More than two months ago, we started this project on the Canary Islands in La Gomera, only passing by through Tenerife.
Tenerife is a magical place tailored for nature lovers, rock climbers, and adventurers.
Sadly, many go without knowing that classical tourism in places like Tenerife hurts its raw beauty or that it doesn’t truly show what these places have to offer without artificial tourist attractions.
If you’re not a classical touristic type and you’re always looking for a way of connecting with the local community, learning about the culture, and experiencing what locals love to do when you travel, then you’ll love Cactus coliving in Tenerife South.
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Tenerife’s new tourism model
In the past few years, or since the pandemic, Tenerife has become a favored spot for digital nomads, especially from Europe.
This has to go in hand with the fact that a lot of previously popular digital-nomad places were not accessible to European nomads anymore, so traveling nationally, or at least in the Schengen area, made more sense.
So, while the European mainland went through winter, people realized that the Canary Islands might provide the same escape from the cold as popular Asian and South American destinations, only much closer and much more accessible.
That is how this destination, which was previously popular only for a few weeks of a hedonistic escape, started to receive attention from remote workers, digital nomads, and younger expats looking for a place to settle down for a few months or years.
As it is already familiar, digital-nomad-focused tourism calls for a completely different business model than that of classical tourism and this is why Tenerife started blooming in new colivings, hostels turned into coliving spaces, coworking cafes, and many more opportunities tailored for the digital nomad lifestyle.
Still, many property owners designed their places only for extended stays, but their behavior towards the island stayed the same. The opportunities they offer are the same as the ones touristic agencies provide, and not many truly incorporate the life and soul of the island.
That’s why a need for a different approach was born. An approach that will give back to the island and emphasize its beauty through kind and natural touristic activities that do not disrupt the ecosystem and the culture.
And that need is also one of the reasons Cactus coliving was born.
Cactus is located in Valle San Lorenzo, a small town in the province of Arona, just 10-15 minutes by car from well-known locations like Las Americas and Los Cristianos.
Unlike many other colivings, the house is not outside the town, so even if you’re not in the mood to take the car or a bus and go to the city, you can still find everything you need around the corner.
For example, literally around the corner, a minute from the house, there is a rather big supermarket, Alteza.
Still, if you don’t find what you’re looking for there, just down the street, on a 7-minute walk, there is a hypermarket Hiper Dino with an even more sizable choice of groceries.
When it comes to dining out and entertainment, there are also a few cafes, restaurants, and bars around that you could visit to have a quick barraquito or a Saturday night cocktail.
On top of everything, because Roque de Jama is close by, you will enjoy gorgeous views while strolling through the town or, even better, chilling on the Cactus rooftop.
The Cactus house has quite a story behind it.
It’s more than 200 years old, and it was one of the first and most important houses in the town that supplied the whole town with gofio and electricity.
Originally, it was a part of two more houses with a total of six immense water tanks that fed their gardens.
With the development of the town and the infrastructure, the houses split, and this one was left in the keeping of the church.
Some decades later, the church put the house for sale to the public and that is when Maria’s (the Cactus coliving founder) family bought it.
There were some periods that the family lived there and some when the house was empty, but Maria more or less grew up there.
Before opening the coliving, nobody lived in the house for a decade, but during the pandemic, Maria decided to move back into it, which, step by step, gave birth to what it is today.
Probably one of the most beautiful stories about this coliving is the story about its name.
Apparently, when Maria was born, her mother planted some cactuses in the house’s backyard.
And despite periods when the family rarely visited the house, and nobody was there to care for the property or the plants, the cactuses survived all these years and not only survived but thrived.
Today, 27 years later, they are still standing tall and powerful, overlooking the house and stretching more than 6 meters in the sky.
For that sake, it only felt right to name the house after its most loyal keepers, and that is how Cactus coliving got its name.
Thinking about it, it truly feels like a perfect name because it tells the story of the house, the family, and the founder, but also about Tenerife, its history, and the raw and strong nature that makes this island exceptional.
Cactus house has twelve rooms in total – one dorm room and the rest private single and double rooms.
The house is spacious thus the rooms are nicely scattered across it.
If you’re not deliberately counting them, you could go without knowing how many rooms are there and where all the rooms are.
The whole house can be divided into two main parts – the old one and the new one.
- The old part is close to the kitchen and opens up to the front yard. This part of the house has five rooms on the ground floor.
- The new part is the rear side of the house that connects with the main coworking area that opens up to the backyard. This area has two rooms on the ground floor, from which one is a duplex, so it also occupies the upper part and the other three rooms on the first level.
Besides these two main groups of rooms, there is also one more room on the rooftop and a dorm room on the upper level of the house.
What is intriguing and captures the spirit of the Canaries is that every room carries the name of an endemic plant species native to the Canary Islands.
Some of these plants are endangered so carrying their names, the rooms also spread awareness about them in a way.
The coworking spaces
Another valuable asset of Cactus coliving is its coworking spaces. Without a doubt, Cactus has one of the best indoor coworking spaces that I’ve seen.
