Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a sunny destination with so much to offer. The vibrant island capital is easy to reach and offers a great range of top quality accommodation. There are attractions to suit everyone here, from history buffs to nature lovers, families and party animals.
If you’re wondering what to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, this guide will show you all that the island’s capital has to offer. From getting to Santa Cruz de Tenerife from the airport and the best hotels to all the top things to do in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, we have you completely covered.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife at a Glance
Here’s a snapshot of everything you need to know to plan your trip!
When to Go: Weather-wise, you can expect good weather all year round with more heat in the summer months and more rain in winter. But the best time to visit is in February when the famous carnival is held.
Where to Stay: Our favourite part of the city is the historic centre, between Plaza de España and Plaza Weyler. We loved staying in Hotel Principe Paz – the location is unbeatable. The luxury Iberostar Heritage Grand Mencey is also great but a bit farther away.
Getting Around: Grab buses 111 or 711 to come here from Tenerife South airport or bus 20 from Tenerife North airport (taxis are also available). Use bus 110 to come from the Costa Adeje bus station. The town itself is walkable, there are also buses and trams.
Top Highlights: Palmetum botanical garden (tickets here), César Manrique pool complex, the Museum of Nature and Archaeology, Our Lady of Africa Market, García Sanabria Park. Don’t miss a trip to Playa de las Teresitas beach.
Top Tours: The Anaga Rural Park Private Tour or Teide National Park Private Tour (pickup either from Santa Cruz hotel or at the port for cruise passengers). We also recommend this guided Tenerife tour which will bring you around the island.
This sun-kissed city has lots to offer, and is the perfect place to take an active or more relaxed break. There are beautiful botanic gardens and parks, a great range of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, and a mix of historic and family-friendly attractions to be found here.
Read on to find out all about what to see in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, including points of interest, places to stay, activities, how to get around, local restaurants and much more.
The Best Time to Visit
Santa Cruz, like the rest of Tenerife, has a sub-tropical climate, with hot summers and very mild winters. Usually, there is year-round sunshine. If you’d like to spend time at Las Teresitas beach, then ideally plan to visit between June and November. You can sunbathe there all year long, though.
If beaches are not so important to you, then you can visit Santa Cruz at any time. Having said that, it’s best to expect colder weather and more rainfall during the months of December, January and February. Even during these winter months, you’re still likely to experience plenty of sunshine.
February can also be a great time to visit Santa Cruz because of its famous carnival. You can find out more about this further down the page.
Things to do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
If you’ll be in Santa Cruz during February, then experiencing the famous carnival is an absolute must. On a worldwide scale, only the carnival in Rio de Janeiro is bigger. The extravaganza takes place over a fifteen day period, when the streets of the resort become an exciting spectacle of colour, sound, movement and socialising.
Explore the Historic Old Town
Santa Cruz de Tenerife old town comprises a historic, triangle-shaped tangle of streets including Plaza de Candelaria, Plaza de España, Plaza de Weyler and Calle La Noria. Iglesia La Concepción (location) is an attractive church with impressive architecture, while Calle del Castillo is named for the remains of San Cristóbal castle at the start of the street.
Calle del Castillo is lined with interesting shops, including a selection of clothing, camera and electrical retailers. The long street commences at Plaza de la Candelaria. Calle de la Noria, meanwhile, tends to be the haunt of the island’s carnival musicians.
Traditional Spanish bars, cafes and restaurants can also be found in the Old Town area, so it’s a great place for tourists to try tapas or seek out authentic local cuisine.
Watch the World Go by at Plaza de España
Plaza de España is the largest square in the capital city. There’s a big, man-made sea water lake in the square, and it’s surrounded by attractive buildings, cafes, shops and restaurants.
Where: Find it on Google Maps here.
See Plenty of Palm Trees at the Botanical Garden
With a vast collection of palm trees, the botanical garden in Santa Cruz – or the Palmetum – is a popular local attraction. Astonishingly, the site was once a rubbish dump. Now, the palm trees here comprise the widest range in Europe, if not the entire planet.
