EVEN after more than 50 years of mass tourism, there are few things that cause more division among holidaymakers than the charms – or otherwise – of Tenerife.
Around two million of us make the 2,000 mile journey every year, making it one of the most popular destinations for UK tourists.
But there are others who echo the feelings of a friend who said: “It’s not my scene – I really don’t fancy it.”
What is it that causes such antipathy? Maybe it’s a throwback to when resorts such as Playa de las Americas acquired an image problem, and the whole island was commonly, though mistakenly, assumed to be a playground for boozy tourists and timeshare touts. Maybe it was the over-building on a grand scale, mainly in the south-west.
Whatever the reasons, I know where my loyalties lie: I am a self-confessed fan, a full-blown, fully paid up member of the Tenerife Admiration Society. And, although tourism figures dipped last year, new members are still signing up.
They include Darren Richards, who sold his online dating agency in the UK for £30m. His fancy to invest some of it could have taken him to anywhere in the world, but he chose Tenerife to buy two luxury villas, an apartment, and two bars.
OK, I am not in his financial bracket, but at least we have something in common. So, let’s dwell on the two most important factors that put us on the same wavelength.
First and foremost, it’s the weather. Known as the land of eternal spring, the island is warm and sunny all year with an average temperature of 15C (60F) in winter, 24C (75F) in summer.
Accessibility is another big plus – most UK airports offer relatively cheap flights to the island.
There is a long list of extra benefits, not least of which is Tenerife’s compactness and amazing natural contrasts, be it the greenery and banana plantations of the north, or the arid south.
We’ve noticed over the years Tenerife has slowly started to change. Cheap and cheerful is still available in abundance, but the most popular resorts have a classier feel, with an emphasis on quality.
Much of the improvement is on show in the swish hotels that have sprung up in places such as Fanabe and Costa Adeje. Aiming to appeal to tourists who want better standards to match their affluent lifestyles, the hotels are the last word in quality, comfort and style.
The environment, too, is experiencing a continuing makeover, no more so than on the Paseo Maritimo promenade, better known as the Geranium Walk. Over 10 kilometres long, the prom stretches from Los Cristianos, through Playa de las Americas and on to the edge of pretty La Caleta, famous for its fish restaurants.
It’s a challenging hike, but one made special by the vista across the Atlantic. You can also take in views of families at play on the beaches and the bustle of people boarding the whale and dolphin cruises, or ferries to the two nearest islands, La Gomera and El Hierro.
On the shore side of the walk there’s an endless array of restaurants, coffee bars, apartments, hotels and shops. But they are part of the fun of promenading, particularly when the surrounding flower show is so special.
Tenerife has never been short of leisure facilities for families. Now they are bigger and better than ever. Loro Parque, originally a parrot paradise, has expanded into an animal and wildlife extravaganza. And Siam Park, billed as the biggest themed aquatic park in Europe, opens next month.
No self-respecting quality tourist destination could be without top draw golf courses. They are a big magnet, and Tenerife now has nine.
All of these attractions are additional bonuses to the “real” Tenerife, places that have never needed to adapt or change with the times – the sleepy mountain villages, tranquil hiking trails, and the alluring cafe culture in so many picturesque towns.
In the north the beautiful resort of Puerto de la Cruz has always been a particular favourite of mine.
Tenerife’s glory, however, is Mount Teide. At 12,188ft it’s the highest mountain in Spain, and is part of Teide National Park, recently awarded World Heritage status.
Don’t try climbing to the peak on foot unless you are fit and agile. Best advice is to ride a cable car for the final 1,000ft to the summit and – on a clear day – take in the breathtaking views to the other islands in the Canaries.
We stayed at the impeccable Arona Gran Hotel, overlooking the busy harbour in Los Cristianos. Almost every room was booked and two thirds of the guests had stayed there before.
So just reflect on those bitterly cold winter days and maybe you, too, will join the ‘appreciation society’.
Ten days half board for two at the four-star 379-room Arona Gran (www.springhoteles.com) is £1,500. Price includes airport transfer by taxi, plus 10% online booking discount.
One-way easyJet flights from Manchester booked online from £85 (easyjet.com); Monarch from £89 (flymonarch.com); Jet2 from £40 (jet2.com); Thomsonfly £89 (thomsonfly.com).