Hiking in Tenerife

As a Brit, hiking is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Tenerife. It’s definitely known more for resort holidays and Brits abroad. While this type of holiday or tourist dominates the south of the island, it is still possible to find pockets of hiking. Elsewhere on the island you are much more likely to find people that have come to Tenerife for outdoor adventures. For example, 3 million people visit the volcano each year. The north of the island is also a hotspot for hiking because of the Anaga rural park. This part of the island is particularly popular among Germans, to the point that you will find a lot of the signs in Anaga in Spanish, English and German. While hiking isn’t the top of my list of activities, I did a fair bit while I was in Tenerife and enjoyed it a lot! I’m here to share some of my wisdom, both from personal experience and from what I picked up while working in the hostel. For example, I didn’t climb Mount Teide in my time on the island but I gathered lots of information from the people that did.

Mount Teide

The view of Teide from the foot of Montaña Guajara

Mount Teide is the dormant volcano at the centre of the island of Tenerife. It is the highest point in Spain and also the highest point in the islands of the Atlantic. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. It is the most visited natural attraction in all of Spain as well as the most visited national park in Spain and Europe and the eighth most visited in the world! It’s a popular place! Because of that there are certain restrictions around climbing to the peak that I’ll get into. There are also some controversial plans to restrict entry to the national park as a whole. The aim is to improve conservation by restricting cars and instead implementing guided tours by bus, similar to the situation in Timanfaya national park in Lanzarote. However, there is some resistance which I think is very valid, especially when it comes to restricting access for Canarians as well as just tourists.

The main Mount Teide hike via Montaña Blanca is just under 9km long and takes most people 5-6 hours. It has some very steep stretches but the main difficulty comes from the altitude change, starting from 1,367m and finishing at 3,718m. There are a couple of different options when it comes to climbing Mount Teide.

Teide with the Boca Tauce lava field in the foreground

By day: 

  • Mount Teide is in a national park and for conservation reasons the number of people allowed to summit per day is limited to 200. Because of this you need a permit to reach the very top between the hours of 9am and 5pm. It is free to reserve but needs to be applied for 2-3 months in advance as slots fill up fast.
  • You can still climb Teide without a permit but will have to stop 200m from the peak. There are a lot of hiking trails around here so if you want to hike the volcano but don’t have the permit it can still be worthwhile, as long as you don’t mind missing out on the last little bit!
  • Climbing by day in the summer can be very hot and the sun is very intense without many areas of shade during the ascent. 

By night: 

  • Because of the permit needed to summit during the day, many people choose to climb Teide by night. Starting around 2am will get you to the summit for around 7am in time to watch the sunrise over the clouds, an incredible experience. 
  • Compared to hiking during the day, it gets very cold on the volcano at night. You will need lots of layers and a head torch to light your way. 
  • You must have left the summit by around 8am to start your descent. This is when you will get to actually enjoy the views now that there’s daylight to see them!
  • Some people stay at Hotel Parador near the start of the trail so that they are nearby for starting to climb in the middle of the night. There is also the option of staying the night at the Refugio Altavista at an altitude of 3260m. You climb to this point the day before (the refuge opens at 5pm) and then set out for the summit in the morning. It takes less than two hours to reach the top from the refuge. Note that there is a kitchen but you must bring your own food and there are toilets but no showers.

Teide also has a cable car that will take you up to less than 200m below the peak. It starts from La Caldera de las Cañadas (the crater surrounding Teide) at 2356m. There is always the option of climbing up and taking the cable car down or vice versa, or taking it both ways if you want to maximise your time on the island. It takes 15 minutes and costs €38 for a return ticket. A few things to note when it comes to the cable car. If the wind is too strong, they will close the cable car. I have also heard of some people having more difficulty with the altitude when taking the cable car. Issues with altitude are something to be cautious about in general as it can make the climb more challenging than it would be otherwise but there is less time to acclimatise when taking the cable car.

A few notable attractions on Teide are its shadow and the observatory. The shadow that Teide casts on the sea is the largest of its kind in the world. It is projected more than 40km from the summit, reaching all the way to the islands of La Gomera in the morning and Gran Canaria in the evening. Because of Teide’s height and position above the clouds most days, it is also the perfect place to have an observatory. Teide is a great place in general for stargazing.

Montaña Guajara

Next up is an alternative to hiking Teide itself. Montaña Guajara is a much smaller mountain on the other side of La Caldera de las Cañadas that looks over to the volcano. It has some of the best panoramic views in all of the Teide national park, in my humble opinion. If Teide seems a bit intimidating, as it did to me, if you don’t have the time or if you have any other hesitation about hiking Teide, Montaña Guajara is a great option. Some of the other volunteers and I were looking for a hike to do near Teide and this was recommended to us by our all knowing receptionist Karen.

The full Montaña Guajara trail is a roughly 10km loop and takes 5-6 hours to complete. The hike is rated as medium difficulty but has some very steep sections and is generally covered in scree so can be a bit slippy. I wouldn’t say you need any fancy shoes though, even specific hiking shoes. I just had trainers and one of my friends did this hike in a pair of chunky Filas (not your average hiking shoes for anyone that doesn’t know). Montaña Guajara is a peak of 2,718m but the ascent starts from 2,100m at the Cañada Blanca visitor centre. There is very little chance for shade on your way up so take a hat, sunglasses and lots of suncream. Don’t forget to reapply! Also take more water than you think you’ll need, generally a good strategy for hiking in hot weather. There is a small cafe at the visitor centre but we brought our own picnic lunch of sandwiches and salad to keep us going.

Hiking buddies!

On the practical side of things, the easiest way to access this hike is if you have your own car. Drive up to the Cañada Blanca visitor centre and there is a car park there. This is also the place to head if you want to go to the Roques de Garcia, another popular area to hike around but not one I’ve been to. But fear not! If you have no car this is still very doable as I was in this situation. Coming from the south of the island, bus 342 leaves from Costa Adeje bus station at 9.15am and will take you up to the Teide national park. There is only one of these buses a day so be there a little early to make sure you get a seat. It will take about 1h40 to get to El Parador where you should get off, right by the Cañada Blanca visitor centre. There is also only one return bus that will reach El Parador around 15.40, giving you about three and a half hours to enjoy the hike. Unfortunately this isn’t long enough to complete the whole loop but we worked our way up, taking lots of breaks and stopping to eat and enjoy the view. We still made it to the ridge below the peak itself before we had to head back down and the views are unparalleled. It’s hard to imagine that they could get much better from further up.

I would recommend heading into the visitor centre before getting started. They are able to tell you exactly which trails you need to follow to get to Montaña Guajara. There are lots of routes that start from this same area so better to ask and be sure that you don’t start off on the wrong one. From what I remember (but take this with a pinch of salt), to go anti-clockwise round the loop you start on trail #4 (Siete Cañadas), join #31 briefly and then #5 will take you to the top. If you do want to carry on down the other side, follow #15. During the climb you will be able to see over to Teide in all her glory. Those with eagle eyes can spot the cable car, as well as the Roques de García below and the lava field at Boca Tauce off to the side. Depending on the weather you might also see the ‘sea of clouds’, when the cloud line sits at 1600m which is well below the altitude of Montaña Guajara. 


Looking down on the starting point of the Masca Gorge hike and the gorge itself

Possibly the most famous hike on the island other than Teide, the Barranco de Masca hike is another one that I have not personally done but gathered plenty of information on during my time on Tenerife. Masca is a hamlet with a current population of 90 nestled in the Teno hills on the north west coast of Tenerife. The town is a popular attraction in its own right and somewhere I visited more than once for its incredible scenery. It is known as the ‘lost’ or ‘forgotten’ village by some which you will understand when you see how well it has assimilated into the hillside. It is accessible by car down the treacherously steep and winding road down from Santiago del Teide or from Garachico in the north via Los Silos. Favoured by bus tours, it is best to visit the town earlier in the morning or late in the afternoon. 