In our humble opinion, Palmetum is the best place to visit in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We were fascinated by the variety of palm trees and other gorgeous tropical plants from all around the world. The location on the hill provides great views over the city and the ocean. Priced at 5 euros, it’s a very good value for money.
Where: Google Maps
Hours: Open every day from 10 AM to 6 PM (gates close at 5 PM).
Price: 6€ for adults, 2.80€ for children from 3 to 12 years old.
This iconic Auditorio de Tenerife in Santa Cruz is famed for the curved, tapering roof that was designed to represent a solar eclipse. The Tenerife auditorium can be found on the Avenida de la Constitución, close to the port.
Location: Google Maps.
Discover the Museum of Nature and Archaeology
The Museo de la Naturaleza y Arqueología (MUNA) showcases important archaeological items, many of which date back to the time before the Canary Islands belonged to Spain. The 18th century neoclassical building was once the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados Civilian Hospital, and is located in the Old Town.
Where: Find it here on Google Maps.
Hours: Open Monday – Saturday 9 AM-7 PM, Sunday 10 AM-4:30 PM.
Price: 5€ for adults, children under 8 years old for free.
Make a Splash at César Manrique Maritime Park
If you’re in Santa Cruz with children, then the César Manrique Maritime Park is surely the best place to visit. The vast recreation complex offers three salt water swimming pools, various sporting facilities, kids’ play areas, a jacuzzi, a gym, a range of restaurants and even a little beach.
Where: Google Maps
Hours: Summer schedule 10 AM-7 PM, Winter schedule 10 AM-6 PM.
Price: 5€ for adults, children under 12 years old – 1.5€, children under 3 years old – free.
Bag a Bargain at Our Lady of Africa Market
The Mercado Nuestra Señora De África – to give it the local name – is a huge market. There are several hundred stalls selling all manner of fresh produce, from fruit and vegetables to flowers, dairy products and meat. It’s open daily and also hosts a flea market on Sunday mornings. Shopping at this market in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is an experience not to be missed.
Encounter History at the Castle of San Cristóbal
The ruins of the Castillo de San Cristóbal can be seen for free while in the Plaza de España area. As the island’s first fortress, it’s a site of historical significance.
Location: Google Maps.
Enjoy Glorious García Sanabria Park
With lush, green spaces and some great kids’ playgrounds, Parque García Sanabria is a lovely spot in which to spend some time.
Location: Find it here.
Soak up the Sun at Playa de las Teresitas Beach
This is the top pick of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife beaches to visit. Golden sand was brought over from the Sahara to create Playa de las Teresitas. It’s the busiest, prettiest and most popular beach on the island, and is easy to access by public bus number 910 or car.
Location: Google Maps.
Enjoy a Meal at One of the Local Restaurants
There is no shortage of excellent restaurants in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We found more choices of different cuisines here than in the South. Here are our top restaurant recommendations in the city.
Serving the finest Filipino and Japanese cuisine, Restaurant Dareshasu offers a warm welcome, great service and a pretty setting in central Santa Cruz.
Taberna Ramon is a contemporary eatery in the Rambla area. Specialising in seafood, Spanish and Mediterranean dishes, it offers an authentic local dining experience.
If fine dining’s your thing, you’ll love this Santa Cruz restaurant. Presentation, flavour and service are sublime and this place is always one of the most popular in town.
This is a good place to go when you’re seeking a healthy meal, want to try genuine Spanish dishes, or are a big fan of seafood.
This worthy winner of a TripAdvisor Travellers Choice award offers a great range of Spanish, European, Mediterranean and fusion dishes.
Grab a Coffee and Something Sweet
The first thing that we look for in any new place we visit is where to get a good cup of coffee and freshly baked pastries. Here are our favorite cafes and bakeries in the city.
