Cruises,  Spain

How to Spend One Day in Tenerife From Cruise Ship

Are you looking for tips on how to spend one day in Tenerife? Then you are in the right spot.

Tenerife is a stunning island, belonging to the Canary island group. Tenerife is pretty sizable for an island—it’s about 2,034 square kilometers.

So naturally, you are wondering how to spend your shore day. There is a great selection of things to do, and it can be hard to choose if you don’t know the place.

My husband and I have just returned from a cruise to Tenerife. We spent the day discovering the best-hidden gems of the island with a rental car.

To make the planning a bit easier for you, I am sharing my perfect one-day Tenerife itinerary in this blog post.

Let’s get to it.

An aerial view of a black sand beach in Tenerife, where the powerful Atlantic waves create frothy white patterns as they break onto the shore, contrasting with the dark volcanic sand and the parallel parked cars along the coastal road.

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One Day in Tenerife – In Short

If you have one day in Tenerife with your cruise, you have a couple of options on how to spend the day:

  • Rent a car and explore the island (recommended)
  • Take the shuttle to Santa Cruz and explore the city
  • Participate in a day trip or guided tour

My husband and I opted to explore the island with a rental car. We were extremely happy with our choice since we were not trapped in a tour bus and saw some pretty amazing things. I can 100 % recommend this option.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving, there are a couple of great (private) day tours that check out the exact same spots. I’ll list them below for you.

I would not recommend visiting Santa Cruz, for the simple reason that you’ll miss out on the best parts of the island. It is a good option for people who only want to leave the ship for a short while.

The author and her husband are standing in a car rental parking lot in Tenerife, ready for an adventure. They're beside a stylish white compact SUV, with the author's husband giving a thumbs-up. The marina in the background hints at the coastal explorations that await them, with a clear blue sky above and lush palm trees swaying gently.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Cruise Port

cruise port map of tenerife

Tenerife has one big cruise port, with a great new terminal. It is quite modern, with lots of shops and a cafe.

The cruise port is located about 10 miles outside the city center of Santa Cruz. You can either walk there, take the free shuttle bus, or grab a cab (about 15 EUR).

There are rental car companies located right on the cruise terminal, you can’t miss them when exiting the ship. There are also lots of cabs available.

We rented a car with CICAR, and we were super happy about it. It is right next to the terminal, and super convenient.


This image features the MSC Divina cruise ship docked at the port in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The vast ship stands prominently against the clear blue sky, with Tenerife’s distinctive rugged mountains in the background. The port area appears quiet with few people, and the calm sea reflects the warm glow of the setting sun, emphasizing the serene and welcoming atmosphere of the island for its visitors.

1 Day Tenerife – Self Drive Itinerary

  • Arco de Tajao
  • Playa Amarilla
  • Los Gigantes
  • Masca
  • Playa del Socorro
  • Playa Castro
  • Playa de Benijo (optional)

As you can see, the famous Teide National Park is missing from this itinerary.

The national park is definitely worth seeing, but it is best explored with a group tour or excursion, and it will take you all day. I’ll suggest some great day tours further down below.

This itinerary will take you to all the best spots in Tenerife – and some great hidden gems that no one else on your ship will get to see.

You do need a car or a private driver for this 1 day in Tenerife itinerary. Driving in Tenerife is not too difficult, but going up the mountain toward Masca can be a bit nerve-wracking. Be prepared for that.

Best Day Tours in Tenerife – From Cruise Port

☀️ Private Excursions For Cruise Ship Passengers

☀️ Essential Tenerife and Teide Shore Excursion VIP TOUR

☀️ Get to know the Teide National Park and the north of Tenerife

☀️ Los Gigantes Whale Watching Charter by Sail Boat

Best Things To Do From Tenerife Cruise Port

1. Arco de Tajao

The Arco de Tajao in Tenerife is pretty cool – and you need to put it on your one-day itinerary.

It’s a natural arch formed by volcanic activity. This arch is a hidden gem, not super famous, but a stunning piece of nature.

The Arco de Tajao is made from basalt rock. It is the same material that forms a lot of the island’s landscape. The area around it is great for exploring and taking photos.

Tip: From the parking spot, it is a couple of steps down toward the arch. I suggest to wear good shoes, so you don’t slip.

A vast view of a wind farm in Tenerife, with modern white wind turbines standing tall against the blue sky, overlooking a rugged terrain with a large, natural arch-like rock formation in the foreground. The dry, sandy landscape is dotted with sparse vegetation and power lines, suggesting a blend of natural beauty and sustainable energy in action.

2. Playa Amarilla

A secluded black pebble beach in Tenerife nestled at the base of a steep, rocky cliffside. The clear blue waters gently lap against the shore, and the layers of sedimentary rock in the cliff display a rich, earthy palette of colors, contributing to the serene and untouched feel of this picturesque coastal spot.