They have two massive coworking areas that are at disposal to their colivers at any time, as well as one all-purpose room perfect for coworking in a smaller group setting and one private conference room.
The main coworking area
The main coworking area is a luminous, ample open space with two big desks with approximately ten seats.
This space is always full of natural light as it opens up to the backyard with a big glass door, and it has a quarter of the ceiling open so the fresh air and natural light can flow through the space.
Some of the things that make this space inspiring and relaxing are the ceiling that is approximately 10 meters high, space openness, and the best part – a tall palm tree growing right next to you.
There is a perfect indoor-outdoor balance in this space, making it the favorite spot for working among Cactus’ colivers.
Other than the chairs and desks, this area also has two cozy lounge areas where you can lay down and work or catch something on the TV. This corner can either play as a living room or simply as a more comfortable working area.
The main coworking space is the one that occupies the most seats, however, it’s designed for a more casual working environment.
That is why another coworking area exists in the house for those who need more silence and tranquility or don’t like the open-space vibe as much.
The silent room
The silent room is just a fun name for the indoor office space in Cactus. Because it’s completely indoor and stands a bit further away from the rooms than the other coworking area, it’s decided that this would be a more tranquil and silent space for work.
This room is also a proper coworking space with four long tables and a lot of chairs. Even though it is rarely fully occupied, it can fit all the colivers if they wanted to be there.
This area is a bit colder during the day as it doesn’t have as much sunlight, so it can be a good space for chilling out if the other space gets too sunny or just having a bit of a private escape.
The silent room also has a super cozy lounge area. The cozy couch can also be another half-private spot for working when you’re in that “working from the bed mood” but don’t want to stay in your room the whole day.
The conference room
A concept of a conference room is something that we have only seen in Cactus, so far. But, when you think about it, it’s a very useful amenity.
Beside the door, you will notice a small whiteboard that serves as a booking tool.
You can write your name on the board and book the space for up to 3 hours per day, so you know you have a safe, private room if you need to be on a call, work on a project, study, or whatever else.
It’s a small room perfectly tailored for one person, so it’s a great place to have a video call, an online presentation, or maybe an interview of some kind.
If this room is occupied, or if you’re just looking for a cooler place during one hot afternoon, Cactus has another conference room that you might fit better, and it will surprise you what it is!
The wine cellar
Do you remember the story about the water tanks from this and the other two houses that date back to the early days of the town?
Well, the one water tank left in the Cactus house after the house separation is still there but with a new purpose – it’s converted to a wine cellar… and some other things.
This chilly room provides a downright space for keeping local wine and having wine workshops, but it can also work as a cool and peaceful working area when the house is too crowded or the temperatures are too high.
The booking principle is the same as for the small conference room inside the house.
The only difference between the wine cellar and the conference room is that the wine cellar can fit more people, so it might be the best place in the house for in-person meetings.
Other than that, when it’s not booked (and rarely is), everyone is free to go down and chill, work, or have a conversation down there.
Other working spaces
Besides the official working spaces, Cactus has a lot of other corners that you can go to with a laptop.
For example, one of the more casual but popular places for working is the hammock in the front yard. There is a tall coffee table in front of the hammock that you can move around, but it’s the perfect height for sitting in the hammock and having the laptop on it. This nook is also in the back of the front yard behind an avocado tree, so it gives you some privacy as well.
Another place where you could either go to work or have lunch is a table with a bench behind the kitchen. People often choose the long table on the main porch for either eating or working outside, but if you’re not in the mood for being around a lot of people, this place behind the kitchen can be equivalent.
And of course, while we’re on about outdoor places, another option for early morning or evening work is on the rooftop. During the day, the rooftop gets super sunny so it might be hard to see the screen, but when the sun is already down, or not yet fully above us, there are a few spots where you can chill and work from. In fact, I’m in one of the rooftop corners as I’m writing, chilling in the hanging egg chair and overlooking Roque de Jama. 🙂
Lastly, all rooms have a desk with a chair, so if none of these spaces work for you, you can always work in your room. The wifi is reliable, strong, and fast throughout the property, so it doesn’t really matter if you choose the rooftop, the coworking, or the wine cellar.
Every week, a new set of activities is pinned on the bulletin board in the kitchen, as well as sent out in the Slack group.
The bulletin board works great as the first announcer since Slack sometimes doesn’t push notifications, but also as a reminder throughout the week.
Every time you walk into the kitchen, you’ll notice the board, and if you need to remind yourself when the activities are happening, this is a good way. But, signing up for the activities is through Slack.
Of course, Maria or the volunteers send a kind reminder to the group a day before a big activity or on the day of the smaller ones. What we loved about the activities in Cactus is the fact that they are very simple but very enriching.
Maria really provides you with a value that you probably wouldn’t be able to have without her because they are not classical tourist activities but something that keeps you in touch with the local culture and surroundings.
Being a local, Maria can show you places that only locals know.
Maybe some secret shortcuts and cool spots that tourist agencies don’t know about, but above all, Maria works hard to connect with local businesses, organizations, and the community, and that’s what makes these activities so unique and valuable.