Masca’s main attraction is the Barranco de Masca (Masca Gorge). The gorge is 5km long and descends to the ocean and then returns back to the town, a hike of 10km in total. In total it should take no more than 7 hours although it is possible in less. Previously you could hike down the trail to Masca beach and take a ferry to Los Gigantes, past the cliffs of the same name. I think this would be so cool and you would get the best of both worlds, the downhill part of the Masca hike and then the chance to see the incredible Los Gigantes cliffs from a new angle. Unfortunately this is no longer possible as the Masca jetty is currently closed to the public. It has been this way since the start of the pandemic but there is hope that it will be open in the near future!

If you want to hike the gorge, you will need to book a slot. Currently the barranco is only open on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, from 8.30am to 11am March-Oct and 8.30am to 10.30am Oct-March. The trail closes at 6pm all year so you must have returned to the start point by this time. Because of the limited opening times, spaces book up well in advance. The trail can also be closed due to adverse weather in which case you can change the date of your reservation or get a refund. You will need to arrive 30 minutes before your reserved slot and have a piece of ID with you.

The hike has a fairly high difficulty with rocky ground and slippery sections along the narrow path which means there are certain restrictions for hikers before you are allowed to enter. You must wear closed toe hiking boots with ankle support and deep lugs, indentations that improve grip. If you arrive wearing normal trainers or open toed shoes you will be denied access to the trail. You will also be given a helmet by trail staff. Currently it is free to hike the Masca trail but soon tickets will be €8 for residents of Tenerife and €16 for visitors. The money will go to conservation and safety of the gorge. 

Barranco del Infierno

Last but not least, we have Barranco del Infierno. Just as Montaña Guajara is a good alternative to hiking Teide, this is a great and much less popular alternative to Masca. Barranco del Infierno means Hell’s Gorge and is located in the town of Adeje in the south of Tenerife. Adeje is an interesting town to visit because other than the barranco, there are no other tourist attractions so it’s filled with locals. If you want a slice of every day Tenerife, Adeje can give you some insight.

The total route there and back is about 6.5km with minimal ascent or descent. It takes about 2.5 hours to complete at a very leisurely pace or as little as 1 hour if you really pace it. Like Masca, you must reserve a slot in advance. However, because it is a less popular trail it is possible to do this the day before or even the day of. You can enter the trail between 8.30am and 11.30am and it closes at 2.30pm at which time you must have exited the trail. Barranco del Infierno is also a protected area so tickets cost €11 for visitors and €4.50 for residents. 

Made it to the waterfall!

Because the level of difficulty is low for this hike, you don’t need to have proper walking boots. Trainers are fine but they cannot be open-toed. You will also be given a helmet to wear. The hike ends at a waterfall but don’t hold your breath. It isn’t anything too impressive, especially in summer when it is rather dry. The real views are as you make your way down the gorge. A top insider tip, end your hike like I did at the Restaurante Otelo right next to the starting point. Try the chicken or the rabbit for some typical Canarian food! 

Bonus – Anaga Rural Park

This photo doesn’t do justice to the spectacular scenery in the park!

Anaga Rural Park makes up the most north eastern part of the island, what could be described as the panhandle if looking at Tenerife on a map. It is also the oldest part of the island, having been created 8 million years ago from a volcanic eruption. It is full of craggy peaks and deep valleys covered in lush green vegetation. This will really show you the stark differences between the north and the south. In the north you need jumpers and a rain jacket while the south is shorts and flip flops!

Because Anaga is the furthest point on the island from where I was staying down in Costa Adeje (still only an hour by car but closer to three by bus) I only got to visit once. It was combined with a visit to a nearby beach so I didn’t have a lot of time to spend there. Because of this I sought out a pretty short hike just to get a feel for Anaga. I was recommended to head to Cruz del Carmen which is a viewpoint with some trails around it. On a clear day you can see all the way to Teide as well as the towns of La Vega Lagunera and La Laguna. This is a good place to visit in general, not just for the views but also because there is a visitor centre where you can get a lot of information on the park.

The view from Cruz del Carmen

There is a trail loop that leaves from Cruz del Carmen called El Sendero de los Sentidos (the Trail of the Senses). There are a few options of different lengths and difficulties but I decided to do the longest one because it was still only supposed to take an hour. I say supposed to because, even with a group of six people, we could not figure out the right route to take. We ended up doing the same section two or three times thinking we were missing a turn to get on to the rest of the trail but that turned out to be all there was and it was just shorter than we expected! If you don’t have a lot of time to do one of the longer hikes in the park, this is a good option so that you can still get a taste for it.

El Sendero de los Sentidos

While I was in Anaga I also visited the viewpoint of Pico del Inglés that has a view across the capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the mountains of Anaga and Mount Teide. Unfortunately, the clouds and rain had closed in the day I was there so you could not see very much at all! We also ventured down from the mountains to the northern coast with the aim of reaching Playa Benijo, supposedly one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. However, I was the one driving and being on the right hand side was difficult enough but then the road got a little too narrow and challenging for my liking! Instead we stopped by Playa Almaciga and ate in Casa Pepe where I had the best octopus I’ve ever had in my life. I still think about it to this day…

Anaga Rural Park covers 140km² so there is plenty more to discover. The town of Taganana, on the road down to Benijo, has preserved its traditional Canarian culture better than many towns on the island and is also home to Las Vueltas de Taganana, a hiking loop of moderate difficulty that takes just under 4 hours to complete. There is also a hiking loop that will take you from the hamlet of Taborno to Roque de Taborno, known as ‘Tenerife’s Matterhorn’, which takes about 2 hours. There is El Pijaral, Tenerife’s Enchanted Forest (Bosque Encantado), a laurisilva or laurel forest in the south of Anaga. It is a protected area so you will need a permit to enter and while it is free, only 45 people are allowed to enter each day so spaces fill up fast.

Hopefully this has shown you a new side to Tenerife and given you itchy feet to get out there and go hiking! As I’ve said, some of these hikes I have already done but the rest are still on my to do list!

Natural Pools in Tenerife

Welcome back to another Tenerife blog! There’s so much to share from here so there will be a few more coming up soon and then probably some littered throughout the rest of the year and maybe even beyond, who knows? Today we’ve got a guide to some of the natural pools around the island which were some of my favourite things to visit while I was there. I’m starting in reverse order and finishing with my favourite but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the others too!


The Garachico natural pools are probably the most famous in Tenerife. The town of Garachico is a lovely town in typical Canarian fashion with picturesque streets and a lovely central plaza. It used to have one of the most important ports on the island, exporting Malmsey wine and other produce. This was until Teide, the volcano at the centre of Tenerife, erupted for several weeks in 1706. Lava flowed down into Garachico, partially destroying the town and decimating the port. However, it was this lava flow that created not just one but a series of natural pools which are now the most popular attraction and draw a lot of tourists to the town.

Garachico is in the north west of Tenerife, about an hour driving from Costa Adeje in the south (where my hostel was) and the same from Santa Cruz, the capital, in the east. The pools are in an area of the town called El Caletón and are well sign posted but if in doubt, just head towards the sea!

