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12 Best Things to Do in Tarifa

12 Best Things to Do in Tarifa

There is an abundance of fun things to do in Tarifa, Spain. Whether you are using Tarifa as a base or exploring it from other areas in Andalucia, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in this beautiful town.

While most people head to town for the Levant winds and surf, the town’s history and resplendent architecture are well worth exploring. The rise of the Moors, the conquering Christians, and the presence of Napoleon have infused Tarifa with stories. The kind that beckons you down her old cobbled streets.

Yes, Tarifa is a windsurfing, kitesurfing, all-surfing gem. The golden beaches, mixing with the deep blues of the Atlantic and the turquoise of the Mediterranean Sea make for effortless beach days and breathtaking (literally) water sports.

Chringuitos welcome you after hours on the water where their perfectly crafted cocktails and juices reinvigorate.

But beyond the infinite Los Lances Beach lies an Old Town, older forts and castles, and immersive natural parks. It’s an endless adventure, whether you take the ocean route or stick to land.

How to Get to Tarifa

The closest airports to Tarifa are Malaga Airport, Seville Airport, and Gibraltar Airport.

Tarifa to Malaga is the most common (and often cheapest) with the journey around an hour and 45 minutes. From there you can take a bus to Algeciras, transfer to a second one and arrive in Tarifa.

Gibraltar Airport is only 40 minutes from Tarifa. If you choose to take the bus, you’ll still have to transfer in Algeciras.

Another option is BlaBlaCar. This is an online carpooling platform that connects you with other travelers heading to Tarifa. This is a convenient and inexpensive option compared to a taxi.

All of these airports provide the option for a rental car. Depending on how you plan to enjoy your time in Tarifa, it can be handy to have a set of four wheels. Check out our tips for renting a car in Spain so you know what to expect. Or simply check prices and book on Discover Cars.

flat beach with golden sand and blue skies above with hills behind.

The beach in Tarifa feels like it goes on forever.

Getting Around Tarifa

Tarifa is a relatively small destination on the Andalusian coast. If you’re not looking to do too much exploring outside of the main area, you may wish to forego all forms of transport. It takes you around 20 minutes to stroll the length of the promenade, and many major attractions, plus the beaches can be reached on foot.

Tarifa does have a public transport network. Aside from going about on foot, making use of the town’s buses is the cheapest way to get around Tarifa. A round trip costs about €2 and services the town and major areas around Tarifa.

Tarifa is a kitesurfing mecca thanks to its strong, burly winds. If you are here for some adventure and have a lot of gear, a rental car will help you get from beach to beach. A car can also quickly take you to nearby trailheads, in the Parque Natural del Estrecho, for example.

Where to Stay in Tarifa

Wondering where to stay in Tarifa? The town itself is quite small, making it easy to get around. With that said, we recommend staying either along Playa Los Lances or in the Old Town.

Los Lances puts you right on Tarifa’s best beach, with easy access to watersports and plenty of hotel options. While the Old Town surrounds you with history, in addition to some of Tarifa’s best nightlife.

If you’re traveling on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Ohana Tarifa Hostel. A short walk to Los Lances Beach, this hostel boasts clean and modern dormitories, inviting social spaces, and on-site food options. Travelers will also be steps from Puerta de Jerez. Book a stay at Ohana Hostel here.

At Dulce Nombre Tarifa, you can stick to a budget while enjoying the fruits of a fully equipped apartment. Guests will be 10 minutes from Valdevaqueros Beach and a short drive from the Old Town and Bolonia Beach. Rooms boast great views and there is an on-site pool surrounded by a grass terrace. Book a stay at Dulce Nombre here.

For something a bit more upscale, Tarifa Lances features a gorgeous burnt orange facade, and its turquoise pools are in lockstep with the vibe of the Med. Close to Los Lances, the hotel rooms come with a private balcony, buffet restaurant, pool bar, plus spa and fitness facilities. Book a stay at Tarifa Lances here.

The highly rated Kook Hotel is an eye-catching mid-range option. In the heart of the Old Town, each room comes with modern amenities. The rooftop terrace provides excellent views, and the hotel offers bike rentals to explore the surrounding streets. Book a stay at Kook Hotel here.

For a taste of luxury, check into the adults-only The Riad. Set in a 17th-century building, the Riad boasts a classic Moroccan interior and some rooms feature a private patio or balcony. Guests will be inside the Old Town and close to the Tarifa Port where you can head off on your own Moroccan adventure. Book a stay at The Riad here.

A hop, skip, and jump from Los Lances, it doesn’t get much better than the Lances Beach Penthouses. Each penthouse comes with a personal terrace with stunning ocean views. Guests will be able to make use of the fully equipped kitchens and the outdoor pool. Book a stay at these epic penthouses here.

white buildings on a street with pedestrians walking and bright pink flowers on the right.

