A travel guide- TARIFA. Streets to Surf. Part #1
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
It’s not hard to describe this thriving city in the south of Spain, but to label it with one, lets go with a vibe.
The city where there is always wind- its even the question you get asked upon requesting to join their Facebook roommates group. Proud to call on it, and proud to live in this beautiful Spanish town, the locals welcome all- and after 3 months of life in Tarifa myself, its safe to say this town is the ultimate destination for wind seekers and party goers. Better yet, both go hand in hand.
Located in the most southern part of Spain below Cadiz; Tarifa’s cobblestone streets and long sandy beaches are visited by many. Only 14km and a 45 min ferry trip across the Atlantic Ocean you will find Morocco (which is just as hard to believe when you see it). To the north; Malaga, Cadiz and only 1 hour up the coast is Gibraltar- a massive rock owned by the Brits where a bunch of monkeys reside.
When it comes to the saying “Spanish Time”, which I’ve come quite accustomed to, it pretty much means everything is delayed about 4 hours. But if you’re an avid beach goer, don’t mind a sleep in, coffee- all day, late lunches, midday siestas (naps), balmy summer evenings with lots of sunset mojitos and late night boogying;
Tarifa has you covered, no matter the time of day.
Part #1 STREETS.
Gibraltar Airport: If you’re in England or wanting to fly through, Gibraltar is the easiest way to get to Tarifa. You’ll always stop over or fly out from Gatwick. It’s a two flight and when you land, everything is in English, as Gibraltar is owned by the British Government. You then have to cross the border to get to your car hire or catch the bus from La Linea. This is only a 1 hour bus trip, but it only goes direct to Tarifa 4 times a day. Alternatively, you can catch a more regular service to Algeciras, and then connect to Tarifa.
Malaga Airport: Generally the cheapest flights, Malaga is about an hour’s car trip to Tarifa, or a 3 hour bus trip. The bus is scheduled every hour, however it only takes you to Malaga center, where you’ll have to take another shuttle or taxi to the airport. There is a regular service that passes through Algeciras which will take you direct to the airport and is only 2.5 hours in total travel time.
Seville Airport: If you're travelling from Portugal or just flying in-land, Seville might be a good option-it's about a 4.5 hour trip on the bus.
Summer: Temp high- 26°c Temp low- 19°c Rainfall- 1 day Water temp- 21-23.5°c
Autumn: Temp high- 24°c Temp low- 14°c Rainfall- 13 days Water temp- 22-18°c
Winter: Temp high- 16°c Temp low- 11°c Rainfall- 22 days Water temp- 16-17.5°c
Spring: Temp high- 20°c Temp low- 12°c Rainfall- 15 days Water temp- 18-21°c
BEST TIME TO VISIT
May- early July: These months in Tarifa are known as the best to the locals, as the town isn't too crowded, hot or busy. Spring still brings a good amount of wind, and even some of the last swells of the season for a surf. Flowers are out, the water is beginning to warm up (enough to wear a spring suit or a bikini when kiting), but it's still cool enough not to be breaking a sweat when walking down the street. During the peak of summer it's extremely busy- on the beach and in the streets. And by busy, I mean it takes half an hour to get into the town by car, the water is extremely crowded with kites and you can barely move through the bars... so try and avoid this time.
September-October: Tarifa starts to calm down in September. Summer holidays are over, so most tourists leave which makes for a lot more breathing space. Although I didn't stay in the Autumn months, I've been told that this time of year is great because the swell starts to build back up and and once the crowd leaves with the heat of the summer sun, it's much more enjoyable.
WHERE TO STAY
Hostels are really good quality and full of like minded people. I stayed and worked at the Tarifa Kite Hostel, which was in a great location- I would highly recommend! Right in the center of town and about a 2 min walk to the beach. There’s a good selection of hostels on booking.com or hostelworld.com
There are a couple of camping grounds scattered around the outskirts of Tarifa- an option for people wanting to stay in tents or sleep in their van.
But first… COFFEE
Café 10 (click here for map) Located in the old town of Tarifa, café 10 is busy at all hours of the day- but if you can manage to snag a table, the coffee is worth it. I came here almost every morning for a month after I discovered it. A really creamy espresso is only 1 euro, and the rest of the drinks menu is not much more than 3 euros.
Café Azul (click here for map)
Banana Republic (click here for map)
** Breakfast is good at most cafes. A lot of people skip breaky in the am because of the late starts; but if your hungry I would highly recommend “tostadas con tomate” which is simply toast, olive oil and a fresh tomato puree. SO good. Eggs, fruit and bocadillos (hot sandwich) are always on the menu too.
Power house Cafe (click here for map) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this cafe is the bom.com. Powerhouse has got everything to cure your hunger needs, cleverly putting a healthy twist on smoothies, salads, sandwiches and even cakes. There’s about a 100 things on the menu, so good luck choosing! Although it’s on the more expensive side, this food is seriously worth every cent.
Banana republic (click here for map)
Tangana Chiringito (click here for map)
The simplicity of sharing food and drinks, whether you’re standing at the bar or sitting in a group, is so refreshing. Tapas are a small Spanish style dish designed to be shared between 2-3 people. 3-4 of these with a few vinos and cervezas and you’re good to go- enough to be satisfied but not too much to weigh you down for the rest of the night. Some great tapas restaurants are:
Ola Ola (click here for map) My favourite meal of the trip: Crispy tuna.
Lola (click here for map)
Café Frances (click here for map)
** Must try Spanish tapas
Tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette)
Russian salad (potato, tuna and mayonnaise salad)
Smoked tuna sandwich (local smoked red tuna steak on bread )
Salmorejo (cold tomato, olive oil and bread soup)
Cuttlefish croquettes (cuttlefish fried balls)
Old Town has about 14 bars lined up next to each other, so it’s an easy find and a good variety. This street is so much fun. Buzzing with people laughing, dancing and drinking; it’s the perfect place to end (or start) the night. A lot of great memories were made here. Make sure to hit up happy hour from 8-11pm, where cocktails are only 3 euros at most bars. After about 12pm it starts to get busier, and as the night goes on, the scene from chilled conversations changes to dancing time. The people oof Tarifa know who to party, that’s for sure. Once you get in the groove, you’ll most likely be dancing til the early hours of the next day.
Exit Bar (click here for map)
Taco Way (click here for map)
Tomitito (click here for map)
Mambo (click here for map)
Mombasa (click here for map)
Café Del Mar (click here for map)
** My tips for getting the best out of the bars are starting from one end to the other. This way you can ease into the party scene. The bars start on one side and end on the other.
Above is the order of our regular route.
Overall price impression: $-$$
Most places do card and cash. But when going out for dinner, its better to take cash so you can split the bill.
Don’t underestimate the small 24 hr shops. They don’t look the fanciest, but they have the cheapest snacks and a good bocadillo.
I will definitely be making sure I have a car during my next visit. Although everything in the ‘town’ is pretty close (about 20 min walk from one side to the other), getting to the kite spots, doing big grocery shops and other small trips was really difficult as there is no public transport.
Tuna!! You have to try it in Tarifa. Every morning the fishing boats go out to catch the red tuna of the Atlantic- the locals claim it to be the best in the world and its not hard to argue. The nets are only 500m off the beach so all the produce is very fresh.
If you get a chance, make a visit to Bolonia. About a 20 minute drive from the center of Tarifa, it’s a beautiful town with an amazing beach and pretty national park
Up next... Part #2 SURF.
(food photo credits- google images)