So you’re stuck between Benidorm or Tenerife for your next Spanish getaway? We’re not going to lie, this decision won’t be easy. Among Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, their sun-soaked, sandy shores are equally inviting. Still, Benidorm and Tenerife are more different than you might think.
The glitzy resort town of Benidorm on Spain’s iconic Costa Blanca is a bustling entertainment hub with every modern convenience at your fingertips. Family fun, adrenaline-fueled adventures, and raging nightlife, there’s nothing you can’t do. Yet, Tenerife has been dubbed the “Island of a Thousand Experiences” for good reason. With its rugged landscape, volcanic sands, and electric carnivals, it puts up a good fight when it comes to things to do.
If you’re wondering which to visit this year, our guide compares everything there is to know from the food to the costs, and all that makes them unique. Will it be Benidorm or Tenerife? You ultimately decide – but not before we’ve given our two cents on the topic. Let’s go.
Benidorm or Tenerife: The General Vibe
Benidorm has a world-renowned reputation. It’s a home away from home for the thousands of British and Irish holidaymakers who visit every year, and it’s also a realized home for the near-15,000 ex-pats that dwell on the sparkling Mediterranean shores. Once a quaint fishing village before it was snapped up by tourists in the 1960s, Benidorm still has a charming Old Town with cobblestoned streets and centuries-old ruins, but the holiday resort is better defined by the high-rise hotels that swarm the seafront, luring in tourists with attractive package deals.
Benidorm is characteristically busy. It’s a fast-paced, entertainment mecca for families, stag dos, young friends, and couples looking to revel in the water sports and nightlife alongside like-minded tourists. It has its charms but authentically Spanish it is not. It is, however, clean, organized, and reliable, with tourists always in mind.
Benidorm spends more on manicuring its beaches than most European cities spend on cleaning their streets. The 280 English pubs might stand out over the minority of tapas bars, but this engineered British hospitality is what keeps holidaymakers coming back year after year. Tenerife, on the other hand, is a 2,000 square kilometer island, compared to Benidorm’s less than 40 square kilometer area. The diversity of experiences and endless possibilities are incomparable, but it’s unlikely you’ll get to see it all. What’s more, Benidorm and Tenerife are more similar than you might think when it comes to resort holidays.
The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife has a unique culture, separated from mainland Spain both physically and economically. The island is full of variation and its rich volcanic history is hard to ignore with rugged mountains, ashy vineyards, and black sand beaches. Still, Tenerife is a very popular tourist destination and the most famous resort, Playa de las Americas, is complete with its own nightlife strip and English-run restaurants, much like Benidorm. But Tenerife also has the upmarket Costa Adeje, scattered with prestigious resorts frequented by celebrities, as well untouched towns in the northwest like Buenavista Del Norte where you can escape the tourist crowds.
It’s also well-known for the huge pre-Lent Carnaval de Santa Cruz with traditional music, dancing, costumes, and parades. Carnaval de Santa Cruz is a representation of Tenerife’s perfect balance between tourist entertainment and local culture which echoes across the island. The resorts might be similar to Benidorm’s, but Tenerife’s unrivaled diversity when it comes to ambiance steals the win.
Benidorm or Tenerife: Getting There
Both Tenerife and Benidorm are in easy reach of more than one international airport, with two located on the island, and Alicante, Valencia, and Murcia all within driving distance to Costa Blanca. Still, no matter where you’re coming from, Tenerife will prove hardest to reach. The island might have two ferry ports, but good luck getting from mainland Spain to Tenerife by boat. It might sound like an adventure, but this trip entails over 40 hours of sailing time.
Traveling between the Canaries is when Tenerife’s island location becomes beneficial, but otherwise, all it means is that this Spanish holiday destination is two hours further away from Spain itself. This means over four hours of flying if you’re coming from the UK and most European destinations. Even if you’re not traveling from Europe, you’ll likely have to change planes in a Spanish airport before flying to Tenerife as limited airlines and countries offer direct flights to the island. Multiple flights and double the journey time can instantly make travel days that whole lot more stressful.