Exploring the Old Town is one of the best things to do in Tarifa.

Things to Do in Tarifa

Check out these fun things to do in Tarifa that include getting out on the water, under the water, and exploring the stunning landscape. It’s a town that invites you to seek adventure.

1. Explore the Old Town

It all starts at the Jerez Gate (Puerta de Jerez). A symbolic part of a 13th-century medieval wall, it welcomes you to the Old Town, a place that flourished once King Sancho IV conquered the Moors.

You’ll see the architecture change, and so too the colors. Rows of whitewashed homes shine bright against the bright blue sky which feels ever-present in one of the best places to escape winter in Spain. Narrow streets whisper the tribulations of centuries past and beckon you to explore.

You’ll likely get lost in the maze-like layout of Tarifa’s Old Town. But that’s part of the fun. The winding old cobblestones guide you on a culinary adventure (try the red tuna), with many of those same foodie havens becoming happening places after dark along Calle Santisima Trinidad.

All roads here, though, lead you to Plaza de Santa Maria. Its centerpiece fountain with 8 mini frog statues is the communal heart of the Old Town.

2. See the Castle of Guzman el Bueno

The original Moorish fortress, Castle of Guzman el Bueno, was first built in the 10th century. It stood until the 13th century when King Sancho IV arrived. In a wild twist of fate, the castle was then named after Alonso Perez de Guzman. In a show of loyalty to the king, he sacrificed his son.

Having been refurbished in the 17th century to help Spanish and British troops stave off the Napolean-led French army, the castle remains in great condition.

Set between the Old Town and the memorable coastline, one can enjoy some splendid views while learning about the castle’s history. This is aided by the on-site museum that showcases the link between the castle’s storied past and the rise of modern-day Tarifa.

old gate with a statue in front of it.

There is so much history in the Old Town of Tarifa worth learning about.

3. Learn to Kitesurf

Tarifa may be small, but it’s Europe’s unofficial Capital of Wind. For that reason, thrilling water sports fill the itinerary for many travelers.

But in Tarifa, kitesurfing is king. With 35 kilometers  (21 miles) of gorgeous coast, and consistent (and often strong) winds nine times out of ten, this is the perfect spot to break out the kiteboard.

New to the sport? Why not take a lesson in one of the world’s best kitesurfing destinations? Your certified instructors will provide a great base to learn this exciting sport and get you out on the water. Importantly, with most flat near-shore water and crosswinds, Tarifa is great for newbies.

Book a kite surfing lesson here.

4. Head to the Beach

A busy first day of kitesurfing will have you ready for a few hours of relaxing on Tarifa’s renowned golden sand. Europe’s most southern point presents travelers with some of Spain’s best beaches. Ivory white sand and turquoise Mediterranean waters make for a pretty inviting contrast.

Playa de los Lances is seemingly infinite, with the sight of her idyllic coast stretching for miles. Because of this, each part of the 10km (6 miles) is different from the last. It begins in a more urban setting, Playa Balneario, with beach bars and lifeguards, and continues to the rustic, quiet Playa Rio Jara.

Just outside of town, Valdevaqueros is a local favorite. The breathtaking locale comes with the Tumbao Beach Bar for post-swim cocktails. While the sand dunes at Bolonia Beach, combined with views of the Roman ruins, make it a spot like no other.

beach with kite surfers on the sand and ocean in front of them.

You will see windsurfers and kitesurfers all over Tarifa, it is one of the biggest reasons to come here.

5. Experience the Roman Ruins

Did the thought of Roman ruins at Bolonia Beach pique your interest? Well, you can combine your beach day with an exploration of Baelo Claudia. Built during the 2nd century BC, these ruins were once the home of Tarifa’s original fisherman and woman.

A National Historic Monument, the ruins are some of the most impressive in the Andalusian region. The rising columns are spectacular as they overlook the coastline. The preserved fish salting facilities take you back to the height of Roman tuna fishing in the Strait of Gibraltar and immerse you in Tarifa’s ancient history.

Visitors will also find the site’s former theater, aqueduct, and old Roman Baths.

turquoise waters with golden sand and a clear blue sky above.

Beach lovers will not want to miss walking along the beach in Tarifa, even if it is a touch too windy to lay out and sun yourself.

6. Take a Hike

Summers in Tarifa are for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. But when the summer temperatures die down, Tarifa’s on-land beauty begins to make itself clear.

There are two natural parks a short drive from town. Los Alcornocales is home to the Iberian Peninsula’s most impressive cork oak forest, with ample camping along the way. You’ll be able to spot dozens of different native and migratory birds.

