La buena vida

Ana Franco, GQ Journalist & Be Tenerife traveler

March 2019

No hay conversación entre profesionales del lujo en la que no se deslice la palabra experiencia. En tiendas, hoteles, concesionarios y cruceros, todos quieren ofrecer momentos que el cliente vaya a recordar durante mucho tiempo. Sobre todo en el sector turístico. Por eso las empresas del ramo han incorporado a sus anuncios frases grandilocuentes como “generación de emociones

Pero, ¿cuántas veces uno cae en la trampa y se apunta a un viaje “de lujo” que se comercializa en masa y en el que la actividad extraordinaria consiste en entrar en un spa abarrotado de gente y recibir un mensaje ordinario? ¿En qué deben concretarse las experiencias para que el viajero no quede defraudado ?

Volamos hasta Tenerife para conocer un nuevo club de alojamientos de alta gama en el que han mimado este aspecto clave actualmente en una escapada vacacional. Y vaya por delante que ya tiene mérito brindar algo distinto en una isla que en 2018 alojó a 675.000 turistas en hoteles de cinco estrellas (un 7% más que en el año anterior) y que es sinónimo de sol y playa “de batalla” para el común de los mortales. Porque, no nos engañemos, la isla canaria ha sufrido, como gran parte del litoral español, la presión urbanística y la falta de estética a la hora de explotar sus bondades.

Para encontrar un turismo minoritario en Tenerife hay que alejarse de las aglomeraciones de Adeje y recorrer el norte, una zona mucho más agreste y desconocida que el sur, donde los 22 grados no siempre están garantizados y no existen hoteles con el “todo incluido”. Es allí donde el exconsultor canario Alberto del Hoyo ha levantado la empresa Be Tenerife a partir de una hacienda familiar heredada, Cuatro Ventanas, que tras una reforma a fondo se ha convertido en un alojamiento boutique.

A esta blanca villa que mira al mar se han ido uniendo otras cinco de impresionantes hechuras con jardines apabullantes, piscinas infinitas, terrazas al borde de acantilados y una decoración cuidada y armoniosa. Con un impacto mínimo en el entorno y con la sensación de que por otros hoteles que aportan mucho menos te piden mucho más.

Pues bien, lo que ha hecho Alberto del Hoyo (un tipo bien conectado en la isla) es rodearse de colaboradores (y amigos en su mayoría) entusiastas, expertos en diversas áreas, para garantizar al turista experiencias deportivas, gastronómicas y hasta científicas autenticas que le ayuden a fundirse con el ambiente. Una de ellas consiste en observar las estrellas (Tenerife es un paraje ideal para ello) junto a Rafael Rebolo, director del Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, mientras éste te cuenta que él y sus colegas están buscando otros planetas con las mismas características que la Tierra (por si tenemos que emigrar) y que la última vez que estuvo con Stephen Hawking ​​le habló de sus avances en materia de agujeros negros.

Otra consiste en sumergirse en alta mar con Francis Pérez, fotógrafo canario que ganó el prestigioso World Press Photo de 2017 en la modalidad Naturaleza, mientras te relata aquel día en el que quiso retratar a una ballena y casi se mete de cabeza en sus fauces. También puedes hacer trekking con Nayra González, una incondicional de la isla que la conoce como nadie y que tiene la agilidad de una cabra tinerfeña. Ella te acompaña por rutas muy poco transitadas y te presenta a los vecinos que se encuentra por el camino.

Una cata de vinos con Agustín García Farráis, propietario de la Bodega Tajinaste, de la Denominación de Origen Valle de La Orotava, y el avistamiento de pájaros con un ornitólogo son otras dos propuestas que ponen en valor lo local. Porque Del Hoyo y sus colaboradores quieren fomentar lo que hace único a Tenerife. Porque hay turistas a los que no les da igual tirarse en una playa que en otra, sino que buscan mucho más.

Las experiencias de Be Tenerife se organizan bajo demanda y teniendo en cuenta la disposición de quienes ejercen de cicerones. “Intentamos rodearnos de personas que sienten pasión por la isla. Y entre todos tenemos una gran oportunidad entre manos con este proyecto, porque la imagen que se tiene de Tenerife no es real ”, dice Alberto del Hoyo. Planes y ganas de transformarla no les faltan.


A pilot whale called Hope

Lina Kroll, Be Tenerife Manager.
June 2019

Specials thanks to Francis Perez and his wonderful work.

