At Christmas time Tenerife dresses up for you to celebrate the holiday season with a packed schedule of activities. You can join in the santas' race, take a camel ride as the Three Wise Men, visit a wonderful sand nativity scene or even go ice skating.
Find out what you should include on your list of things to see in Tenerife if you've decided to spend Christmas on the island. One thing is for sure: you won't get bored.
1. Dive into the water in the New Year and swim across Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Join in the New Year's Eve festivities with a boat trip in Tenerife with the first dip of the year included and take part in the island's New Year 's Eve swim.
Every January 1st along the Muelle Sur in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, more than 200 swimmers choose between a 1,000 or 2,000 metre course. The annual event is organised by Gesport Canarias and is part of the Tenerife Christmas season.
It is a tradition to listen to music and enjoy the firework displays between the beaches and coves. And for many Canarians - and non-Canarians - diving into the sea at this time of year represents a cleansing of the body, a kind of purification to start the year with renewed energy.
You can start the year kayaking and snorkelling with turtles, take part in the competition or just swim in the sea: the important thing is to welcome the year in a memorable way.
2. Cycle the Nativity Scenes Route
Lovers of Christmas traditions have a special experience when they visit nativity scenes that are true gems worthy of admiration and, using a bicycle, you can visit almost all of them. Start your route through the emblematic nativity scenes of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, passing through La Orotava and ending in the municipality of La Laguna.
At your first stop you will find a very beautiful work of art with the signature of the artisan Jesús Gil. This is the giant nativity scene of Santa Cruz which rests on the doors of the Town Hall. The birth of Jesus is represented over 12m2 at two heights, with the figures placed on one side of a Christmas tree that is more than 4 metres high.
The route continues through the historic centre of La Laguna, where seven Nativity scenes are visited by thousands of people every year.
And don't forget to continue on to La Orotava, the municipality that holds the record for the number of nativity scenes in Tenerife, with 30 of these gems. This is an adventure to be enjoyed in company.
3. Take advantage of the discounts, do your Christmas shopping!
As Tenerife has the status of an outermost region within the EU, the tax rate in Tenerife is 7%, which makes it possible to offer bargains on clothes, ceramics, local handicrafts, brand-name products and other curiosities available at markets such as those around the town hall, or the famous La Recova market, where you'll find everything to delight your palate.
If you prefer department stores, you can stroll around the classic Plaza del Duque shopping centre with its open-air area, or if you prefer a taste of the city's trendiest, head to the Siam Mall.
While you're shopping you might want to take the opportunity to watch the Christmas tree lighting. Usually on the 24th of December you can see a big tree around the Plaza la Candelaria, as well as in the other main squares of the municipality.
4. Write down your diving baptism as a New Year's wish
Start the year discovering the marine flora and fauna of Tenerife with diving included. Don't know how to do it?
Cross this New Year's wish off your list because on the carnival island you'll find PADI certified instructors ready to help you achieve it for most of the Christmas period.
The climate in Tenerife is very pleasant, temperatures remain mild in December and the hustle and bustle of visitors stays on shore so it's perfect for learning in peace and quiet.
Often this experience includes theory instruction, simple diving exercises and open water dives, ending with your certificate with the bautizo de buceo. In most cases, this experience takes place in the marina of Radazul.
5. Participate in the Father Christmas Race
At Christmas time the Father Christmas Race is promoted by Santa Cruz de Tenerife Town Hall, an event that the whole family will enjoy. This peculiar athletic event is not to be missed if you are looking for things to do with children in Tenerife.
Participants can choose between 2-5 kilometres, passing through Plaza España, Avenida Marítim and the Cabildo building.
Registration is usually priced from €10 and also includes a zumba master class. The funds raised go to support sports projects so you'll be contributing to a good social cause. Visit their website and get involved!
6. Ride a camel like the Three Wise Men
Horse riding is possible almost everywhere on the mainland, but camel rides are reserved for the Canary Islands and what better time to get on the back of these dromedaries than Christmas?
Travel the volcanic land of Tenerife by camel starting from the animal contact farms in the north or south of the island located in the Canary Islands:
This is the meeting point in the north of the island, in the high area of Teide. Camello Center is located on the Carretera General, TF-82, km 10,2, El Tanque, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Prices start from 10 €. In addition, you have the option of including a menu with typical Canarian food for a very cheap supplement. If you decide to visit this centre, book your visit from Friday to Wednesday between 10:00-17:00.
This is the place to be for camels in the south of Tenerife. Camel Park is located at Carretera General, 67, Los Cristianos, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
This is the oldest camel farm in Tenerife and they offer a free shuttle service from Callao Salvaje and Golf del Sur. From €11 you can get on the camel hump.
And if farms are your thing, without the camels
You can visit a banana plantation surrounded by ostriches through the volcanic valley to Caldera del Rey. This is a tuk-tuk tour of Tenerife and the natural beauty of the route is well worth the investment from €19.
7. Join the Tenerife Concert Season
Every year a hundred or so musical activities, choirs, plays and concerts travel around the island to celebrate the festive season during the Christmas concert season in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. I recommend you take a look at the programme on offer.
The Christmas spirit is strong on the island and you can listen to carols in different places such as the concerts of the Fregolinos, who warm up the engines with Father Christmas from the Plaza El Príncipe. They are joined by the martial display of the Military Band to continue the celebrations at the same venue, as well as the El Cabo Artistic Union.