Our favorite, however, is the Parque Natural del Estrecho, which shows off the region’s epic coastline. The Colada de la Costa trail guides you along the Mediterranean Coast over wonderful and wacky rocks.

If you head in the other direction, you’ll find yourself at the Cape of Trafalgar. Looking out over the Atlantic, you’ll be standing where Napoleon’s naval fleet was defeated.

views of mountains from a viewpoint with a distance island across the water visible through cloud cover.

There are som magnificent hiking trails to explore in Tarifa.

7. Spend a day in Tangier

It takes travelers 80 minutes by ferry to cross the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa to Tangier. The temptation dances at the end of your fingertips throughout your stay.

Crossing the strait takes you from one continent to another. But it also expands Tarifa’s history, which is closely linked to Moorish and ancient Arabic life. Lying on the other side of the ferry is an immersive Old Town and a bustling Medina that outdates the more famous Marrakech Medina.

So much time has passed that Tangier’s history has merged with the mythical. In addition, the White City and Sidi Bou Abib Mosque create a highlight-rich destination.

On this day trip from Tarifa, explore the kasbah, souk, and medina plus a traditional Tangier lunch.

8. Join a Surf Lesson

Alongside kitesurfing, travelers will find as many surf schools along Tarifa’s famed beaches. While some spots remain flat but windy, perfect for beginner kitesurfers, others offer user-friendly waves that are great for your first time.

Surf Tarifa School is where beginners and intermediate surfers should start. They’ll take you out to a spot that suits your ability from the small waves of the River Jara to the intermediate Balneario break. Plus all the gear and great instruction.

If you know your way around a surf break, Arte Vida (Hurricane) is a good warmup spot. While the bigger waves at Palmar will be enough to satisfy your search for the perfect ride.

sand dunes along the beach with water crashing to shore on the left side. Exploring the dunes is one of the best things to do in Tarifa.

The beaches and sand dunes around Tarifa add to the beauty of this incredible coastline.

9. Visit the Castillo de Santa Catalina

Towering over the coastline near Isla de Tarifa, the Castillo de Santa Catalina is a striking sight. The Renaissance-style fortress harbors an imposing presence, which should come as no surprise since designed as Tarifa’s main defense in the late 1920s.

What it lacks in years, it makes up for in stories. Just eight years into its life as a strategic watchtower, it suffered enormous damage during the Spanish Civil War. It was left to rot for four decades before becoming a control center for the Strait of Gibraltar and later a weather station.

Today, it lies once more in disuse. Yet you can admire its haunting ghost-like nature while making the most of the elevated view of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

10. Walk across to Isla de las Palomas

Isla de las Palomas is the official southernmost point of Europe. First established by the Phoenicians, a causeway was later built between the isle and the mainland in 1808.

This promenade splits the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, creating some of the best photo opportunities in Tarifa.

Aside from venturing along the promenade, Isa de las Palomas offers some intriguing treasures in her surrounding waters.

Scuba diving and snorkeling allow you to explore both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean at the same time. All the while admiring the corals, moray eels, octopus, and schools of vibrant fish.

You can rent gear or go out on a boat with local schools like Go Dive Scuba Center or Leon Marino.

narrow streets with tons of plants along the path on a cobbled street.

The town has tons of cute shops and beautiful streets to explore.

11. Go Whale Watching

Now that you’ve mastered the winds, surfed, and scuba-dived, there’s one last on-water adventure to partake in. The Strait of Gibraltar is the best place to go whale watching (and dolphin spotting) in Spain.

Whales can be seen throughout the year. However, the main season runs from April to October. Those on the lookout for pods of Orcas will want to head into the Strait between July and August.

During this period, the orcas track the migrating bluefin tuna as it makes its way out of the Atlantic Ocean to spawn in the Mediterranean. This is the most active part of the year, with the whale’s antics creating a wild scene out in the Strait.

Check out this tour which takes you out on the waters for two hours to find whales and dolphins with a knowledgeable guide.

12. Party On along Calle Santisima Trinidad

Locals and travelers alike work and party hard here in Tarifa. Whether your day was spent exploring the natural parks or trying to catch the perfect break, the beautiful nights in southern Spain create a proverbial bridge into the early hours.

Our favorite place to enjoy a late-night drink (or two) is within Tarifa’s Old Town. Here, you’ll feel the vibe and sounds of Calle Santísima Trinidad long before you see the happening street.

Lined with bars and clubs, there’s no better way to toast to a great day than right here. Keep in mind, that Spaniards will still be enjoying their dinner in the late hours of the night, so don’t expect this strip to kick off until at least 11pm. But don’t worry, it’s worth the wait.