Errors in the interpretation of clouds, fumarolic activity and forest fires as volcanic eruptions in Tenerife, mainly in relation with Teide volcano, are common in references by passing navigators and other eyewitness accounts from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the case of the most common, historical, multiple-vent fissure eruptions in the Canaries, vent locations provided by these accounts are frequently uncertain or are clearly erroneous and often conflict with geological evidence. Significant examples are the general association of the latest eruption of Teide volcano, dated at 1150 ± 140 bp, with the reference made by Christopher Columbus in 1492 to an eruption ‘on the flanks of Teide’, which actually corresponds to an eruptive vent (Boca Cangrejo volcano) situated in the NW Rift, dated at 400 ± 110 bp. Similar conflicting vent locations occurred in the 1730–36 eruption of Lanzarote and the 1677 eruption of La Palma. This article considers the volcanic cones located in the Orotava Valley, erroneously assigned by Chevalier de Borda and Alexander von Humboldt to a 1430 ad eruption. Geological evidence and radiocarbon dating of charcoal underlying the lapilli, and 40Ar/39Ar dating of one of the lava flows, show that these volcanic cones and lavas correspond to an eruption that took place about 30 000 yr bp. Analysis of the influence of these erroneous ages for the recent volcanism of Tenerife shows an overestimation of eruptive hazards of this island.