Last updated on January 15, 2023 by Wandering our World
With excellent beaches, a subtropical climate, volcanoes, and viniculture, the Spanish Canary Islands have blossomed into a major tourist destination, and for good reason too. The short flights make the Canaries a firm favourite with northern Europeans seeking winter sunshine, and the islands present a family-friendly, affordable getaway with plenty to do. But how do you decide which one to visit? That’s where we can help!
Tenerife is the largest island in the group, and it welcomes tourists by the tens of thousands every year to visit its spectacular beaches and lively nightlife – which is often considered better than Lanzarote’s nightlife. It offers lush forests, exotic fauna and flora, deserts, mountains, volcanoes, stunning coastlines and idyllic beaches.
Lanzarote is smaller, less busy, and a bit more peaceful than Tenerife, and is known for its volcanoes, lava fields, vineyards, and stunning beaches. The landscape is often compared to Mars, and its waters are excellent for surfing and scuba diving – that’s why it’s nickname the ‘Hawaii of Europe’.
Below we’re going to dive deep into all the similarities and differences between Tenerife and Lanzarote to help you make the perfect choice for your next vacation.
We compare their beaches, hotels, nightlife, expenses, and even more. All to help you choose your next vacation destination!
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Has The Best Vibe?
- Which Is Better For Beaches?
- Which Is Better For Snorkeling & Scuba Diving?
- Which Has The Best Nightlife?
- Which Has The Best Hotels?
- Which Is Best For Families?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- What Time Of Year Is Best?
- Our Final Thoughts
Which Is Easier To Get To?
As two islands in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s going to take a flight to get you to the Canary Islands. The good news is that both islands are well-served by a plethora of flights from all over Europe. Flights arrive from a multitude of European airports, including many of the smaller regional airports outside the European capital cities.
Tenerife, as the largest of the Canary Islands, has two international airports – Tenerife North and Tenerife South. Between them, these two airports receive more than 15 million passengers per year, with Tenerife South handling two thirds. The southern airport handles flights from some major airlines, such as Lufthansa and British Airways, and the northern airport is more focused on budget travel and charter flights, with the latter being busier in the summer.
Lanzarote only has one solitary airport, situated just outside the island’s capital of Arrecife, but Lanzarote is about half the size of Tenerife. Lanzarote Airport welcomes a little over seven million passengers each year to the island’s shores.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
The two islands are relatively easy to get around once you arrive. Both have well-maintained roads and public transport options, and car hire is reasonably priced.
Upon arrival in Lanzarote, you will need transportation to your hotel. Many visitors travel on a package tour, and the airport transfer is usually via coach and is included in the package. If you are an independent traveler, you may need to make these arrangements yourself.
There is no public bus running between the airport and the island’s major tourist towns. But there is a public bus service from the airport, but it is very limited and only goes to the island’s capital – Arrecife – and back to the airport again. In this case, it may be better to take a taxi or arrange a private airport transfer with your accommodation.
The limited bus services on Lanzarote makes the option of hiring a car appealing. The cost of a daily rental is around €15-20 per day. This will also give you the most freedom to explore the island at your own pace.
Conversely, the airport links in Tenerife are a little better. The main bus operator on Tenerife is Titsa, and they run several routes connecting the two airports with the main tourist destinations across the island.
Tenerife also has a few more bus operators running bus routes across the island. Some of them are geared towards tourists and link the major towns together. However the reality is the buses can be time-consuming with lots of waiting time, but the island is also well served by taxis to take you around.
Car hire on Tenerife is similarly priced to car hire on Lanzarote, and is a great option on those days when you plan to venture a little farther away from your accommodation. Especially to places in the countryside like the famous picturesque mountain village of Masca (see picture below).
Which Has The Best Vibe?
As two major players in the European tourism industry, both islands have busier built-up areas with a larger concentration of hotels, bars, and restaurants. But also, both islands have a quieter, more tranquil side. But of the two, bigger and busier Tenerife probably has the more lively vibe – more on that later.
Lanzarote, being a little smaller, is perhaps a little more peaceful and will be better for nature lovers and couples. Surfers will also prefer this island due to the fantastic water sports and surf, while Lanzarote is also well worth visiting for those who enjoy rugged landscapes and beaches.
On both Tenerife and Lanzarote, the south and east are devoted to traditional Spanish package holidays – sun, sea, and sangria. Whereas the north and west of these two islands are a bit more laid back and appeal more to the independent traveler looking for a chilled vibe.
The main resort area of Tenerife is centred around its southern coast, between Costa Adeje and El Medano, close to the southern airport. Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas are the two best known areas and are both well-equipped with resort hotels, huge beaches, and vibrant nightlife. If you’re more into nature than nightlife, the north-east region around Santa Cruz and the Parque Rural de Anaga might suit you better. These areas are closer to the northern airport, so be sure to choose your flights carefully.
