Is Santa Cruz, Tenerife Worth Visiting?

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Mercado Nuestra Señora De África, Santa Cruz, Tenerife

Perched in the north of Tenerife is the island’s capital: Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is the largest city in Tenerife. It’s so big, in fact, that it has earnt itself the position of being joint-capital of the Canary Islands alongside Las Palmas (in Gran Canaria). This bustling city is home to over 200,000 people.

Santa Cruz roughly an hour’s drive from the island’s southern tip and so feels like a bit of a detour for most of Tenerife’s visitors who are based in the south.

So the question is, is Santa Cruz worth visiting? Let’s find out.

How to Get to Santa Cruz?

You can travel to Santa Cruz by rental car, bus or even an organised coach trip.

Santa Cruz by Car

One of the easiest way to journey to Santa Cruz (and in fact most sights in Tenerife) is by car.

There are several places where you can rent a car in Tenerife but my favourite is Cicar. They have offices in numerous locations on Tenerife including Tenerife South Airport. Cicar have a vast range of cars to choose from, from budget to luxury. My favourite things about Cicar include the fact that you pay on arrival (no deposit required when booking) and all rentals include full insurance with no excess so you don’t need to pay a penny if you scuff the vehicle.

Travelling to Santa Cruz from the south is pretty straightforward – just journey up the main TF1 motorway and follow signs for Santa Cruz.

The main issue with driving to Santa Cruz is parking. The city gets pretty busy during the day so you may wish to arrive early in order to find a spot in one of the many multi-storey car parks.

On my visit I found parking in the ‘Parking Ramón y Cajal’ carpark which is conveniently located right in the centre.

Main Highway into Santa Cruz, Tenerife
The highway into Santa Cruz, Tenerife

Santa Cruz by Bus

You can also take the bus to Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz bus stop is conveniently located in the city centre.

Buses from Los Cristianos depart every 20 minutes. Catch the Route 111 bus from the centre of Los Cristianos. The bus journey takes just under 1 hour. The bus fare is around €9 per person.

From Playa de las Americas you will need to take the Route 110 bus from Costa Adeje. The bus from Costa Adeje takes 1 hour and 5 minutes. The bus fare is around €9.50 per person.

For more bus times, routes and up to date fares, take a look at this bus timetable.

Things to Do in Santa Cruz

From eating at one of the many quaint eateries in the narrow, pedestrianised streets to marvelling at some of the city’s sights, there’s a whole host of activities at your fingertips. Below are some of my favourites.

Visit the African Market (Mercado Nuestra Señora De África)

Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África is a large market found within the courtyard a striking orange building. The market consisted of roughly 300 stalls selling a range of local produce.

It’s a great place to stock up on supplies if you are going to be cooking your own meals during your stay. There’s a range of stalls selling fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, herbs and much, much more.

It’s also a great place to buy souvenirs. You can find a range of hand-made crafts and meet the artists who made them.

The market is busy, frantic and at times overwhelming. With a plethora of different sights and smells, it will really overload your senses.

But despite the crowds, the market was in fact one of my highlights from my time in Santa Cruz, delivering an authentic experience.

Mercado Nuestra Señora De África, Santa Cruz, Tenerife
A herb stall in Mercado Nuestra Señora De África

Try the Local Cuisine

There are so many gorgeous restaurants to eat at in Santa Cruz. Have a browse on TripAdvisor or Google and you will see that so many have glowing reviews and one is never more than a few minutes away from your current location.

Some must-try dishes include fresh fish, Iberico ham (always a favourite of mine when in Spain!) and Canarian wrinkly potatoes or as the Spanish say papas arrugadas.

Papas arrugadas are one of the archipelago’s most renowned dishes. It is often served with a garlic and chili sauce known as mojo rojo. The potatoes are boiled in salt water and served with their skins still on.

I was curious to try these guys as I’m all about trying local specialities. I didn’t expect much from a plate of wrinkly potatoes but was pleasantly surprised. They were so soft and flavourful plus mojo rojo was a lovely compliment to them with a nice kick. I’d definitely be ordering these wrinkly potatoes again and would recommend them in a heartbeat!

Papas arrugadas (Canarian wrinkly potatoes!)
Papas arrugadas (Canarian wrinkly potatoes!)

Go Shopping on Calle del Castillo

Calle del Castillo is one of the key streets in Santa Cruz. It’s pedestrianised and lined with lush palm trees. Here you can find a range of shops and restaurants. There’s a mixture of independent stores and larger chains. I’d always recommend shopping at the small, independent stores.

Relax in the Plaza el Príncipe de Asturias

This square feels like a haven in the heart of the city. There’s a beautiful pavilion in the square where you can sit and listen to the chorus of birdsong coming from the surrounding trees.

Swim and Sunbathe at Playa de las Teresitas

This artificial beach is sometimes touted as one of the best on the island. It’s easy to understand why when you lay eyes on the beautiful golden curve of sand. This beach is the only golden sand beach on the island, the sands imported from the Sahara desert.

Now, I will disclose that I’m not entirely on board with the idea of shipping sand to create an artificial beach purely because the island’s native beaches are not golden in colour. I’ll let you make up your own mind on whether the beach is worth supporting.

Mercado Nuestra Señora De África, Santa Cruz, Tenerife
The centre of Santa Cruz, looking at the market

So is Santa Cruz Worth Visiting?

I’d say yes, especially if you want to see more of Tenerife’s culture. The main highlights for me were the main market and the many restaurants where you can taste authentic cuisine.

Although I’d recommend adding Santa Cruz to your itinerary, I don’t think you need to spend more than a day here in order to get a feel for the city.

Ella McKendrick on Black Rock Viewpoint, Kenmore Scotland

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