When it comes to traveling, the ever-so convenient Benidorm reigns supreme. Located in mainland Spain’s Costa Blanca, Benidorm is within 2 and hour half hours from the UK and most of central and western Europe. This means cheaper flights and less time in the sky. Better yet, the region is notorious for its all-inclusive deals, and it’s not uncommon to find budget flights included with your room rate. Some airlines and tour operators offer €40 ($44) returns from the UK and Ireland. Plus, getting from the airport to your hotel is just as hassle-free as the Alicante to Benidorm tram costs just €6 ($6.50).
Benidorm offers much more freedom when it comes to reaching the town and your onwards travel. If you’re coming from another major European city or continuing on your Spanish adventure, the RENFE is another cheap and efficient option. The high-speed rail service operates between Alicante, the rest of the country, and beyond, and this is an exciting way to experience Europe from the tracks. It’s just as much about the journey as the destination. Trekking to Tenerife might sound like an adventure, but the reality isn’t worth the haul.
Benidorm or Tenerife: The Scenery
Benidorm is arguably most loved for its tantalizing beaches. Beyond the wall of skyscrapers, it’s easy to lose yourself in the long stretches of pristine, golden sands and crystal clear waters of the Med. From Levante to Poniente, all of Benidorm’s beaches have been bestowed the coveted “Blue Flag”, meaning the seas are among the safest and cleanest in the world. You can float freely in the waves or worship the sun from the sands and do it all with peace of mind – even more of a blessing if you’re traveling with kids.
It’s true that, as far as scenery goes, there isn’t much beyond the manicured gardens, built-up surrounding hills, and sultry shores of the city beaches in Benidorm town. Still, it wouldn’t be fair to compare Benidorm’s limited landscape with Tenerife’s vast isle when there are plenty of natural wonders in reach of Costa Blanca. From Alicante’s medieval fortifications to the Algar waterfalls and the azure lagoons of the Guadalest valley, you can see all these sights in a day-tour from Benidorm and they should be included in your holiday itinerary.
In fact, if you’re staying in Playa de las Americas or Costa Adeje, it would take the same amount of time to reach the Masca Gorge, the Pico de Teide volcano, La Orotava Valley, and Los Gigantes cliffs – Tenerife’s undoubted natural highlights, as it would to see the best of Alicante from Benidorm. Tenerife might be more associated with natural beauty than Benidorm with its mountains, forests, tucked-away villages, and the mixture of black and golden sands, but Alicante puts up a good fight for Benidorm and there’s more to this region than tourist-choked beaches.
Benidorm or Tenerife: The Nightlife
Both Benidorm and Tenerife are readily associated with vibrant nightlife, Benidorm with its entertainment packages, and Tenerife with its youthful vigor. As the climate gets warmer, the atmosphere picks up in both, and you won’t be stuck on places to party.
In Tenerife, you have the cool capital of Santa Cruz, the tourist hotspot of Playa de las Americas, and Los Cristianos resort to contend with. With lively pubs, cocktail bars, and even a buzzing party strip, Playa de las Americas isn’t dissimilar to Benidorm’s Playa de Levante and the party keeps going until the early hours.
Tenerife’s nightlife is catered toward a slightly younger crowd than Benidorm’s, with more student nightclubs than Karaoke bars and Cabaret shows. But this means Benidorm has more variety for a number of different travelers, and you’ll even find kids clubs to keep the little ones entertained after hours.
Cheap drinks, like-minded tourists, late-night parties, and no limit on fun, Benidorm and Tenerife are much the same in this respect. You might have to look harder for the party if you’re not staying on the right side of Tenerife, while in Benidorm, the nightlife is hard to avoid. Still, both destinations have something for party-goers and won’t disappoint.
Benidorm or Tenerife: The Food
There’s a running theme when it comes to Benidorm’s restaurant scene. British pubs and oriental buffets, that would look more at home on an English high street, can be found on every corner of town. Benidorm is not the place to go if you want to sample true Spanish cuisine, but this unique feature of Benidorm keeps holidaymakers coming back for more. It’s never too hard to come across home comforts when you’re this side of the Med and you can find any global dish your heart desires from curry to burgers.