The pools

The pools are actually ‘natural’ (you’ll see what I mean when I talk about the next pool), being formed out of the lava that flowed down from Teide through the town. They have the look of rock pools but bigger and a bit more sheltered at times. It obviously depends on the tide and the weather as to the condition of the pools. It was overcast when I went and I would say the tide was at a medium level which is supposedly the best time to see the pool. Even if the sea was a little choppy, the arrangement of the rocks meant that the pools were much calmer, there being no tide in them. Because they are the most well known pools on the island they can be quite busy, especially the area closest to the parking and restaurant. If you take the time to head a bit further in, you can find some smaller but much quieter pools all to yourself!


The pools are near enough to the town itself to be within a few minutes walk from plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops. There is also a restaurant and bar on the lava itself, right next to the pools. While the pools themselves are natural, paths have been created that wind through them so it’s easy to walk around. You don’t have to risk life and limb scrambling over slippy or spiky rocks just to find a good spot. A set of metal steps have been added to the sides of the bigger pools so that you can enter and exit gracefully, should you so wish.


A little bit of advice now, based on my experiences here. I didn’t see any changing facilities, not to say that they don’t exist, but it might be a good idea to come ready for a dip or with a good towel for a quick poolside change. Like I said before, if it seems busy, carry on a little to find a quieter spot. Also beware of the weather. There are some lifeguards near the larger pools and if the water is too rough, which it can be in autumn or winter, the pools might be closed. One more thing, and maybe the most important! After swimming in one of the smaller, quieter pools for a while, a local guy went in and pulled a sea urchin from right where we’d been swimming! There were several more around so be careful!

Other info

A really nice idea would be to combine a visit to the natural pools at Garachico with some of the other towns in the area. If you are coming from Santa Cruz, you could stop at San Cristobal de La Laguna, considered the cultural capital of the Canaries, and La Orotava, a stylish town known for Casa de los Balcones. If you are coming from Costa Adeje or the south in general, combine a trip to Garachico with a slight detour to see the cliffs at Los Gigantes and drop by Masca, a picturesque hamlet nestled in the mountains.

Los Gigantes

Los Gigantes is the name of both the huge cliffs that tower along a portion of the west coast of Tenerife and the town that sits below them. Los Gigantes, or ‘the Giants’, reach a height of 500-800m but are not the only attraction around the town. Los Gigantes also has its very own natural pool, officially called Charco de Isla Cangrejo (Crab Island Pool) but more colloquially referred to just as Los Gigantes, where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the cliff. Los Gigantes is about a 40 minute drive north of Costa Adeje and could easily be combined with a trip to Garachico if you wanted to make a day, or even just an afternoon, of it! 

The pool

I really like this pool despite it being the least ‘natural’ of the three on this list. What I mean by that is that even though the formation of the pool itself is natural, as is the area surrounding it, there is a concrete wall that has been put up to shelter it from the waves. To be fair, this is what makes it accessible in the first place so I can’t complain too much! There is a small car park near the entrance but also plenty of street parking around as well. It’s a short descent down some steps to get to the pool but from the top you get the most magnificent view of the cliffs of Los Gigantes as well as your first peek at the pool down below. The pool is super fun because at certain times and in certain spots it is super calm so you can just chill but if you go closer to the wall that I mentioned, you can wait for the waves to come crashing in! While in general I’m pretty satisfied with everything I got to do while I was in Tenerife, if there was one thing I wish I had done, it’s go to this pool to watch the sunset. The sun comes down right by the cliffs so it can be a really beautiful spot to spend the evening.

Imagine having views of these cliffs while swimming!


Something to bear in mind is that there are no facilities at this pool. There are steps to get you down to the level of the pool but after that there are no special paths or anything. There is nowhere to buy food or drinks either so bring snacks and water (and maybe beer?) with you. Shade is also limited depending on the time of day and flat spots are few and far between. Think about bringing an umbrella but at least a cap and lots of suncream as well as a thick towel to sit on and flip flops or water shoes for walking about.


If I have some advice for this pool, it’s be careful! There are a few more risks here in terms of safety. For one, the entrance into the pool is very slippery and rocky so like I said above, water shoes are a good idea unless you can just tough it out. On a more serious note, the waves crashing over the wall into the pool can be fun but also dangerous. If the tide is high and particularly powerful, it’s advisable to avoid that side of the pool. There have been several accidents and tragically even a few deaths so this is something to take seriously. If the weather isn’t great, by all means go and enjoy the view which will still be spectacular but maybe give the swim a miss. 

Los Abrigos

Last but not least – Las Piscinas Naturales de los Abrigos! This is the least well known of these three pools. There’s not even a sign on the main road, just a lay-by for those in the know. This means that it’s much quieter as well and there’s nowhere near as many people as Garachico and even Los Gigantes. To find the pool get yourself to the town of Los Abrigos, towards the southern tip of Tenerife. From there take the road out of the town towards El Médano until you see a layby just before a banana plantation. It will take just a couple of minutes in a car or less than 15 minutes by foot. From this layby you head towards the ocean and you’ll find the pool!

The pool

The pool is actually pretty rectanglular shaped but it’s completely natural, nothing man-made about it! It’s very deep, although the exact depth depends on how high the tide is. When it’s low tide, the pool is full and some waves will make it over the barrier of rocks and slip inside. However when the tide is high, the water swells to the point that it crashes in and significantly raises the level of the water every few seconds. It was super relaxing just watching the water flow in and out, like watching the ocean breathing. This is my favourite pool that I visited. There’s something about the way that the water moved that kept me entranced. Whether I was actually in the water or just watching from the side, I found it captivating.


To keep it short – there are none. Other than a set of metal steps to help you in and out of the pool, there is nothing there. Bring towels, water, snacks, whatever you might want for your afternoon at the pool. Saying that, you aren’t far from Los Abrigos and if you are walking from the town centre you will pass a supermarket where you can pick things up. There’s also a great arepa restaurant in Los Abrigos called Arepera Maracay!


Some advice for this pool now. I have been both when the tide is really high and the water level raises and lowers massively with every wave and also when the tide is lower and the water level is much more stable. Personally I prefer it when the tide is high because I think the sensation of the water lifting and lowering you is really fun and unlike anything else I’ve experienced. However, with that you have to be more careful. If you aren’t a strong swimmer or aren’t that comfortable in the water then it might be better to go at low tide. I would also suggest taking some goggles so that you can dive down into the depths of the pool. There is a fun little tunnel into a smaller pool to the side that you can try to swim through if you dare (although better in low tide or you will get thrown into the roof of the tunnel as the water rises at high tide). There are also plenty of fish to see in the pool because it is filled with water that has crashed in from the ocean just a few metres away and there are crabs scuttling up and down the rock walls of the pool!

Other info

As you descend from the roadside to the pool itself, you will pass a series of caves in the rocky hillside as you make your way down to sea level. There are more caves if you take a walk along the coastline and the more eagle eyed among you might spot signs of life in them. Towels hanging outside, handmade signs and even some of the people that live there! I don’t know a lot about this community but it seems to be made up of some people that live there more permanently and some who come to experience it for a short time. It also seems to be a choice for most people living in the caves, rather than any kind of economic necessity. From the outside looking in, it has a very bohemian, hippy energy. The caves near Los Abrigos are not the only inhabited caves on the island, there are also people living in caves near the town of La Caleta, further north along the western coast from Los Abrigos.

While you are in the area, you could combine a visit to las piscinas naturales de Los Abrigos with spending a few hours in the town of El Médano, just a ten minute drive from Los Abrigos. On Tenerife, El Médano is synonymous with windsurfing. You will feel why the second you arrive in the town. It is noticeably windier than anywhere else I’ve been on the island (except from one random stretch of highway on the way to Santa Cruz. I have no explanation for this but I always hated driving on that stretch of road). El Médano is a popular spot for tourists but a different breed of tourists than you will find saturating the resorts and British pubs of Costa Adeje or Las Americas. It is a laid back place that welcomes people who would consider themselves travellers rather than tourists. There are plenty of hostels, unique bars, cute cafes and independent shops. Try windsurfing, visit La Tejita beach or make your way up the Montaña Roja, a hill on the edge of town at the end of Tenerife’s longest beach.