Attention, this article include sensitive content that some people may find offensive

It was a splendid day and the sea was calm. My friend Francis Perez and I were sailing near the coast of Los Gigantes The sun peeked through the mountains and its light impregnated the cliffs with a wonderful golden color

The boat crosses the sea and we spotted turtles floating on the surface of the water basking in the sun, saw flying fish and enjoyed the sheeps flying over our heads.

Francis is one of the most recognized underwater photographers in the world, he works very closely with the marine biologists of Tenerife and has great knowledge about sea life.

Always shares his adventures with me. There are fascinating, it is a constant source of learning for me.

The sun was already in the middle of the sky when suddenly Francis received a call from a marine biologist telling him that a seemingly injured pilot whale have been spotted. Immediately we moved together with the biologists’ boat to the GPS coordinates that were shared with us. After a while searching, we found the whale.

We were all shocked when we found the two-meter pilot whale trying to stay afloat on the surface. She has a huge wound in the tail… the cries of pain and despair were heard in all the area. The situation was a horrible drama.

Francis prepared his photography equipment and jumped into the water to be able to analyze the whale closely and photograph it so that biologists could evaluate the injuries. Every time Francis approached the whale, the family came to protect her, which was a great risk for him.

The photographs left everyone in shock. The eight-month-old baby whale had her tail completely sectioned. From the first moment it was suspected that the deep wounds had been caused by the elite of a boat. This theory would later be confirmed. We all have the same idea, the animal was suffering a lot and this had no solution. I could not stop crying. The situation was exasperating.

The biologists contacted the Fauna Recovery Center of the Cabildo de Tenerife and decided the intervention of an expert. The hours passed and the whale was dying in front of us. The waiting time became endless.

Finally a team of veterinarians arrived and when they found the situation, there were no more doubts.

We all agreed, but the one who had the last word was the veterinarian Dr. Mayans, which concluded: Euthanasia had to be practiced.

The atmosphere was full of sadness, but at the same time it was a relief, knowing that the doctor was going to free the little whale from her suffering.

It was very difficult to catch the pilot since weighed more than 100 kilo and became very nervous swimming and screaming in search of her family. The mother and other adults kept turning around the boats, which was very dangerous for Francis who was helping from the water. Finally the team managed very quickly to put the little pilot whale in a net to raise her.

Dr. Mayans already had the medication prepare and between tears we could see how he inserted the syringe several times in the belly of the whale, she would fall asleep forever. Hours or even days of anguish of the little pilot were over. We were destroyed.

They decided to call her: Hope. The baby pilot whale that should have a high echo in the consciousness of the society in which we live.

A few days later the history of Hope came out in the media and caused a great wave of fury. Two months later, a report was published with Francis’s photos in National Geographic magazine questioning many aspects.

Many doubts arise: Could the euthanasia have been avoided? Are the animals sufficiently protected to avoid happening again? Are we doing enough to preserve of our marine fauna in Tenerife?

A debate began between biologists, activists and politicians to take action and prevent it from happening again. We all hope that the right decisions will be made.

Be Tenerife support the fight for the protection of these wonderful animals. That is why we inform to all our travelers that want to participate in whale watching and organize this wonderful experience with the correct company. A legalized company that  carries the quality certification of the tourism department of the goverment of Tenerife. A company that respects the animal in its habitat and that will share with our traveler the best information through the vast experience of its professionals biologists.


The noble North

Paul Richardson, Financial Times journalist. Be Tenerife traveler
Financial Times article March 2019

The house stood on a hillside above the inky-blue Atlantic, adrift in its own restless ocean of waving banana palms. The stone-and-whitewash hacienda had been here for more than three centuries, and the family of its owner more than five. The landscape’s ripe colours and fecund vegetation, and the softness of the air hereabouts, suggested somewhere in the Indian Ocean — Mauritius or Réunion, perhaps. But, no, I was in Spain.

I (and, I suspect, you) have never had much time for Tenerife. Until quite recently, I had tended to lump this Canary island in with the noisome costas of the Spanish peninsula: Tenerife, I believed, was Torremolinos for sun-starved Scandis craving a break from their long, dark Nordic winters.

What I know now is that there are two Tenerifes: south and north, well-trodden and much lesser- known. The southern part, sun-baked and arid, has the big scrappy resorts and sweeping dark- sand beaches that together account for roughly four-fifths of the island’s annual influx of 4.5m tourists.

