TikTok doesn’t only cater to those seeking the newest dance trend or funniest comedy skit. I put a stint of endless scrolling to good use by using the app to decide the itinerary for my latest vacation.
Off the coast of West Africa, Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands and home to Spain’s tallest peak, the 3,718-meter-tall (about 12,200 feet) active volcano Mount Teide.
I already knew about Tenerife’s plentiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, but could TikTok help me choose the best activities and places to visit to make a five-night trip fulfilling?
The hashtag #TravelTok has more than 11.4 billion views on TikTok and #TravelTikTok has 39.3 billion, so there’s no doubt that the app is a popular tool for vacation inspiration and planning.
Unlike travel advisory sites, the social media app hosts short videos of users’ travel experiences and recommendations accompanied by dynamic sounds and filters.
While user-generated content can provide a more accurate portrayal of what a place might be like, it can also overhype a rather mundane location or attraction.
After searching through TikTok for videos relating to #tenerife, #teneriferecommendations and #tenerifecostaadeje – with Costa Adeje being the coastal area of the southern province Adeje in which I was staying — this is what I ended up doing.
Tourist train tour of Costa Adeje
Several TikToks recommended a scenic walk through Costa Adeje with one video in particular from @laurenjaneknox highlighting a tourist train tour around the local area. I opted for the intriguing train ride, which cost 9 euros ($9.87) for what was a 45-minute journey.
While it was not a real train on tracks, the vehicle was styled like one and had three shaded, open-air carriages for passengers. The “train” jolted and its bell rang as it went along the roads of streets lined with palm trees, bars, restaurants and resorts before turning back at Port Colon in what was an immersive experience. Tenerife’s mountain terrain was always in the backdrop as locals and tourists alike gave us a welcoming wave as we passed by.
Verdict: TikTok, you did good. Conventional travel guide books were not showing me this. I did see the train ride advertised on a poster in the area, but that was way after I had done it. Travel guides move fast, but TikTok moves faster.
This waterpark in Costa Adeje was repeatedly recommended by TikTok users, most of whom shared their views from their floating pool rings as they drifted along the Lazy River. Even as a non-swimmer, I felt like I had to join them.
The hype seemed plausible as Siam Park is listed as the world’s number one in Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice list of best amusement parks & water parks.
Although many TikTok users recommended going early in the morning to avoid endless queues, I opted for the park’s night event, which runs Thursday to Saturday in summer. The wait times for rides were short, the wave pool was not overcrowded, and a beach lounge DJ played Spanish music as lights and fire lit up the park.
It felt like a fiesta on a private beach or a scene out of a teen movie. While it was thrilling, the park felt like a dark maze with little guidance in terms of navigation. So, like TikTok users said, early morning is probably the best time for a tourist to first experience the amusement park.
Verdict: While I appreciated TikTokers tips on how to best enjoy the park, this location is so popular I didn’t need the app to find it. Since I was attending the first Siam Park Night event of the year, the event didn’t even come up on TikTok until after I had already been, but it still beat the travel guides.
Dolphin and whale-watching cruise
Some TikTokers also mentioned Tenerife’s Monkey Park or Loro Park (for parrots), but I instead opted for another frequently namechecked animal activity: a dolphin and whale-watching boat ride.
I booked a two-hour trip for around 13 euros ($14.26). The boat left from the port of Los Cristianos into the North Atlantic Ocean and the crew made it clear that we would not be chasing or disturbing the wildlife and would turn the engine down or off when near them. I saw several short-finned pilot whales, some of whom swam right next to the boat. They were really cute.
I didn’t see any common dolphins or any of the other aquatic animals the crew said we might encounter. But they did warn us. Overall, the experience was fun, with many people dangling their legs over the side of the boat, although it did rock quite heavily.
Verdict: A win for TikTok. Well, a fraction of one anyway – and I’m not just saying that because I only got half of the experience. While many videos told me to go on the boat ride, they never told which out of the dozens available I should pick. Traditional travel guides saved the day, listing the best ones to choose.
With a name meaning “Yellow Beach,” this place was an aesthetic wonder, which explains why it came up on TikTok.
This is not the typical sandy beach common on the island. Instead, this small but grandiose area was adorned with volcanic black rocks, with a rocky cove and a yellow mountain where visitors sunbathed on layers of yellow geological formations despite very windy conditions.
The small mountain also had trails offering great views of the beach, its clear waters and surrounding area. The beach included quirky features, such as small, seemingly abandoned, boats and a colorful fish mosaic.
Verdict: Kudos to TikTok for this one. It was stunning. Was it as mesmerizing as the edited TikToks made it seem? No comment, but if that’s what TikTokers need to create to get me there then I won’t complain. For scenic gems like this, TikTok is all you need.
I was staying at an all-inclusive resort, but this TikTok-recommended restaurant looking out onto Fañabe Beach in Costa Adeje proved worth a visit.
It offered a glass of pink sangria with grapefruit for 3.75 euros ($4.11) – a much sweeter version of the traditional beverage.
I accompanied the drink with a hot pan of saucy vegetarian paella and Canarian potatoes with garlicky “mojo” sauce.