Other pools

There are of course other natural pools in Tenerife. I didn’t even scratch the surface of them. A quick Google search will reveal them to you but some of the names I’ve come across most frequently are Charco de los Chocos in Los Silos and Charco de la Laja in San Juan de la Rambla (charco being a Spanish word for pool). Wherever you go, it’s sure to be incredible!

Workaway: Expectation vs. Reality

This feels like a good point to compare what I experienced in La Tortuga with what might have been expected from the Workaway profile. I’ve explained to you what both parts involved, how I found the hostel on Workaway and what it was actually like working in La Tortuga. I will preface this by saying that I wasn’t disappointed in any part of the experience and this isn’t because anything was different from how it was advertised. I just think it would be useful to compare the two. It might help anyone thinking about using Workaway in the future to set their expectations when reading hosts’ profiles so they can find the right one for them.


‘If you’re looking for fun, comfort and relaxation, then we are the place for you!’ This is the opening line of La Tortuga’s profile on Workaway and I think that’s a perfect encapsulation of what it is all about. The hostel is depicted as a harmonious place of gathering for all people from all places and that checks out. It also says that this ‘is not a party hostel, instead, wants to offer our helpers and travellers a comfortable, homely place to relax in where they can meet other like-minded people and as a base to explore the rest of the island.’ It’s definitely not a party hostel in the sense that people are not getting drunk, blasting music and partying every night. There are definitely a lot of fun times, especially on Wednesdays for the weekly trip to the flamenco bar, and in the evening the terrace is often filled with people chatting over a few beers. You are more likely to find someone strumming away on guitar than techno being blasted from a speaker. However there is a strict rule of no noise after 11pm, whether that comes from people or music.

Hammocks > all other seating


When it comes to the duties and responsibilities for volunteers there was a little bit of conflicting information on the profile. At one point it says volunteers are expected to work five hours a day, five days a week and elsewhere it says 25 hours over the week with three days off including one at the weekend. While neither of these is exactly accurate the second description is closer to what I ended up doing. During the time I was at La Tortuga volunteers worked four days a week which usually amounted to around 25 hours in total, give or take a few. However we weren’t guaranteed a day off at the weekend. I would say that this doesn’t really matter much though. When everyone else around you is on holiday, weekdays and weekends have less meaning. If there is a specific day you want off, all you have to do is ask! For example, my sister came to visit Tenerife for a few days and I was able to request not to work on those days, I just had to do it before the end of the week before.

The duties themselves were described as ‘cleaning (to a good standard), help with guests/reception and help with internet/computers.’ As I’ve said, not everyone will get trained on reception and I didn’t really have to do anything with the internet or computers other than trying (and failing) to get a livestream of a football match onto the TV. I wasn’t sure what cleaning ‘to a good standard’ meant and in my interview with the manager, Ale asked me if I cleaned to a British standard or not. I had no idea what that meant so I replied that I would clean to whatever standard he wanted me too! Turns out this was a good answer because the British are apparently not known for their high cleaning standards, unlike the Germans for example. Also unmentioned on the profile were some of the alternatives to the normal shift, where you might be tasked with the gardening for the week or asked to lead a group trip to the flamenco bar or to watch sunset on the beach.

Not too bad when going to a flamenco bar is part of the job!

Living Conditions

All that is mentioned on the profile about accommodation is that it will be in a 4-bed shared staff dormitory. This is accurate. The volunteer quarters in La Tortuga are in the main house and take up the lower level floor, basically the basement. There are two rooms here, one with an en suite bathroom as well as the storage room for cleaning products and kitchen supplies. Both rooms have two sets of bunk beds each so four people to a room, eight volunteers in total. Even though only one of the rooms has a bathroom, all the volunteers share it. It might sound like a lot, eight people sharing one bathroom, but it was nice to have one that was only for volunteers. One thing about La Tortuga is bathrooms were not plentiful so not having to share with guests was a blessing. I was in the room that wasn’t attached to the en suite so I had to go in and out of the other room to use it. At times this was annoying because if it was late at night after some people were already asleep or in the morning before a shift, I worried about waking people up. In those situations and when I didn’t need a shower, I would take my stuff to the toilet by reception and get ready there. Other people were less bothered and would just quietly go into the other room to use our bathroom. Even if I had to navigate that situation, I still preferred being in the other room because being in the basement, the rooms were warm enough as it was, I didn’t need the heat coming off the shower as well. We did have a fan in each room but after a certain point it’s just moving the hot air around.

Bathroom inconvenience aside, the rooms are clean because they are part of the morning cleaning routine. Whether they are tidy is more up to you and your roommates. There is plenty of space to unpack your clothes and there are also small lockers if you want a secure place for your valuables. In general, I didn’t actually spend a lot of time in my room other than sleeping. Obviously all the socialising happened upstairs in the common areas and even when I was just chilling, I would use the common areas when they were quiet in middle of the day when all the guests were out. Saying that, it was nice to hide downstairs for those times when things got a little too much or you just needed an hour without someone asking you a question.


Often Workaway volunteers are compensated with accommodation and maybe some food. When it comes to food, La Tortuga’s Workaway profile is a little vague. ‘Breakfast and BBQ night included.’ That’s all it says. In reality it’s so much more. Breakfast refers to what we put out for guests at the start of a shift – we can also help ourselves to the tea, coffee and cake. Volunteers also have their own fridge in the storage room that is filled with vegetables provided by the hostel as well as a stockpile of rice, pasta, bread and sliced cheese and ham. The kitchens are already stocked with things like oil and spices for cooking. Volunteers are also able to have free beers from the little bar behind reception, definitely a big money saver for us!

If you wanted to, you could survive entirely on the food that was provided for us and not spend any money on food at all. However it does get a bit repetitive. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be a cheese toastie but even I got a little sick of them after almost two months (shoutout to our daily sandwichito, as we would call them). Because of this, most people would supplement with their own groceries. I would buy things like yoghurt and granola bars for breakfast, fresh bread, crisps, hummus and nuts for snacking and then some things to pad out our meals like sweetcorn, chickpeas or tins of tuna. We had a volunteer-only fridge in the area off the kitchen that also held the washing machines and we could keep our personal food here. When people were cooking and wanted something extra, it wasn’t uncommon for them to raid the baskets of the other volunteers. Ask for forgiveness, not permission I guess? But in all seriousness, it just worked like that. Everyone was always happy to offer up whatever they had and it was all contributing to a shared meal for everyone.

As for the BBQ night, this was unfortunately a casualty of covid. It used to be that every Wednesday the weekly trip to the flamenco bar was prefaced with a big barbecue in the garden. It was stopped due to the pandemic and was still on hold while I was there. However, for anyone looking to stay at the hostel in the future, it has since started up again! Just because the organised barbecue was on hold, doesn’t mean that the grill didn’t get dusted off by guests and volunteers alike in a more informal way. We had a great fish and squid barbecue one night and even without involving the barbecue there were some great group meals involving the whole hostel. The photo below is actually from my very first evening when everyone ate together (yes, that is a watermelon filled with sangria) and one time a guest cooked tacos for everyone!

