Last updated on February 17, 2023 by Wandering our World
Tenerife and Cape Verde are both popular island destinations in the Atlantic Ocean, especially for Europeans looking for a sunny island to escape their harsh winter. But deciding which one is the best holiday destination for you can be tough.
Although geographically it’s closer to Africa, Tenerife is actually part of Spain and the local language is Spanish with a Canarian dialect. It is most known for its beaches, nightlife, and food.
Cape Verde, on the other hand is an island nation in Africa, consisting of ten volcanic islands located to the west of the continent. It’s known for its beaches, volcanic landscapes, music, and cuisine. The official language is Portuguese.
So what else sets them apart? Well in a nutshell Tenerife is a more tourist-orientated destination where it’s easy to find hotels, excursions and get around. In contrast, Cape Verde will suit a more adventurous tourist, and someone who is looking for a rugged destination which has a new culture to explore and lots of places to discover independently.
But that’s just scratching the surface.
So if you’re torn on which you should visit for your next holiday, read our comprehensive and honest comparison below as we pit Tenerife vs Cape Verde. We will guide you through both places’ beaches, cuisine, nightlife, look at which is cheaper, has better activities and much more. Let’s get started!
- Which Has Better Beaches?
- Which Has Better Food?
- Which Has More Things To Do?
- Which Has Better Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For A Family Vacation?
- Which Has Better Hotels?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is More Affordable?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
Which Has Better Beaches
Tenerife: The Beaches
Known to be one of the most sunny destinations in all of Europe, Tenerife is home to many long, gorgeous beaches – many that are regarded as better than the ones in Cape Verde. Plus the waters are so beautifully blue in Tenerife that Ed Sheeran even wrote a song about it!
The white sand beach of Playa de las Teresitas is probably the island’s most popular beach. Even though it’s an artificial beach, the 1.5km stretch of coastline is very picturesque with a view of the mountains.
In total contrast, Tenerife also has black sand beaches. Because of the volcanic activity of the island, the sand at Las Gaviotas Beach is very dark, while in the town of Taganana you can also find a gorgeous black sand beach called Benijo Beach. This beach is also very secluded so it’s perfect for those looking to get away from the world.
Tenerife beaches are also known to be one of the best spots for snorkeling and scuba diving in the Canary Islands. Aside from the usual sea creatures and coral reefs, when you go diving in Tenerife you will also get to see volcanic rocks and natural caves due to the island’s volcanic activity. Some of the best spots for snorkeling include Turtle Bay (El Puertito), Palm Mar Wall, and Abades Bay.
Last but not least, the island also has beaches that are perfect for water sports! The aforementioned El Puertito also offers a variety of water sports from speed boats to kayaking.
But If you want to go windsurfing and kitesurfing, the best beach for that is El Médano, where competitions are often held. As for surfing, Playa de las Américas and Playa del Socorro are amongst the top spots.
Cape Verde: The Beaches
Cape Verde is particularly known for its white sand and turquoise water.
If you go to the island of Sal, you will find the most popular island in the country, Santa Maria Beach. It’s a long beach with soft golden sands and the coast is crescent-shaped. This beach has calm clear waters so it’s very popular for swimming, diving, and snorkeling.
In contrast to the calm waters, the beach itself is very lively especially close to town. There’s a pier that’s always bustling with small shops, cafes, and fishermen.
If you want a beach for water sports, stay on Sal Island and head to the southeast where there’s a beach called Kite Beach. It’s very popular for kitesurfing, windsurfing, and surfing. The best wind conditions are between November and March.
Another hotspot for water sports in the country is São Pedro Beach on São Vicente island. It is the best spot for speed windsurfing, and it’s got a beautiful view of volcanic rocks and mountains along the horizon. But if you want white sand and clear blue waters on São Vicente island, you will have to go to Laginha Beach. Similar to Santa Maria Beach, it has calm waters suited for swimming.