This cafe and pastry shop offers a tempting array of sweet treats, including cakes, ice creams and delicious hot chocolate.
Café Palmelita – Calle Castillo
The menu here is packed with tasty savoury and sweet snacks and meals – and this cafe also serves very good coffee.
This popular cafe bar serves some great brunch dishes, light meals and cakes. The drinks list also included plenty of teas, coffees, wines and beers.
Check Out Santa Cruz’s Nightlife Scene
Pedestrianised Calle La Noria is recommended for those seeking a lively nightlife scene. Several clubs are located in this part of the city, and you can also find roof terrace karaoke or music venues and cocktail bars.
The Bambú Lounge Bar is widely regarded as the top nightlife spot in Santa Cruz. People flock here for the fabulous atmosphere, music and cocktails.
Chema Gin Club isn’t only about gin – the range of 100 plus spirits served here also includes rums, malt whiskies and more.
Visit San Cristóbal de la Laguna
Santa Cruz and La Laguna aren’t far apart at all and it’s easy to travel to this destination via public transport. Bus route 15 will whisk you to La Laguna in about 15 minutes, and a ticket costs EUR €1.45.
You can also reach San Cristóbal de la Laguna via tram Line 1 which links two places. Check out a tram map and timetables here. Purchase your ticket at a MTSA office, or from one of the machines located at the tram stops. A standard single ticket costs EUR €1.35, and you must validate this when boarding the tram.
Take a Hike at Anaga Rural Park
Anaga Rural Park is close to Tenerife’s capital and a favourite among hikers. This sizable part of the island is home to a vast laurel forest, so it’s easy to find a shady trail to follow. We actually have a detailed guide on this magnificent park on our website.
You can either visit the park with your rental car or pick one of the tours with a pickup option in Santa Cruz.
We highly recommend this private Anaga Rural Park tour. It’s not cheap but you get what you pay for: a small group, duration 8 hours, away from mass tourism and a very knowledgeable guide. The pick up is available from any accommodation in Northern Tenerife or you can also choose the option to be picked up from the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife if you arrive by cruise.
There is also a cheaper option, with a duration of 5 hours.
Book a Day Trip to Tour the Island
Guided tours are great for a couple of reasons. First, they come in handy if you don’t have a rental car but still want to visit places not accessible by bus. Second, booking a tour is your best option if you are staying in Santa Cruz or nearby for a short period of time but want to see more of Tenerife (a cruise can be a perfect example). Third, a knowledgeable guide will tell you more about each place you visit.
Here are some of the excursions with pickup available in Santa Cruz de Tenerife we recommend.
Teide Volcano and North of Tenerife VIP Tour
This small group tour includes a visit to UNESCO-listed La Laguna, the historic capital of Tenerife. You’ll also get up close to Teide volcano, the highest peak in Spain, and see Garachico and the oldest dragon tree in Icod de los Vinos.
Alternatively, you can opt for a private Teide and Teno Rural Park tour, which is more expensive but really concentrates on Teide and Teno national parks. It’s all about pure nature in this one. You can choose either a pick up option from any accommodation in Tenerife North or South or from the Santa Cruz port for cruise passengers when booking.
The Tour Around the Island
This day trip from Santa Cruz will bring you around the whole island. During the day you’ll visit La Laguna, Candelaria, where you can find a statue of the Candelaria Virgin, the hip town of El Médano, Garachico, La Orotava and even Los Gigantes. A very nice option if you want to see it all in 1 day!
Santa Cruz de Tenerife Shopping
This mall is located in the heart of Santa Cruz, close to the popular department store El Corte Inglés. It has tons of shops, plus 11 movie theatres, restaurants, leisure facilities, a ten-pin bowling alley and a large Carrefour hypermarket.
This department store is situated at 7 Avenida Tres de Mayo number 7, just a few metres from the Auditorio and the Parque Marítimo.
