Tarifa, the most Southern located town in the Spanish region of Andalucia is well known amongst kite and windsurfers and it’s actually called a ‘Wind Capital of Europe’. But there is so much more to do there apart from kite-surfing. And with the cool and hippy feel to the town you definitely have to visit during your next Spanish vacations. Here is why Tarifa is the coolest town in Spain.
Tarifa is hands down my favourite town in the whole of Spain – at least out of all the towns I visited. Tarifa to me in Spain is like Krakow in Poland 🙂 A town you always come back to and love, even more, every next time you visit. The familiar beaches, streets and beach bars only gain on the charm as they become more familiar. The walks around the old town, tapas bars, quirky and unusual shops and boutiques as well as stunning white-sand beaches. How can you get bored of it? Like, Ever? All this makes Tarifa the coolest town in Southern Spain.
I have spent many days there each summer, and spring, and autumn – and I miss it. Now, that I don’t live in Spain any more. And when I will visit Spain again – be sure I will return and enjoy nonetheless then ever before.
What makes Tarifa the coolest town in Spain? A combination of most gorgeous white sand beaches, some of the best tapas bars and restaurants, quirky shops and chill out bars as well as most relaxed crowd around. Maybe there are no water parks, shopping promenades and banana boats on offer here. Like in many other Spanish resorts. But this only adds to its appeal and charm.
For me, this place is a true mecca of relaxed, ‘switch off’ kind of vacation. The surrounding beaches are extremely beautiful, often unspoiled by endless raws of umbrellas and sun chairs. An old town has its own unique charm to it and nightlife has this boho / Ibiza feel to it.
Surrounded by well known and very commercial towns like Marbella, Estepona, or Benalmadena – Tarifa emerges as a kind of hypish, relaxed, cool and quirky town where even tourists seem to be a bit cooler. It can be slow-paced even in the summer months as one just can help but relax there.
How to get to Tarifa
There is a very frequent but service to Tarifa from many surrounding towns in Andalucia. There are buses coming all the way from Seville or Cadiz which will stop to pick you up from towns like Estepona, Marbella or La Linea if you are travelling from Gibraltar.
Large, comfy and airconditioned busses run from early, all the way to late hours of the day. Once there – everything is a walking distance. Unless you want to visit Playa de Bolonia or take a day trip. I will mention details about those further down into the post.
There is no train service in the area so the bus or rental car are the only options. The two closest airports are located in Malaga and Seville – both just under 3 hours drive away. If you are flying from the UK – a Gibraltar Airport can also be a good option. It shouldn’t take more than 2 hours driving or alternatively you could take a bus from neighbouring la Linea de la Conception.
Where to stay in Tarifa Spain
My favourite is definitely the Tarifa Old Town. There, you will find typical Tarifa style boutique BnB’s and cute little hotels, as well as many Airbnb properties on offer. Little unusual hotels, many tastefully decorated and very charming. From there you are only around 15 minutes walk to the main beach and few steps away from all the best bars and restaurants on offer.
Make sure you choose wisely though because some of the streets get pretty loud – especially on the weekends or in the high season. Many however will be hidden away and you can always find a hidden spot.
There are also few larger, more traditional hotels just outside of the old town walls and most also located pretty close to the beach and very popular amongst the surfing crowd.
Tarifa is also very popular for its Camping facilities. Most popular campsites in the area are Campsite Valdevaqueros, Campsite Paloma and Campsite Torre de la Peña. Camping in Tarifa is fantastic – all campsites are located right outside of the beach all are very highly rated.
Things to do and see in Tarifa Spain
Head to the beach
Tarifa has a few fantastic beaches with the main one, PLAYA DE LOS LANCES, located just outside of the old town. A 10km long stretch of white soft sand – a true paradise for both kite surfers and sun worshipers. The winds here can be very favourable for kite and windsurfing – and on most days you will see the floating cloud of colourful kites right above the beach with many enthusiasts of this sport enjoying this activity.
You will find many great beach bars, called ‘Chiringuitos‘ in Spain. Often offering excellent food and drink choices as well as very chilled and Ibiza like ambience. Yet the beach itself is pretty unspoilt – no sun chairs and umbrellas on offer here – which adds to its beauty and charm.