You as a Volunteer

Finally, La Tortuga is obviously looking for a certain type of person to come and volunteer with them. According to their Workaway profile ‘helpers should be friendly and enjoy meeting and dealing with people. To be part of our team, you definitely need a positive attitude to life!’ I would say that this is more important than any skills in cleaning or relevant experience. Those kinds of things can be taught but if you aren’t an outgoing person who is happy to talk to anyone and everyone and willing to go the extra mile to help and make people feel welcome, you might not be the right fit. They also specify that they want ‘helpers who can stay for at least for 1 month, ideally someone with a high level of English and medium level of Spanish.’ This comes from a more practical point of view. If someone only wants to stay for a week or two, it’s barely worth training them. By the time you feel comfortable with your duties and know what you’re doing, it would be time for you to leave.

As for the languages, despite the hostel being on a Spanish island, English is definitely more important. My main goal in working there was to improve my Spanish but I did that mostly through speaking with the other volunteers. There were a couple of weeks in the middle of my stay when the whole group spoke Spanish and English so we would default into Spanish when working or eating meals together. I loved it because the Spanish that we were speaking was not homogenous at all. Obviously there were a lot of people for whom Spanish was a second language but even among the native speakers it varied wildly from Castilian Spanish to Argentinian Spanish to Chilean Spanish. If you want to learn or practise your Spanish the volunteers are your best bet, although it does just depend on the people that are there at the same time as you. There are some Spanish or Latin American guests but you are actually much more likely to speak English than Spanish with the majority of people staying in the hostel. I did also get the chance to speak quite a lot of French and even Chinese a few times! Other languages are not a necessity though. Speaking Spanish to some level is obviously an advantage but there were volunteers who spoke their own language and English, no Spanish at all, who still were great members of the team!


Now I want to break down my spending while I was there, just as I did for my travels in Germany and Austria earlier in the summer. If you are thinking about doing something like Workaway, this can give you an idea of the funds you need to be able to do it. Workaway is a great way to save money on long term travel but that’s not to say that you don’t need some to keep you going. Obviously it might differ depending on what is on offer from your particular hosts but this could be a starting place when trying to figure it out.

  • Transport – €271.85 (mostly €1-6 taxis but also car hire for four days, €150 total. This also doesn’t include flights on and off the island.)
  • Eating out – €227.95
  • Drinking – €127 (going out once a week, mostly €2 beer and €6 mojitos)
  • Groceries – €214.67
  • Activities – €375 (6 scuba dives, paragliding and entrance to a hike)
  • Miscellaneous – €71 (small souvenirs and petrol for car hire)

Total – €1282.47

To give you an idea of the amount of money I saved doing this through Workaway, the price for the accommodation I stayed in would have been €1173! That’s 51 nights in a €23/night dormitory with a shared bathroom at La Tortuga. And that’s without speaking about the money saved on food. You can see that I still spent a good bit of money on groceries and while I wasn’t eating out a lot, a couple of meals a week, I wasn’t being super stingy with it either so it would be possible to spend less on these two categories. Exchanging work for accommodation and food worked out exactly as I’d hoped. I saved so much money on accommodation and food that I was able to spend more on activities and eating out. There’s no way I would be able to spend almost two months in Tenerife any other way!

A beautiful watercolour painting of the garden done by one of the volunteers, Laura!

Working in La Tortuga Hostel

In my last blog I covered how I used Workaway to find a hostel in Tenerife where I spent just under two months volunteering. In this blog I’m going to take you through what that was like, what a normal day looked involved and just generally the reality of working in a hostel. Overall I had a great experience so a lot of what is to come will be positive. However I will be honest about some of the challenges and the more difficult aspects of it as well.

La Tortuga Hostel

First let me introduce you to my lovely hostel, La Tortuga, located in the south of Tenerife in an area called Costa Adeje. In this area saturated by classic Brits abroad and all inclusive resorts, La Tortuga is a bohemian haven. La Tortuga has a laid back vibe, not a party hostel by any means but a very sociable place to stay. The overwhelming majority of guests are solo travellers which results in a lovely atmosphere where everyone is open to talking to each other and becoming friends. In the evening you often find people making plans for the next day with people they didn’t know twenty minutes before. This includes volunteers who are very much a part of this ever evolving community in the hostel. That’s what it feels like to stay in La Tortuga and is very much an aim of the managers and all the staff, for all guests to feel like they are being welcomed into a new family.

With four dormitories and ten private rooms, the total occupancy of the hostel is about 35 guests with 8 volunteers. There are also two full time receptionists and the two managers of the hostel who are all instrumental in keeping things running smoothly. The hostel is actually spread over three houses: the main house (known as Tortuga 1 or T1) with the reception, the principal socialising areas, a kitchen, most of the dorms, a shared bathroom and shared toilet and the housing for volunteers; the secondary house (T2), a mirror image of the main house but quieter and more tranquil with mostly private rooms; and the third house (T3) that has three private rooms and it’s own kitchen and terrace. T3 is the top floor of the building on the main street whereas T1 and T2 are tucked behind so it has a feeling of privacy and seclusion. The hostel’s location is in a more residential part of Costa Adeje, removed from the many large hotels and all inclusive resorts that are common in the town, but only a short walk from supermarkets, restaurants and most importantly the beach. If you want to go further afield there are also bus stops in the immediate vicinity.

Something unique about the hostel was that it had a Whatsapp group that all guests could join and that volunteers were part of as well. I think this was a really nice touch that allowed the hostel to have a real sense of community. It was a great way for people to find others to go to dinner with or open up their plans to more people. That is how a lot of the volunteers would fill their free days. If we weren’t working we were free to do whatever we wanted so lots of people, myself included, would go out and explore with guests. I had a very useful habit of making friends with people who had hired cars, allowing me to tag along on adventures across the island! Even on the days we were working, we would still have most of the afternoon and the evening to ourselves so we might arrange an afternoon trip to the beach (although there were also a lot of days when all I did in the afternoon was take a nap and chill around the hostel!).

It was also possible to arrange a wide range of activities through the hostel. Volunteers got a slight discount on these so I took full advantage! I learnt to scuba dive in Honduras but haven’t done it in the five years since. The price of diving in Tenerife, or at least through La Tortuga, was so ridiculously cheap that I did several over my time there. It was great to get back under the water and it all came rushing back to me. I got to see some incredible things, highlights being two rare angel sharks, one dive with so many turtles that wouldn’t leave us alone and came right up to us and even a few dolphins while on the dive boat! There were also things like paragliding (done!), kayaking, turtle and dolphin trips, tours of the island including to Mount Teide and stargazing. Particularly popular are the surf lessons. La Tortuga actually works closely with a surf school in nearby Las Americas called SurfLife. If someone booking onto a surf camp with SurfLife was looking for somewhere to stay, they would recommend La Tortuga. Sometimes it felt like the hostel was filled with people doing surf camps! From what I’ve heard (as someone who has taken two surf lessons in her life and stood up maybe three times) the surfing in Tenerife can be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s not a bad place to learn to surf but at least during the summer the waves are a bit small for more advanced surfers. Apparently the waves are a bit bigger and better in the winter.

A Day in the Life

Now to share with you what a typical working day would look like. As you’ll see that might involve cleaning or working on reception or even leading groups to a flamenco bar or sunset at the beach. I’m not going to go into too much detail about what I got up to in my time off as we would be here for hours! There will be plenty more blogs all about the places I explored, the things I did and what I would recommend so for now I’m focusing on the volunteering side of things.