Lanzarote has a similar split in the vibe it gives off. The main tourist drag stretches from Playa Blanca in the southwest, along the coast to Costa Teguise in the east. The island’s airport is roughly halfway along this stretch of coastline, close to the island’s capital, Arrecife. If you are looking for big hotels with pools, English breakfasts, and jugs of sangria, then the vibe in the south of Lanzarote will be perfect for you.
The more tranquil north of the island is best for those looking for hiking or surfing, and a more local, chilled vibe. The Parque Natural de los Volcanes and the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya offer stunning scenery and some excellent hikes and treks (see photo below). The town of Caleta de Famara, to the west, is popular with surfers and has a younger crowd, but is still relatively chilled.
Recommended: The Best Hiking Trails On Lanzarote For Views & Fun!
Which Is Better For Beaches?
Whichever island you choose, you can rest assured that there will be excellent beaches waiting for you upon arrival. For both islands, the main tourist beaches are concentrated around the southern coasts. There are plenty of options if you are looking for somewhere to top up the tan.
In general though, Lanzarote’s beaches are a little more rugged than Tenerife, but they have lots of character, and there are plenty to choose from.
For Lanzarote, perhaps the pick of the bunch are Playa de Papagayo and Playa Mujeres in the southwest of the island. Take your snorkeling gear with you, and you may just spot a turtle! The windier west side of the island is the place to look if you’re after a surf beach.
Tenerife’s best beaches are also towards the south. Playa de las Americas is the island’s most popular beach, but it can be a little congested in peak seasons. As with Lanzarote, the northern beaches are a little more rugged and characterful. The northern beaches have blacker, volcanic sand, are backed by impressive cliffs, and are a little less crowded than the southern beaches.
All-in-all, both Lanzarote and Tenerife have some great and varied beach options for you to enjoy.
Which Is Better For Snorkeling & Scuba Diving?
The southerly position of the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco, makes it one of the best scuba diving locations within the EU and the islands are subsequently popular amongst European divers.
The water temperature rises from around 20 degrees Celsius in the winter up to 25 degrees at the end of the summer. With sea turtles, stingrays, octopus, and moray eels all commonly seen, the diving can be very good. The area is also famed amongst divers as being a great place to spot angel sharks, and even the occasional manta ray!
As the islands are very close together, you will see similar marine life in both locations. And if you’ve never scuba dived before, the conditions on each island are ideal for learning, with protected bays offering warm, clear water and plenty to see.
With good chances of spotting turtles, the snorkeling in both locations is also very good. Due to the prevailing winds, the best snorkeling spots are along the southern and eastern coasts of both islands. The beaches in the west and the north can get a little too windy and wavy.
Playa Chica is one of Lanzarote’s most popular snorkel spots, as the conditions are very relaxed and snorkelers of all experience levels can enjoy the calm location.
El Puertito and Playa de Las Vistas are close to each other and are good snorkeling beaches, and there’s a good chance of spotting a loggerhead turtle in this area.
Which Has The Best Nightlife?
If a few nights of hard partying are on your agenda, you will be pleased to know that both Lanzarote and Tenerife have hedonistic sides that you can enjoy until your heart’s content. But, as the larger of the two islands, the party scene is perhaps a little better on Tenerife.
Tenerife’s main party zone is Playa de las Americas, in the south-west of the island. There are plenty of bustling bars and clubs here, so you can bar-hop and party the night away in style. But you don’t need to travel to this area every night if you want to let loose after the sun has set. Most of the tourist towns along the south coast enjoy a good party, and you will have no trouble having a good time after dark.
Lanzarote’s best party spots are shared between the capital, Arrecife, and Puerto del Carmen. Puerto del Carmen has lots of expat bars and English pubs to start your night off in, and some great clubs if you want to carry on into the wee small hours.
Whilst not quite in the same league as Ibiza, these two Spanish islands sure know how to throw a party too.
Which Has The Best Hotels?
Both Tenerife and Lanzarote have plenty of variety and choices for accommodation. But you should factor in what type of holiday you are planning when choosing your hotel.
Both islands offer accommodation to suit all budgets and needs. We’ll have a look at the best luxury hotels, family resorts, and budget options for each location below…
Iberostar Selection Lanzarote Park is situated a short walk from Playa Flamingo and offers impressive views of the Atlantic Ocean. This luxurious hotel is a thirty-minute drive from the airport and features four outdoor swimming pools, including one for children. There is a free gym and a sun terrace with sun loungers. The relaxing spa includes a sauna, a hammam, and a hot tub. See rates and photos here.
Secrets Lanzarote Resort & Spa is an adult-only resort in Puerto Calero, a little over ten kilometers from the airport. This hotel also boasts four heated outdoor pools, as well as a free gym and sports facilities. There is also an excellent spa for when you need a little pampering. See rates and photos here.
