This month BRIGHT takes you to four hand-picked destinations in Malaga’s neighbouring province of Cádiz. During the off-season months these are the hot spots for surf and kite surf action, as well as switching off and relaxing in some of Spain’s most attractive, rugged stretches of white sands. Hugging this coastline you’ll find quaint little villages, bohemian locals, incredible seafood, and, steering away from the Mediterranean, you’ll be dipping into the wild Atlantic Ocean. At less than a two hour drive it is an easy transition to make and well worth the trip to discover a whole new section of Andalucía’s dreamy oceanside living.
Article by Victoria Wood
CONIL DE LA FRONTERA
Conil de la Frontera, or Conil for short, is one of Cadiz’s best-known ‘best of both worlds’ destinations. Here you’ll find a picturesque Andalusian white village as the backdrop for some jaw-dropping, welcoming sandy beaches. Just outside the town are some rugged cliffs which drop down into the bright blue Atlantic waters and lead to the stretches of golden sands that the Costa de la Luz (coast of light) is so famous for.
On the Plaza de Santa Catalina you’ll notice the Torre de Guzman after which the town was originally named (Conil-Torre de Guzmán). It was changed to include ‘de la frontera’ having been a crucial part of the defence (or, frontier) against attackers such as the Moors, Christians and Romans, as well as other invaders from the seas. There is also the mighty church of Santa Catalina here in the plaza of the same name, as well as art markets and a convent. For the more active there are amazing kayak tours following the cliffs of Cala de Roche just to the west of Conil, or you can even surf here when the conditions are right. Take a walk through the Parque Atalaya through to the start of the cliff top walk – do both if you’re feeling adventurous!
The narrow, white-walled village streets offer great pedestrianised areas for shopping, eating, drinking and people watching – all perfectly peppered with souvenirs and everything Andalucía. A lovely breath of relaxed fresh air, though you’re sure to find a place to party if that’s your calling.
And then, as promised, the beaches! You have Fuente del Gallo which slightly west, a beautiful long stretch with a rugged cliff background. The perfect spot for an evening sunset walk, or a beachside sundowner. Calas de Roche beaches are truly spectacular and rate as some of the best in Andalucía. Stop on the roadside at the clifftops and wend your way through the wooded paths to find the staircases leading down to the sands. Though you may want to stop a while and soak in the view from the cliffs edge. It is something to behold!
LOS CAÑOS DE MECA
Los Caños de Meca stands out for its crystal-clear waters, its fine golden sands and spectacular cliffs. Here you can choose your water sports; kite surfing, wind surfing or surfing – all depending on the wind of course! Los Canõs sits within the natural park areas of La Breña and Marismas de Barbate, so the natural wildlife here is in abundance. There are countless walking and hiking trails as well as bird watching opportunities. And of course, the food here is much celebrated. There are several beaches to visit here, Faro de Trafalgar with its gorgeous wildness and stunning scenery, but not the safest of swimming zones, Marisucia beach, the Pirate Beach (main beach of the area), a nudist beach and Los Castillejos.
Do visit the Barbate cliffs, or the Tajo de Barbate as they are known, these are a wondrous sight and the most visited cliffs in the whole of Cadiz. Along the 4km stretch you will also come across a 16th century fortress high up on the cliff known as the Torre de Tajo.
But let’s get back to those beaches – Mari Sucia is a stunning little oasis of a beach which offers views all the way to Africa on a clear day. From here you can also see/visit the Trafalgar Lighthouse. When the westerly winds, or ‘poniente’ is in force, this is the beach to go to as it is protected, and you’ll find still waters and calm. Of course, the opposite may happen when the easterly winds, ‘Levante’ come.
El Pirata, meaning the pirate beach, is a nod to its historical positioning in the days of smuggling and swashbuckling. Located at a perfect position for all pirating needs, El Pirata is a beautiful fine sandy beach located in the heart of the area. This urban beach is popular for the little waves and clear waters plus, having an urban situation, is well located for amenities, bars, and restaurants.
Then we have Los Castillejos, which are actually small coves situated in between El Pirata and the nudist beaches. Beautifully sheltered from the Levante, but be warned that, when the tide comes in, the sandy areas will be mostly covered by water.
You must also see the namesakes of the place – the ‘caños’ – pipes of freshwater coming out of the rock, as well as slather yourself in some of the mineral-rich clay that lines the shore.
Award-winning food will be available to you throughout Cadiz, and you won’t miss out in Caños either – famous for their very own surf and turf dishes you will not be gastronomically disappointed. La Breña, El Trafalgar, El Caña, Sajorami, La Pequeña Lulú and many more restaurants are top of the list here – don’t forget to test the local red tuna. It’s heavenly.
One of the best spots on the entire Costa de la Luz to watch a sunset, this is a surfing mecca: when the waves are good there may well be a queue! The little wooden boardwalks across the grassy dunes in this region take you from the street to the sands and then the expanse offers you plenty of choice as to where to lay your towel for a lengthy leisurely lay down and breathe in that crisp, but balmy Atlantic air. On the other side of the street, you’ll find a strip dedicated to restaurants, bars, and hotels. You’ll very often find live music at one or more of the venues along here, and it is a popular spot for weddings due to the stunning coastline. There is also a campsite, skate ramp and a surf hotel nearby.
ZAHARA DE LOS ATUNES
The gem of the Costa de la Luz with its turquoise waters and seemingly endless golden sands, Zahara de los Atunes is an idyllic place to visit. There is a surfing community here which has given Zahara a place on the surf map, yet it is more famous for its spectacularly beautiful, immaculate coastline. Zahara is a perfect destination for families and veers away from any high-rise all-inclusive hotel type tourism, this is the furthest you can get from the concrete jungle. Think perfectly preserved nature, pristine beaches, excellent restaurants, frontline beach accommodation, and all the amenities you need to have a relaxing escape. Landmarks of the Castillo de las Almadrabas and the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen offer up some local history and an architectural backdrop.
The beaches in Zahara are the Playa de Atlanterra, THE spot to chill-out and relax, and from here you’ll see the Varadero beachside restaurant which has stunning landscaped gardens and candlelit evening meals. Then there is playa de Cabo de Plata or Los Alemanes – this famous beach is known as the ‘Pearl of Zahara’. You’ll have to navigate a steep staircase to get to it, but it is well worth the effort. Definitely a great place to get the snorkel and mask out, there are some stunning underwater rock formations to look at.
Try the blue-fin tuna (read more about the best gastronomic spots of the area here), look out for the Almadraba age-old fishing technique to catch them, and book accommodation in advance as this is a year-round destination.