Tenerife gives you the feel of traveling to a far-flung land without breaking the bank – off the coast of Morocco but part of Spain, it can give you a surprising amount of mileage for your euro.
This Canary Island offers volcanic beaches, whales and dolphins splashing around offshore, moonscapes that look freshly minted for Hollywood, and miles of hiking trails pushing into laurel-forest-draped mountains that are ancient and astonishing – and you won’t have to spend a fortune to get a real taste of it.
Stay in a casa rural (rural holiday home) or camp under the stars, rattle up into the mountains on a guagua (public bus), spend languid days in alley-woven old towns and botanical gardens and dine out on €10 at a tucked-away guachinche (rural pop-up restaurant), and you'll be living the low-cost Canarian dream.
Here are our top tips for visiting Tenerife on a budget.
Look for low-cost flights
Provided you dodge high season and book far in advance, you can snag some great deals on flights to Tenerife from Europe. Most low-cost airlines fly several times a week to Tenerife South Airport, including Jet2, TUI and Wizzair, while EasyJet and Ryanair fly to the airports both in the south and the north of the island. The less fussy you are about specific times and days, the more likely you are to bag a bargain.
Avoid peak season for the best deals
If you want to save euros, try not to visit Tenerife in the high summer season (July and August). Prices spike again over Christmas, New Year and during February’s show-stopping Carnaval festivities, with a surge of vacationers flocking to the island in search of winter sun and fun.
The shoulder-season months of March, April, May, October and November are great months to explore the island on a budget, and flight prices and room rates plummet. You’ll also get to see Tenerife at its peaceful, less-crowded best.
Take a shuttle instead of a taxi to your resort
Taxi fares can make a massive dent in your budget. To reach your resort from the airport, it’s far cheaper to pre-book one of the many low-cost, door-to-door airport shuttles that whizz around the island. Affordable picks include Holiday Extras, Hoppa and Suntransfers. A 45-minute transfer from Tenerife South Airport to Costa Adeje could set you back as little as €4.50.
Invest in a travel pass
Titsa public buses – or guaguas, as the Canarios call them – trundle to most places on the island, and they're an incredibly affordable means of getting around. Buy a Ten+ rechargeable card for €2 from an airport ticket machine, kiosk or bus station, and then load it with credit, which is easier and cheaper than buying individual tickets.
If you’re planning on exploring a lot by bus, invest a day or weekly pass, costing €10 and €50 respectively and giving you unlimited travel on the island’s bus network.
Hop on the guagua to Mt Teide
Often wreathed in cloud, 3715m (12,188ft) Mt Teide is Tenerife’s biggest heart-stealer, rising high above a volcanic valley with wraparound views out across the glittering Atlantic to the neighboring islands of La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. At the heart of the rust-red rock moonscape of Teide National Park, the volcano is the island’s crowning glory.
Two public buses can take you to Teide: bus 348 from Puerto de la Cruz in the island’s north and bus 342 from Costa Adeje in the south. Once you’re up there, you’re free to explore at your own steam. If you’re an experienced hiker and want to tackle the big one by trekking all the way to the top, you can do so without enlisting an expensive guide, but make sure you apply for the necessary permit two to three months ahead.
Look out for car rental deals
Compared to the rest of Europe, Tenerife is pretty inexpensive when it comes to car rentals, which can cost as little as €15 a day. You will need your own set of wheels if you plan on venturing off-piste to the island’s wildest corners, especially in the spectacularly rugged and remote north. Save money by checking out the best deals on a cost-comparison site like Kayak, which covers not only international companies like Europcar but also more local ones like Canarias.com.
Car rental companies often add on last-minute extras that you might have overlooked in the small print when booking, such as upgrade, damage and additional-mileage charges. One way to reduce such costs is by shopping around for excess insurance before you travel.
Pick your resort or town wisely
Choosing the right beach – and often going one bay over – is an instant way to slash the cost of your holiday to Tenerife. In more crowded resorts like Los Cristianos and the mile of five-star hotels in Costa Adeje in the island’s south, you’ll pay through the nose for lounge chairs and umbrellas on the beaches, often up to €12 a day. Go remote and take your own towel, drinks and picnic.