Shops Around Calle de Castillo
Pedestrianised Calle de Castillo is Santa Cruz’s most vibrant shopping avenue, and is popular with both locals and tourists. You can buy almost anything somewhere along this 10-block street, including fashion, sportswear, cameras, perfumes, electricals and much more.
As mentioned above, Mercado Nuestra Señora de Africa (Our Lady of Africa Market) in Santa Cruz is a must-visit when in Tenerife. This famous market can be found on the Avenida de San Sebastián. There are numerous shops and stalls here selling very fresh and competitively priced fruit, vegetables, meat, and bread, plus good quality local cheese and wine.
Other supermarkets in the city include Lidl near DISA Cuevas Blancas, Mercadona, Hiperdino on Avenida Tres de Mayo, and Supermercados Tu Alteza on Calle De El Pilar.
Where to Stay
We recommend staying in the historic centre of town, between Plaza de España and Plaza Weyler. This is a lively area, where there’s always lots going on.
If enjoying the sands and sea of Playa de Las Teresitas is your main focus, you could alternatively stay in the small town of San Andrés. You can reach the beach on foot from here. This peaceful spot has a scattering of pleasant restaurants and a lovely, local feel. From San Andrés you can reach Santa Cruz in just 15 minutes, either by car or via bus route 910.
Here is a selection of our recommended hotels in Santa Cruz.
This five-star hotel in Santa Cruz is just 10 minutes’ walk from the resort centre. The main beach in Las Teresitas is 20 minutes away by car. Iberostar Heritage Grand Mencey Tenerife is an elegant city spa hotel, housed in an imposing colonial-style building.
Guests staying at this property can relax in its glorious gardens, swim in the outdoor pool, and relax at the well-appointed, 4,500 m² spa. There is also a smart fitness centre offering yoga and Pilates classes, plus a restaurant and a couple of bars.
MID-RANGE – Hotel Taburiente S.C.Tenerife
In central Santa Cruz, Hotel Taburiente S.C.Tenerife is positioned right by the lush gardens of Parque García Sanabria. A key highlight of this four-star hotel is the rooftop area overlooking the ocean, where there is a pool and a jacuzzi.
This hotel offers an impressive range of amenities, including a stylish lounge bar, two restaurants serving delicious Spanish dishes, and a guest gym. With a sleek, contemporary look throughout, this is a fashionable place to stay.
MID-RANGE – Hotel Principe Paz
This property is situated in central Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the heart of the resort. Shops, restaurants and local attractions are within walking distance of Hotel Principe Paz, and there are views over Príncipe Square from the restaurant.
Caleta de Negros beach, which is a mile away, is the closest to this three star hotel. Light meals such as sandwiches, tapas and salads are available in the on-site eatery. Hotel Principe Paz also has a bar.
BUDGET – Hotel Nautico
Two star Hotel Nautico is located near the harbour, and is ten minutes’ walk from the centre of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Rooms here come equipped with WiFi access, flatscreen TV and air conditioning.
These Santa Cruz de Tenerife apartments with private balconies provide guests with a relaxing outdoor space. There’s a range of local eateries close by, and the hotel also has a cafe bar and a restaurant.
BUDGET – Hotel Horizonte
While Hotel Nautico offers a better standard of accommodation, Hotel Horizonte boasts a more convenient location. It’s just 100 metres from Plaza del Principe and is also just five minutes’ walk from both García Sanabria Park and the harbour of Santa Cruz.
One star Hotel Horizonte has no pool or restaurant, but you can dine out locally at a range of eateries in the resort.
Flights to Santa Cruz de Tenerife may arrive at either of the island’s two airports. If you’ll be going directly to Santa Cruz straight from Tenerife North or Tenerife South, you can either take a taxi or travel by bus. If you plan to use buses throughout your stay, we recommend getting a ten+ card. Tickets are cheaper this way than paying the bus driver as you board.
The ten+ card costs 2 euros, and can be bought from TITSA offices, vending machines, tram stations and other authorised outlets such as souvenir shops. There are also vending machines in both airports that sell ten+ cards. A full map of the outlets can be seen here, and there is more information about buying various types of tickets in the bus guide on this site.
