find in other areas of Tenerife.
All in all, just what a family of six needed to escape the UK winter.
Best hotels for families
Near the foot of Tenerife’s famous volcano, Mount Teide, and nestled on the tranquil west coast where the waves delicately tickle the shore, Gran Melia Palacio de Isora offers five-star relaxation for all ages. Those who love to swim, dive for sinkers or lounge on oversized lilos shaped like flamingos, will be in heaven to discover this hotel has the longest saltwater infinity pool in Europe. Measuring 400 metres, it spans the entire resort so you can check out the seven restaurants, seven bars and Clarins spa from the water before deciding what to do for the day.
Both the baby club for little ones aged eight months to four years and the mini club for ages five to 12, offer a variety of craft, sporting and music entertainment that changes daily. And for true luxury, upgrading to Red Level for families will give you access to a lounge, where a family concierge will take care of your every need, from reserving sun loungers for six people next to each other to securing the best tables in family-friendly restaurants and even booking excursions and airport transfers. During the day, the lounge offers complimentary snacks and drinks but you don’t need to walk to it if you’re feeling lazy. The concierge will give you a mobile number so that you can WhatsApp your requests from wherever you are in the resort.
If you’re on a budget and not fussed about having to travel almost a mile to reach a beach, Tagoro Family & Fun has plenty to delight children from morning to evening. There’s a kids club, a soft play, a virtual gaming area for teens and the rooms are spacious enough for larger families. As you get what you pay for, the main pool isn’t huge, but there’s a separate area for children with water slides and you should get a lounger if you get up early enough.
Best things to do with kids
In Tenerife, the whale watching season is year-round. Costa Adeje has the largest population of pilot whales around the island, as well as the largest bottlenose dolphin breeding area in the whole of Europe. From the comfort of a gently rocking boat, prepare for squeals of delight when the azure waters unveil pods of elegant pilot whales.
Three-hour whale watching tour, from €65, sunbonoo.com
Snorkelling and beginners scuba diving
Crystal-clear waters combined with a calm current make the waters off the southwest coast of Tenerife the perfect place to introduce children to marine life. There’s a PADI-registered scuba centre inside the Gran Melia Palacio de Isora, offering courses and excursions for children from the age of eight. For younger children, you can borrow life vests and masks to show them the diverse ecosystem lurking under the surface of the sea. You don’t need to go deep to see intricate coral formations. Keep an eye out for octopuses hiding in crevices and vibrant sea anemones swaying in the gentle currents.
Siam Park water park
Siam water park is a must-do day out when you have kids. And if you stay in Costa Adeje or Guia de Isora, it’s just 20 minutes by car. Designed as a Thai-inspired water kingdom, the park boasts many attractions suitable for all ages. Families can plunge into the excitement of towering water slides, meander through lazy rivers, or enjoy the gentle waves of the world’s largest artificial wave pool. After a day going up and down the slides in the sunshine, kids will sleep brilliantly.
Adults €42, Children €30, Siampark.net
Best beaches for children
Alcala beach, just at the front of the Gran Melia Palacio De Isora, has calm, shallow waters that provide a safe environment for children to splash and play. Not sure about letting them out into the ocean? Keep them confined to one of the two natural pools on the beach, which are places to swim surrounded by natural volcanic rock edges, protecting swimmers from the rougher ocean waves. The sand is dark, which is fascinating for children who have previously only encountered golden sands, and there are plenty of rocks to clamber over to burn off excess energy.
Playa de Fanabe beach, near Costa Adeje, has fine volcanic sand and calm waters. Lively beachfront activities, from beach volleyball to bouncy castles, offer boundless entertainment. Meanwhile, family-friendly cafes and ice cream stands dot the promenade, ensuring you’re never more than five minutes away from refreshments.
Best family-friendly cafes and restaurants in Tenerife
The island may have something of a reputation for being full of restaurants catering to English and Irish package tourists, serving up fried food and burgers, but there are plenty of places offering more traditional Spanish and Mediterranean dishes at affordable prices.
For freshly-caught fish washed down with bottles of wine that start at 10 euros, Sauco is a firm favourite in Guia de Isora. The menu caters to all diners, with pizzas, pasta and meat dishes for anyone who isn’t tempted by the sight of all the freshly caught fish on the counter. The seafood dishes are, however, out of this world, with succulent prawns, huge mussels and tender fish.
If you want to introduce the children to typical Canarian cuisine, Las Goteras offers a relaxed dining environment and huge portions. These hearty servings will satisfy all tummies. There’s everything from rabbit stew to huge chunks of chicken in creamy sauces, quail and juicy steaks.
If your hotel has a babysitting service, we highly recommend taking the kids to an early buffet seating and sneaking out later for a meal a deux. Mums and dads seeking a romantic dining experience will enjoy L’Olio at the Gran Melia Palacio De Isora, offering freshly-made pasta dishes and salted sea bass that flakes off the bone in a glass-fronted restaurant overlooking the sea.
Where to shop with children
Tenerife isn’t famous for its shopping opportunities, so you won’t find shopping malls and retail parks. However, if you want to take a break from the beach to buy some local trinkets, kids will enjoy exploring the traditional market of Costa Adeje near the Playa de Fanabe beach. It runs on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. Stalls sell everything from locally-made clothing and jewellery to souvenirs and artisan food.
Best time to visit Tenerife
Tenerife enjoys a mild and pleasant climate throughout the year, so there’s never a bad time to visit. However, it’s particularly popular for tourists in the UK in autumn and winter. In October, average temperatures are 24C; in January and February it tops out around 20C, making it an appealing option for half-term and Christmas school holidays.
What currency should I take?
What is the local language?
How much should I tip?
It’s recommended to tip around 10 per cent.
What’s the time difference?
Tenerife is on the same GMT timezone as England and Ireland (so there is no time difference).
What’s the average flight time from the UK?
Four hours from London.
What’s the best view?
If you’re adventurous, head up Mount Teide by bike or foot and look down over the island.
If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler and you can’t face packing the formula-making machine or car seat, children’s equipment rental specialist Travel4Baby hires out all of the essentials – including double buggies from Bugaboo and Yoyo. Pay in advance and everything will be delivered to the hotel and waiting for you in your room on arrival.
Read more on the best Tenerife hotels