Tarifa, the most Southern located town in the Andalucia and the ‘Wind Capital of Europe’ is well known amongst kite and windsurfers. But there is so much more to do in Tarifa apart from kite surfing.
With the cool and hippy feel of the town, its excellent dining scene and stunning beach – Tarifa is a true Spanish beach town hidden gem.
Here is why Tarifa is the coolest town in Spain.
Tarifa is hands down my favourite town in the whole of Spain. To me, Tarifa in Spain holds the same significance as Krakow in Poland. A town you always return to and love even more with each subsequent visit.
The beaches, streets and beach bars only gain more 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?
I have spent many days in Tarifa each summer, and spring, and autumn – and I miss it. Now, that I don’t live in Spain any more.
Tarifa is different. Nothing like a touristy Marbella or Fuengirola. Tarifa is a beach town that is hippy and bohemian at the same time. It has a surfing vibe but is not at all pretentious. It’s cool in a really cool way.
So What Makes Tarifa the Coolest Beach Town in Spain?
A combination of the most gorgeous white sand beaches that spread into the horizon, some of the best tapas bars and restaurants, quirky shops and chill-out bars, as well as the most relaxed crowd around, makes Tarifa some of the coolest beach towns in Southern Spain.
There are no water parks, shopping promenades and banana boats on offer here. 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 rows of umbrellas and sun chairs. An old town has its own unique charm to it and nightlife has this bohemian / Ibiza feel to it.
Surrounded by well-known and very commercial towns like Marbella, Estepona, or Benalmadena – Tarifa emerges as a kind of hippish, 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 cannot help but relax there.
What is Unique about Tarifa
Tarifa is above all distinguished by its unique wind conditions. The town is known for the consistent and strong winds that sweep across its beaches, making it a prime destination for sports such as wind and kitesurfing.
The Levante wind, which comes from the east, accelerates through the Strait of Gibraltar and creates ideal conditions for these adrenaline-filled activities.
The Poniente wind, on the other hand, which comes from the west, offers a milder breeze and provides a varied wind dynamic that appeals to both experienced wind sports enthusiasts and those looking for a more relaxed coastal experience. This distinctive wind pattern contributes to Tarifa’s reputation as a world-class destination for wind-based sports but also regular sun seekers.
I must admit that there were days when staying on the beach could be challenging due to the wind. But then it’s not a problem! There is a different chiringuito (Spanish beach bar/restaurant) every few meters where you can hide from the wind! And once the wind stops, there in an endless stretch of beach and turquoise sea to enjoy.
Is Tarifa Worth Visiting?
If you are tired of all the same, crowded and touristy Spanish beach towns and are looking for a more relaxed and unique experience then Tarifa is definitely worth visiting.
In fact, I recommend Tarifa as your next Spanish vacation destination. With plenty of things to do in Tarifa, many exciting day trips, stunning beaches and a unique vibe, Tarifa is a great option for those seeking an alternative Spanish experience.
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How to get to Tarifa
There is a very frequent but service to Tarifa from many surrounding towns in Andalucia. Buses are 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 you arrive in Tarifa – everything is a walking distance apart. Unless you want to visit Playa de Bolonia or take a day trip, all Tarifa attractions are accessible on foot.
There is no train service in the area so to get to Tarifa you either have to drive or take a bus.
The two closest airports to Tarifa are located in Malaga and Seville – both just under 3 hours’ drive away. If you are flying from the UK – Gibraltar Airport can also be a good option. It shouldn’t take more than 2 hours to drive from Gibraltar to Tarifa, or alternatively, you could take a bus from neighbouring la Linea de la Conception.
Where to stay in Tarifa Spain
My favourite area to stay in Tarifa is definitely the Tarifa Old Town. Around there, you will find typical Tarifa-style boutique guesthouses and cute little hotels, as well as many Airbnb properties on offer. Many little and unusual hotels, many tastefully decorated and very charming.
From there you are only around 15 minutes walk to the main beach and a 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.
If you are on a budget I recommend Ohana Tarifa Hostel which offers a great backpackers vibe and great capsule-style beds.
There are also a few larger, more traditional hotels or resorts just outside of the old town walls and most are also located right by the beach and offer a pool like the Hotel Tarifa Lances.
Tarifa is also very popular for its Camping grounds. The 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.
Or you can find the best of both worlds and stay at this cool glamping site!
