The eco-hero’s guide to Tenerife
With its year-round spring climate, family-friendly resorts, affordable restaurants and expansive sandy beaches, it’s no wonder Tenerife has been a go-to for travellers for decades. Today, the most popular Canary Island is also leading the way in sustainability – showing the world that it is taking the right steps towards an even greener way of life
A sustainable tourism directive has been in place on Tenerife since 2020, and 48 per cent of the island is now a ‘protected area of nature’. The ‘Blue Boat’ badge celebrates ethical whale-watching tour operators, which have pledged to act in accordance with predetermined safety guidelines, and hotels are being empowered to move towards 100 per cent renewable energy sources by 2030, with some already reaching that goal. On top of that, there are more than 700 hikes to be enjoyed across the island, many bringing visitors close to the communities you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet.
Here are five ways to enjoy a more sustainable holiday in Tenerife…
Hiking through agricultural communities
From remote mountain passes to coastal walks, there’s a world to explore among Tenerife’s 750 miles of walking trails. In the southwest, the three-mile loop up to 171m Montaña Roja ‘Red Mountain’ Volcano offers 360° views on a clear day. The moderate route begins from a signposted car park and takes roughly an hour and 30 minutes to complete, with a rewarding dip at Playa de la Tejita on offer at the end.
Far from the crowds of Santa Cruz and the southern beaches, Anaga Rural Park is home to towering cliffs and gaping ravines, laurel forests and even black-sand beaches. Trails range from medium to difficult. Most wind through tiny agricultural villages, where the real island way of life is laid bare. The park was declared a Unesco biosphere reserve in 2015 thanks to its 1,900-plus species found here – including endemic Bolle’s and laurel pigeons – and is a must for birdwatchers.
One of the island’s most spectacular walks is Barranco del Infierno (Hell’s Gorge). The three-hour, easy-to-medium-level trail takes you along an old pastoral route and then follows the riverbed of the ravine, passing dramatic cliff-lines, trickling waterfalls and lush vegetation. Entry to the trail is limited to 20 people every 30 minutes – a special permit should be booked in advance from the park authority – to soften the human impact on the environment.
Typically, Tenerife fishermen use traditional pole and line methods – which is why buzzing fishing village, La Caleta, is the place to enjoy a seafood feast. Here, restaurants tend to be locally-owned and serve local produce – allowing the community to benefit from your custom. At ocean-view Restaurante Salitre , the chips de morena – crispy moray eel served with potato slices – is a favourite. Kai La Caleta, meanwhile, is a relaxed-yet-suave dinner spot serving everything from sushi and ceviche to wreckfish – a type of grouper – with sweet miso mojo (sauce) and pickled ginger.
In Santa Cruz, planet-based café Tierra is locally loved for its a zero-waste policy. Owners Isabelle and Elisa source their fruit and vegetables from local producers, including their ancestral farm, Finca La Caldera. The ingredients used tend to be those rejected by larger businesses for being misshapen. There’s a little farm shop next door for anyone hoping to take home some fresh bread, jams and more.
Set between the papaya trees on an old banana plantation estate, Guachinche El Cordero specialises in mouthwateringly good grilled meat dishes, sourced either locally or – at a push – mainland Spain. Menu highlights include carne de cabra (stewed goat) served with local dish gofio – a mashed cornmeal flour with spicy olive oil and pepper mojo.
Whale-watching at Europe’s first Whale World Heritage Site
Home to a nutrient-rich marine environment that attracts both resident and migratory cetaceans, this 772-square-mile stretch of sea between the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera is one of the world’s most revered whale-watching regions.
Large pods of short-finned pilot whales and playful families of bottlenose dolphins are commonly spotted here. Other species including humpbacks, sei and even blue whales can be seen during the peak whale-watching months of November to February. Simply witnessing these creatures shelter and play in their natural environment can be incredibly fulfilling.
The best and safest way to see marine mammals is with a small boat tour company such as Biosean and Whale Watch Tenerife – two notably ‘Blue Boat’ certified firms due to their commitment to Tenerife’s sustainability charter for whale- and dolphin-watching guidelines. Dedicated marine biologists lead the tours, sharing science-based knowledge about animal behaviour and physiology.
Biosean’s 8m rib boat and Whale Watch Tenerife’s Eco Adventure ten-person tour depart from Puerto Colón on the Costa Adeje. Impressively, both are equipped with a hydrophone so passengers can listen to whale song while watching from the boat. Biosean partners with research units around the world, including the University of Roehampton Biological Sciences department. Families with younger children might be more comfortable touring with Tenerife Whale Watching – another ‘Blue Boat’ company – which operates larger vessels.
Stargazing at night
At the heart of the island lies another World Heritage Site, Tiede National Park, which is home to the picturesque Mirador del Teide volcano. During the day, the park is likely to be packed with visitors. At dusk, however, when most of the crowds have dissipated, the sky lights up with a blanket of stars.
Thanks to an estimated 300 clear nights during the year and an elevated volcanic surrounding, there is no light pollution at Mount Teide – which is why the stargazing here is so remarkable. In fact, the Starlight Foundation – a Spanish institution – named Teide a significant ‘starlight tourist destination’, in the hope that excursions to the park will help teach both communities and tourists to appreciate the stars.
Night Skies Tenerife’s Star Safari includes a three-course Canarian dinner in the mountains, followed by a sunset view from above the clouds. Experts will be on hand to talk guests of all ages through the constellations as they begin to appear, pointing out stars and planets alike, along with myths and legends of the skies. Volcano Teide, meanwhile, offers an eight-hour tour for hardcore astronomy enthusiasts – with a visit to the Teide Observatory preceding the evening adventure. The use of long-range telescopes from an altitude of 2,356m at the Teide Cable Car base station is included in this experience.
Staying in sustainable style
Leave everyday life behind while kicking back at Iberostar Selection’s five-star, adults-only Sábila resort, where minimal décor, gentle colours, soothing aromas and calming beach vistas welcome you to Tenerife’s idyllic Costa Adeje.
Sábila’s location on the glorious west coast puts it in close proximity to not only Europe’s best-known whale-watching hot spot, but also the continent’s largest aloe plantation. It’s no wonder, then, that the hotel’s exclusive range of amenities and even some of its food and drink feature the plant as a primary, local ingredient.
Most importantly, perhaps, is that this hotel is making steady and important steps towards a more sustainable resort operation. Having eliminated all single-use plastics in 2020, the resort is following Iberostar’s Wave of Change policy in aiming to curtail all landfill waste by 2025 and become carbon neutral by 2030. Other initiatives include serving sustainably sourced seafood. It has achieved 70 per cent of this goal to date and intends to be at 100 per cent by 2025.
There are two restaurants and five bars on site, and the Gourmet Market eatery will become a fast favourite, thanks to its the vibe of a busy Spanish mercado, offering seven different styles of cuisine in a street-stall setting. The pool bar is the perfect spot to sip on a fresh juice or cocktail made from local fruits. Start the day with a refreshing aloe juice and you won’t be disappointed.
Take off to
British Airways offers direct flights to Tenerife from London Gatwick seven days a week and from London Heathrow twice a week