We’re all familiar with Ed Sheeran’s Tenerife Sea, although it is one of his lesser-known songs. It’s nowhere near as iconic as Perfect or Photograph, but I guess it depends on who you ask. As nauseating as it sounds, it’s one of my favorite love songs to listen to. The gentle guitar, coupled with lyrics that create an image of candlelit romance and puppy-dog eyes, cracks open a jar of butterflies in my stomach that somehow feels addicting. If you say you don’t like this song, then I’m convinced you’re lying.
So, with impulsiveness in one hand and spontaneity in the other, I somehow convinced my friends to go on a trip with me to the Canary Islands, specifically to—you guessed it—Tenerife. Spring break was just on the horizon, and I was aching to travel after being cooped up for months at home. I knew everyone else felt the same so I figured, why the hell not?
With bank accounts that heavily limited our options and beat-up bags in hand, we were off. The trip was grueling and left our eyes bloodshot and dry, but luckily, good company makes the journey worth it.
If you want a luxurious vacation by the beach, Tenerife is not for you. But then again, this is coming from a college student. When we arrived seven hours later in our little airbnb, our patience was immensely tested. The owner of the apartment left us a list of instructions on what to do and what not to do—or, in her anal words, what was forbidden. What was not on that list was how exactly to turn the lights on or where the Wi-Fi password was. And so began our own makeshift escape room in the dark.
As the clock ticked, making each of us flinch at the throbbing sound against the silent background, we scrambled to find an electrical switch, or a plug—something with the slightest association with electricity. I was left standing in the middle of the kitchen staring at an eerie painting of a girl with curly hair and Tim Burton eyes.
We scrambled to find an electrical switch—something with the slightest association with electricity
Thoughtlessly, I checked behind it, and to my surprise, it was the fuse box. I basked in the praise my friends gave me and began hunting for other things—with the lights on, this time. First came the fuse box, then soon after, the Wi-Fi. The keys to the balcony and the pool were found much later, underneath the nooks and crannies of the apartment—all of which I found.
It was a tireless night, but our humor held up the entire time. Jokes were exchanged and stories told amid all the panic, and I thought to myself, what a perfect start to our last trip together.
The next few days consisted of exploring the many beaches the region had to offer. Our first stop was La Playa Pinta in Coste Adeje. It was a quaint little beach that mimicked the curve of the stone wall that blocked the boats from docking by the shore. The water was a tempting shade of turquoise that only the most boring person alive could resist. And so, my friends and I came in splashing, hands flailing in the air, disrupting the peace that once settled on the beach. It was ecstasy.
Only when our eyes shifted towards the towering structures of the boardwalk did we realize how much we did not know about Tenerife. A cluster of buildings and restaurants stuck together like a catacomb, sprinkled with your typical pubs and breakfast places. In between were splashes of the most random things that made the whole image look like something out of The Truman Show.
An ATM next to a jet ski. A law firm adjacent to an escort service. It was all so bizarre, I felt the cogs in my brain begin to work twice as hard in an attempt to comprehend what I was looking at. Exploring the strange structure was a different story. We ended up in a restaurant that served everything from grilled tuna fish to greasy cheeseburgers. The waiter, an Arabic fellow, took a liking to one of our friends from Saudi Arabia. They quickly engaged in a conversation that sounded a lot like gibberish to us, but the expressions on their faces told the story of two long-lost brothers meeting once again. Soon enough, the waiter came rushing back to our table with a bottle of whiskey in hand, grinning from ear to ear— “This one is on me.”
The next few days consisted of exploring the other beaches Tenerife had to offer. My personal favorite was La Playa Troya, just at the edge of the boardwalk. The sand was the perfect shade of onyx that glittered with volcanic ash. It was, to say the least, a glamorous scene against the backdrop of a sparkling ocean. It was as if champagne had been spilled on a marble floor, rippling with luxury and excess. I was totally enchanted.