PLAYA DE LA VALDEVAQUEROS is located further away, around 10 km away from the town – yet this is the beach often called mecca of European water sports. One of the most atmospheric beaches, also offering incredibly beautiful sand and sea views – its a must-visit for anyone coming to the area. This beach has a kite-surf zone and a windsurf zone clearly indicated. The area further to the north located by striking dune formations at Punta Palmona is only dedicated for bathers.
PLAYA DE BOLONIA, even more, unspoiled and still not so popular amongst visitors is located further north – around 25 km from the town. Here also you will find kite surfing only dedicated spaces as well as a bathing area. This is one of the last unspoiled beaches and a magnificent landscape full of almost virgin nature. It is a large, four kilometres long stretch of white sand bathed by crystal clear blue waters.
At the edge of Bolonia beach, strong winds created a large dune (Gran Duna) of almost 30 meters high which since 2001 is considered a national monument. It is very mobile due to strong winds and constanly advances into the last and forest.
In 2015 Bolonia Beach was named the 10th best beach in Europe and the second in Spain with the “Travellers Choice” award by TripAdvisor. A must visit!
Tarifa is kite-surfing and windsurfing capital of Europe. Consequently, Tarifa is the best place to learn this sport. And of course, if you are already a fanatic of those sports I will not have to convince you here. There is a number of surfing schools located in Tarifa and surely you will be able to find one that suits you. Thanks to its location, right where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, Tarifa is constantly honoured with strong winds and huge waves that make it one of Europe’s best spots to practice water sports.
Take a boat trip and watch whales in their natural environment.
You can take a whale and orca watching excursion from the Tarifa port and observe those incredible creatures in their natural environment. There is a number of companies running those tours and this is truly an incredible adventure. Of course, as they are in their natural environments and not in capture there is always a possibility that on the given day they won’t appear yet the success rate is pretty high. You will also be able to learn loads about the marine life and types of dolphins and whales seen in those waters as the tours are led by experts. Try to take a trip with one of the conservation-focused tour companies for a sustainable and harmless way.
Tarifa is a perfect place for nature lovers. Not only the sea and beach present incredible beauty – the area is also surrounded by mountains and natural parks. There are two huge Natural Reserves located in Tarifa. Parque Natural del Estrecho and Parque Natural de Los Alcornocales.
Parque Natural Los Alcornocales has many walks with 20 of which being signposted. By taking those routs you will be able to reach incredible views of Tarifa and Morocco across the ocean.
The Parque Natural del Estrecho offers a lovely coastal walk. The east coast of the park is on the Mediterranean and west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean.
You can also take a walk from Punta Paloma all the way to Bolonia. With dunes nearby, the roads are covered in sand and the walk feels at times like walking through the Sahara.
The famous GR 7 route, which is a long-distance hike starting in Greece is and ending in Tarifa. So if you don’t fancy walking all the way to Greece you can at least take the Tarifa part of it 🙂 These areas are green and plentiful of gorges and rivers, where you can enjoy a bath in a freshwater nature pool or just sit down and enjoy untouched nature.
Stroll along the old town
Once you walked through the Puerta de Jerez – the only one of four medieval entrances remaining – you will find yourself on the cobbled streets of Old Town surrounded by whitewashed traditional houses. Here is where the new and old blends with effortless taste.
Whitewashed traditional buildings offer charm and sense of history. But since the town became very popular amongst surfers many shops and restaurants opened here, yet somehow this only adds its magic. Nothing here feels too ‘touristy’. Even typical jewellery and souvenir shops offer something unusual and different and restaurants don’t only serve typical Spanish tapas of meatballs and croquettes. Even burgers and fish seem to be so much cooler here.
Numerous times I went to Tarifa mostly to do some shopping. Of course, every single time I ended up staying longer (and always to dine) yet some of my most favourite pieces of summer clothing originate from there. Variety of boutiques, some typically hip and catering to the surfing world and some more Spanish and classy. Bikinis, bags, shoes, sarongs and hats – true shopping heaven! You will also find some branded shops as well – often very reasonably priced. Tarifa is not only the coolest town in Spain it also has the coolest shops 🙂
Eat tapas and try famous red tuna
Tuna very quickly became an endangered specie so if you have to eat it – tapa is a probably the best way. This is when the portion is smaller and together with tuna you can also try other Spanish delicacies. The great quality of the bluefin tuna in the Strait of Gibraltar is known around the world. And you can find it prepared in many ways across the whole region.