On the other hand, Tenerife’s unique culture comes through in the food, and sampling some local delicacies should be a part of your vacation. You might be surprised that Tenerife isn’t really a place to go for tapas either – it will only be more touristy restaurants serving these stereotypically Spanish plates. Rather, Tenerife has its own gastronomy and you can find it at all ends of the island.
El Gofio is a truly Canarian base to many traditional dishes in Tenerife. It is a type of millet or corn flour that is toasted using a local technique and served alongside Tenerife stews which see vegetables mixed with rabbit or parrotfish. Goats cheese, fried fish, and wrinkled potatoes are all quintessential Tenerife favorites, not forgetting Mojo, the national sauce of the Canary Islands which is served with virtually everything. Almost every restaurant in Tenerife has two varieties of in-house Mojo and tourists are encouraged to try the local food.
Like Benidorm, you’ll find an abundance of English-themed restaurants, buffet diners, and all-inclusive hotels in Tenerife’s seaside resorts. But it’s a lot easier to eat off the tourist trail and get a true taste of the island.
Benidorm or Tenerife: The Costs
Spain has always been a great place for cheap holidays, and both Benidorm and Tenerife are among some of the last remaining budget destinations in the country. But which is cheaper? Well, it comes down to a lot of competing factors, but on average, Benidorm is just slightly cheaper than Tenerife with five percent lower restaurant prices, three percent cheaper accommodation, and as much as 10 percent cheaper groceries.
So, what does this look like in numbers? In Tenerife’s capital, you can expect to spend about the same on cheap meals as in Benidorm, but a mid-range meal in Santa Cruz de Tenerife could set you back €10 more for two people, and this will be higher in Playa de las Americas and Costa Adeje. Likewise, beer, coffee, and even bottled water could set you back 50 cents more in Tenerife. Small differences, but it all adds up.
On average, you can expect to spend €1,214 ($1,337) as a solo traveler in Tenerife over seven days and €2,180 ($2,401) as a couple, compared to €1,129 ($1,230) per person in Benidorm and €2,028 ($2,225) as a couple. Hotels range from €38 ($42) to €286 ($315) per night in Tenerife and €37 ($41) to €136 ($150) in Benidorm. There might be more luxury accommodation in Tenerife but there’s more diversity in Benidorm for budget stays, and you’ll often get inclusive meals thrown in with the room rate.
Benidorm or Tenerife: The Weather
Eternal springtime and year-round sun, Spain’s Mediterranean climate is always pleasant and Benidorm and Tenerife are great places to escape for some winter sun. Summers are hot, muggy, and sunny but mostly clear, and the winters are cooler and windy but mainly dry.
Where Benidorm and Tenerife differ is that Tenerife is the furthest south you can get when it comes to Spanish vacations, meaning it’s among the hottest places in Europe. Benefiting from subtropical temperatures, located closer to North Africa than mainland Spain, March is the coolest month but average temperatures hover in the mid-60s, compared to Benidorm’s winter lows of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Summer can be scorching in both but average highs of up to 90 degrees in Tenerife can be unbearable. Gusty Saharan winds offer some relief but it is hot and dry from June to September which can create uncomfortable conditions for exploring. Summer is similarly warm in Costa Blanca but slightly lower with average temperatures in the mid-80s. For a last-minute jaunt, head to Costa Blanca in September to chase the sun but without the school holiday crowds. But for winter escapes, Tenerife is the winner, promising blue skies throughout the festive period and beyond.
Benidorm or Tenerife: The Verdict
There’s no comparison – these holiday hotspots are as unique as they get. Still, Benidorm and Tenerife both appeal to all manner of travelers, drawing tourists back year after year. The towering skyscrapers and manicured sands of Benidorm make a playground for adults, with all the modern amenities you could wish for. While Tenerife balances touristy towns with upmarket resorts and a generous sprinkling of fascinating local culture. Wherever you visit, you’re in for a treat and there’s plenty to keep you busy in the surrounding regions. For ambiance and winter sun, Tenerife gets our vote, but for convenience and round-the-clock fun, Benidorm heads the lead. So, which will you pick?