Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, is also one of the most scenically stunning islands in the world. Tenerife is about 300 kilometres from the African continent and about 1,300 kilometers from Mainland Spain. It enjoys a steady year-round, spring-like temperature with a yearly average of 23 degrees centigrade. Dominated by the gigantic outline of 12,198 ft.-high Mount Teide, this amazing volcanic island offers a wide variety of landscapes and tourist experiences.
On a visit there, you might find yourself strolling through a sleepy hillside village, breathing in a lush laurisilva forest consisting of laurel trees and ferns or making your way through the dense foliage of a banana plantation. You can crash on a sunny and golden/black sandy beach or scale a snow-capped mountain, enjoy a gentle round of golf or a fiercely fought game of tennis, shop for local handicrafts or international designer wear, go on a whale and dolphin watching trip all year round, dine the traditional tapas and famous "wrinkled potatoes" with mojo sauce or in a Michelin-starred restaurant – on this most varied of islands, the choice is yours.
Upon reaching Tenerife's main port of Santa Cruz, if your ship parks at the bottom of its U-shaped harbor, you'll face a hot 15-minute walk to reach it all -- unless your cruise company provides a shuttle bus to the port gates. It's worth persisting, though; don't be tempted to stay onboard here however fine your ship ... as Santa Cruz, a historic city founded in the 15th century, is well worth the effort.
Once outside the port gates you'll find a broad and beautiful promenade -- the elaborately named Avenida Maritima -- running right along the seafront; there's broad tree-lined pavement on one side and, across the busy road, a long parade of shops, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs (including one called rather cleverly Klan D Stino!).
The streets running inland from this promenade hold jewellery shops filled with fine silver goods, high street shopping brands, good thing to remember is that the Canary Islands are a low tax area so you will always find good bargain-priced goods that make Tenerife such a popular call.
It is rare to find your ship right at the bottom of the U (i.e. the farthest distance from the port gates) without a shuttle bus service being provided (usually for free, but check with your cruise line).
Don't bother; get to the port gates and start exploring ASAP.
Watch out for heavy traffic as you cross the main promenade.
By Car: If you're feeling adventurous, there's a Hertz on the La Marina (which runs right from the north end of the Plaza de Espana). Cars cost from around $50 for a day's hire and petrol is not expensive.
By Bus: A big bus station lies on Avenida Tres de Mayo (about a mile along the promenade, heading left from the port gates). From here, a No. 910 bus will take you to the nearest beach, Playa de la Teresitas.
This is a five-mile, 20-minute journey (costing around €1.25 euros one way), so allow plenty of time to return. Las Teresitas beach is popular with the locals because of its golden sand and palm trees and also for being a family-friendly spot, as it features a breakwater that protects swimmers from waves and strong currents. A great option when visiting Las Teresitas beach is to combine the dip with a tasty meal in the nearby quiet fishing village of San Andres, featuring a wide range of fish and seafood restaurants.
By Taxi: To go further afield, taxis are available from the port gates and at ranks in the town but do negotiate the price in advance as, beyond the city boundaries, cabs are not metered. The going rate for an hour's tour is from around 25 euros per cab, but do haggle for a good deal.
By Tram: Take the tram (line 1) from the central bus station, and pay a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage town of La Laguna, an alternative way to experience the sights of Santa Cruz and La Laguna. (40 minutes ride, 21 stops)
The local currency is the euro. Check www.xe.com or www.oanda.com for the most updated exchange rates. If you've run out of cash and don't want to change money on your ship, don't panic; there are plenty of banks, ATMs and Bureaux de Change along Santa Cruz's waterfront and on its main shopping streets. Hotels will also change cash, but rates vary considerably, so proceed with caution.
The main language is Spanish, and though many locals have at least a smattering of English, it is worth taking a phrase book along if you plan to explore on your own. Here are some basics to get you started: hola and adios (hello and goodbye); por favor and gracias (please and thank you); cuanto cuesta? (How much?); and, possibly the most useful of all, habla Ingles? (Do you speak English?).
Both downtown Santa Cruz and its seafront are well endowed with restaurants, tapas bars and a fast food outlet, which are generally open all afternoon from noon. If you want to try local dishes -- like Ranch Canaria (meat and vegetable soup), Cazuela Canaria (fish stew) or papas arrugadas (small potatoes cooked in their jackets with a hot Mojo dipping sauce) -- look out for the word "tipico" on the restaurant sign, as this indicates that it serves typical local cuisine.
Best Local Eats: Recommended local food restaurants include La Hierbita on Calle El Clavel and La Bodeguita Canaria on Calle Imeldo Serís.
Upscale Option: On my trip, Captain Keith Dowds, master of P&O Cruises' Arcadia, returned from some shore leave full of praise for the carpaccio of foie gras dished up at La Aceituna restaurant at 6 Emilio Calzadilla Street. Lunch hours are from noon until 4 p.m.
Stylish and affordable silver items from the jewelry shops along Bethencourt Alfonso; €55 will buy a very substantial silver bracelet, while €35 will get you a pretty and solid ring. A bottle of Tenerife wine (Canarian sack was mentioned in Shakespeare!) is also a great choice. The island has five designations of origin, and the rich volcanic soil in which the vines are grown gives them a special character and different nuances.