In La Tortuga volunteers work 4 days a week, between four and six hours per shift depending on the amount of work. There would be three volunteers working each day. A cleaning shift starts at 8.45am so I would usually get up between 8am and 8.30am. At the beginning I would get up more last minute and just start working but towards the end I actually enjoyed getting up even earlier to enjoy the peace and quiet around the hostel. It obviously depended on how tired I was but the coolness of the air and the tranquillity of the common areas before everyone else woke up were rare so I tried to enjoy them. There was no uniform for volunteers so I would usually wear a pair of shorts with a sports t-shirt (it might have been cool when we started but changing beds is sweaty work!) and either trainers or Birkenstock sandals.

Papped while halfway through a very busy shift

From 8.45am to 9am the priority is getting breakfast out. I say breakfast but it’s really more of a tea and coffee spread. The hostel used to provide a more complete breakfast including things like pancakes but stopped due to covid. I believe it might be making a comeback in the next few months though! For now, we just had to make a couple of types of coffee and set that out with milk and sugar, tea, mugs and a few little cakes that we provided. This was free for all guests as well as volunteers and the leftovers would be available for free in the kitchen later in the day. Anyone could make their own free coffee and tea at any time of the day as well.

After breakfast was out we would start on the common areas. Check out was at 11am so we couldn’t start going into any bedrooms until then. In the meantime we would clean the shared bathrooms, living and dining spaces and the terrace outside. There were 3 volunteers working together so one person would go to T2 and knock that out while the other two stayed in T1. T1 was generally busier in the morning so it took a little longer to clean around everyone hence why two people stayed there. They would also keep an eye on breakfast and refill anything that needed it. This usually took until around 10.30am at which point we would have a wee break for some breakfast. I might have had something quick like a granola bar or a yoghurt before we started and a coffee and a piece of cake while putting breakfast out but this was the chance for something a bit more substantial. Often I would make a cheese and ham toastie from the food provided for volunteers (shoutout to my beloved sandwichito as we would call them!) or sometimes some eggs.

After check out at 11am our lovely, all-knowing receptionists would give us a list of the rooms that needed cleaned, whether that be because someone was checking out, someone had been there for three or four days already (at which point we refreshed the sheets) or it was a dorm room that just needed a once over. The work would be split up between the three people working and then we would just get on with it. We were allowed to wear headphones while working so I would usually put in a podcast and get my head down. Whoever was working primarily in T1 was also in charge of keeping the washing machines going because as I’m sure you can imagine there was always a mountain of dirty sheets needing to be washed. Depending on the day there might also be some extras like cleaning out the communal fridges, doing the windows or a little bit of gardening. If I or someone else finished before the others then we would all muck in to get the work done.

An example of a dorm room

Depending on how much work there was on any given day, we could finish between 1pm and 3pm although it was usually somewhere around 2pm or 2.30pm. The end of the shift was quickly followed by lunch. I’ll talk more about how food and meals worked in the hostel another blog post but basically someone who wasn’t working would make lunch. If everyone not working had gone out to the beach or elsewhere, we would just throw something together ourselves. Once we finished the work of the day we were free to do whatever we wanted!


While Workaway volunteers at La Tortuga primarily handled the cleaning of the hostel, some are also trained up to work on reception and cover a handful of evening shifts throughout the week. Anyone that spoke Spanish and English well (other languages a bonus) was a candidate for reception training. It was more optional though as there were volunteers at the same time as me who had the language skills but didn’t particularly want to work on reception and that was fine. For me, it’s something that I was keen to get trained up on. I like the people facing jobs, I like talking to people (preferably in a different language), I like solving problems for people and being helpful. On reception you are often the first person new guests meet at the hostel and being the face of that first impression is no small responsibility.

Volunteers are only ever charged with the evening shift, from 5.30pm to 11.30pm when reception closes, as it is much quieter than the morning shift. There is a list of things to go through, such as finishing any laundry from the cleaning shift in the morning, checking the details of the bookings made in the past few days and the arrivals in the next few days, turning lights on as it gets dark, giving the kitchen a quick clean, taking the bins out, feeding the cats and more. You might also have check ins which includes giving them a tour of the hostel. Keeping an eye on the emails is very important so that you catch when new bookings come in. Crucially, do not overbook the hostel! When a booking comes in on one platform like Hostelworld, it doesn’t just need to be logged in the hostel’s own system but blocked off on the other platforms like Booking.com. On my first solo shift, that was the one thing I needed to do, or not do as that case may be, and guess what I did? Overbooked the hostel. But with some help from Pasqui, the manager, the crisis was averted and you can be sure l never did it again!

By the end of my time at La Tortuga I was averaging two cleaning shifts and two reception shifts a week which I liked as a combo. The cleaning shifts were more physically demanding, a lot of running back and forth, up and down the stairs, and if you’ve ever put a fitted sheet on a top bunk, you know you break a sweat! In comparison, the reception shift always left my brain feeling a little frazzled. There was a lot more that you had to be on top of at all times but weirdly combined with stretches of boredom when things were quiet. Finishing at 11.30pm added to the tiredness at the end of it. Having the mixture kept things interesting for me and also means that some days I got afternoons off and some days mornings.


In addition to cleaning and reception for some, volunteers had some additional responsibilities. The hostel has several organised activities, like an in house yoga class, a group outing to a bar for live flamenco music or a trip to a beach to watch a sunset. Each week one volunteer would be tasked with leading the trip to the flamenco bar and the beach for sunset in the place of a regular shift. In the same vein, someone would be put in charge of watering the grass and general gardening for the week, also in place of a normal shift.

Sunset at Fañabé beach

On top of those more formal duties, there are certain unofficial things that volunteers are expected to do as well. These are just things like nurturing the friendly, welcoming environment around the place and chatting to new and old guests alike. If there was ever a face we didn’t know, that was a sign to strike up a conversation. It was so easy to get to know people really quickly in La Tortuga, it was a bit of a magnet for really sound people, and in a matter of days you might feel like you’ve known that person for much longer. However, as a new person coming into a situation like that, it can be a bit intimidating unless those already included reach out a hand to pull you in as well. Everyone was welcome in this family of tortugeños (the affectionate term for anyone at La Tortuga), no matter their age or where they came from or anything else, and a large part of that responsibility fell to volunteers. This was actually potentially one of the more difficult aspects to the job. Despite being someone who enjoys talking to new people, especially in places like La Tortuga, when this is essentially part of your job it gets a little tiring at times. Everybody has days when they don’t want to speak to anyone, whether it’s because you’re tired, hungover, on your period or just not in the mood.

The Other Volunteers

I was lucky to be surrounded by an incredible group of people for the seven weeks that La Tortuga was my home. In fact, I don’t think it actually was luck. I think they are very good at picking who they want to volunteer and in doing this carefully, they curate a group of people who are not only hard working and willing go the extra mile but also who are almost predisposed to get on with each other. We often joked that time doesn’t exist in La Tortuga, there is no concept of days passing, which means sometimes it all blends into one a little but also means that the forming of relationships are massively accelerated. People come and go throughout your time there, guests and volunteers alike, and there were a few volunteers who left within the first week after I arrived. In just a short amount of time I felt like I got to know these people really well.

As I settled in more, there was a core group of volunteers that were more or less the same for about three weeks. When I think of my time in La Tortuga, those are the people that I think of. There were people from different sides of the world, four people from Latin America and four from Europe, bringing a mix of languages, cultures and experiences together. We shared dishes from our own countries for each other (like moussaka from Greece or great barbequed meat from Brazil), we shared music with each other (500 Miles by The Proclaimers was put on anytime the Spotify queue got passed around and my new favourite band is Oques Grasses who are Catalan), and we shared ourselves with each other. In this way it reminded me a lot of the relationships that formed very quickly between myself and the other Project Trust volunteers I went to Honduras with. Sharing a unique experience brings people much closer much faster than normal. I know that some of the people I volunteered beside will be friends for life. In fact, I’ve already met up with one of them who happened to come to Edinburgh right after leaving Tenerife, just a few weeks after I got home!