The island’s north, however, is another dimension. The narrow coastal fringe running from the Teno mountains in the far west to the Anaga massif in the east rears up quickly into crags draped with sub-tropical greenery. Threaded along the coast road lie pretty, sleepy towns such as Garachico and La Orotava, with cobbled squares and colonial houses in volcanic stone. And dotted around the countryside are the haciendas where the old Tinerfeño families have their rural seats.

Families such as the del Hoyo-Solorzano, who arrived in 1494 as part of an invasion force that would defeat the indigenous Guanche tribes and claim Tenerife for Spain. But Alberto del Hoyo, current owner of Hacienda de las Cuatro Ventanas and the eighth generation of the family, is no tweedy aristocrat. On the day I meet him he cuts a dapper figure in a half-length coat fashionably worn with black patent-leather boots, his shaved head setting off lean, aquiline features.

Despite having left his island at 17 for university and work on the mainland, he was drawn back to Tenerife summer after summer as if by a powerful undertow. In 2011 he and his sister Ana inherited Cuatro Ventanas (“four windows”), the family estate on the coast near Los Realejos. Turning his back on his metropolitan life in Madrid, where he worked as a strategic consultant at advertising and marketing agency Ogilvy, del Hoyo moved back to oversee the transformation of the near-derelict hacienda into what, two years later, it eventually became: an upscale rural lodging whose six individual villas can either be rented separately or together (and with or without a full- time chef and chauffeur).

It was in 2018, however, that del Hoyo really got busy. Within the last 12 months he has acquired and restored two more historic north-coast haciendas (El Cardón and El Socorro), opening both to the public along the lines of Cuatro Ventanas. Late last year, he added three more properties to his portfolio — a grand aristocratic mansion, an architect-designed villa, and a townhouse — though these houses continue to belong to friends of his well-connected family, his role being that of a managing agent. The six properties are now marketed under del Hoyo’s newly created tourism brand, Be Tenerife, which also offers visitors a range of trips and experiences. Tenerife and “top- end” have rarely belonged in the same Google search — del Hoyo is changing all that.

My villa at Cuatro Ventanas, part of which had once been the hacienda’s formal drawing room, had beamed ceilings of Canarian pitch-pine, chandeliers and heirloom furniture, gently sloping floors that creaked under the feet, and shuttered windows that could be flung open to bring the Yves Klein blue of the ocean into the room. Walking sticks stood in an old umbrella stand. Beyond the house was a pool with a view down the coast and an exuberant subtropical garden with garish flowers like jungle birds, all created and tended by del Hoyo’s mother Maribel.

Picking his way among the jungle as he gave me a tour, del Hoyo confessed that he’d had no experience in hospitality before embarking on his project, but relied on an innate sense of what cultured and adventurous travellers would find appealing in his island. A crucial part of the remit was to show clients those aspects of Tenerife that you won’t find in the mainstream brochures. Which means adventures in local gastronomy, wine, art and history, hikes in the island’s wild upcountry, whale sightings from both above and below the water, and encounters with fascinating Tinerfeños who also happen to be del Hoyo’s friends.

Together we set out from Cuatro Ventanas for a spin around Be Tenerife’s other five properties, which are all located within a radius of 25km. Down a lane towards the sea through a forest of banana plants stood La Palapa, a sumptuous collection of three houses in a style combining elements of Africa, Bali and Provence. The houses were hidden away in a hectare of prodigiously fertile tropical gardens — the work of architect and landscaper, and La Palapa’s owner, Antonio del Real — which guests have entirely to themselves.

As a group, del Hoyo’s houses were notable for their diversity. At one end of the scale were the traditional haciendas done up in rustic-minimalist style (bare stone and polished concrete), like El Socorro — in a sensational setting above a beach where white waves break on black sand — and La Casa Blanca, a charming townhouse on the main square of Garachico.

At the other extreme, behind a grand gateway in the genteel town of La Orotava, lay the Suites de Franchy. This 19th-century mansion with the air of an English country house is owned by Mita Cologan, Marchioness of El Sauzal, who still lives in one wing of the sprawling property. Her son Conrado Brier took us through formal gardens into a succession of drawing rooms with marquetry floors and gold-framed mirrors, stopping to point out the family’s most precious relic: the original silk flag flown over the then newly conquered island of Fuerteventura in 1404. Alexander von Humboldt, the Prussian explorer and scientist, stayed in the house, said Brier, in order to examine the garden’s huge and ancient drago palm, which he memorably described as “the oldest being on Earth”.