So, even if it would be easy for Maria to quickly organize something for a group that doesn’t know anything about the Canaries, she puts a lot of effort into it.
With every activity, you can tell that she did her best to make the experience most worthwhile for the colivers but also the area.
Here are some activities that we participated in during our stay, and some that you can expect if you come:
One type of activities Maria loves to organize bi-weekly or monthly so that everybody can participate at least once are these local-cuisine workshops.
Mojo (Rojo and Verde) workshop
The Canaries have quite a few typical dishes, but one of the most famous ones are tasty spreads Mojo Rojo and Mojo Verde (the typical red and green sauces).
These spreads either go with the bread as an appetizer or as a sauce with the main dish, and they’re super tasty!
And when it comes to traditional drinks, Tenerife has a typical coffee drink called barraquito. This is a sweet coffee-based drink with citrus liquor. It’s a delicacy and the locals drink it as much as the tourists.
But, most tourists come to love both the mojo and the barraquito, so Maria decided to organize workshops and teach Cactus colivers how to make them.
It’s not only a fun activity, but it also lets travelers bring a part of the Canarian culture home. It’s a way of spreading the word about the Canaries that’s beyond the tourist attractions.
The area is full of amazing hiking spots and luckily, Maria is a knowledgeable hiker.
Every week, there will be at least one hiking activity in Cactus that Maria will take you to. Most hikes are beginner-friendly, and, like Jasper, Cactus’ longest coliver, says, hiking spots are different almost every time.
Hiking in Roque de Jama, Tenerife South
The only hikes that will happen from time to time are the hike to Roque de Jama and the hike on Teide.
Roque de Jama is the closest rock to the Cactus house. It’s a very local hiking spot with not many people around.
Maria loves to take the colivers there and share a bit of her knowledge on the geography of Tenerife. She likes showing what is where from looking from the top of the rock and just giving a fun lesson on the area while you’re enjoying the hike and the views.
It’s a very fun hike and super beginner-friendly, and you get bonus points if you spot the Cactus house from the top! 😀
Hiking in Teide
Subsequently, hiking on Teide is one of those must activities when coming to Tenerife.
Teide is the highest point in Spain, and that said, you can choose trails for beginners or more advanced trails. When Maria organizes the activities for the group, they will normally be light enough for everyone to join so it can suit the group.
For example, we went this May with Maria to see the blooming of a beautiful flower, tajinaste native to Tenerife. It was a light, but worthy hike. And yes, if you were asking yourself, one of the rooms in Cactus is, in fact, called Tajinaste.
Of course, if you want to go to an advanced hiking trail, you can ask Maria to give you some tips, or maybe join her when she’s doing it outside the group activities.
Cactus has a few volunteers, and most of them are here to help out with the house maintenance but also to teach yoga.
Many colivings offer yoga lessons as one of their selling points, and even though Cactus doesn’t emphasize this because there are many other things to experience there, they too organize yoga every workday.
Sometimes, the yoga lessons are on the rooftop, sometimes in the garden, and sometimes in a nearby calisthenics park.
Connecting colivers with the local community and culture
One of the biggest goals that Maria wants to accomplish with Cactus is to promote the real Canarian culture, show the colivers what the area is really like, support small business owners, and showcase the need of practicing sustainable tourism in the Canary Islands.
As previously mentioned, she connects with many local businesses and organizations that help the island (Canary Green, Rotary, etc.) as well as local shop owners, farmers, etc., to build a unique and sustainable experience for Cactus’ visitors.
One of the many ways she inspires travelers to participate in sustainable tourism is by providing them with locally grown food, and taking them to the local farmer’s market every week.
She also wants the colivers to connect with the local culture, so she always tries to show them local events if there are any around.
For example, during our stay, there was a town festival that we visited all together and went to with Maria’s family and friends all dressed in traditional costumes that she got for us. It was such a wholesome experience.
These experiences will always be different because they depend on what is around the time you’re visiting. But, Maria will make sure to be informed and allow colivers to participate in something like this.
Connections with other colivings
Cactus is also well-connected with other colivings in the area, so by staying here you will have the opportunity to participate in events with other colivings and the digital nomad community in Tenerife.
This can be an amazing way to meet new people, share experiences, and just have fun.
During our stay, we had two events that other colivings organized that we were invited to because we were in Cactus.
So, if you want to explore other places as well, Cactus is a great place because it nurtures support and collaboration with other places rather than competition.
Lastly, the community in Cactus is very diverse, both age-vise and country-vise. But, somehow, the people find that they’re connected here because they were all searching for something like this.
Maria herself doesn’t live in the house and is not a core part of the community, but more of an external link. The volunteers, however, are a part of the community that, in a way, feels like a family.
The reason for that might be the house itself and how the rooms are laid out. The communal areas inspire spontaneous and casual conversations but the house is big enough to find your safe spot where nobody will impede you.
Some people came to Cactus, went on to other parts of Tenerife, then came back to Cactus because they liked the atmosphere.
Even though you can stay for 10, or 15 days, Cactus is a perfect house for long-term stays like 4, 6 months, or even longer. Maybe the best one yet.
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