The island of Tenerife shows three clearly distinct watershed that are differentiated by their geomorphologic and landscape features. From a common volcanic origin, each area of the island is unique in terms of their age and geological history, their exposure to wave action and whether or not recent lava flows have occurred, filling up eroded spaces in the coastline. Within this diversity, three areas stand out due to their very special, representative and spectacular conditions. These are located in the corners of the island’s geography, they are namely the areas of Anaga, Teno and Rasca. The first, very ancient and lacking recent lava flows, is characterized by an intense erosional process that has caused numerous rock formations and drops located on a wide platform to recede forming a very steep cliffed coastline with some flat sectors. Teno, also ancient and eroded, features spectacular towering cliffs that arise directly from the sea level, deep cut by crevices forming ravines, with part of the coast located at a lower in the northern area. Finally, Rasca is an expansive “malpaís”, an uneroded lava field, originated by geologically recent lava flows, along with a flat coastline showing some low cliffs that remain little eroded.
The north face of the island, which extends from the Punta de Teno all the way to Anaga features a very diverse coastal landscape and varied geomorphology. This area is heavily pounded by the waves, especially in the winter months, when groundswell is a common occurrence. It is dominated by low to medium raising cliffs, with the exception of both ends, which show spectacular high cliffs as well. Flat tracts of land can also be found in the mouth of the many ravines and the surrounding areas, as well as small bays, the most sheltered of which are home to black sand and pebble beaches. Generally speaking, beaches are seasonal in this area, as the waves drag the sand toward the surrounding seabed during the wintertime, only to return it to the coast during spring and summer. Sand is more likely to be found on beaches protected by natural barriers or on artificial beaches. Some of these beaches, such as the San Marcos beach in Icod de Los Vinos, El Socorro at El Realejo, the ones in the coastline of Puerto de La Cruz, Los Patos in La Orotava, Tacoronte’s beaches and those found in Almaciga and Roque de las Bodegas in Taganana are worth mentioning. The rock formations and drops caused by the receding forming coastline due to sea erosion, especially in the area of Anaga, as we had already pointed out, and to a lesser extent the surrounding area of Rambla de Castro in El Realejo are of high scenic value. Also notable are the rocky platforms with puddles in the tidal zone, amongst which the ones in Punta del Hidalgo are the most remarkable due to their scenic beauty and biological wealth. Recent volcanic rock formations set up as bathing areas in Garachico are interesting as well.
The east coast, spreading from Anaga in the north-east all the way to la Punta de La Rasca in the south-east, shows different conditions, due to being generally dominated by low cliffs and relatively flat areas with sheltered natural bays. The coast enjoys a less intense and strong swell, but is heavily beaten by the trade winds and the waves caused by the, especially during the summer. There are several coves and beaches -both natural and artificial beaches protected by dikes- some of which are quite large. In some cases these correspond to ravines mouths. Some of these beaches are worthy of mention, such Las Gaviotas, Las Teresitas or La Nea in Santa Cruz, Güimar beaches, Abades beach in Arico, El Médano and La Tejita in Granadilla and Las Galletas beach in Arona. In this face of Tenerife, very particular and incredibly beautiful coastal landscapes can be found, especially the “malpaís” in Güímar, with its black lava flows spreading into the sea, the dune formations of El Médano, the only ones on the island, the spectacular volcanic cones Montaña Roja and Montaña Amarilla, and finally the La Rasca “malpaís”.
Finally, the south and south west coast, which comprises the coastline from Punta La Rasca to Punta de Teno. It is a predominantly low coast, with bays and beaches, both natural and artificial, with the exception of the surroundings of the Montaña Guaza mountain in the south and the spectacular cliffs of Los Gigantes to the west. This area is sheltered from the trade winds and boasts calm waters most of the year, only sporadically altered by sea storms originated by the groundswell of the south and the south west. Part of the coast, namely the area located in the Playa de San Juan-Alcalá consists of recent lava flows from the historical eruption of the Chinyero volcano. There are numerous beaches in the area, with special mention to the natural beaches of Los Cristianos, La Caleta en Adeje and the La Arena beach in Santiago del Teide. The cliff of Los Gigantes, cut by narrow gorges forming ravines, also boast some small but hauntingly beautiful pebble and sand beaches in the mouth of these, highlighting the one in Masca.