Monday, 17. September 2018
What to do in Tarifa? Our top tips
Tarifa is the most southern city of the European mainland. From here you can see all the way to Africa in good weather. Tarifa is (after El Palmar of course) one of the coolest cities of southern Spain, because there is always something going on here. Tarifa, the epicentre of the kitesurfing scene, also offers small boutique shops, great restaurants and cosy cafés. And the best thing is Tarifa is less than an hour away from El Palmar, making it the ideal place to visit on a surf-free day. A-Frame surf instructor Alex spent the whole summer in Tarifa this year, so we asked him for his highlights and insider tips. And here they are - the best restaurants, sights, beaches and Must Dos in Tarifa.
Tarifa's old town is charming with its narrow streets, small bars, restaurants and boutique shops. Here you can easily lose yourself just wandering round all day seeing what's around the next corner. Here are our highlights of the old town inTarifa.
Tip: During the siesta (approx. 14:00-17:30) some shops are closed.
The best ice cream of Tarifa
You enter the old town of Tarifa through the so-called "Puerta de Jerez". On the left behind this archway you'll find our first insider tip: Here you'll find really delicious home-made ice cream - according to Alex and his girlfriend Ana maybe even the best ice cream in Tarfia.
Cakes and tarts
A little further down the road, the sweet aroma of baking cakes greets your nostrils. This comes from the traditional confectioners or pasteleria "La Tarifena". Here they have been making delicious little cakes and sweets for over 60 years. The plethora sweet delicacies are displayed in the shop window and counter. These are great as little treat or to take home as a gift for home – give in to temptation and satisfy you sweet tooth here!
Shopping in the Old Town
Those who like more alternative shopping will surely find what they are looking for in the old town of Tarifa. You won't find brands like H&M or Zara here, but there are numerous individual boutiques with modern but also fancy clothes, jewellery, handicrafts and home accessories.
Bars & Restaurants
The further you go down the streets, the deeper you work your way into Tarifa's gastronomic centre. You'll find typical Andalusian restaurants and bars in the romantic narrow streets of the old town. You can find our restaurant tips below but we can already tell you that the restaurants "El Lola" and "Picnic" are our favourites in the old town of Tarifa.
Plaza Miramar - View of Africa
If you don't feel like shopping in, grab a coffee and cake from the pasteleria "La Tarifena" and sit in the "Plaza Miramar". This small garden is located on the old city walls of Tarifa. Here you will find shade from palm trees and benches to relax on. The best thing is that from here you have a wonderful view on Morocco!
Welcome to the southernmost tip of Europe! The Isla de las Palomas (or Isla de Tarifa) is the southernmost point of the European mainland. You don't need a boat to get to the island. You can reach it comfortably on foot, because a bridge connects it with the mainland (the so-called Punta de Tarifa). On the Isla de las Palomas there is an old military fortress and can be visited by appointment but this is not the really the most interesting thing. Rather, it is the stunning location that makes the Isla de las Palomas so special. Because here, at the southernmost point of Europe, on the Strait of Gibraltar, two great seas, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, meet each other. So you have the Atlantic on your right and the Mediterranean on your left - and all that with a view of Africa straight ahead. Awesome, isn't it?
On the way to Isla de las Palomas, you can also visit the Castillo de Guzman el Bueno. The castle is situated on a promontory and towers over Tarifa. From here you have a magnificent view over the Strait of Gibraltar. In former times, the castle was regarded as a bulwark against pirate attacks, later as a barracks forSpanish-British troops. Today, you can visit the Castillo de Guzman el Bueno and book a guided tour.
If you fancy a walk by the sea, the Paseo Maritimo (or beach promenade)of Tarifa is ideal for strolling, skateboarding or longboarding. On the promenade you will find several beach bars and clubs. When the weather is fine, you can enjoy the sunset or simply watch the colourful hustle and bustle of beach visitors. In winter the Paseo Maritimo is rather quiet, so perfect for carving your skateboard along the smooth concrete in peace. At the southern end of the promenade you can reach Playa Chica, from where you have a beautiful view of Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Playa Chica is located on the side of the Mediterranean side of the town. The sea on this beach is beautifully blue and clear! There are almost no waves, but you can snorkel or paddle with an SUP. Playa Chica has its own charm, because you hardly see any tourists here. You can roll out your towel next to the locals. ;-) Interestingly, the water here is always a few degrees colder than on the Atlantic side.
While we're talking beaches: Playa de Valdevaqueros is THE place to be for kitesurfers and windsurfers. Tarifa is one of the best kitesurf spots in the world and Playa de Valdevaqueros is the top beach in Tarifa. Near the beach there is the Bar Tumbao, which means "to lie down". The name says it all: On their green lawn you can hang out, realx, watch the kitesurfers and enjoy cocktails. The music is good and there are burgers and other grilled food on offer. You can easily spend the whole day here - especially if you feel like just chilling out in the sun.
Tarifa is the mecca for kitesurfers so of course there are surf shops here. If you are looking for a wetsuit, boardshorts, a surfboard or fins, in Tarifa's numerous surf shops you will find everything for surfing, kitesurfing or windsurfing – as well as all the latest surf fashion.