TikTok made no mention of the fact that I’d constantly have to wave away mosquitoes once the food arrived or that bird droppings along the exterior might dampen the experience for some diners sitting along the edge, but the sunny and breezy dining experience was worthwhile.
Verdict: TikTok got the job done. Maybe not to the best of its ability – it was a nice spot, but I struggled to see why it was the chosen one when there are many like it on the island. But, hey, it saved me scrolling through the endless restaurant lists online – I’m quite indecisive.
From the moment I arrived at this restaurant I understood why TikTok users had raved about it. The entire venue was decorated with flowers, and featured a table for two with swings for seats.
The lights, encased in a wooden cage design, hung down from rope, and the white wooden seats had pink cushions on them.
Two tree-like features came up from the ground in the barn-like restaurant, which played early 2000s music and pop anthems. It was a feast for the eyes. I went for an Italian classic, carbonara, which was creamy and tasty – the place was clearly not just for show.
Verdict: Okay TikTok, I see you. You outdid yourself here. I’ll admit, I was sceptical, since I know you like to focus on looks. But this was the full package: food, aesthetics and ambience. This was a good trust exercise. Any plans like this will be placed in your hands going forward.
Playa de Las Américas
A common recommendation on TikTok, Playa de Las Américas is the heart of south Tenerife’s bustle. Its Veronica Strip was lined with bars and club-like pubs from which tourists spilled onto the street at night.
Workers offered drink deals as I walked past their already-brimming venues. The area is also home to the island’s Golden Mile, featuring shops, restaurants, bars, a waterfall, a playground, hair-braiding and caricature artists. It could not be missed.
Verdict: Really and truly, I did not need TikTok for this one. Plenty of travel guides are quick to spill the beans about the island’s party central. But don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the sounds and edits that gave me a heads-up before I arrived on the party vibe that I could expect.
Hard Rock Café
TikTok was filled with videos of the lit-up, towering structure that is Tenerife’s Hard Rock Café. It dominated the Golden Mile.
Like a museum, it featured a merchandise store, microphone beer taps and an array of rock and roll memorabilia. These included a floral dress worn by Madonna in the music video to her 1992 song “This Used to be My Playground”; a leather Harley Davidson vest signed by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Idol; and a velvet cape worn by Stevie Nicks on stage during her “Wild Heart” tour in 1983. Live music from the terrace blared across the street. I got a milkshake topped with a brownie and whipped cream.
Verdict: This is where my previous trust exercise with TikTok came in handy. The app was full of videos showing only the beautiful outside structure of the venue from behind a waterfall – but not the inside. They say don’t trust a book by its cover, but TikTok forced me to. Luckily, Hard Rock was great inside and out.
Papagayo Beach Club
This beach club on the Veronica Strip was recommended by TikTok users as the place to be to enjoy the island’s nightlife. How could I not go?
The open-air venue with two floors, including a beach hut-styled upstairs, provided a unique experience of dancing under the moon.
It stood out from other venues along the strip, which were much smaller, played British club music and were very sweaty.
Papagayo had cool fresh air, was playing Spanish music and had a smoking area that led out to the shore. The lack of ceiling allowed full view of firework effects in the sky above.
Verdict: TikTok was made for places like this. The quaint stuff. The quirky stuff. The “if you know, you know” stuff. This venue screamed “lights, camera, action.” It needed to be seen, not heard about. Without seeing the videos of this spectacle on the social media app, I highly doubt I would have known it was a cut above the rest.
The ‘lost pirate village’ of Masca
A visit to the Island’s tallest peak, Mount Teide, was a popular TikTok recommendation. But after my stargazing experience on the volcano was cancelled due to bad weather, I set my sights on another suggestion: Masca village.
Advertised on TikTok as a “lost pirate village,” Masca sits in the valley between Tenerife’s Teno mountains. It was beautifully picturesque, with souvenir shops selling cactus jam and fig marmalade. There were trails lined with cacti into which people had carved their names or initials, small homes and restaurants, a tiny church and friendly locals.
The only downside was that Masca is quite hard to get to, with drivers needing to navigate steep, twisting lanes to reach it. I took a taxi there – since there were no excursions that went exclusively to the village – but it was impossible to find one to take me back. Instead, I waited 90 minutes for a bus to the neighbouring town of Santiago del Teide before continuing my journey.
Tucked away, this place was too pretty to hide from TikTok. But surely TikTokers could have also given just a teeny-tiny warning about the tricky journey to get to it. TikTok might not tell you the how (this is where the traditional travel guides come in), but it will definitely tell you the what and the where – especially if it’s a best-kept secret.
A worker at my hotel was surprised that I knew about Masca and wanted to know how I did!
Verdict: TikTok, I’ll see you again on my next trip. But I won’t be loyal. While the app can be trusted to find the spots worthy of an Instagram post; used as a standalone, it’s bound to leave you confused or, in my case, stranded.
I would recommend every place TikTok took me to, especially the aesthetic masterpieces: the yellow beach, Fiore and Masca.
But my advice when following its tips on popular tourist activities, such as the boat ride: Pair it with a traditional travel guidebook that truly knows all about it.