The island of Boa Vista also has plenty of beautiful beaches. Take Praia de Chaves as an example. This white sand beach with sand dunes in the background is pretty deserted and perfect for those looking for a nice quiet stroll along the waters.
Another interesting beach on Boa Vista is Praia de Atalanta. It’s a sandy beach with glistening turquoise water, but its most prominent feature is the Cabo Santa Maria Shipwreck stuck on the coastline.
Which Has Better Food?
Tenerife: The Food
Tenerife is probably the number one spot for cuisine in the Canary Islands. You can find everything here, from traditional Canarian food to Michelin restaurants serving incredible European meals, and of course, fusion dishes. The capital city of Santa Cruz is the place where you can for sure get a variety of tasty food and tapas restaurants.
The national food of the Canary Islands is probably mojo sauce, and almost every dish will be served with this special condiment.
Other specialties of the Canaries are papas arrugadas (directly translated as wrinkly potatoes) and el gofio, a type of flour used in many dishes on the island. Aside from that, obviously the island’s food scene is filled with fresh seafood. Take sancocho for example, it’s a popular dish of fish stew with sweet potato and olive oil.
Cape Verde: The Food
Cape Verde is known for having great food as well, and it’s hard to decide which destination has the better cuisine.
Just like Tenerife, because it’s an archipelago, you will indulge in plenty of hearty seafood here. Caldo de Peixe is a fish stew with shrimp or mussels topped with peppers and tomatoes. You will also find that the people of Cape Verde love soups, from legume soup to Marinheira soup.
The national dish, Cachupa (which is a stew of corn, beans, cassava, sweet potato, and fish or meat) varies on each island. The country also has a national drink called Pontche, which is an drink of grogue (sugar cane spirit) and molasses or honey.
For a wide variety of food, go to the main island of Santiago, especially near the city center in Praia. And for a really fresh taste, head to Mercado de Sucupira market, where you can buy fresh ingredients or eat freshly cooked meals.
Other main towns in the country such as Santa Maria on Sal island and Mindelo on São Vicente island are also great places to look for good food.
Which Has More Things To Do?
When it comes to things to do, Tenerife really excels. But that doesn’t’ mean Cape Verde has a lack of fun activities to keep you entertained.
In fact as a group of islands Cape Verde is perfect for tourists who want more adventure and like island hopping. Tenerife, in contrast, is a more tourist-orientated island and is likely better for those who want lots of easily reachable tourist attractions and excursions.
Aside from all the beach and sea activities, here are some of the other activity highlights for each destination:
Tenerife: Things To Do
Tenerife is home to the Teide National Park, a complex that contains Mount Teide, the third highest volcano in the world! It’s a fantastic, albeit difficult, hike.
For an easier hike, head over to Los Gigantes Cliffs, a stretch of rocky walls often dubbed “the Wall of the Devil” by locals. This is a great way to get a panoramic view of the ocean from afar, as well as a peek at the neighboring island, La Gomera. You might even get to see a few whales swimming under you!
Aside from the sea and mountains, Tenerife is an outstanding stargazing spot. The island has very clean air and clear skies, so it’s not hard to see the constellations.
If you visit to the high points of the island, you’ll be able to easily see the Milky Way. Try heading to the Observatorio del Teide or go on a Volcano Teide Experience excursion.
3. Festivals & Culture
A destination often missed by tourists on their way to the beaches, the capital city of Santa Cruz is an attraction you don’t want to skip.
The bustling city is where you will get a true taste of the local culture. If you’re visiting in February, enjoy the Carnival of Santa Cruz, a huge annual festival on the island often called the most important carnival in Europe.
For artsy folks, visit the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, a cultural center in Santa Cruz. They have everything there, from museum and a library to a theater. The exhibits are frequently rotated according to current issues.
