Costa de la Luz. Pictures taken in April.
Stretching from either Portugal to Gibraltar or from the more limited (but probably correct, depending on which Spanish map you're looking at!) Sanlucar de Barrameda to Tarifa in the far south west of the country, the Costa de la Luz encompasses some of Spain's finest, least crowded beaches.
The coast is spacious and relatively uncrowded with a hot climate, abundant champagne-colour sand and good support facilities. However, the water temperature is affected - at least partially - by the nearby Atlantic Ocean so is colder and rougher than other Spanish Mediterranean costas, while some beaches are exposed and can get windy, with the result that these are among Europe's best wind-surfing, kite-surfing and regular board-surfing destinations but perhaps a little exposed for family playtime.
The Costa de la Luz also embraces the Biological Reserve at Doñana National Park where thousands of migratory birds nest among the dunes (including golden eagles) and
Bajo de Guía beach which is known for its annual horse races.
Bugbog's choice of beaches from on the stretch from Sanlucar to Tarifa
• Cadiz's La Caleta for family-friendly protected waters, good facilities, style and proximity to superb urban attractions (day or night), tho' it's small.
• Cadiz's Playa de la Victoria for a massive expanse of exposed sand, great promenade, many hotels immediately adjacent and old town attractions not far away.
• Tarifa beach, Playa de los Lances, for superb stretches of exposed and frequently breezy sand, board surfing/kite and wind surfing waters, with a nice little promenade and charming, bohemian old town nearby, though Tarifa is tiny and short of night action.
Playa de los Lances, Tarifa's town beach with a flash of distant dunes in the centre of the picture where Punta Palomas is located.
Located at the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, Tarifa is one of Europe's most acclaimed wind and kite surfing regions with strong, reliable, side winds.
Tarifa town is Spain's most southerly point, with a charming little old town that doesn't offer much in the way of nightlife, an unattractive new town (as usual), and a very convenient fast car ferry service to Tangier, Morocco in 35 minutes so day trips are common. Tarifa is also a fine place for whale/dolphin watching around the month of July.
Playa de los Lances is 10 km of creamy sand stretching from the old town to some protected pine woods.
For windsurfers Playa de Valdevaqueros, the location of annual world wind surfing championships, is the place. It's a curving, wind-catching sandy beach with dunes stretching around to Punta Palomas, another famous kite-surfing spot.
Looking for sheltered beach? Try the golden sand Playa Chica, Tarifa's smallest beach located to the west of the town is popular with locals and families.
The white dune beach at the sleepy fishing village of Bolonia, 15 km northwest of Tarifa, is an uncrowded strand with low-key facilities and clear aquamarine waters, though it usually has stronger wind and higher waves than in Tarifa due to its location.
Playa Zahara de los Atunes, properly known as Playa del Carmen (heard that name before I think?).
Playa Zahara, Zahara de los Atunes
Also known as Playa del Carmen, the town beach of Zahara de los Atunes is massive, offers soft sand, good facilities and lively beach bars near the town - which is very small. Beach facilities near the town are excellent but further away non-existant.
Cape Trafalgar light house seen from Caños de Meca dunes
Caños de Meca, Cape Trafalgar (yes, that Trafalgar!)
One of this Costa's most picturesque beaches is the vast Caños de Meca, curving inland from Cape Trafalgar, where Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon over 200 years ago (photo at top of page). This unspoilt beach, part of the Parque Natural del Acantilado, has been a happy hippy retreat and nudist paradise for years but parking is a nightmare, arrive very early or camp nearby!
Playa de la La Caleta beach, Cadiz
Cadiz is probably Europe's oldest inhabited city, securely located on a on a narrow peninsula and hosting a terrific, lively old town - see Cadiz pictures - as well as a couple of stunning beaches. See Cadiz beaches map.
La Caleta is a charmer, it's at the tip of the Cadiz peninsula with calm waters protected by the two little castles of Santa Catalina and San Sebastian, a stylish extension to the old town's delights. The sand is soft and creamy, the shore facilities excellent, and there is some accommodation and buses nearby, as well as one of the city's best eating areas, Barrio de la Viña. If it's not too crowded La Caleta is bugbog's choice of best beach on the Costa de la Luz, easy to reach, comfortable and family-friendly.
If Caleta is stuffed with paddlers and sun freaks and you prefer the wide open spaces then hop on one of the plentiful #1 buses and take a cheap 10 minute trip to enormous Playa de la Victoria (below) occupying much of the west side of the peninsula below the old town and offering good beach facilities, but lacking the style and architecture around La Caleta.
The Victoria area is loaded with large hotels, bars, restaurants and a superb promenade - the Paseo Maritimo - stretching from one end of the city to another. La Victoria is a fashionable evening hangout.
A small section of massive Playa Victoria, with Cadiz old town in the distance.
Playa de La Barrosa, Chiclana de la Frontera
This urban beach, loved by both locals and Spanish tourists, has a pleasant seafront promenade lined with shops, cafés and fresh seafood restaurants. La Barrosa is an 8 km long, white sandy beach with some totally untouched stretches. The area's development is restrained, with low-rise buildings and plenty of trees. It's near not far from Cadiz.
El Palmar beach
Playa de los Bateles, Conil de la Frontera
Los Bateles is a 14 km stretch of wide, soft sand around Conil de la Frontera backed by grassy dunes. It includes Playa La Fontanilla (below) that is shallow and well suited to swimming or Playa el Palmar (above), a few kilometres south, a less crowded windsurfing and kite surfing spot with few support facilities.
Playa La Fontanilla; Conil de la Frontera town is in the distance. April.
Playa Isla Canela, Ayamonte
Isla Canela is a 5 km long, 60m wide beach with fine golden sand backed by dunes, 40 km east of Huelva. It is excellent for families as its water is protected by the offshore sand bar that becomes an island at low tide. The beach zone is great for various sports including walking, biking and inline skating on the adjacent, dedicated lanes.
Mazagón, in the region of Huelva and near the border with Portugal, has natural sandy beaches with picturesque rocks and cliffs, such as 3 km long Playa del Rompeculos (Bottom-breaker Beach!) in the Arenas Gordas (fat sands area). This beach is off-the-beaten track and will require private transport and a walk down the cliff from the car park. It's 33km from the town of Mazagón and the nearest airport is in Seville.
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