Your Instagram feed may be filled with pics of your friends honeymooning in the Greek Islands and South of France, but there's one spot that offers up beaches just as stunning and skies that are some of the clearest on the globe (meaning prime star gazing)—Tenerife, the largest of Spain's Canary Islands. Located 186 miles off the coast of West Africa, this rugged piece of paradise offers everything from treks up the world’s third-largest volcano to Michelin-starred picnics along the beach—cashmere blanket included. With over 500 beaches and thousands of different landscapes in the archipelago to choose from, we’ve narrowed down a few of our favorites to help ease along the planning process. From forests and dunes to beaches with sand switching from shades of red and gold to volcanic black, here are five of the many reasons this Spanish island will steal your heart away the moment you land.
Guaranteed Beach Weather
This Spanish hotspot is a prime beach locale any time of the year thanks to moderate temperatures that never dip too low (think Miami-style winters). Even better, the island is typically rain-free in summer and averages only about three days of rain per month in winter, so you won’t have to worry about your island honeymoon getting flooded out. Tenerife also sports the longest coastline in the Canary Islands archipelago, with over 200 miles ranging from jagged cliffs and coves in the north to sandy, volcanic beaches in the south. One favorite is the golden sands of El Médano Beach, where you can spread out on sunbeds or try your hand at something a bit more adrenaline-inducing: kitesurfing.
Everyone from physicist Stephen Hawking to astronaut Neil Armstrong has been drawn to the highlands of Tenerife to soak up views of the universe from one of the clearest skies in Europe. One of the best spots for stargazing on the island is from the El Palmar viewpoint in the northwest, where you’re guaranteed to see major constellations like the Milky Way and Orion—with or without binoculars. If you’d rather have a more intimate look at the stars, The Ritz-Carlton, Abama offers gourmet picnics prepped by the resort’s Michelin-starred restaurants, with an expert astronomer giving you a guide of the night’s skies while you sip champagne on the beach under the stars.
Old Town Charm
Thought you had to go to Madrid to snag some of Spain’s best tapas? Stroll through the streets of the La Laguna Old Town, the first city established in the Canary Islands, admiring the 15th-century architecture and colorful colonial mansions lining the grid-like streets. While you’re here, have your own moveable feast hopping from one spot to the next to taste some of the island’s specialties, from vieja sancochada, a boiled local fish dish, to ranchos, a typical casserole. La Laguna is also a great place to sample a selection of the island’s wine, washing down local dishes with a glass of vino sourced straight from one of Tenerife’s 70-plus wineries. Another town worth a visit is the 16th-century city La Orotava, known as the gateway to Teide National Park, where you can spend the day shopping or lingering over coffee on one of the many terraces.
Year-Round Whale Watching
Whale watching can be similar to going on safari. You may have to set off far from the coast without any guarantee you’ll actually come across a whale. Luckily in the Tenerife, you’ve got a pretty high chance of spotting one of the 26 species of dolphins and whales swimming right off the southwest shore. One of the best ways to spot these graceful marine mammals: on a private catamaran cruise by the impressive Los Gigantes cliffs, also known as “cliffs of the giants,” since they dominate over this coastal town and its black sandy beach. After a day on the water, stop for a light bite on the beach at one of the many restaurants and bars sitting near the marina.
Climb (or Soar) Over Spain’s Highest Volcano
The center of the island is home to one of Tenerife’s defining features: the 12,200-foot-high Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak. There’s a reason why this natural park is Europe’s most-visited. Not only does the mountain offer picture-perfect views of the island (and the other six in the archipelago on a really clear day), it also shows off one of the most magnificent sunrises. Take the challenging six-hour hike up, which starts at Montaña Blanca, or snag the cable car for an 8-minute ride from the base. Up for an adventure? Take to the skies soaring across the Orotava and Guimar valleys on a three-hour paragliding flight over Mount Teide. If you plan on hiking and really want a honeymoon night to remember, sleep at the rustic 10,700-foot-high Altavista refuge (the maximum stay is just a night), built by a British explorer in the 19th century. The sunrise over the sea is worth the trek here alone. Cozy up with a cup of coffee in hand and prepare for the show that’s known as "la Sombra del Teide," or the “Shadow of Teide,” as the volcano projects its silhouette on the sea below for a truly magical moment that you and your other half won’t forget anytime soon.