Once you’ve the ten+ card, it can then be topped up. The sum must be between 5 euros and 100 euros, rising in €5 increments. This will then be valid for a full 12 months, beginning with the first usage. After a year, the top-up expires.
To travel from Tenerife South airport to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the direct options are bus numbers 111 and 711 (the night bus). Bus 111 runs daily, and the journey takes about 50 minutes. Bus 711 runs every night and also takes about 50 minutes. Tickets for buses 111 or 711 cost about €9.35 each.
The taxi trip from Tenerife South airport to Santa Cruz takes about 40 minutes, and costs around 100€.
To travel from Tenerife North airport to Santa Cruz de Tenerife you can use bus route 20. The trip takes about 25 minutes. A ticket for this costs 2.65€.
There is a daily bus service operating between Santa Cruz and Las Teresitas. You want bus number 910, and the journey takes just 20 minutes at a cost of around 1.25€. The first bus departs at 05:10 and the last returns to Santa Cruz by 23:25.
There is no direct bus going from Santa Cruz to Teide. The best way to get there is to book an organised trip. A tour that ends during the evening tour is ideal as you then experience the daytime views and the night stars.
You can travel to Loro Parque from Santa Cruz by using bus number 103. This takes about 45 minutes and costs 5.25€.
Getting Around Town
Buses are also a great way to travel within Santa Cruz. You can plan your journey by using the official Tenerife bus website Titsa on a computer (under Plan a Journey or via the map) or on a mobile device (change the language to English and select Getting There). Choose your starting point and destination and it will show you which buses to take.
There are also two tram lines operating in Santa Cruz. You can see the map of both tram routes here.
You can use your ten+ card on trams, or buy a ticket from any of the machines at the stops or in MTSA offices. These are located at both line terminals. Then validate your ticket in the machine inside the tram carriage. Each single ticket costs €1.35.
The key difference, when using trams rather than buses, is that you need to validate your ten+ card ONLY when you board the tram. With buses, you need to validate the card when you board and when you get off. All tram rides cost exactly 1.35 Euros, while bus prices vary depending on the length of the journey.
Map of Santa Cruz de Tenerife Attractions
To explore Tenerife to the fullest and at your own pace, we highly recommend renting a car. Our favourite place for car rental is the RentalCars website. It allows you to compare different providers and pick the best deal. You also get the best protection and flexibility for booking terms.
We also recommend taking at least one guided tour. Our favourite place for booking tours in Tenerife is GetYourGuide.
Top 3 excursions on the island:
- A whale and dolphin watching (pick by location: Los Cristianos, Costa Adeje, Los Gigantes).
- Stargazing in Teide National Park
- Kayaking and Snorkeling with Turtles
The best hotels for families with kids (in our opinion):
Luxury: GF Victoria (Costa Adeje) or Bahia Principe Fantasia (Golf del Sur)
Mid-Range: Spring Hotel Bitácora (Playa de las Americas) or Iberostar Bouganville Playa (Costa Adeje)
Budget: GF Isabel (Costa Adeje) or Paradise Park Fun Lifestyle Hotel (Los Cristianos)
The best adults-only hotels:
Luxury: Iberostar Grand El Mirador (Costa Adeje) or Gran Melia Palacio de Isora (Alcalá)
Mid-Range: Tigotan Lovers & Friends (Playa de las Americas) or Iberostar Selection Sábila (Costa Adeje)
Budget: Barceló Santiago (Puerto de Santiago)
Top hotels for everyone:
Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton, Abama or Bahia del Duque (Costa Adeje)
Mid-Range: Hard Rock Hotel (Playa Paraiso) or Dreams Jardin Tropical Resort & Spa (Costa Adeje)
Budget: Alexandre Hotel Gala or Olé Tropical Tenerife (both Playa de las Americas)