The weekend spooled out into a series of wondrous landscapes, curious flavours and meetings with remarkable people. One day I headed west towards Buenavista, a snoozy country town with an out- on-a-limb feel where gentlemen in berets meditated on park benches and shop assistants smoked in the street in the morning sun. Another day, I turned north-east towards the mountains of Anaga, Tenerife’s most spectacular wilderness. Here, nature guide Nayra Sánchez led me on a hike through phantasmagorical forests of laurel which, said Sánchez, had existed here since before the Ice Age.

Before and after the walks and talks there were halts at some of the north’s most forward-thinking restaurants — such as Aristides in Garachico, where chef Omar Páez exemplifies the new interest in island products and fresh takes on Canarian classics such as salt-boiled potatoes with hot sauce and rabbit en salmorejo.

Over a fine lunch at Haydée in La Orotava, Augustin García of Tajinaste winery showed off his range of aromatic and mineral-rich wines made from old indigenous varieties such as Marmajuelo, Listán Negro and Baboso. Until recently, said García, you’d be more likely to find Rioja and Ribera than Tenerife on local wine lists, but a new crew of young oenologists had begun working with the island’s varied terroir to make startlingly original wines.

Pioneers such as García himself and Enrique Alfonso (whose vineyards, 1,450 metres up in the stark, cold highlands of Vilaflor, are some of the highest in Europe) had held a tasting for a prestigious group of 12 international Masters of Wine the day before my visit.

On a balmy evening that felt suddenly like summer, del Hoyo held a soirée at his house, a stunningly repurposed former fisherman’s shack on a remote headland jutting into the Atlantic. The gathering included two of the high-profile Tinerfeños that del Hoyo can call on to give added depth to his clients’ immersion in secret Tenerife: Rafael Rebolo, director of the Canarian Astrophysical Institute, and Francis Pérez, a photographer specialising in oceanography and wildlife — begetter of the heart-rending image of a turtle bundled up in plastic cord that won a World Press Photo award in 2017. Pérez told us of his up-close encounters with marine mammals in some of the planet’s remotest waters. Meanwhile the stars came out, the sea pounded away below the house, and the Tajinaste white flowed freely.

Postscript: at the airport next morning, del Hoyo handed me a package in brown paper tied with string. I unwrapped it at home to find a large photograph of an Ethiopian Suri warrior wielding a knife that shone brightly in the darkness: a beautiful, if unsettling image. Del Hoyo had been too modest to tell me about his double life as a photographer whose “Mystic Valley” series won him Discovery of the Year at the 2018 Neutral Density Awards. His Pics 4 Pills scheme donates profits from the sale of his work to fund medical aid efforts among tribal communities in the Omo Valley. The man, like his beloved island, was a fount of surprises.

Details: Paul Richardson was a guest of Be Tenerife. Villas for two at Las Cuatro Ventanas start at €130 per night; the main house at La Palapa sleeps four, from €325 per night; doubles at the Suites de Franchy cost from €175


Fairytale accommodation

Marta Carriedo, Be Tenerife traveler
Nov 2016

I love the Canary Islands! As I have said on more than one occasion I feel half Canarian and I like that we have these kind of paradises in Spain, a few hours by plane from any city.

I was able to enjoy a wonderful week in Tenerife, an island that I had not visited since I was a child.

This was our accommodation: amazing location at Hacienda Cuatro Ventanas located at Socorro’s beach. I was able to enjoy true pleasures that we often forget with our rhythm of life: eating well, sitting to enjoy the sunset, without any hurry, to be in calm, in peace. But above all what I liked was this infinity pool at the edge of the cliff surrounded by banana trees. I’ve seen a few beautiful locations like this.

I also loved the typical island food like the mojo picón, the fresh fish, or the most typical dessert: bienmesabe. The Canarian banana was of course also in my daily “diet”. But the best thing about this trip talking about gastronomy was the menu we tried at the restaurant of Michelin Star El Rincon de Juan Carlos: I could never imagine that with the usual ingredients you could make dishes and mixes so different and delicious. Amazing.

On the other hand I could live unique experiences, like riding a helicopter for the first time. Seeing the cliff of Los Gigantes or the Teide (volcano) from the heights but so close, it is really impressive!

I end up insisting that we do not need to go out of Spain to enjoy small paradises like this. We have it very close in our own country. I invite you to visit our Canary Islands!

By the way, these amazing views are in a secret place, the house of our host the Be Tenerife founder who invite us to a wine testing experience, and of course I could easily stay there if not forever, I wouldn’t mind living there for a while. After a long road of stones and sand you finally arrive to this paradise in the middle of nowhere, at the edge of a cliff, where you can only hear the sound of the waves. Speechless.