Spectacular volcanic landscapes, pristine beaches, warm Atlantic waves, year-round sunshine – these two members of the Canary Islands certainly have a whole lot going for them. It’s hardly a surprise that millions of travelers flock one or the other each year. This guide is here to help you pick the one that’s right for you: Tenerife or Fuerteventura…
Tenerife, as the largest and most popular of the islands, is known as an all-rounder, with something for every type of traveler. It’s especially good for hikers – thanks to the soaring peaks of Parque Nacional del Teide – and cyclists, but also has a run of family resorts that spread out from Los Cristianos on its south coast.
Fuerteventura, by contrast, is a sun-baked and wind-blasted island in the east of the chain. Many say it’s got unquestionably the best beaches of all the Canaries – which is saying something! It’s still big (the second-largest of the group) and is primarily known for its surfing, windsurfing, sailing, and – of course – sunbathing. Let’s compare…
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: General vibe
Tenerife is the largest and most popular of the Canary Islands. Each year, over six million tourists visit the island to enjoy its beautiful volcanic landscapes, sandy beaches, warm climate, and thriving nightlife.
However, there are two distinct sides to Tenerife. The South is dominated by tourist-centric beach resorts, with all the infrastructure for holidaymakers to kick back and do very little other than sunbathing, eating, and partying. Think all-inclusive hotels, busy promenades, restaurants with all types of international cuisine, and plenty of thriving bars and clubs.
The North of the island is a totally different experience. Dense forests and lava-sculpted landscapes are punctuated by sleepy towns with more traditional bars, restaurants, and places to stay. The North does much less to cater to the tastes of the European holidaymaker, making for a more authentic, nature-led experience overall.
Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands. It has a drier, rockier landscape than Tenerife, with much less vegetation (in fact, grazing goats led to the desertification of the island!). But what it lacks in terms of greenery, it makes up for in beaches. If you care less about forest trials and more about never-ending coastlines, Fuerteventura is the pick for you.
Famous for its wind – the name Fuerteventura roughly translates as ‘strong wind’ – Fuerteventura is a popular spot for wind and kite surfers. Fuerteventura is a less popular tourist destination than Tenerife, with vast stretches of the island left totally undeveloped. It’s therefore much easier to escape the tourist crowds here, making for a quieter, more low-key holiday.
Winner: Draw. This is 100% personal preference. Fuerteventura is quieter and wilder. Tenerife has more tourist infrastructure but also its own wild side.
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: Things to do
Believe it or not, there’s much more to do during your vacation to the Canary Islands than laze on a beach and sip cocktails.
In Tenerife, there are ample opportunities for active travelers to get their hike on. The Anaga Rural Park, for example, has some of the best hiking trails on the island. In addition, for animal enthusiasts, there are plenty of whale- and dolphin- watching tours that leave from the southwest of Tenerife around Playa de los Americas and Costa Adeje. With 27 species of whale to be found in Tenerife’s waters, there’s a great chance to spot some marvellous sea life in these parts!
Another memorable thing to do in Tenerife is stargazing at the Teide National Park, where it’s possible to hire an astronomer guide to point out the 83 officially recognized constellations visible from the park. And finally, taking a day trip to Garachico gives visitors the opportunity to swim in unique, volcanic rock pools that were created by the eruption of Montaña Negra volcano way back in 1706!
In addition to sun-bathing and wind-surfing, Fuerteventura offers a good range of natural wonders to explore during your vacation. Salinas del Carmen are the island’s only remaining salt flats, where you can marvel at their strange beauty and also learn about the history of salt-making on the island.
Visiting Cuevas de Ajuy, the Canary Islands’ oldest rock formation at 70 million years old, makes for another interesting experience. Meanwhile, the towns of Corralejo and El Cotillo along the northeast and northwest shores are hubs for surfers, offering stacks of surf camps and surf schools throughout a long surf season.
Winner: Ultimately, there are more things to do in Tenerife than Fuerteventura.
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: Beaches
What about beaches? It’s a big one, we know!
With seemingly endless stretches of sandy coastline, Fuerteventura is a haven for beach bums and water sports enthusiasts. Rugged, windswept beaches and secluded coves abound. In fact, Fuerte – as it’s commonly known – is often hailed as the single best beach destination in the whole of Spain, let alone just the Canaries.
Some of the most alluring beaches in Fuerteventura are:
- Playa de Sotavento – Remote, long Playa de Sotavento is a wondrous place where you can see huge sand dunes rolling into a wild Atlantic Ocean.
- Grandes Playas – The main beaches of Corralejo in the north, this string of gorgeous coves is understandably popular.
- El Cotillo – This whitewashed fishing village has protected conch bays but also wild surfing beaches.
Tenerife, by contrast, has much more densely-populated shorelines. You’ll find a good array of sandy and pebble beaches here, but they all have a less untouched feel in comparison to Fuerteventura. Often lined with restaurants and beach bars, Tenerife’s beaches lack the rugged, wild feel of Fuerteventura’s epic coastline, unless you venture far up to the north.
The best of all for us are:
- Los Gigantes – Pure drama. There’s nothing like seeing the lurching cliffs of Los Gigantes soaring out of the wave-lashing ocean.
- El Médano – The longest beach on the island. It’s not white sand or anything, but it’s pretty and spacious.
- Playa del Duque – The jet-setter beach of Tenerife, this one’s got stylish bars and elegant sunbed purveyors.
Winner: Fuerteventura is the one to go to for beaches!
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: Nature and landscapes
Fuerteventura and Tenerife may belong to the same archipelago, but they look very different. Both islands have rocky, volcanic landscapes, but their similarities end there.
