It’s a gloomy day in Vancouver and I’m craving the sun-drenched beaches of Spain’s Costa de la Luz. This gorgeous stretch of Atlantic coast runs from Tarifa, Spain’s southern tip, up to the border with Portugal. Its wide sandy beaches are dreamy. Many of them are splendidly deserted. Others are known for their spectacular windsurfing and have a young, fun vibe. These beaches see far fewer tourists than the Costa del Sol, and they are every bit as nice…nicer…shhh. We were there in November, a particularly quiet month—perfect for long beach walks and still plenty of sunshine.
I’m learning how to customize and embed google maps, so lets give it a try. The photos on this post are from day trips that we took from the beautiful white town of Vejer de la Frontera, the perfect base to explore the southernmost section of the Costa de la Luz. The map highlights the spots we visited. Distances are relatively short—it’s only about 60 km from Vejer to Tarifa.
El Palmar is the closest beach to Vejer (about 10-15 minute drive), and it’s a beauty. Its golden sand stretches for a long as the eye can see. The wide beach is backed by low vegetated dunes, which are protected by nice-looking wooden walkways. There are plenty of bars and restaurants across the street but they are all low-rise, casual, surfer-dude type places. I hope it stays this way.
Moving south from El Palmar takes us to Zahora, another swath of perfect sand where the water appears to be a bit calmer. It is bordered on its southern end by Cabo Trafalgar, with its distinctive lighthouse. On the other side of the headland, the beach continues and is backed by the village of Los Caños de Meca. It’s an awesome windswept place that is super popular with windsurfers.
We discovered a gorgeous seaside hike, high up on the cliffs, between the towns of Caños de Meca and Barbate. The 7.2 km Sendero de Acantilado is part of Parque Natural de la Breña y Marismas de Barbate. It’s an easy, wide path that would also be great on bike. We only did a portion of the trail because we didn’t have time to do the 14.4 km out and back. There’s not much public transportation in this area, so unless you can hitch a ride you’ll have to walk back (definitely not a hardship if you have the time). There are several designated entry points to the park along the coastal road. The most dramatic, and highest point on the hike is at Torre de Tajo. The views from the cliffs are stunning.
Continuing south is the fishing village and summer resort town of Zahara de los Atunes. It was pretty dead in November, but judging by the long row of beachside bars and restaurants this looks like it could be a very happening place in season. The beach in town isn’t that special (I’m spoiled), but just a kilometre or two further south, in a very upscale neighbourhood, we stumbled upon a magnificent stretch of sand.
We’re coming up to my favourite beach along the southern Costa de la Luz—Bolonia. This massive crescent of soft sand, lapped by turquoise waves is spectacular. My header photo for this post features Bolonia beach. I was so happy sinking my feet into the warm sand and climbing to the top of the dune at the north end of the beach. The beach isn’t the only thing that’s special about Bolonia. This little village contains the ruins of the most complete Roman town yet uncovered in Spain—Baelo Claudio. The site is really impressive and there is a wonderful visitor’s centre with lots of great exhibits. I can understand why the Romans would have liked this place!
Finally, we’re as far south as we can go, in Spain and in Europe. The characterful old town of Tarifa has an exotic feel (you can see Morocco across the strait) and a youthful vibe owing to its status as a wind and kitesurfing meca. It’s also a yummy place for seafood. I digested my big plate of fried boquerones (white anchovies) sitting on a bench along Tarifa’s narrow isthmus, the defacto dividing line of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. There, we watched an astonishing display of kitesurfing. Hope you enjoy the photos; I had trouble whittling them down!
If You Go:
- Fall is a great time to visit if you like to have beaches to yourself. Though the water was a tad cold to swim without a wetsuit (for me anyway), the air temperature was in the low 20’s celcius (low-mid 70’s F) when we were there in mid-November.
- We loved our base in Vejer de la Frontera, only 10 minutes from the coast. Check out my post on Vejer and other white towns (including recommendations on places to stay). If you want to be right on the coast, Tarifa would be a fun option.
- Get off the main highway (N 340) and explore the coastal road that connects all the beaches/towns I’ve highlighted (and plenty more that we didn’t get to).
- There’s lots more Costa de la Luz further north; visit the amazing city of Cádiz—full of beauty, history, and gorgeous urban beaches.