Playa Amarilla in Tenerife is a real hidden gem and it was one of our favorite places on our shore day.

It’s not your typical sandy beach, but more of a natural cove. It also has some amazing volcanic rock formations. Just like the name already says, the rocks have a yellow hue.

The water here is crystal clear, perfect for snorkeling. You can see lots of fish and maybe even some other marine life. Make sure to bring some gear, you can’t rent any there.

Playa Amarilla is usually not too crowded, which is great if you’re looking for a peaceful spot. We were there almost by ourselves.

There’s also a cool natural pool where you can go swimming.

3. Los Gigantes

A breathtaking view of Los Gigantes, Tenerife, showing the towering cliffs as a backdrop to a quaint coastal town. The white and terracotta-colored buildings contrast with the deep blues of the sea and the sky, while the greenery adds a touch of lushness to the landscape, encapsulating the vibrant life at the edge of the dramatic cliffs.

Los Gigantes in Tenerife is absolutely breathtaking and deserves a spot on a one-day itinerary.

It’s famous for its massive cliffs, and the name literally translates to “The Giants.” These cliffs go up about 800 meters (over 2600 feet) right from the sea. It is a sight for sore eyes.

You can see these cliffs from various points in the town of Los Gigantes. The town is cute, with some shops and restaurants.

My Tip: do not follow any directions to so-called viewpoints (apart from the official one). Most of them were covered with shades to block the view. We were struggling forever to find a good spot since driving is also a mess in this village.

4. Masca

A stunning view from a high vantage point in Tenerife, overlooking a deep ravine with layered cliffs that speak to the island's volcanic activity. Sparse vegetation clings to the steep slopes, and a small village nestles in the valley, showing the harmonious balance between nature and human habitation.

Masca Village is a small mountain town – and it feels like stepping into a fairy tale. It’s this tiny, picturesque village tucked away in the mountains. The setting is just stunning, with green forest and the ocean in the background.

The village itself is really quaint. It has some traditional Canarian houses and restaurants.

If you have the time, you can go on the famous Masca Trek. It’s a hike that takes you from the village down through a gorge to the ocean.

Sadly, there are very few parking spots in the village, so you might not have a chance to stop there. As you can see, the roads are pretty narrow and winding. But the drive is fun – and the views are stunning.

An impressive winding road snakes through the green-covered hills of Tenerife, showcasing the island's diverse terrain and the engineering feat of its roadways. The road cuts a clear path through the otherwise wild and untamed landscape, inviting travelers to explore the hidden corners of the island.

6. Lunch In The Mountains

If you, like us, don’t get a chance to park in Masca, I have good news. Just a 5-minute drive from Masca you can find Mirador La Cruz de Hilda.

This is a stunning viewing platform with an amazing restaurant. They serve only local products, at great prices.

Enjoy a regional lunch with an exceptional view of Masca from above.

Tip: The people there are super sweet, so make sure to buy a souvenir from local production. We bought banana jam for my mum – she loved it.

7. Playa del Socorro

Finally, it is time for my favorite spot on our day in Tenerife: Playa del Socorro. It’s a black sand beach, which is pretty unique and makes for some dramatic landscapes.

The water there is crystal clear, and it is usually quite empty, aside from a couple of surfers. This way, you can enjoy the amazing beach fully, without masses of tourists.

There are no amenities on this beach, so we only stayed there for a bit to enjoy the view.

If you have some more time, make sure to also check out the Costa-Adeje beaches in the south of the island.

A top-down view of Tenerife's coastline showing the white foam of the waves crashing against the black volcanic sand beach, the contrasting colors and textures beautifully illustrate the dynamic and unspoiled nature of the island's beaches.

8. Scenic Coastal Drive

This part of the drive between Masca and Playa Castro was breathtaking. Make sure to really enjoy the journey, not just the destinations.

Coastal towns, stunning cliffs, and crystal clear blue water make this drive so special. Feel free to stop in the cute small towns for a drink or simply to enjoy the view.

An aerial shot of the rugged coastline of Tenerife, with waves crashing against the cliffs. Residential areas with scattered houses are surrounded by banana plantations, showcasing the island's agricultural side amidst the dramatic coastal scenery, with the sprawling cityscape visible in the distance.

9. Playa Castro

Playa Castro was our last stop on this one-day-in-Tenerife itinerary. We felt like returning to the ship after a super exciting day, but not without a quick dip in the water at Playa Castro.

It is another stunning black sandy beach, nestled in between some impressive cliffs. It can be a bit hard to find, but totally worth the visit.

A scenic view between two palm fronds, overlooking a secluded cove with turquoise waters and rock formations in Tenerife, the sunlight illuminates the scene, highlighting the natural beauty and tranquility of the island's hidden gems.