What a team!

Working in a Hostel

Overall, what was working in a hostel like? Pretty much what I imagined. That’s to say a relaxed environment filled with friendly people and good vibes. When I was working it was hard work but nothing too difficult or complicated and I even got to learn a lot of new skills. Even when you’re not working, you are still an integral part of the hostel staff. Here I want to give a proper shoutout to the full time staff members of La Tortuga, Karen and Mia on reception and Ale and Pasqui, the managers. Without Karen and Mia, the volunteers wouldn’t have a clue what is going on. They kept us right with what our work was, they were a steady presence when you arrived at this new place and they were a never ending source of knowledge and advice. If there was ever a question that I couldn’t answer or someone wanted more information that I didn’t have, I directed them to our wonderful receptionists. They both started as volunteers so know the highs and lows well. As for the managers, I only crossed paths with Ale for my first few days as he was away for a well deserved holiday for most of the time I was there. However I can tell that he is the life of the party when he is around and that the hostel is incredibly important to him. During my first day of training all the volunteers and any guests hanging around were summoned outside to cheer and drum, smoke flares in hand, while he climbed on the roof to film a video celebrating the win of his football team! Pasqui was around while I was there and he was a steady hand in a storm, helping me when I accidentally overbooked the hostel, working behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly and popping up randomly at flamenco night, live music evenings and even carnival!

I liked the sociable aspect of working in a hostel a lot as well. I’ve already spoken about the other volunteers but it was great getting to know the guests as well. There are all kinds of people coming through and of course you aren’t going to get on with everyone but I found some real gems who I’m still in touch with now. I did have a little dip in enthusiasm about three weeks in because I found it frustrating that people that I had met and formed a friendship with would leave after a few days, a week max. This might sound obvious but once you’re in that situation, it starts to feel like there’s no point making an effort with anyone because they’re going to leave soon. However, I got over it and learnt to just enjoy the time I had with the people I was meeting.

La tortuga de La Tortuga, Pita

La Tortuga is exactly the kind of hostel that I love to stay in myself so any praise you hear from me is genuine. Knowing how much I would love it even if I was just there for a few days as a guest, being able to peek behind the curtain was even more special. Seeing the inner workings of a hostel has given me more appreciation for all the work it takes and the amount of thought that goes into giving a guest the best experience possible. At La Tortuga it’s all about being as friendly and welcoming a place as possible, not profit. I’ve stayed in plenty of hostels over the years and my favourites, the ones I still think about and would go back to in a heartbeat are the ones like La Tortuga. The smaller ones, the ones with a family feel, where you’re not just another wallet walking through. In my opinion it’s what a hostel should be like.

Next up we have a bit of a combination of this post and the last one, looking at how the Workaway profile of La Tortuga compared with what I experienced in real life. It includes more details on the living situation for volunteers, the food provided, what is expected of you and also what I spent while I was there! If there’s anything specific you want to hear about, let me know!

How to Spend 7 Weeks in Tenerife (or Anywhere!)

Here we go, I hope we are all ready to embark on the next series of blog posts. I am now moving away from the travel blog posts and onto the next portion of my summer plans. My plan for this part of the summer was to spend just under two months volunteering in a hostel in Tenerife through Workaway. I had an absolutely incredible experience and there is plenty to tell you about my time in the hostel and on the island. For now I’m going to start with how I was able to do it in the first place. Let me introduce you to a little site called Workaway.

What is Workaway?

When thinking about the best way to go about organising this, I turned to Workaway. Workaway is a website that provides opportunities for work exchanges. This can take many forms whether it be working in a hostel as I did, as an au pair, helping renovate a house, working on a farm or a whole host of other options. The idea is that you as a volunteer or ‘Workawayer’ contribute an agreed upon amount of time into whatever the task is and receive accommodation and some amount of food in return. As a potential Workawayer it is free to browse through the website and look at hosts but if you want to contact someone you need to register an account which costs £42 for a year long subscription. This might sound a little expensive but if you think that this is pretty much the only thing you will have to pay for (other than transport) during your experience and that it’s a one time fee that allows you to arrange as many Workaway stays as you like, I think it is worth the money. You are also paying for their experience and the security of using a trusted platform. Workaway currently boasts more than 50,000 opportunities in 170 countries so the world is your oyster! There are also other features that allow you to find a travel buddy or to find opportunities as a pair with a partner or a friend, although I have no experience using these.

Of course, there are other options out there as well. I can’t vouch for them because I’ve only used Workaway and I will say that Workaway is the biggest platform offering this kind of thing. But in case you want to check out some of the other options, here they are –

Choosing Your Host

When it comes to finding a host on Workaway I think the more flexibility you have the better. You might be looking for a host in a particular country or location, there might be a certain type of work that you fancy doing or specific dates that you are available for. Having one, or at a push two, of these criteria pretty set in stone is fine but the less flexible you are, the more difficult you will find your search for a host. Saying all of this, I did not follow my own advice! (Hindsight is 20/20 right?) I knew roughly where I wanted to go, had a type of work in mind and had a window of time in which to do it. I was searching for hostels mostly in mainland Spain of which there were a decent amount but I have to admit that I did not have a lot of luck. I think a lot of Workaway experiences are organised more at the last minute but being the kind of person that I am, I wanted to have something arranged in advance. Because of this I started looking in February for an arrival date towards the start of May. At that time many places were looking for a more immediate start.

So what should you look for on a host’s profile? Once you have used the filter tools to wade through the thousands of hosts on the site to find the ones relevant to you, the first thing to do is check the availability of this Workaway. Helpfully this is one of the first things on a host’s profile. It will tell you if they are completely full or not looking, if there is a possibility or if they are actively seeking Workawayers. Next, check the description to see if it seems like a good fit for you. You can usually get your first feel of the energy of the project through the description. Depending on where you are looking for a host, their first language might not be English so bear that in mind when reading their profile.

Important things to look for in the description –

  • Working hours – will you be happy working that much?
  • Compensation – what do you receive in return for your work? Does it seem like a fair exchange to you?
  • Duties – what is expected of you? Do you have the skills to carry out these tasks or at least to learn how to do them?
  • Languages – do you need to be able to speak a certain language? (Sometimes specified but many Workaway opportunities double as language exchanges so don’t stress if you don’t speak any other languages)
  • Specific requirements – Will you need a visa in order to enter the country? Do you need a drivers licence?
  • Covid restrictions – do they require you to be vaccinated? (Some hosts have also not been active on Workaway since the pandemic, even if their profile is still live.)
  • Personal preferences – do they fit with any personal preferences you have? Do you need your own bathroom? Would you prefer to be in a non-smoking location? Are you allergic to pets? Is wifi an absolute must for you?

The last thing to do when looking at a host’s profile is to look at the reviews. Absolutely don’t skip this step and don’t just scan the number of stars they have been given. There are often valuable tidbits left in the text of reviews. Hopefully the host will have good ratings and reading these can help form your overall impression but even more important than the good reviews are the bad ones. Whenever I’m booking a hostel, I will read a couple of good reviews and then read ALL the bad reviews. I want to see what people were taking issue with, whether it is something that is important to me, whether I think it is a warranted review or whether this person just had a bad experience, whether it was in their control or not. It’s the same when deciding on a Workaway host. Sometimes people take things too personally or are too harsh so you can disregard those bad reviews but sometimes there are real red flags in them that alert you to a potential issue before you commit to anything.