While Fuerteventura has a barren, desert-like landscape devoid of much vegetation, Tenerife has an impressive array of different natural habitats and climactic zones. From the forested slopes of the Anaga Mountains in the island’s northeast to the poppy meadows of Anico and the sunbaked beaches of the south, Tenerife trumps Fuerteventura when it comes to biodiversity.
That said, there’s no question that Fuerteventura is a wonder in its own right. Take the soaring dunes of the Parque Natural Jandía. This is the remote southern tip of the island and its 100% undeveloped. Go there to see dusky brown peaks cascading into a turquoise sea. Inland along the west coast, you can also discover the lovely Parque Rural de Betancuria, where whitewashed Canarian villages are tucked into barren valleys.
To sum it up: The arid, windswept ruggedness of Fuerteventura is striking in its beauty, while its seemingly limitless stretches of beaches appeal to those with a taste for sun-drenched days spent on the sand. Tenerife, by contrast, offers a greater diversity of natural settings, boasting everything from dense green forests and built-up beach resorts.
Winner: Tenerife is the biodiverse option. It’s an incredible island!
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: Weather
Owing to their position just off of the east coast of Africa, the Canary Islands enjoy warm and sunny climates year-round. This makes them a great destination for sunshine-filled winter breaks and sweltering summer vacations alike.
Each island has its own microclimate, with significant variation in temperature, rainfall, and wind – even on the same island. In Tenerife, the northern part of the island typically has more clouds and rainfall, while the south is known for its continuous sun and blue skies. Average temperatures range from 62 F (16 C) in January, to 75 F (23 C) in August, but they can reach as high as 69 F (20 C) in January and well over 90 F (32 C+) in August.
Generally, Tenerife is thought to have one of the sunniest and more reliable climates of the Canary Islands, alongside Gran Canaria.
Fuerteventura’s climate is distinct from all of the other Canary Islands. It is a stable climate without much variation, with the sun shining for 300 days a year. Temperature averages range from 53-64 F (11-17 C) in January to between 66-77 F (18-25 C) in its hottest month, August.
Due to its absence of high mountain ranges, Fuerteventura doesn’t trap many clouds, making for low levels of rain. In fact, it only receives 150mm rain per year, almost exclusively in autumn and winter, from October to March. But what Fuerteventura lacks in rainfall, it certainly makes up for in wind. The island is renowned for its windy climate – which lends itself well to water sports but can make for a less enjoyable sunny day.
Winner: Tenerife has the better weather of the two islands.
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: Food
Dedicated foodie? You might be wondering which island has the best food, Tenerife or Fuerteventura? In all honesty, there’s not a great amount of variation between the two when it comes to cuisine.
The influence of international tourism means that both islands boast a significant array of cuisine from all around the world. You’ll not only find the mainstays of Spanish cuisine – tapas, paella, and sangria – but also Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants to boot. On Tenerife, that’s mostly the case in the southern resorts of Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas. On Fuerte, it’s largely in the popular resort areas of Cotillo and Corralejo.
Those seeking to explore more authentic, local cuisine will find an array of fish, seafood, and meat-heavy dishes. A lack of flatland to graze means that there’s less beef on the menus than there is pork, rabbit, and goat. The Canary Islands are also big producers of potatoes, with papas arrugadas – salty, Canarian potatoes – a staple of local diets.
Most dishes are accompanied by Mojo picón, a delicious and versatile sauce made from olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, and vinegar that is a great accompaniment to meat, potatoes, and fish. With Canarian delicacies specific to the archipelago at large, as opposed to individual islands, it’s hard to say whether Fuerteventura or Tenerife has better food. Both are cracking!
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: Price
The Canary Islands are well-known for their good value, and there’s not a great variation in price between Tenerife and Fuerteventura.
According to Budget Your Trip, the average daily cost (per person) in Tenerife is €103 ($118), while the average daily cost in Fuerteventura Island is €99 ($113). This price includes accommodation, food, transport, and entertainment.
There’s really little difference in the cost of food and drink between the two islands. Typically, people visiting Tenerife spend on average $5.89 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day, while people visiting Fuerteventura spend an average of $6.22. Meanwhile, the average cost of a days’ worth of meals in Tenerife is $35, compared to $30 in Fuerteventura.
To get around in Tenerife, the average visitor spends $55 per day, per person. While people spend $42 on transportation in Fuerteventura. And, finally, when it comes to the cost of sightseeing experiences and attractions, you can expect to spend $25 in Tenerife and $27 in Fuerteventura.
There’s really almost nothing in it!
Winner: Draw. The price is essentially the same on Tenerife and Fuerteventura, so don’t let this be the decider!
Tenerife or Fuerteventura: Conclusion
Both Fuerteventura and Tenerife are brilliant destinations with a great balance of sunny weather, stand-out beaches, natural beauty, and things to do.
However, if we had to pick a winner, we’d say that Tenerife is the better destination. This is simply due to variety. As the larger island of the two, with a more diverse landscape and a greater variety of natural landscapes and activities, it simply offers more.
But there are some areas where Fuerteventura wins out. Firstly, it’s the less developed of the isles, so makes for a more untouched escape. Second, it has superior beaches, which can be a big thing if you’re chasing R&R. Third, it’s better for surfing.
Is Tenerife hotter than Fuerteventura?
Generally speaking, yes, Tenerife is hotter than Fuerteventura. Fuerteventura actually gets more sunshine than Tenerife, but it’s considered the cooler of the two islands because of its strong winds. The sea is also a little balmier in Tenerife, so you should find that you can swim comfortably throughout the whole season.
Is Tenerife as windy as Fuerteventura?
No, Tenerife is not as windy as Fuerteventura. Tenerife certainly gets its fair share of strong winds but the island isn’t in the stream of east winds that come out of North Africa like Fuerte is. What’s more, there are higher mountains in Tenerife, which can act as wind barrier and keep the gusts off the beaches along the west coast.