Article by Sophie Ann Gatward-Wicks
There are plenty of destinations to travel to within an hour of Marbella, but as far as neighbouring places go, Tarifa takes the prize. With its unique bohemian vibe, beautiful beaches, super surf and cool hotels, it almost feels like a secret escape and Marbella residents flock to Tarifa to enjoy a bit of the surf side magic. For those coming from a northern European country, Marbella is seen as a relaxing resort – but Tarifa takes it one step further.
Sitting serenely close to the beginning of the Costa de la Luz, Tarifa is located at the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The municipality boldly stares down the shores of Morrocco, with incredible views across the Strait of Gibraltar. Getting there from Marbella takes just a little over an hour of scenic driving, along the A-7, AP-7 and N-340, it’s a straight forward route which leads directly to the old town.
Tarifa Old Town
The old town houses an array of vibrant clothing shops, wholesome cafes and a plethora of Roman-clad history. Entering through the Puerta de Jerez gateway, an immaculately preserved medieval entrance, and the only entrance through the old Moorish city walls that remains today of the four original ones, you are greeted with cobbled lanes at the foot of white washed houses that engulf pretty squares such as the Plaza de Santa Maria, and Plaza de la Ranita. The best way to experience your first visit to Tarifa old town is to put away navigation devices and ‘get lost’ in the intricate alleyways, discovering surprising businesses that pop up at the turn of every corner.
There is no shortage of healthy, organic food grabs, ice cream parlours, juice bars, tourist-adored hand crafted knick knack shops, hippy style boutiques and chic upscale clothing stores. Of course, surf shops are easy to come by in the old town, and are often alongside dedicated outlets that sell all manner of beach necessities. Whilst meandering through the narrow lanes, be sure to look out for the beautiful church Iglesia de San Mateo, which is found at the end of Calle Sancho IV.
Get a glimpse from Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno
At the mouth of Tarifa old town by the harbour, you can gain access into its historic castle. The sights from here are outstanding, giving you a birdseye view of all the building tops, as well as beyond the busy harbour with the ferries crossing to Morocco.
Tarifa and surf life go together like bread and butter. Stiff Atlantic winds which race through the town and whip the ocean waves draw in all types of surfers from all corners of the globe. The kite surfers are mainly only after one specific type of wind called Levante. This wind comes in from the east, and is usually warmer and more common during summertime. The Poniente wind, which blusters in from the west is a lot cooler, less fierce and brings with it calmer seas. The locals who don’t surf, would all be more content without the year round gusts, which power the hilltop windmills, but if you are into surfing – it’s one of the best places in Europe.
Dreams really do come true here. Sunset horse riding on an open white-sandy beach is a reality at Aventura Ecuestre. The riding style at this stable is natural, with the horses’ health in mind – bitless, with weight and voice. Availability for a number of experiences is offered for beginners and more experienced riders, even very young children can join in on the fun. Located right next to the Dos Mares hotel, (arguably one of the best hotels to stay at in Tarifa). Sitting just 3 miles west of the old town, with incredible views, a visit here is a no-brainer. It doesn’t even have to be for the horses or the hotel itself, as Dos Mares serve an incredible menu and beautiful cocktails from the bar, which can be enjoyed on a Moroccan-style terrace overlooking the Atlantic.
Playa de Valdevaqueros
Valdevaqueros beach is a paradise for the all the senses. A walkable distance from the sand dunes at Punta Paloma (another must-visit location), which can be seen from the trendy hot spot that attracts surfers, day trippers and families alike. Taking the N-340 west of Tarifa town for just shy of 10km, a sudden signpost arises, signalling access to a dusty track on the left hand side of the road opposite hotel Copacabana. A paid carpark is accessible at the end of this track for a day rate of 5 euros. To mention first, is the great amenities this beach offers. Pristine toilets and privately sectioned off showers (have small change on hand for use of these), as well as a beach bar which serves a top notch healthy and wholesome buffet lunch. There is a also the Tumbao cocktail bar further down the wooden walkway, and sometimes an adjacent burger joint pops up during high season. There is a grassy bank for chilling and sunbathing, which is often out of the way of the worst of any high winds, and there’s always a cool playlist serenading the surfers from the Tumbao bar.
Hurricane and Punta Sur Hotels
Tucked between two national parks, these timeless sister-hotels were both designed with stylish leisure in mind. In each room you will find authentic artworks, architecture and furniture inspired by the best influences that combine Spain and Morocco. Both hotels sit 10 minutes apart on opposite sides of the N-340, featuring fantastic salt pools, exquisite dining and an indescribable chilled vibe that is pretty special.
These hotels are a great alternative for when the beach gets a little too windy for comfort, but you still want to enjoy a nice day of swimming and leisure. It’s hard not to completely relax at these Tarifa havens even during busier periods. There is also the added bonus of horse riding at the Hurricane, and tennis at Punta Sur, or a game of pool with drinks at the bar at either one.
Atlantic or Mediterranean Sea?
In Tarifa you can walk down a pathway to the Point Tarifa or Point Marroqui, which is the dividing line between the Med and the Atlantic. Walking back with Tarifa town in front of you, the Atlantic is on your left and the Mediterranean on your right. Swim in both and feel the temperature difference!
It’s no wonder Marbella residents choose Tarifa for their getaway – the proximity to turquoise waters, white sandy shorelines and a place which essentially has everything you would want in a holiday: natural food, relaxed vibes, unforgettable experiences and dreamy sites. There is something for everyone in Tarifa, from historians to foodies, surfers to sunbathers, animal lovers to influencers. Somewhere which is just as pleasant for the grandparents as it is for the younger kids, and probably most of all – the romantic couple. Enjoying a getaway here is food for the soul.