Destinations Travel

Blown away in Tarifa, Spain // TRAVEL GUIDE

Traveling to new Destinations feels like discovering new worlds. It can be like walking into a storybook where the pages are empty and waiting for you to fill them with your own adventures. This is what Europe feels like to me… actual magic.

I grew up in the new world – in a city that was only just finding its way into being 100 years ago. Visiting cities that have been alive for more than 1,000 years is like stepping into the past. One such place located at the southernmost point of continental Europe is Tarifa, Spain.

Historically rich Tarifa is now a major hotspot in the kiteboarding community, and I’ve been hoping to visit this windy coastal city for years. If you’re planning a kiteboarding trip in Tarifa, check out the Tarifa Kiteboarding Spot Guide at MACkite.

For those who wish to explore the Andalusian region of Spain and take some time to revel in the journey to Tarifa, keep reading… Like any good story, it’s the journey that makes this trip unforgettable. 

Fairy tale city of Iznajar, Spain. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Taking the long way to Tarifa, Spain.

If time allows, a few extra days of exploring either before or after your stay in Tarifa is highly recommended. In fact, if kiteboarding wasn’t the reason for my trip, I may have gotten caught up in one of the romantic little villages along the way.

There was the village of Iznájar which I never knew existed until a last minute AirBNB booking dropped me right in the middle of it. There’s the Northern coastal city of San Sebastián where I took a lunch detour to and ended up spending a few days exploring. Time is all you need, and I only wish I had more.

Cities in Europe are not rental car friendly, with few parking options available, high risk of damage for rental cars (just take a look at the bumpers of all the local vehicles!), and very expensive underground parking if you can find it (think 30€+ for 24 hours of parking). Before your trip, it’s a good idea to decide whether you want to stay in the city and stick with their excellent public transit, or rent a car and get out of the cities and into the wild. You can also have the best of both worlds… fly into a major city like Barcelona or Madrid and explore on foot for a few days, then pick up a car and head off the beaten path on your way to Tarifa. If I could give any advice, it’s to stay off the highways so you don’t miss all the good stuff! 

Road tripping through beautiful Spain. Photo by Crystal Veness.

To get to Tarifa, you can fly into one of several airports in the area, so you’ll want to consider both your budget and your available time when choosing your airport.

San Sebastian, Spain. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Jerez [XRY] – 1.5 hours to Tarifa
Malaga [AGP] – 2 hours to Tarifa
Seville [SVQ] – 2 hours to Tarifa
Granada [GRX] – 3 hours to Tarifa
Lisbon, Portugal [LIS] – 6.5 hours to Tarifa
Madrid [MAD] – 7 hours to Tarifa
Barcelona [BCN] – 11 hours to Tarifa

Lisbon and Madrid are bigger cities that typically have better prices on international flights and more direct routes from North America, while the smaller airports like Jerez and Malaga will get you to Tarifa much faster. If you’re using Google Flights, you can type all of these airport codes into the ‘Destination’ field so you can do one search to see all of your options. For rental cars, check out Kayak or Hotwire for a rate comparison of all rental car agencies, but be sure to get unlimited mileage and be aware that most of the lowest price rental cars are manual transmission. BlaBlaCar is a carpooling service that is a great way to find a ride and to link up with some locals that may be on their way to your spot!

In Tarifa, avoid driving within the old city walls, as the streets are very small and difficult to navigate. Parking is also paid in the old city center, though you can find some free parking options just outside the city walls. In Europe, rental cars are easy targets for theft, so it’s best to leave your gear and personal belongings in your hotel room.

Where to stay in Tarifa.

There isn’t a better place to stay in Tarifa than right in the old city walls. Being able to walk out your door and down the street to the best restaurants and bars, and then make your way back after without having to worry about driving is invaluable!