Things to do and see in Tarifa Spain
If you are wind or kite surfer you already know why you are coming to Tarifa. But as I said, there are many more great things to do in Tarifa apart from enjoying wind-related water sports. So if you are convinced and decide to visit Tarifa let me tell you what are the other amazing Tarifa attractions.
Discover Tarifa Old Town
As you walk through the Puerta de Jerez – the only one that remained out of the four mediaeval city gates – you will find yourself on the cobbled streets of Tarifa’s old town, surrounded by whitewashed traditional houses. Here, old and new merge with effortless style.
The whitewashed traditional buildings exude charm and convey a sense of history. However, since the town has become very popular with surfers, many stores and restaurants have opened here, which only adds to its charm.
Nothing seems too “touristy” here. Even the typical jewellery and souvenir stores offer something unusual and different, and the restaurants do not just serve the typical Spanish tapas such as meatballs and croquettes. Even burgers and fish seem to be much cooler here.
There are many excellent restaurants around the old town of Tarifa and I together with my friends, used to come here for a day just to enjoy the great dining scene.
During the day you can just stroll the charming streets, shop for souvenirs and sip wine or Aperol at some of the cool Tarifa bars.
In the evening head over to Calle San Francisco or Calle Cervantes and enjoy the night away!
Visit Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno
Tarifa Castle, known as Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno, is a historic fortress that stands proudly in the heart of Tarifa, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar.
The castle has a rich history dating back to the 10th century when it was initially constructed during the Muslim rule. Over the centuries, it underwent various modifications and expansions. The castle played a crucial role in defending the region from invasions and attacks.
It offers great panoramic views! From here you can you can admire the views of the town of Tarifa, the coastline, and on clear days, even catch a glimpse of the African coastline across the Strait of Gibraltar.
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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 wind and kitesurfing – 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‘ all around the Spanish coast. Often offering excellent food and drink choices as well as a very chilled and Ibiza-like ambience.
Tarife is no different in that way. There are many fantastic chiringuitos along all Tarifa beaches.
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 dedicated only to 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 most unspoiled beaches surrounded by a magnificent landscape full of almost virgin nature. It is a large, four-kilometre-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) almost 30 meters high which since 2001 has been considered a national monument.
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!
What better place to learn kite surfing if not the wind capital of Europe!
There is a number of surfing and kitesurfing 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 are 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 they will not appear, but the success rate is pretty high.
You will also be able to learn loads about marine life and the types of dolphins and whales seen in those waters as experts lead the tours.
Try to take a trip with one of the conservation-focused tour companies like Naturetrek for a sustainable and harmless way.
Go Hiking around Tarifa
Tarifa is a perfect place for nature lovers. Not only does the sea and beach present incredible beauty – but 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 20 of which are signposted. By taking those routes 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 the 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, is a long-distance hike starting in Greece 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.
Eat Tapas and Try the Famous Red Tuna
Tapa is probably the best way to try famous red tuna. 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.
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 a 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 in 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 a Polish/Italian couple offers a fusion of Spanish and Italian cuisine as well as classic burgers and vegetarian options. 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 an amazing sunset as it’s located in front of the beach!
- Raizes Tarifa – Another recommendation from my friend. Great location, a super cosy tiny little place & attention to detail, the menu is small and very, very interesting. 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 drink 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 goat’s 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 top-class (seafood couscous to die for).
- Vaca Loca – 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 offers a different view of burgers. Also on offer vegetarian burgers as well as quesadillas.
Indulge in Shopping in Tarifa
Several times I went to Tarifa mostly to do some shopping. And of course, every single time I ended up staying longer (and always to dine).
Some of my favourite pieces of summer clothing originate from Tarifa. Variety of boutiques, some typically hip and catering to the surfing world and some more Spanish and classy can be found in Tarifa. 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 🙂
Take a day trip from Tarifa
Even the day trips from Tarifa are cool! Not just your usual day trip but a day trip to another country.
The two best day trips you can take from Tarifa are to 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 one-day trip to this historic Moroccan city with a rich literary and artistic heritage.
You can also visit Gibraltar on a day trip. To get to Gibraltar from Tarifa you would have to first take the bus to La Linea de la Concepcion. From there you can take 15 minutes walk to the border and there you are. I travelled this route many times and this was the main way I visited Tarifa.
You can also take a guided day tour to Gibraltar if you prefer having everything organised for you.
I hope you will love Tarifa as much as I do. I have been coming here for years and I will never get bored of it! Because truly, Tarifa is the coolest beach town in Southern Spain!
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