For an excellent family choice, the Relaxia Lanzasur Club – Aqualava Water Park should definitely be checked out. There’s a clue in the name as to why this is a winner with families. If you book at their all-inclusive rate, you will get unlimited access to the Aqualava Water Park! There’s a bar with live entertainment, and an on-site supermarket, and the gym and four pools ensure there’s always something to do. See rates and photos here.
If you are traveling on a budget, Cinco Plazas offers an excellent, affordable option. The hotel is located in Puerto del Carmen and has a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk, a bar, gardens, an outdoor pool, and a children’s playground. See rates and photos here.
One of Tenerife’s top luxury options is The Hard Rock Hotel. The luxurious beachfront hotel set in the tranquil residential area of Costa Adeje features three swimming pools, a saltwater lagoon, and free WiFi throughout. There’s a spa, a fitness center, and a Hard Rock shop, in addition to several dining and entertainment options, a miniclub for children and teenagers, and a beach club. See rates and photos here!
Set around a shared swimming pool and a short walk from the beach in Adeje, Regency Torviscas Apartments and Suites offer apartments with sea views and are a great family option. The apartments feature a living room with a flat-screen satellite TV. This accommodation is under twenty kilometers away from the airport, and the Siam Park Waterpark is only three kilometers away. See rates and photos here.
For a more budget-friendly option in Tenerife, check out Endless Summer House. The property is located a couple of kilometers from the centre of Playa de las Americas and offers private rooms and dormitories with free WiFi. See rates and photos here.
Which Is Best For Families?
Families have been enjoying holidays in the Canary Islands for decades now. And with good reason – they’re easy to reach; the temperatures are hot, but not too hot; there are plenty of familiar and new food choices; and, of course, there are plenty of activities to keep everyone happy and entertained.
Tenerife has a couple of amusement parks that are very popular with the children: Siam Park and Loro Park. Not to be completely outdone, Lanzarote has the Aquapark Costa Teguise. This huge water park has something for kids of all ages, with shallow pools and toddler slides for the younger children, and more fast-paced adrenaline-inducing rides for the older kids.
If you and your family enjoy experiencing the great outdoors, then there’s plenty to explore on each island too. From either island, you can head out into the Atlantic on a whale-watching trip for an unforgettable family experience, or if you prefer to stay on dry land, there are great hikes and volcanoes to enjoy. Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote is great for nature walks, as is the area around Spain’s highest mountain – Mount Teide – on Tenerife.
The myriad beaches on each island also have plenty of family activities to enjoy – snorkeling, pedalos, and banana boats are possible on both islands.
But Tenerife, as the larger island, may be better for family holidays as there are a few more activities to join in with, and more hotel choices to find the perfect one for you and the kids.
However all in all, both Tenerife and Lanzarote provide very similar family vacations.
Which Is Cheaper?
Overall, the two destinations have similar prices for most things, and you would require a similar budget in either location, there are a few differences though.
Food and drinks are very similarly priced on both islands, but hotels can be a little higher on Lanzarote. Transport can also stretch the budget a bit more on Lanzarote, but the average price for excursions and entrance fees tends to be a little lower there than on Tenerife.
Whilst some things will cost slightly more on one island versus the other, these things tend to balance themselves out so that the overall spending will be similar in either location. And while budget is always an important factor when planning a dream holiday, if you are choosing between Lanzarote and Tenerife, you should focus on other factors as the difference between the two islands is not that significant.
What Time Of Year Is Best?
Tenerife and Lanzarote are both considered year-round destinations. The weather will be warmer in the summer months, but the islands are also popular with North Europeans seeking some warmth during the winter months.
Due to the northeasterly winds, the northern shores of the two islands feel the temperature drop a little more than in the south of the islands during the winter, but average temperatures are still in the low twenties.
If you are traveling on a budget, being flexible with the dates can be a great way to save a bit of money. Avoid Christmas and school holiday times to get the best deals on flights and on accommodation.
Lanzarote vs Tenerife: Our Final Thoughts
Ultimately, the deciding factor on which island is better for your holiday is you. Both islands are fantastic holiday destinations, and neither will disappoint. The beaches on both islands are great for topping up the tan and for snorkeling, and the general amenities are of a similar standard. In general, both are good for hiking and scuba diving, and there are plenty of activities and excursions to join in either location.
Lanzarote, being a little smaller, is perhaps a little more peaceful and will be better for nature lovers and couples. Surfers will also prefer Lanzarote, and it’s perhaps better for those who enjoy rugged landscapes and beaches.
Tenerife, as the larger island, may be better for family holidays as there are a few more activities to join in with. Being busier, Tenerife will also appeal more to those seeking out a more vibrant nightlife, and the larger towns offer better shopping opportunities too.
Both Tenerife and Lanzarote are fantastic holiday destinations, and the heady mix of sun, sea, and sangria will ensure you have a great holiday, whichever one you choose.