A Sandy Escape to El Medano, Tenerife

The name El Medano in Spanish means "the sand dune" which is exactly what you get when you travel to the longest stretch of sandy natural beach in Tenerife.

Tenerife is the largest of the seven Canary Islands, which are located off the coast of northwestern Africa. The islands are known for their volcanic stones and beautiful white dune beaches.

The long natural sandy beach at el Medano, looking at kitesurfers, surfers, walkers and el Medano in the background. Tenerife.

A town in the municipality of Granadilla de Abona. Sandwiched between two protected nature reserves, El Medano is an easy twenty-minute drive away from Tenerife - La Bodega. Unlike Playa de Las Americas and Los Cristianos, El Medano manages to retain its Canarian culture.

This quaint, former fishing village, has seen a rapid surge in both development and popularity since the ‘80s and for good reason. This area of Tenerife is particularly windy, which means it is the ideal location for windsurfing and kitesurfing. In fact, these beaches have been the site for numerous windsurfing and kitesurfing world championships, including the World Windsurfing Championship (PWA) which it has so far hosted, five times in a row! This event happens in early August, so if you are an avid water sports fan, then you must add El Medano to your list of travel destinations that you must visit.

kite surfers and surfers on medano beach close to the red rock.

If you are not a big fan of windsurfing and kitesurfing, there are plenty of other activities for you to partake in during your stay on the island. Fancy an ice cream? El Medano has three good Italian ice cream parlors, but we recommend Gelateria Demaestri on Plaza Roja, which for just €1.60, you’ll get a large scooping of two artisan ice creams in a homemade cornet. They even cater to those with dietary requirements, like those who are lactose intolerant, diabetic or even vegan. It is also where we will start our stroll. Let’s cross the road and head towards the harbour wall, where you may see the odd local trying to catch a fish with his fishing rod or groups of teenagers cannon balling off the wall, into the deep blue sea for a refreshing cool down.

The boardwalk starts at the harbour wall and leads to Playa Chica ending by the Tenerife Kite Shop. A Beginner or wanabee surfer? Many of the surf shops offer classes and instructors to help, no matter what your level of expertise is in many different languages. Equipment is also available to hire.

el Medano empty landscape

"…open to iodized sea air and the clear light of dawning. Pure gold that fills the sun, the breeze caresses of life that bathes them. Cloudless sky, blue sea, healthy joy, health for the half – naked bodies lying on the sand."

This is a translation of a supplement from the newspaper Hoy, it was written in the 1930s by Apelles M. Diaz. It describes El Medano's beaches. Diaz wasn't the only one to be inspired by this magical, seductive landscape. Just a few years earlier in 1925, Pena Maria, real name Leocadio Machado wrote a novel, "El Loco de la Playa," (the madman of the beach). The novel described the landscape and people of the area, but the story was about a love-sick woman, who waited vainly for her beloved to return to her from the Americas – but he never came.

Some think he died by storm, others pirates, but the truth was she never got word- she waited for years, each day scurrying from Granadilla all the way to El Medano by foot, back then there were no houses there… and then, one day she just disappeared. Some think the sea dragged her out to be with her lover, others that a kind goblin transformed her into a rock – that previously wasn't there.

el Medano empty landscape

So, why was this such a big deal? Because, Leocadio Machado, writer, pedagogue and Professor in the Maritime college of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, started to spend the summers in El Medano before anyone else. He helped make El Medano a destination to go to and that's why the sand-duned beach popular with surfers by the Montaña Roja is named after him.

North of El Medano (to the other side) is Montaña Peluda, which means the "bald mountain" and this beautiful location is also a protected area - all 152.7 hectares are of great geological interest. It is host to a volcanic cone that is a kilometer in diameter. This must-see sight was formed from an underwater eruption and at this location, you definitely do not want to miss seeing the fossil dune along the sea shore.

el Medano beach with red rock in background, Tenerife.

On the other side of El Medano is Montaña Roja Nature Reserve, and it’s the place with the longest natural beach in Tenerife and that of the western Canary Islands. Though there are paths, some of the areas are out of bound for travelers. The reserve’s 166-hectare area is host to protected wetlands and home to over 136 species of plants, some of which are endangered. There’s also several hundred different species of invertebrates, most of which form part of the food source for the canary lizard and the many hungry birds.

el Medano beach with red rock in background, Tenerife.

Over one hundred species of birds fly over this area every year. Of which, half consider this a great place to propagate and have babies. Others like the sandpiper and Kentish Plover, on Spain's endangered species list, can be only found here. The best times of year to see these "winged tourists" are the winter months, but also in Spring and Autumn when they're on their migratory journey. So, if you’re into all that bird watching, don’t forget to bring your binoculars.

The highlight of this reserve is perhaps the 171-meter-high volcano, formed many millennia ago, called Montaña Roja, red Mountain, because of its reddish color caused by the exposed iron particles in the rock. Erosion has, and continues to give it, its distinct shape. Its steep cliffs tower over the sea, up to 40m, on its southern flank. Rainwater has carved out its slopes and shallows ravines, and constant windblown sand has brought about the emergence of a powerful fossil dune attached to the southeastern base of the volcano. That said, somethings are best left to the sea as it’s definitely dangerous down there.

View from the red rock in El Medano's nature reserve. Tenerife.