Pitch a tent in a beauty spot
Wild camping is technically not permitted in Tenerife, but there are loopholes. Specially designated wilderness campsites are dotted across the island, some of which are in staggeringly lovely areas, such as on the slopes of Mt Teide. Facilities are basic, but most have toilets and running water. Getting a permit to stay at one is free, but you’ll need to be organized and book your dates far ahead.
Otherwise, pitching a tent at an official campground is a cheap means of staying on Tenerife. The island has lots of campgrounds to choose from, and a site for two will set you back around €25.
Bed down in a hostel
Hotel rates go through the roof in Tenerife high season, and good rooms can be like gold dust, so hurray for hostels, the perfect choice for solo travelers or anyone wanting to see the island on a shoestring, with dorm beds costing as little as €20.
Great options for feeling the buzz of the capital, Santa Cruz, include the Tenerife Experience Hostel near the main bus station and chilled backpacker fave Wanderlust Hostel. For sea views, more summery vibes and the chance to hit the waves, check into Casa Grande Surf Hostel in south coast El Médano. Up north, nine-room Albergo Montes de Anaga offers privacy and R&R with gorgeous mountain views away from the crowds.
Rent a casa rural
If you're traveling as a family or with a group of friends, renting a self-catering apartment or villa is a no-brainer – you can split the cost, dine in and get to see a side to the island away from the big resorts.
You’ll find incredible casas rurales all over the island, which, despite the name, swing from slickly modern apartments with vineyard views to rustic cottages with their own swimming pools. These can work out to be a fantastic value at as little as €20 per person per night. Handy websites to get you started in your search include Casas Rurales, Rural Tenerife and Tenerife Holiday Apartments.
Hang out in traditional Canarian towns
Costs mount quickly in Tenerife’s resorts, but factor in a day or two in the island’s charismatic towns, and you’ll get a genuine slice of island life for free or little cost. In Santa Cruz, take a wander along the tree-shaded Rambla and stroll among the sculptures and subtropical trees at Parque García Sanabria.
In the north, it costs nothing to roam the cobbled streets of La Orotava, home to some of the island’s most striking traditional architecture, swim in the lava pools of pretty Garachico or explore the gorgeous botanical gardens in Puerto de la Cruz.
Go for the menú del día
If you want to eat out for small change in Tenerife, make lunch your main meal. Many simple cafes and restaurants offer a no-frills menú del día (menu of the day) for as little as €10, including an appetizer, main course, glass of wine and dessert or coffee. Asking for tap water (agua del grifo) saves on buying bottled water, but you might get a raised eyebrow or even a firm “no.” As a rule of thumb, avoid restaurants on the seafront, where the view almost certainly comes at a cost.
Eat Canarian-style at a guachinche
The ultimate way to eat out on the cheap in Tenerife is the humble guachinche. Found largely in the wine-growing north, these lively, popular family-run restaurants pop up for a few months each year in random settings, from garages to garden sheds, backyards to banana plantations.
Let’s be clear: prettiness is not the point. Often guachinches are ramshackle with handmade signs, cobbled-together furniture and no view to speak of. But you are here to eat, and you'll do so traditionally and well, digging into hearty dishes like puchero (meat and chickpea stew), carne de cabra (goat) and conejo en salmorejo (rabbit braised in white wine). A meal with homegrown wine thrown in can set you back as little as €10. Bring cash and at least a smattering of Spanish.
Having trouble tracking down a guachinche? Download the Android or Apple app, Guachapp.
Graze the markets for picnic fixings
Volcanic wines and smoked goat cheese, fresh bread, tangy chorizo, chili-spiked mojo and ripe tropical fruits picked that very morning – Tenerife’s well-stocked produce markets are an excellent way to get a shot of local life, and all the things you need for a great picnic in the mountains or on the beach.
Join hungry locals to raid the stalls at La Laguna’s Mercado Municipal and Santa Cruz’ Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África. Otherwise, you can stock up on basics at Hiperdino and Mercadona grocery stores all over the island.
Daily costs in Tenerife
Hostel room: €20
Basic room for two: €60
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): €50
Public transport one-day travel card: €10
Cortado (espresso): €1.20
Menú del día: €10
Beer (0.5l): €2
Lunch at a guachinche with wine: €10
Bocadillo (sandwich): €4
Tapas dinner for two: €30