Other places to go to concerts in December are the Teatro Guimerá and theCentro de arte La Re, Recova. And if you fancy a stroll on the night of 25th December, I recommend a visit to the port of Santa Cruz, where the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra will be giving the great Christmas Concert.
8. Have fun with the activities of the PIT of Santa Cruz
This is another of the perfect activities to do in Tenerife with children at Christmas, as every year between December and January the PIT opens its doors to offer a range of fun activities that remind us of the young spirit of the family.
The Tenerife Children's and Youth Park - better known as the PIT - offers a world of fun and entertainment with digital games, a visit from Santa Claus, live performances, educational workshops, slides, inflatable mattresses, mechanical attractions and a host of activities for a good time with the family.
The PIT is located at Avenida de la Constitución, 12, in the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Exhibition Centre. It has a large free parking area and if you go by public bus, it is a 4-minute walk from José Emilio García Gómez station.
Be sure to check the timetables on the official website.
9. Delight your palate with Tenerife's Christmas gastronomy
In December, Canarian meals are transformed into banquets. If you are visiting Tenerife and are looking for a good place to eat an authentic fish sancocho, Christmas trout, to remember the traditional childhood of the islanders with grandma's cake, ropa vieja or any of the other Christmas specialities with homemade flavour and cheap prices, you should take a gastronomic route through Guachinches.
Guachinches are typical food establishments of the island where dishes are served with generous portions of homemade food and home-grown wine. They started out as canteens and have evolved into family bars. At Christmas time their kitchens are a regular fixture for locals and visitors alike.
You can find them all over the island, although it is worth mentioning that most of them are located in the municipality of La Orotava. Among the guachinches they have earned a place of honour:
El Guachinche Los Gómez
Its food is delicious and its Christmas trout is the gem of the place. It is located at Camino Los Gómez, 21 Guachinche Los Gómez, La Orotava. Open from Tuesday to Sunday between 12:00-24:00 hours.
Guachinche El Ramal
This is the place to go for grilled meat, vintage wines and finger-licking grandmother's cake. It is located at Carretera enlace el Ramal, 18H La Orotava. Opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday between 13:00-17:15 /19:00-23:00 hours and Sundays between 13:00-17:00 hours.
Guachinche El Primero
They are the kings of octopus and chickpeas, but at Christmas you must try their gofio pella, a house delicacy. Located at Calle Malpais 10, Santa Úrsula. Open Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays between 13:00-17:00 and Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 13:00-17:00 / 19:00-23:00.
Guachinche Casa Yayi
The speciality of the festive season is Christmas trout with a personal touch. You'll find it at Calle La Resbala 83, in La Matanza de Acentejo. And it opens its doors from Wednesday to Sunday, between 13:00-17:00 hours.
10. Ice skating
One of the classic Christmas activities is ice skating. It is certainly hard to imagine skating on ice in the climate of Tenerife, but on this Canary Island you can combine activities in the sun with the typical seasonal cold at the ice rinks. The most popular are:
Ice Rink in El Sauzal
It opens its doors during December and is located in the Plaza de San Pedro in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This is one of the free rinks offered on the island.
The Rink Magma
Located in the Magma Arte y Congresos, the biggest skating rink in Tenerife opens its doors every year between the end of November and January. This is a fixed Christmas meeting place where you can have your photo taken with Father Christmas or just skate to your heart's content.
Ticket prices are available from €8. Don't forget to wrap up warm - it's cold, even if you're in the Canaries.
If you're in the south of Tenerife you can get to either of the two rinks by bus or bike. If you miss the snow, but don't fancy the ice rinks, you might prefer to go to Avenida Marítima, just in front of Plaza España, where every year a snow mountain is installed as a giant slide.
11. Join the leisure offer of El Sauzal
Every year the El Sauzal theatre presents its wide range of Christmas shows with funny comedies, decorations, carols, storytelling and new perspectives on local traditions to surprise the audience.
Because it's not all beach, sun and sand, the Tenerife Town Hall annexe is home to the Christmas Fair of attractions in December. Come and discover the programme for all ages.
12. The Nutcracker in La Laguna
Tchaikovsky's classic fairy tale of 1891 is presented in Los Cristianos annually in the Auditorio Infanta Leonor, with the participation of prestigious international ballet schools that gather on the island to celebrate Christmas in La Laguna, World Heritage Site of the Canary Islands.
13. Enjoy a Christmas day Viking style
Start this half-day excursion around Tenerife at Playa de las Vistas, where a Viking boat cruises around the southern part of the island amidst special seasonal activities.
The brave Vikings perform various choreographies to teach adults and children how to handle swords, while inviting visitors to dress up as real Vikings until they sit on the throne of Erik the Red.
It will be 3 hours of pure fun, the children especially enjoy it very much. On board the caravel there is snorkelling equipment for everyone and the tour includes dolphin and whale watching.
As the sun sets, leave the boat behind and head for the Castillo de San Miguel, a 15 minute drive from Playa de las Vistas in Aldea Blanca. At the castle you will be greeted by the count and countess before enjoying a joust between knights. To round off the day on a high note, a medieval banquet with Christmas accents is offered.
What the weather is like in Tenerife at Christmas
While waiting for Father Christmas and the Three Wise Men it often feels like spring on the largest island of the Canary Islands. It is quite common that part of the festivities take place on the beaches or, at least, outdoors.
Between December and January temperatures vary between 18º- 21º C, so the only thing to do is to enjoy the leisure activities on offer.