Forever ingrained as a go-to holiday destination, Tenerife’s plentiful beaches, all-inclusive resorts and fun atmosphere go a long way to explaining why 10 million tourists visit it every year. However, look past the sunburns and bucket hats, and you’ll see that there’s more to this island than meets the eye. In particular, Santa Cruz – considered one of the world’s best places to live – charms with its World Heritage-enriched sprawl and eccentric, vibrant ambience.
Bustling with birdsong, brightly painted buildings, and plenty of Spanish cheer, Santa Cruz is definitely not a city to skip over. Here, we’ll guide you through this exciting, effervescent area, showing you where to eat, what to do and how to get around.
How to get around in Santa Cruz
Since Santa Cruz is relatively small, it’s well worth exploring its bright, colourful streets on foot. However, Santa Cruz’s tram service is a clean, quiet and efficient way to get around. Tickets can be purchased at any stop through an automated, multi-lingual machine. Journeys are relatively cheap, though they’re the same regardless of the length of the trip, so consider whether it’s worth walking the distance before you buy the ticket.
You can also buy a Bono card which can be used for multiple journeys on both trams and buses and gives you discounted entrance to certain museums, too. Whichever ticket you go for, the city is no-nonsense about travelling without valid tickets, issuing on-the-spot fines that you must pay there and then.
Operating from Plaza España, a white tourist train runs every hour from 10am to 10pm, allowing visitors to see the city on a 40-minute tour, free of charge.
What to do in Santa Cruz
It’s not just sunbathing in Tenerife, here are a selection of amazing cultural activities to enjoy in Santa Cruz.
Museo de le Naturaleza y el Hombre
An endlessly popular attraction among tourists and locals alike, this museum, one of the best in the Canary Islands, fuses natural science and archaeology and wows visitors the second they step in. With informative displays on wildlife and history, it’s the showcase mummies and skulls, preserved with pained expressions that stick in the mind. An audio-visual presentation of El Teide, a still-active volcano is well worth checking out, too.
Auditorio de Tenerife
A hugely impressive auditorium with more than a touch of the Sydney Opera House about it, Auditorio de Tenerife’s spectacular design mirrors the crest of a wave; a stunning area awash with impressive acoustics, plenty of guided tours, and many culturally significant performances. If you can’t reserve a tour or performance, then be sure to bring your camera along, as its impressive set up creates photo opportunities from all angles.
Having only opened in 2013, Palmetum is a relatively new addition to Santa Cruz’s gallery of attractions, but this 12-hectare botanical garden has already made a name for itself as one of the city’s finest sights. Featuring Europe’s most diverse collection of palm trees – imported from all over the world – this serene, verdant garden is the perfect place to relax, with plenty of sea views for you to take in too.
What to eat in Santa Cruz
Dining out is an absolute treat in Santa Cruz, and we’ve collected a few of the best kitchens for you to sample.
Why not start your culinary adventure with a meal at the first restaurant ever licensed in the city? Dating all the way back to 1893, La Hierbita was originally part of the city’s red-light district. Its seedy origins now shed, the place showcases traditional Canary Islands recipes to the highest standards. Seafood is freshly caught each day, so any number of the fish dishes are likely to delight here.
If you like your food hearty and your atmosphere rustic, then Bodeguita Canaria is definitely your next port of call. Everything here should rightly be called traditional, from the décor and furniture, down to the earthy plates of food you’ll be served. Portions are big, with bold flavours – go for the ropa vieja, a traditional meat, chickpea and potato stew that’s sure to fill rumbling stomachs with ease.
Da Canio III
Making a beeline to the Italian food when you’re in Spain is probably not top of your traveller’s checklist, but when it’s this good, you’d be forgiven. Owned by Italian natives, two-dozen pizzas adorn the menu, making this essential eating for lovers of the iconic Italian dish.
Tasca el Caminito
Situated on a tucked-away side street that’s rich with an array of eateries, Tasca el Caminito could well be the best of them. Full of character and personality, go for the secreto Iberico, a pork dish served in an orange sauce that will truly knock your socks off. Tapas is also available if you fancy a quick bite after the beach as well.