Besides the current capital, the former capital of La Laguana is another gem for a cultural stroll on the island. The old town vibes with cobblestone streets and old-timey architecture will make you feel strangely wistful. Visit the Cathedral of La Laguna, the Shrine of Cristo de La Laguna, Iglesia de la Concepción, and many other historic landmarks.
When it comes to culture and history, Tenerife is hard to beat.
Cape Verde: Things To Do
Other than the beautiful beaches, Cape Verde is also known for its mountainous landscape and can rival Tenerife as a hiking destination.
The highest peak in the country is Pico Do Fogo, located on the island of Fogo. This volcano is still active but is open to hikers when it’s in normal status (not about to erupt). However, this is more of a hike for experienced hikers.
A good mountain hike for beginners is Monte Verde on São Vicente island. The view up there is incredible, especially compared to how short the hike is. You will get to see the entire island, the sea, and neighboring islands.
But if you’re an avid fan of walking and hiking, the island for you is Santo Antão. From short hikes to long hikes, this mountainous island has it all. Look out for Cape Verde’s fascinating wildlife as you go!
Climb up Valle de Paúl and get the most breathtaking view of green hills and the skyline. For another interesting destination, hike your way up to the natural swimming pools of Sinagoga. Other great hiking places are Fontaihas, Pico da Cruz, Xoxo village, and Fontainhas.
2. Tour Santiago
Cape Verde’s biggest island is Santiago, and it’s also the most populated. Even so, it is one of the least touristy islands in the country. You should go here if you want to really experience the culture of the country and mingle with the locals.
In many ways this is one advantage Cape Verde has over Tenerife – it’s an opportunity to explore a culture that is quite different from what most Europeans are used to.
In the country’s capital Praia you can explore the city’s historic landmarks. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a natural attraction in Santiago (other than beaches), try visiting Boa Entrada, a beautiful green hilly village.
Which Has Better Nightlife?
When it comes to nightlife, busier and more lively Tenerife is definitely the place to find a party. In contrast, Cape Verde’s nightlife tends to be a bit more laid-back, with plenty of opportunities to enjoy something a bit more traditional…
Tenerife: The Nightlife
Playa de las Americas is a popular party hotspot for hardcore clubbers. It has a long strip of nightclubs called Veronica’s Strip, and they are open from dusk til dawn. A local favorite there is Tramps, an underground nightclub where you can party all night long – and they often bring special guests, too.
As for a rooftop bar, go to the center of Golden Mile. Next to the Hard Rock Cafe, you will find Magic Lounge Bar, a neon-lit rooftop terrace (it’s actually a nightclub) with premium spirits.
You can also find a more quiet type of night entertainment on the island on the west coast at Puerto de la Cruz. There you will find expat bars, Spanish bars, and evening restaurants.
Cape Verde: The Nightlife
Nightlife in Cape Verde often means two things: live traditional music and dance. Combining Africa’s native music with European and Latin instruments, this island has given birth to its own signature sound: upbeat Creole music.
The nightlife here is mostly concentrated in the resort areas in restaurants and music bars, and in general there’s a relatively calmer nightlife scene than in Tenerife.
You will find many bars that play live music and people dancing together, but of course there are also a few nightclubs too.
For lively nights, the island you want to be on is either Sal or São Vicente. Santa Maria on Sal Island is the hotspot for tourist nightlife, with nightclubs and disco bars like Disco Pirata and Frankie’s Bar fun places to dance. On São Vicente, the nightlife capital is the city of Mindelo.
Which Is Best For A Family Vacation?
Tenerife: Family Trip
Tenerife tourist season is roughly split in two, with couples visiting in the winter months and families visiting in the summer months.
In fact, Tenerife has a reputation of being one of the most family-friendly holiday destinations in Europe. Even the hotels and resorts here have kids’ clubs.
For interesting family friendly activities, enjoy a day out at Siam Water Park, one of the biggest waterparks in Europe! Or watch dolphins and penguins at Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz.