10. Playa de Benijo

We initially also planned on going to Playa de Benijo, but sadly our cruise ship left the port quite early. If you have some more time, you can definitely hop by this stunning spot.

Playa de Benijo is a quiet beach in Tenerife with cool rocks and black sand. It’s really pretty, especially at sunset. It’s great for photos and chilling away from crowds.

A stunning landscape shot capturing the rugged rock formations on a Tenerife beach at sunset, with the sky painted in hues of pink and orange, the long exposure creates a silky effect on the water, enhancing the scene's serene atmosphere.

Alternative Things To Do in Tenerife in One Day

As I mentioned, our cruise stop was only about 7 hours. Some cruise lines stay a lot longer, which leaves room for extra experiences.

We picked the least tourist spots for our journey because we don’t enjoy crowds. But of course, there is much more to do in Tenerife.

I have researched a couple of spots before, that we sadly could not see anymore. But I will not keep them from you, so here is a list of alternative spots to visit in Tenerife:

🌴 Teide National Park: Home to Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak, offering breathtaking landscapes

🌴 Loro Parque: A popular zoo in Puerto de la Cruz, known for its diverse animal exhibits

🌴 Siam Park: An exciting water park with thrilling slides and a wave pool

🌴 Garachico: A historic town known for its natural rock pools and charming architecture

🌴 Anaga Rural Park: A lush, green area perfect for hiking and exploring nature

🌴 La Laguna: A UNESCO World Heritage site with beautiful colonial architecture

🌴 Playa de Las Teresitas: A beautiful beach with golden sand near Santa Cruz

🌴 Cueva del Viento: Explore one of the largest volcanic tunnels in the world

🌴 San Cristóbal de La Laguna: Another charming historic town with a rich history

A coastal aerial shot showing a winding road that hugs the steep cliffs of Tenerife's shoreline, revealing the island's dramatic topography and the vast Atlantic Ocean extending into the horizon, embodying the adventurous spirit of the island.

Is Tenerife a Good Place to Explore By Yourself?

One of the questions a lot of people ask is whether or not you should explore the island by yourself or do a shore excursion.

I honestly think Tenerife is one of the cruise ports that is best explored by yourself. Rental cars are plentiful, the roads are safe and people are friendly.

The island is not too big, so you can’t get lost. I really suggest venturing out on your own for this one.


Do you need travel insurance in Tenerife? Yes, travel insurance in Tenerife is highly recommended.
Unsafe roads, water sports accidents, and food poisoning are only a few examples of when travel insurance could come in handy. EKTA offers worldwide travel insurance with 24/7 service and no hidden fees or restrictions.

Conclusion: One Day in Tenerife

After spending just one day in Tenerife, it’s clear why this island is a slice of paradise.

Starting with the serene beauty of Playa Amarillo and Arco de Tajao, and a drive up the mountains toward Masca. You’ll pass by Los Gigantes and my favorite lunch spot in Tenerife.

The afternoon in Tenerife is filled with my favorite black, sandy beaches before heading back to the cruise port.

I hope this post gave you a cool introduction to Tenerife, the cruise port, and your possibilities on how to spend the day.

We arrived with the MSC Divina, a really great ship. Most of the cruises to the Canary Islands come directly from Casablanca, so make sure to read up on that stunning destination as well.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Tenerife best known for?

Tenerife is famous for its stunning beaches, like Playa de Benijo. It’s home to Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak. The island is loved for vibrant festivals, lush nature parks, and unique black sand beaches. Great for hiking, surfing, and exploring diverse landscapes. A true paradise in the Canary Islands!

Can you walk from the cruise port in Tenerife?

Yes, you can walk from the cruise port in Tenerife to the city of Santa Cruz. The walk is about 20 minutes. I suggest taking a rental car and exploring the rest of the island since it has so much to offer. Most pretty places are too far away to walk.

Where do cruise liners stop in Tenerife?

Cruise liners in Tenerife usually dock at the Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It’s the island’s main port, located in the capital. From here, passengers can easily explore the city’s attractions, beaches, and nearby sights. It’s a perfect starting point for discovering Tenerife’s diverse landscapes.

How easy is it to get around Tenerife?

It is pretty easy to get around Tenerife. You can grab a rental car at the cruise port and head out. The streets are in great condition and there is not much traffic.

What is the nearest beach to Tenerife cruise port?

The nearest beach to the cruise port in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is Playa de Las Teresitas. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the port. This beach is known for its golden sand, calm waters, and picturesque setting, making it a great spot for a quick beach visit during your cruise stop.

blonde girl pink dress in front of blue door santorini

About the Author

Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, originally from Austria. She spends most parts of the year abroad at various destinations with her husband.

She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.