It’s relatively easy to island hop in the Canaries. Ferries and airlines link the islands, all providing a good service.
But choosing the best way to travel from Tenerife to another island can depend on a number of factors.
Flying to other Canary Islands
Flying between islands is our preferred way of island hopping. There are a couple of inter-island airlines, Binter and Canary Fly, who fly to all other islands daily (a friend pointed out that Air Europa also fly between Tenerife Norte and Gran Canaria daily, and have plans to expand island routes) . We haven’t flown with Canary Fly as they have fewer flights and, being massive Binter fans, we stick with what we like and trust. Binter is an excellent airline – flight times are short and we find the whole process from checking in at Tenerife Norte Airport to landing at the destination to be a relaxed and enjoyable experience. On inter-island flights there are no seat numbers allocated so it can feel more like catching a bus. Many morning and late afternoon flights have a commuter feel to them, with planes filled with business people and politicians. Another plus for Binter is you get the famous Binter biscuit as part of the in-flight service (note: it’s dried nuts in summer months as the biscuit would melt before you could eat it).
Catching a Ferry
Fred Olsen and Naviera Armas link all other Canary Islands with Tenerife. We have used both companies to travel to Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. Obviously, for anyone wanting to take a car, the ferry is the only option. Travelling by sea means longer journeys, not good if you’re prone to seasickness. As long as the sea is calm it’s a pleasant way to get from one island to another, and you might even see dolphins on some routes. Ferries all have comfortable seating and snack bars/restaurants, although choice can be limited. It’s close, but I favour Fred Olsen. Tickets are usually a bit more expensive than Naviera Armas, but I prefer the design of the FO ferries, and they seem more comfortable in choppy seas.
The starting point on Tenerife might be a factor when deciding modes of transport. Most Binter flights fly from Tenerife Norte. Ferries depart from Santa Cruz to Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, whilst Los Cristianos is the port for ferries heading to La Gomera, La Palma, and El Hierro. For anyone in the south wanting to travel to the other western islands, a ferry from Los Cristianos is ideal, whereas travelling from the north, a Binter flight from Los Rodeos is a far more attractive and quicker option.
Arriving at destination
It’s also worth considering where you touch down or dock when you arrive at the destination. For example, where Naviera Armas docks in Gran Canaria’s capital Las Palmas, the Fred Olsen ferry docks at Puerto de las Nieves on the north west coast. One is ideal for a city visit, the other is in a great location if a rural experience is the objective. Most of our visits to Gran Canaria have involved researching walking and a stay in Agaete, so the Fred Olsen ferry suited.
On La Gomera, both ferries dock at the capital San Sebastián whereas the airport is located outside Playa de Santiago, which raises another consideration; mode of transport after arriving. If hiring a car it’s not an issue. However, if relying on public transport it might be. Still using La Gomera as an example, one time we arrived by plane and had to get to Vallehermoso. The buses from La Gomera airport only run to Valle Gran Rey and San Sebastiàn. To get to Vallehermoso we had arrange for the bus driver to drop us off in a village en route where a taxi friend of his picked us up. It can get complicated.
Length and purpose of visit
I wouldn’t travel to any of the islands for a day trip, but that’s me. We have the luxury of being able to spend as long as we need on the other islands, even leaving return dates open until whatever we’re doing is done. Although I truly believe all the islands deserve a decent amount of time to be explored properly.
As the longest flight time between Tenerife and the furthest islands is fifty minutes, a day trip isn’t out of the question for any. The most viable by ferry is between Los Cristianos and La Gomera; popular on the coach excursion circuit. But a day trip is only ever going to give a vague taster, especially as La Gomera is an island best experienced on foot. I have to admit to being biased against coach excursions to La Gomera ever since we arrived at the Juego de Bolas Visitor Centre at the same time as a Tenerife coach. It had been a hot, hard climb from Hermigua and we looked bedraggled, muddy and very sweaty. Some excursionists stared at us as though we were strange creatures emerging from the mist. Looking at them in their pristine beach wear at the edge of the rainforest we were tempted to remark “you do realise we’re not the ones who look out of place here?”
Finally, one of the most important considerations of all – weather conditions. Flying might be the quickest way to hop between islands, but during change of seasons (late Oct/Nov and Feb/March) inclement weather conditions can result in delays and cancellations to inter-island flights. Tenerife Norte is particularly prone to low cloud at these times. We made three attempts to fly to La Gomera a couple of years back, leaving a sunny Puerto de la Cruz we arrived at an end-of-the world Tenerife Norte Airport to find flights cancelled. We’ve almost touched down at Santa Cruz de La Palma only for the pilot to abort and return to Tenerife. It is an annual issue. At these times taking the ferry can be more reliable. One last bit of advice. I grew up on a Scottish island where to get anywhere I had to catch a ferry; I’m used to rough seas. Anyone who’s not a good sailor should consider seasickness pills. One time, during an alert for wild seas, the ferry back to Tenerife from El Hierro (normal sailing time 2.5 hours) looked like a hospital ship, with the majority of passengers doubled over, desperately clutching paper bags.
Mostly though, flying or sailing is a relaxing and enjoyable way to travel between the Canary Islands.