When it comes to contacting hosts, it is important to make a good impression. All of my messages were sent in both English and Spanish, considering I speak Spanish already and was looking at hostels in Spain. I introduced myself and my skills, why I wanted to work at the hostel and as with any good cover letter, I mentioned something specific from their profile. You might not get a response for a while so don’t be afraid to send a follow up message. Having seen it from the other side while working at the hostel in Tenerife, I can vouch that hosts can get a lot of messages and it can be a bit overwhelming. They might not be active on Workaway until they actually need someone and by then your message will have dropped down so a follow up will go a long way to keeping you in the mix.

Between contacting hosts on Workaway and emailing hostels directly with my CV and a cover letter, I must have contacted at least 30 places. I didn’t get anywhere near that number of responses and the ones I did were all negative. Most of it was that they were either already full for the time period I was looking for or they weren’t looking for volunteers in general. It was disheartening and I did start to wonder if I was going to be able to find anything at all. In the end it took persistence, hope and also relaxing my expectations a little. Once I widened my search a little, that was when I finally got some positive responses and eventually a spot in the hostel that I ended up spending seven wonderful weeks in.

As with anything you have to approach a Workaway experience with a bit of caution. Hosts are all verified but if it’s anything like being verified as a Workawayer, that just involved connecting my Facebook profile to my account. If anything strikes you as suspicious, better to follow your gut. In the same vein, once you arrive you are free to leave any time. There’s no contract so if you don’t like it or worse, feel uncomfortable with anything, you can just leave. For me, I felt comforted by the good reviews on the profile of the hostel I was going to, not a single one under five stars with glowing words of praise from and for the host. I was also comforted by the video call I had with the manager of the hostel. Speaking to someone in person (or through a screen) is so different to messages or emails and it’s much easier to gauge the feeling that way. I could tell from speaking to Ale that this hostel was going to be a good fit for me.

Not a bad way to spend the summer!

My Experience with Workaway

To start with I want to explain what led me to embark on this specific experience. I finished my teaching at the university in Mulhouse in April and had a long four month summer holiday stretching ahead of me. I had a deadline of the second week in July to be back in Scotland for a family holiday but I knew I wanted to pack in some travelling and something a little bit different into the months running up to that. As you can imagine one of my aims in moving to France was to improve my French and it has improved, massively. It’s been a little while though, five years to be exact, since I gave my Spanish any TLC. I thought remedying that would be a good start in figuring out what to do with my summer.

I’ve also always quite fancied working in a hostel for a little while. I always enjoy staying in them. I love the atmosphere and the mix of people plus I feel like my skills are really suited to that kind of environment. I speak a few languages which helps in what is usually quite an international environment. I have experience working in a residential centre for a charity cleaning bathrooms and changing beds and I like to think that I’m a friendly, welcoming person who can create a nice atmosphere for guests. It seemed like now might be a good time to do this and combine it with my desire to work on my Spanish.

I have forayed into the world of Workaway once before but hadn’t gotten very far with it. In March 2020 I was trying to figure out how to spend several months in France on my university study abroad year after being forced to leave China early due to Covid and Workaway was something that I looked at. Of course I never got the chance to see that through because Covid arrived in Europe shortly after I did. This time I returned with a little more hope that I would actually get to see this idea through to completion.

Like I mentioned, I had some pretty inflexible criteria when it came to finding a host. I had a seven week gap between a family event in Dublin and a family holiday back in Scotland. I wanted to work in a hostel and I wanted that hostel to be in Spain. Initially I had been focusing on mainland Spain because given that I was already in Europe it seemed to make more sense and I felt like it would be a cheaper option in terms of transport there and back. However, not having much luck with this (lots of rejections and one unsuccessful interview) I started looking at several hostels in the Canary Islands that were looking for people on Workaway and that actually seemed like they would be a good fit for me.

I was drawn to one hostel in particular on the island of Tenerife that combined their business with supporting a number of social projects, one a paediatric hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti, and the other a free dentist consultation service in Brazil. That caught my attention but you could also feel the good energy through the description of the hostel in the profile. I sent my usual message, an introductory paragraph in both Spanish and English and actually got a positive response! I then arranged a video interview with Ale, one of the managers of the hostel, and by the end of it he was offering me a spot! The only thing that had to be worked out was the timing but in the end I was able to go for exactly the dates I wanted, starting mid-May and leaving just after the start of July. I was thrilled! I have to admit here that I knew very little about Tenerife other than it is a prime choice for British tourists who want an all inclusive, relaxing by the pool kind of holiday, but I was still excited to get to know a new place. I won’t go into everything I learned about Tenerife right now but know that there are plenty of blogs to come on that subject as I share my love for the island.

The star of Tenerife – Mount Teide

Pros and Cons

This will not be an exhaustive list of pros and cons of using Workaway but I want to share a few. Once again, this is focusing on the Workaway website and the general experience and not the one that I had with my specific host.


  • Workaway is by far the largest platform of this kind – That brings a whole host of advantages including security and variety. It gives you the most opportunities and a bit more trust than the smaller platforms.
  • Meeting like-minded people – By choosing to do something like Workaway, you are guaranteed to meet other people who share the same curiosity and sense of adventure as you. Obviously there are always people you don’t click with but I would say that Workaway is one of those experiences where you are much more likely to get on with the other people doing it. You are at least going to have Workaway in common!
  • It makes long term travel more accessible – There’s no way I could have done the length of time I did if I was just travelling as normal. Something like Workaway where there is an exchange in services allows you to stay somewhere for longer without breaking the bank.
  • You can really get to know a place – Or as Workaway says ‘travel like a local’. It’s another advantage to being able to stay somewhere longer as well as work with people who do actually live there. You get to see a side of a place that you wouldn’t get to just as a tourist. There is always a lot more to see than you can fit in to a one week visit or aspects of life that aren’t visible to outsiders.


  • The more specific, the more difficult Like you saw with me, if you are looking for something to fit a very specific set of criteria there might not be as many options.
  • It’s volunteering, not work – At the end of the day, even if you are getting something in return for your work, you aren’t getting paid. That means you will still need to have some of your own funds going in. At the very least you will need money for transport to and from your Workaway. You might also need a little money for some food if not everything is covered as well as any activities you want to do during your stay. It’s also good to have some money set aside in case things don’t go to plan and you need to leave early.
  • Workaway can be an intense and sometimes overwhelming experience – Just because of the nature of it, living with a host family or other volunteers, being very involved in life with your host, immersing yourself in local life, that can all get a little much sometimes. There are ways to get around this like taking some time to do something by yourself but embracing it for the limited period of time that you are there can turn this from a con into a pro!

In general I think Workaway is a great way to make long term travel more accessible. It’s a great way to save money by working for just a few hours and there’s a lot you can get out of that work. For example, the whole reason I wanted to do something like this was to improve my Spanish and that’s not an uncommon motivation. It’s a great way to learn new skills – for example I got trained on reception at the hostel where I learnt a lot of new things. There is no way that I would have been able to spend seven weeks in Tenerife on my own dime but with Workaway I was able to use the money that I was saving on accommodation and food to explore as much of the island as I could and have some amazing experiences. While the amount of hours you do depend on the specific host and type of work, it generally leaves you with lots of time off. Saying that, it’s still work and you have to be prepared to put the effort in. It’s not fair on your host if you turn up and then don’t fulfil your end of the bargain. In general and as with anything, you get out of Workaway what you put in.

Next up I’m going to tell you a bit more about the specific hostel I was working at and what that work involved. If you have any questions about using Workaway or anything you want me to cover in the next post about the hostel, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Some of the other great Workawayers I met