At the southernmost tip of the island, there’s also a Monkey Park where kids can feed monkeys and other kinds of animals.
Cape Verde: Family Trip
Cape Verde also offers many activities that are kid-friendly, although it probably has less family-orientated facilities and activities compared to Tenerife.
But you can take your kids turtle spotting on Ervatão Beach, particularly between July and October. You will get to see loggerhead turtles laying their eggs in the sand, or maybe even watch the eggs hatching at night.
Still in the same region, enjoy horseback riding together along the shoreline. For an activity with more adrenaline rush, you can also go quad biking on the sand dunes.
Which Has Better Hotels?
As the more tourist-orientated island, Tenerife arguably has the better hotels. But what’s best for you will completely depend on what you like. So to help you out, here’s a few of the best hotels for each:
The area of the island with the most tourists is the south coast, including the much famed Playa de las Americas on the southwestern coast. The gorgeous Hotel Cleopatra is highly in demand for honeymooning couples there, offering direct beach access and plunge pools. See photos and rates here.
The next hotel you should consider when visiting Tenerife is Hotel San Roque, where the architecture is styled like an 18th-century-themed manor house! Instead of a huge resort, it’s an intimate hotel where you can spend your days drinking by the pool while looking at the stunning view of the mountains. See photos and rates here.
For family hotels, The Ritz-Carlton Abama and Marylanza Suites & Spa are among the best ones that offer kids’ club areas.
Cape Verde: Acommodation
When it comes to resorts, the area of Cape Verde you want to go to is Sal. And if you’re going to spend a night at Sal or Boa Vista, you should check out Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort and Hotel Morabeza.
The Hilton is especially famous for its Bounty Restaurant which is known to serve great meals by the sea. It also has great access to the beach that will take you to the bustling Santa Maria, and there are also private sections of the beach. See photos and rates here.
Hotel Morabeza also has a similar advantage, with its location being close to both the beach and the town. See photos and rates here.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
Tenerife: Getting Around
Tenerife has a great bus system called TITSA, and with it you can plan your journey to every nook and cranny of the island – you can check the routes and schedules on their website.
To get better prices, you can purchase a ten+ card at one of the stations or install the ten+ móvil mobile app. Another choice of public transport is the Tenerife tram service. If you want more flexibility, you can of course rent a car or get a taxi.
Simply put, with great transport links and as one island, Tenerife is definitely easier to get around than Cape Verde.
Cape Verde: Getting Around
Because Cape Verde is a cluster of 10 islands – and we definitely suggest you go to more than one of them – you will probably want to island hop.
To travel between islands, there are ferries and small aircraft ready to take you from one island to another. A not-so-fun fact is that those ferries are often late though, so you should be relaxed with your plans.
For transportation within each island, shared taxis are a common way to get around. There are also buses which are very affordable, but they’re only useful for getting to and from certain busy areas.
Which Is More Affordable?
The prices of food, accommodation, and entertainment in Cape Verde are much cheaper than in Tenerife.
In fact you should be able to save around 20-40% if you go to Cape Verde instead of Tenerife.
Tenerife vs Cape Verde: Which Is The Better Choice?
Tenerife has the better beaches, a wider variety of activities, a more lively nightlife, and is easier to navigate. But for a trip on a budget, Cape Verde is the one for you.
If you’re looking for the enchanting beach holiday Tenerife has to offer, Cape Verde also offers pretty much the same thing. Cape Verde’s beaches are also gorgeous, both places have volcanic mountains, and when it comes to food, it’s honestly tough to choose between Tenerife and Cape Verde.
The bottom line is, you can look at Cape Verde as a slightly rougher version of Tenerife, meaning it’s not as well-maintained, but still a very good destination nonetheless.
You can easily save 20-40% of your money if you decide to forgo Tenerife in exchange for Cape Verde too, and you will still get a similar experience of great beaches, clear waters, hiking, and vibrant culture.