If you’re traveling solo, hostels are a great way to experience this place – especially if you want to make some new friends and dive into nightlife. I stayed at the La Cocotera Coworking Hostel which was a great place to plug in and get some work done between beach days and tapas and wine sessions. If you’d like a little more energy, check out one of the surf hostels in or near the city center via Hostelworld.

AirBNB is the next best option if you’re traveling as a couple or in a group. You can find some very authentic local accommodation in the city or villas just outside of town. There are are many hotels available if you’d like the full holiday experience!

The local experience on AirBNB. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Tapas and pintxos and vino, oh my!

Ah, food in Spain… what a treat! It’s fresh, flavorful, and full of Spanish personality. The best thing about dining in Tarifa is the experience. Just go for a wander down the street, look for the best atmosphere and vibe for your mood, and have a seat.

You’ll more than likely be served a plate of locally grown olives when you sit down. Order yourself a beer (cerveza), or a glass of the house white (vino blanco) or house red (vino tinto). Spain is known for its tapas or pintxos, which are small plates of food good for one or for sharing if you want to try several different flavors and types of food.

Quality food in coastal Tarifa. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Two of my favourite tapas spots were No. 6 Cocina Sencilla and Mesón Siglo XIX. Either would be an excellent choice for your first Tarifa tapas experience. Don’t miss out on seafood and steak while you’re here, as this region is well known for both. Braseria Vaca Loca in the city center makes a mouthwatering steak grilled over an open fire. For a great coffee and breakfast or lunch menu, my top choices would be Surla or Wet Cafe near the kite beaches.

Surrounded by kiteboarders at Wet Cafe. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Get into the action in Tarifa, Spain!

If your trip goes anything like mine did, tapas and vino consumption will be high… which means that you’re gonna need to work it off somehow!

Kiteboarding/Windsurfing: Tarifa brings wind chasers from all over Europe and the world to sink their teeth into the ripping winds. This windy hotspot is heaven for kiteboarders and windsurfers. We’ve created a video spot guide and spot guide blog over at MACkite to introduce you to kiteboarding in Tarifa. If you’d like to take lessons while you’re there, link up with Ion Club. If you’re already kiting, head over to Wet Cafe to meet some of the local and visiting riders over coffee.

Blown away by the kite beaces in Tarifa. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Mountain Biking: If you’re stoked to get out on the trails, Tarifa has some excellent single track with unique terrain and views. You can hire a bike and set off on your own, or take a guided mountain bike tour with BikingTarifa.

Get a load of these views! Photo by BikingTarifa.

Landsailing: A fun and unique experience that you won’t find in many destinations is Landsailing. These machines are made for sailing across sand or soil, and are a fun way to learn how to sail without getting your feet wet.

Whale Watching: Turmares Tours will take you out to see some beautiful ocean creatures. Depending on the time of year, you could see pilot whales, dolphins, sperm whales, fin whales, or orcas. Stop by their office in the city center to book a trip.

The ocean has plenty to offer… photo by Turmares Tours.

Visit Tangier, Morocco: Another experience worth checking out is a ferry ride over to Tangier for the day. This can be a great way to explore a new country just a short distance across the strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa. Keep in mind that Tangier has been built up around tourist traffic and may not be the best representation of Morocco. For those who wish to have a true Moroccan experience, it would be better to spend a few days and dive a little deeper into the country.

Rich history in San Sebastian. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Road trip: Pick a direction and drive! There is plenty to see in the Andalusian region of Spain including the beautiful coastal city of Marbella, the port city of Cadiz, historical Seville, or the ancient city of Antequera. Take your time and take the road less traveled – there is plenty to see here in Spain!

I only wish I had more time to explore every nook and cranny of this beautiful area, but I already know I’ll be back soon. The kindness of the locals, the richness of the culture, the phenomenal food and drink, and the epic kitesurfing scene are all calling me back. I was blown away by Tarifa!

If you have any questions about your trip or want to share any favourite spots, get in touch on Facebook or Instagram!

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