I saw a comment on facebook recently about how difficult it was to interact with the local Canarian population on Tenerife.
We take it for granted that just about every step outside of the house will involve interaction of some sort. This is usually even before we’ve reached the car as we normally pass a smiling Ramon, the general ‘fix it’ man and seriously good guy of the area. Ramon is rarely alone (he likes to chat) so he usually acts as a link to other people. Like the binmen who take their second breakfast in the car park, or the electricity man who was changing the meters… without warning. If Ramon hadn’t grabbed me to let me know, Andy would have found her screen going blank halfway through writing an article.
Anyway, you get the picture. But not everywhere is like this on Tenerife. In some areas, especially around parts of the purpose built resorts, life is simply different. Organic interaction just doesn’t happen the same way.
However, it doesn’t need to take much effort to get a taste of Canarian life on Tenerife.
These are ten ways to have a real Tenerife experience.
Visit a Zona Recreativa at the Weekend
Head to the local supermarket, pack up on chorizos, serrano, local cheese, olives, tortillas etc. then head to the nearest Zona Recreativa (picnic zone) on a Saturday or Sunday and grab a table… if you can. These are packed with local families at weekend. Birthdays are celebrated at them, resulting in balloons and streamers decorating the trees – there are always trees; only visitors want to picnic in full sun. To really join in take some meat or fish to barbecue.
Catch a Guagua
It doesn’t matter where you are on Tenerife, catching the guagua (local bus) should involve an introduction to some local colour. Even the Tenerife South Airport run is used by commuters. This is a bummer for us heading north from the airport as we can hardly squeeze in until the workers thin out at San Isidro. You never know what you’ll experience on the bus. Last time we travelled from the south airport, the driver stopped to let a man out for a pee at the side of the road.
Eat in a Guachinche
You might have to travel north to find a real bona fide guachinche – a makeshift restaurant serving a handful of local dishes – but these are as about authentic Tenerife as you can get. There’s more information about eating in a guachinche here.
Go to a Football Match
Heading into Santa Cruz to watch CD Tenerife will bring plenty of local interaction in itself. But going to the Estadio Heliodoro Rodríguez López is great fun if you’re into football. Don’t forget to take plenty of sunflower seeds to nibble on nervously.
Sunbathe on a Pebbly Beach
Lie on a sun lounger on a sandy beach and you’re unlikely to get close to a local, except the guy collecting the money. Camping out at the water’s edge is more their scene. But if you really want to sunbathe like a Canario, find a pebbly beach… or even the most uncomfortable looking rocks imaginable. That’s where they’ll be sunbathing.
Don’t Hit the Bars Till after Midnight
There are parallel universes in places like Puerto de la Cruz where the local population, especially the younger element, and visitors can occupy two different worlds. If I had a centimo for every time I read there was no nightlife in Puerto because it doesn’t heat up until a lot of visitors have gone to bed, I’d have… well, a lot of centimos. Even in the heart of the southern resorts it can be similar. Places like Faro Chill Art in Costa Adeje are packed with mainly Canarios late on at the weekends.
Try a Few Words of Spanish
I can’t tell you the number of times over the years how people have opened up just because we’ve uttered a few words of Spanish. A buenos dias, hola, gracias etc. works wonders. People treat you differently. On Tenerife it helps to drop the ‘s’ at the end of some words if you want to fit right in. You know, in case anyone thinks you’re from mainland Spain.
Eat Dinner Later
It’s not going to make much of a difference in the resorts, but eat dinner early doors in traditional areas and you’ll be dining alone. Wait till around nine to fit in with local dining habits and enjoy a better buzz.
Go to a Street Party
There is nowhere on Tenerife that isn’t far from a fiesta. And these take place all year. Even the biggest resort area on the island, Costa Adeje is close to Adeje Town where there are some fabulous fiestas. Each fiesta has street parties with traditional and Latino music and are fun, friendly and welcoming. We’ve been in small affairs in the hills and at ones where there are 100,000 people and been made to feel welcome at them all.
Simplest of all. The minute you explore the world away from the resorts you open the doors to all sorts of spontaneous experiences.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+
Many thanks for this great post – and others. Really useful/helpful!! I bought your book too and, having recently purcahased a little apartment over there, I know we will have fun working our way through it and exploring the island. Keep up the great work 🙂 Marie
Thanks Marie (a bit of a late reply I know – I’m blaming the festive season). I hope you find the guide useful and you discover some of Tenerife’s great little ‘secrets’ 🙂