Tarifa takes part in the annual tuna festival ‘Ruta del Atun’ when you can visit a number of towns and restaurants and try it prepared in a variety of ways. I must admit I have tried it many times in the past and it’s absolutely delicious. Yet the knowledge of how dangerous its popularity to its existence of this fish is I made me obligated to provide you with this information.
But there is so much more than just a tuna to Tarifa culinary experience. Another reason why Tarifa Spain is the coolest town is how fantastic the dining experience can be here. Nothing beats lovely tapas meal washed down with Spanish Rioja wine after a day spent on the beach.
Tapas bars offer a variety of Spanish (and not only) dishes – and as they come as smaller portions (so-called tapas) you will be able to order more and taste more! Heaven! I used personal recommendations from my friends and my own experience to suggest the best places to eat depending on your culinary preferences and needs. Here we go:
- Bocca Buena – This is my friend’s restaurant and from the day they opened it became very quickly one of the most popular restaurants in Tarifa. Run by Polish/Italian couple offers a fusion of Spanish and Italian cuisine as well as classic burgers and vegetarian options as well. Situated in the centre of the Old Town offers great personal service and very yummy food.
- Malibu – My friend Aiste claims this was the best pizza she ever had.Nothing fancy but super-chilled & perfect for lunch or amazing sunset as its located in front of the beach!
- Raizes Tarifa – Another recommendation from my friend Aiste. Great location, super cosy tiny little place & attention to details, the menu small and very, very interesting ( Aiste is highly recommending Gnocci). Also located within the Old Town, offers sitting both outside and inside of the restaurant.
- Waikiki Chirinquito – I love this beach bar. Not only a great place for a dring by the beach but also a great menu. Music is always great and there is a possibility to sit on the loungers and pouffes just outside of the bar on the sand. I had a wonderful veggie wok dish and yummy goats cheese salad there but all the food is very tasty and well presented. One of my favourites.
- My friend Zeru recommends El Ancla for the best seafood. Located by the Tarifa port this restaurant is very highly rated – this is where you will be able to have seafood and tuna tapa as well as other Spanish dishes.
- Zeru also recommends Le Petit Bistro on Alameda square. He says that this restaurant has the best sweet and savoury crêpes in the Campo de Gibraltar. The rest of their food is also a top-class (seafood couscous to die for).
- Vaca local – for the chicken lovers. My friend Dixon recommended this one and he said this place is best for its grilled chicken. And I think I have heard this opinion before 🙂
- California Tarifa – for burger lovers. You need to try this little quirky burger place. Tiny, with just a few tables outside but very colourfully decorated and offering a different view on burgers. Also on offer vegetarian burgers as well as quesadillas.
Enjoy the night in Tarifa the coolest town is Southern Spain
First time I went out in Tarifa I met people who came all the way from Cadiz and Sevilla saying that Tarifa Sain is the coolest town to be. Nothing like the typical nightclub and bars streets of Benalmadena or Benidorm. Relaxed yet very lively bars are located both in the Old Town as well as on the beach. On the beach, you will find Cafe del Mar and Waikiki and many more where often DJ or life band entertains the crowd. In the old town cool bars and clubs fill up in the evening with great crowds enjoying the excellent party atmosphere. A very mixed crowd also – you will definitely find something to suit your ‘party’ needs.
Take a day trip to Tangier in Morocco or Gibraltar.
You can take a short ferry ride from Port of Tarifa and visit Tangier in Morocco. Many tour operators offer one day trip to this historic Moroccan city with a rich literary and artistic heritage.
You can also visit Gibraltar on a day trip. The buses run regularly to La Linea de la Concepcion. From there take 15 minutes walk to the border and there you are. You can also take a guided tour yet I recommend taking a bus. I travelled this route many times and this was the main way I visited Tarifa. If you decide to go visit my detailed guide to what to do and see in Gibraltar.