If you plan on visiting this area, be sure to bring your walking gear since you can walk to the top of Montaña Roja, but be careful not to get blown away, as it can be very windy up there. The view on the other hand is breath taking. From the top, you can see the two most natural beaches on the island: La Tejita to the west and El Medano to the east. In between there’s a nudist beach, so don’t forget to avert your eyes. The view is definitely picture perfect, but sunburn can become a real bummer, as it just seems to creep up on you, ‘cause it’s windy enough that you don’t notice until it's too late - so some hats and sun cream are advisable.

el medano former military bunker

Like a little brother, Montaña Bocinegro lies next to the much bigger Montaña Roja, and yet it is the perfect size for just stretching those legs without exerting yourself. This small volcano is an ideal climb for both the young and the old. The cliffs overlooking the sea are 36 meters high. There's a clear sand path, till the last few meters from the summit, where you’ll have to clamber over a few rocks and the odd cacti. That said, the view over El Medano, the airport, Granadilla’s municipality and the red rock makes it worth the ten or so, minute detour. At the base of this volcano and camouflaged into the rocks lies a former military bunker.

One of El Medano's beaches.

After your mountain climb, head back to the beaches for a festive and enjoyable evening. The beaches are host to many fun and friendly festivals or fiestas during the summer months. Spend some time celebrating at the fiesta of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes de Rojas (Sunday closest to September 24th) and then witness a large maritime procession followed by a spectacular firework show across the bay. Smell the smoke in the air and dance into the night of fire, at the Night of San Juan, (June 23rd) where the locals bring in the summer solstice with huge bonfires on the beach. There are live music and fireworks. If you're a Jazz lover, then Red Mountain Jazz festival, (November) could be ideal. It’s when more than 50 "made in the Canaries" jazz, blues and soul musicians take over El Medano for a week, playing in bars, terraces and restaurants before combining in an open air concert and impromptu jam session. The third week of August hosts the most important folk music festivals in the Canary Islands, and brings together folk musicians from all over the world, as well as the best Canarian folk groups. Planning your vacation around one of these festivals will allow you to truly experience everything the island has to offer.

If you are a history buff or a fan of learning about historic moments, then you will enjoy discovering what remains of the island's military bunkers. During World War II, the main threat was the British invading the island if Spain was dragged into the war. General Ricardo Serrador signed a document which called for the protection of every one of the islands from allied control. The idea was "Defensa a todo costa" which means the defense at all cost. Part of the plan was creating defense mechanisms along the beach to stop the enemy, as it would be very difficult to prevent them landing. Tenerife was divided up into 6 main sectors, consisting of a network of pockets of resistance and nests of concrete on the beach, some of these you can still see today, at one point these concrete nests were all over the island, but many have disappeared thanks to the island's rapid development. Other good places still to see such bunkers include Playa de Las Teresitas and San Andrés near Santa Cruz.

The busy el Medano main beach and wooden promenade next to the town center.

After you spend some time adventuring around El Medano, climbing Montaña Roja, windsurfing or wind boarding on the beautiful beaches, appreciating wildlife, discovering the history and culture, and dancing at the fiestas, your next stop should be to take a step back and explore the town itself.

el Medano beach by Playa Chica.

El Medano is home to laid-back bars, friendly restaurants, and delicious ice-cream parlors – as mentioned earlier. You can eat and drink your way through the town and try them all out or just stick to a couple of the island's favorites. Here's just some of the places worthy of a visit, Barracuda for burgers, and sandwiches it is located right off of the beach, just check to see if the kitchen is open before you sit down. For nearby seafood head to Playa Chica for a nice dinner or try one of the many Spanish tapas places. Fancy Italian, Pizzeria Wairua makes great pizzas onsite in their pizza oven, they also do pasta dishes. If you've got a bit of a sweet tooth, try the Creperia Guajara where you can get your fix of delicious pancakes doused in syrup and other outer worldly concoctions, the mojitos are also very good.

Once full, spend some time hopping from shop to shop in search of that perfect holiday souvenir for family and friends. El Medano has plenty of unique local shops – specializing in selling beach and surf wear. For more tech based gadgets, you'd be better off going to Las Chafiras, Los Cristianos or Santa Cruz de Tenerife. But be aware, as this is just a small island, Tenerife might not have everything techy you need, so if in doubt, and it’s very important, bring it with you. There's a local bohemian market every Saturday until 2 pm (Plaza del Principe), where you'll find a selection of handmade jewellery, leather goods, clothing and African artifacts. Homemade jewellery and other crafts are also sold by artisans along the promenade- walkway. There’s an Iceland in Las Chafiras, so if you’re dying for that odd Jaffa cake or speciality English cuppa, you can have one, in what’s a relatively short eight minute drive.

After you find all of your fun souvenirs and unique treasures and you are finished shopping, you may want to relax for a bit or dip your feet into the water, and maybe go for a swim before returning to La Bodega.

el Medano beach with red rock in background, Tenerife.

El Medano has everything for an adventurous and relaxing beach day-out, whether you go alone or in a group. The solemn peace of the desert sands, the sober beauty of the seascape, the fresh air and the metallic rays on the sand all help to make this a memorable destination for your holiday in Tenerife. Even though it may not be a well-known travel destination to most, it is a beautiful beach getaway you deserve to take.

To book your stay at Tenerife - La Bodega, just send us an email or call us on +34 922 700 590 to reserve your booking.

windsurfing on tenerife's el medano beach.
Red rock at dawn, el Medano coastline, Tenerife.
In the summer months El Medano beach can get pretty packed with sunbathers and swimmers, Tenerife.