Recent studies demonstrate that Tenerife has undergone large lateral collapses. This has led to the suggestion that the Las Cañadas caldera, one of the best exposed calderas in the world, is the result of lateral collapse. We have tested this idea using the available structural, stratigraphic, volcanological, and geochronological data. We conclude that the Las Cañadas caldera is the result of a complex sequence of vertical collapse events associated with a long history of phonolitic explosive activity in the central part of Tenerife. Our results indicate, however, that vertical collapses may have played a major role in triggering lateral collapses. We propose that the association of vertical and lateral collapse events, such as inferred for Tenerife, can also explain similar sequences of events interpreted to have affected other large volcanic ocean islands.