I was soon snapped out of my daze when I was thrown into the icy ocean. It almost didn’t occur to me that I was swimming in the Atlantic, and not the Pacific. Let me be the first to tell you: if you are accustomed to the warm welcoming waves that kiss your feet in Siargao or Boracay, you will not enjoy the cold shoulder the Atlantic offers you. I could barely get my whole head underwater!
The waves were choppy; the saltwater stung my eyes. Luckily, I was tipsy, and my main worry was having to pee
So naturally, we decided to explore more of these uncharted waters. We booked a boat from a strange German woman named Nancy. Her accent was thick and her negotiation skills formidable. We ended up with a small speedboat, owned by a Serbian man with piercing blue eyes and leather skin. An odd combination, I thought, boarding the vessel. The waves were choppy and the saltwater stung my eyes. Luckily, I was tipsy from Piña Coladas, and my main worry was having to pee. I was in the middle of the ocean, with perhaps my most reckless friend driving the boat. He somehow convinced all of us he was experienced in that skill, making us nod in agreement, when in reality, he had lived in the desert his whole life.
We docked in a small cove where rock formations stood parallel to each other, with a beach separating them. Country music was blasting, and beers were being passed around—a real American dream being lived out halfway across the world. To no surprise, the ocean was still cold, but the sun was warming my exposed back. I ended up on a cliff, looking down at the aggressive waves crashing onto the serrated rocks. “You could die right now,” the little voice in my head said. In a slight panic, I scurried over to the ladder that led down to the ocean. But little did I know, in about two seconds, I would be engulfed by a wave that would toss me around like a salad. I bruised my bum that day and got a few scratches on my leg. But I resurfaced with an alarmed look on my face, only to hear my friends hysterically laughing on the boat. That was a good day.
We decided to end the trip with an adventure up to the mountains—but not without breakfast, of course! Venturing our way towards the infamously strange structure by the beach, we found ourselves enticed by a Siberian restaurant. The Chinese dumplings with cherry compote caught my attention, but so did the waffles served with condensed milk. Once again, the cogs in my brain began to work overtime to try and comprehend what exactly was going on. A Siberian man emerged from the beaded door, immediately introducing his muzzled dog. The poor animal earned my sympathy with its droopy eyes and fluffy exterior. “No, no. Don’t feel bad for him. He killed a woman back in America.” Then he casually asked for our order, leaving the dog to stare at our gaping mouths.
It was almost unreal, looking back at it now, thinking about how four unassuming kids were able to surmount something larger than life
Riding up Pico del Teide on ATVs was the highlight of my trip. Sitting in the backseat with my life in the hands of my best friend was a strange type of torture but oddly thrilling. As we drove up the spiraling road, the stark contrast between the mountains and the sea became more and more evident. The climate was thin and the air dusty as we continued to climb higher, nearing this giant’s peak. It was almost unreal, looking back at it now, thinking about how four unassuming kids were able to surmount something larger than life. It made me think of the challenges that we faced during our four years at university—about the time our law professor had us line up outside for our oral exam, shaking like leaves, waiting for him to embarrass us. Or the time we had to cram our thesis project into one week of pure anxiety, knowing that our time together was about to expire.
It was the best and the worst of times, as they say. The laughs that were shared and the lessons learned were our version of our hike up the mountain—steady and slow, but certain and most definitely worth it.
Tenerife was nothing I expected it to be. I think Ed’s poetic lyrics romanticized the allure of the region, and made me think it was going to be the ultimate paradise. In many ways, it was, but it is extremely hard to find something more impressive than the likes of our own Philippine beaches. Perhaps I am biased. Nevertheless, Tenerife radiated an atmosphere of disorganized class—a bizarre feeling that leaves you cross-eyed trying to make sense of why an escort service would choose to station itself across a law firm. Or how there are so many Serbians who have chosen to live in the south of Tenerife. It was a melting pot of outlandish situations that came together to make a buffet of radical adventures and memories you will take to the grave.
So, if you want a relaxing beach vacation, I guess you could settle for that. But if you want a trip of a lifetime, Tenerife is for you. But then again, this is coming from a college student. What do I know?