From April to October is whale season. During this time you can observe whales and dolphins in the Strait of Gibraltar. The firmm foundation in Tarifa organizes whale watching tours. In contrast to many other providers in Tarifa, firmm (foundation for information and research on marine mammals) is actively involved in the protection of whales and dolphins and thus also for the marine habitat. Before each trip, all participants are informed about the habitat and the protection of the animals. During the expedition, the team also tells important and exciting stories about the marine mammals. For A-Frame guests there is a 10% discount on a whale watching tour.
Do you fancy a quick trip to Africa? Morocco seems so close to Tarifa – you feel as if you could just swim over there quickly. In fact Morocco is only 14 kilometres away from Tarifa. A little far for swimming in this busy shipping lane but then that's what the ferry is for. From Tarifa several high-speed ferries and catamarans depart daily to Tangier in Morocco. In just 45 minutes the ferry crosses the Strait of Gibraltar and suddenly you are in Africa! A Tarifa-Tangier day trip is definitely a popular option. Those who have never been to Morocco or Africa before should definitely take this opportunity to pop over there and back in a day.
Tip: Don't forget your passport. If you are travelling in a guided group, you will probably need an identity card.
In Tarifa there are many good restaurants, bars and cafés. We'll tell you about our three favourite restaurants now:
The restaurant Picnic is located in the old town of Tarifa. Everything here is just right: The staff are friendly and the food is excellent: tapas, octopus, steak or tuna - everything is delicious and extremely appealing. Those who like tapas must try the Patatas Bravas! In addition to the delicious food, there is a very good wine list here.
Surfers are always hungry! So thank goodness for a restaurant called Surla. Here there is always good food and plenty of it! The restaurant is located directly on the Paseo Maritimo and is Alex and Ana's favourite place (their Dog Frida also likes it). They could spend the whole day here - breakfast, lunch and sushi for dinner. Their favourite thing here though is the breakfast: There is Chia Pudding, Acai Bowls and all sorts of egg dishes.. Also great coffee, smoothies and other healthy shakes. The cool thing is that you can also eat typical Spanish tostadas here, so there is something for everyone. In Surla a lot of importance is attached to high quality ingredients at a reasonable price. For lunch there are stir-fries and pasta dishes and in the evening the Surla turns into a sushi restaurant (according to Alex, the best sushi in the area!). Surla is open all year round - except February. In the evening the restaurant is only open in the high season (June to October). The restaurant itself is very lovingly furnished so that you feel comfortable and enjoy staying there longer.
The restaurant El Lola is actually a typical Andalusian tapas restaurant but the tapas here are given a modern touch. There are many tuna dishes like sashimi, tataki or tatar de Atun which are particularly recommended. The fish served here is always caught locally and freshly with a long tradition and is also certified. Our favourite, the Ensaladilla de langostinos or the Calamares fritos are perfect for sharing and tasting. The restaurant and the terrace are always full during the high season but it is not possible to reserve a table in advance. Since the restaurant is located in the old town, waiting for food is usually entertaining - musicians often play on the square in front of El Lola. The service is very friendly and funny. Somehow it almost feels as if you have been invited to dinner with friends!
The Waves Beach Bar Tarifa is located directly on the beach. Here you can sit comfortably, eat fish or sip a cocktail while watching the sunset. In the Waves Beach Bar there is a party atmosphere, often until late (2am).
The Chiringuito Lounge-Beach Restaurant Tarifa is one for the romantics. It is located in on the beach in Tarifa, near the crossing to the Isla de las Palomas. The restaurant is a bit more upscale, but you can also just have a cup of coffee here. The best way to do this is to make yourself comfortable outside on the wonderful terrace and enjoy the sun. The food and the wine should be excellent - though we haven't even been there for dinner yet. The restaurant will captivate you with its view. Coffee with a view of the sea or dinner at sunset - in any weather. If the weather is uncomfortable outside, the restaurant offers a panoramic picture window for uninterrupted views of the Atlantic Ocean. Wonderful!
On the way to or from Tarifa you should make time for a stop at the dune of Bolonia. This huge sand dune offers a magnificent view of the Playa de Bolonia and the surrounding Costa de la Luz, all the way to Africa. If the weather is good, you can watch kitesurfers, windsurfers or surfers in Tarifa from above. Three colours meet here: Blue sea, green vegetation and white sand. If you have a little more time, you can also take a short walk to see the Piscinas naturales (natural pools) and the Baelo Claudia (a Roman archaeological site).
Tarifa is located in sunny Andalusia on the Costa de la Luz. The weather in Tarifa is very similar to that of El Palmar. But it can also be the case that in El Palmar the sun is shining and in Tarifa the rain clouds are moving in from the sea. On the other hand it can sometimes be nicer in Tarifa than in El Palmar. ;-) The good news is that, like El Palmar, most of the time it is mild and sunny in Tarifa due to its proximity to Africa. To be on the safe side, it is best to check the weather online before you leave.
Would you like more tips on the sights in and around El Palmar? Then read our article about the best sights in Andalusia or our guides about Must Dos in Vejer de la Frontera and Conil de la Frontera. More tips can be found under Activities and Place & Surroundings. For those who are with children in El Palmar, our guide for families and surf holidays is the best place to find top tips for family-friendly trips.