Right across from Morocco, Africa there is a place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet. A place that is famous for its constant winds and stunning long white beaches. A place where thousands of water sports enthusiasts come every year, and many have fallen in love with it thanks to its chilled atmosphere. Welcome to Tarifa – the capital of the wind and one of the world’s most popular destinations for water sports, like kitesurfing or windsurfing. Vamos, let’s discover the best things to do in Tarifa, Spain.
Interesting fact. The name Tarifa comes from the name of the military commander, Tarif Ibn Malik, a Moorish invader who led a raid in 710.
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Tarifa, Spain FAQ
Tarifa is the southernmost point of Spain and mainland Europe. The town is located in Andalusia on Costa de la Luz, across the Strait of Gibraltar facing Morocco. Tarifa is also a place where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
The distance between Morocco and Tarifa is approximately 14km. Most of the time visibility is good, which allows admiring the African coast from beaches in Tarifa.
For such a small town, Tarifa is known for its various attractions. The town offers an amazing selection of activities both for water sports enthusiasts and for those who aren’t into them that much. Thanks to being Europe’s capital of the wind, practicing water sports like kitesurfing, windsurfing or surfing is the most popular thing to do in Tarifa. Next in line are attractions such as scuba diving, whale-watching, horse-riding along the beach, tasting delicious red tuna, or just sunbathing on one of Tarifas’ sandy white beaches.
Yes, definitely. Tarifa is one of those places where it just feels good to be. Mainly it’s a paradise for water sports lovers, but everyone will find something for themselves there, as the variety of activities is wide. From discovering the old town, sunbathing, a day trip to Morocco, Gibraltar, or Cadiz to whales and dolphins watching and horse riding on the beach.
It highly depends on what kind of person you are, and what are you looking for but in our opinion yes, for a month or two. Sunny location, relaxed vibes, quiet life and fewer tourists compared to bigger cities, a wide range of activities, quite a lot of restaurants and bars, some coworking spaces, lots of van lifers – it’s all there. On the other hand, there are also quite high costs of living (especially accommodations during high season) and a very windy climate, which can be annoying after some time. As for our experience, we lived in Tarifa for almost 2 months, in January and February, and we enjoyed our time there.
In the Strait of Gibraltar, the Venturi effect is formed (which happens when a fluid or gas flows through a constricted passage) which results in the constant winds – either Levante (infamous, gusty, and strong offshore wind blowing from the East) or Poniente (light or moderate wind coming from West, from the Atlantic). These two winds prevail in Tarifa for over 300 days most years. Wind gusts of 60 kph or more are not uncommon at all in the area. In these conditions, you can also observe how wind uplifts the sand which creates an interesting effect of some kind of sand dancing.
Tarifa has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. The average temperature throughout the year varies from 15°C in January to 25°C in August.
We were staying there from mid-January to March 2022 – almost of the time it was sunny and the temperature was around 15-20°. But we have to admit winds were sometimes really strong. Because of that, the perceived temperature was much lower and it was necessary to wear a winter jacket and a hat. What else speaks for visiting Tarifa off-season is that the prices are 2/3x lower and it’s less crowded (but still is).
It all depends on what you are planning on doing there. One day will be enough if you just want to see the town, have a lovely time on one of Tarifa’s beaches while watching people practicing watersports, and taste some local cuisine. If you’re a watersports enthusiast you’ll probably need more days to fully enjoy this Europe’s capital of the wind.
Yes, Tarifa is a fairly flat and walkable town with all main attractions within walking distance from each other. It’s about 20min to walk by the promenade from one end to another.
Yes, and no. Like with everything – it depends on the point of view. We were staying there in winter and accommodation (private apartment on Airbnb) cost us about €1100/month. Summer months are much, much more expensive so prepare for that. As for food prices, they weren’t very different from other places in Spain.
Things To Do In Tarifa, Spain – Complete Travel Guide
Practice watersports in Tarifa – kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, etc.
In the case of Tarifa, we cannot start our “Things to do in Tarifa, Spain” list with anything else than practicing watersports. As you already know, due to strong and constant winds this town is one of the world’s most popular destinations for water sports enthusiasts. All year round, thousands of people are heading to Tarifa to learn or practice kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, scuba diving, etc. But remember that it is officially forbidden at some spots to kite in summer (15.06-15.09). If you want to learn more about kitesurfing spots in and around Tarifa check out wakeupstoked.com website.
If you’re a beginner you can choose one of the dozens of schools in the area (remember to always choose a licensed one), and sign up for lessons. You can take private lessons, semi-private with 2 or 3 students however group ones with 3+ students are available as well. Don’t worry about the equipment – the school will provide it. If you already know how to kite or surf, you can easily rent or buy the equipment in one of the schools or shops.
Scuba diving in Tarifa
You can also try scuba diving in Tarifa, but remember that you cannot dive on your own. You have to choose one of the diving centers. Most of the diving in Tarifa takes place around Isla de las Palomas. You’ll be able to spot marine animals like moray eels, octopus, scorpion fish, wrasses, ocean sunfish, sea perch, and many more. What’s more, diving in Tarifa means diving in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean at the same time – cool, huh?
Beaches in Tarifa
Beaches in Tarifa are without a doubt one of the best and most beautiful in the entire Andalusia. They are stretching for miles along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and are full of soft golden sand perfect for sunbathing and watching kite surfers. Among the best beaches in Tarifa are:
- Playa de Los Lances
- Playa de Valdevaqueros
- Playa Punta Paloma
- Playa de Bolonia
- Playa Los Alemanes
- Playa La Caleta
Along Playa de Los Lances in Tarifa, you’ll find a lovely promenade, perfect for long walks.
Also, one of the best things to do in Tarifa is to watch the sunset from one of its beaches. We saw many of them there and believe us – they are very, very beautiful.
Walk the promenade to the Isla de las Palomas in Tarifa
Isla de las Palomas is the southernmost point of mainland Europe. Islet was in use since Phoenician times when Phoenicians established a trading settlement there, later it was a military base. Inside the walls, there is the Tarifa lighthouse located. It was constructed on the base of a watchtower that was used to alert about the arrival of Berber pirates. In the early 19th century, the tower was converted into a lighthouse. Unfortunately, Isla de las Palomas is currently closed for visitors (June 2022).
Since 1808 causeway connects Isla de las Palomas with the mainland. The promenade splits the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and currently is a very popular spot for photos, because in the middle two signs were placed – “Oceano Atlantico” on the west side, and “Mar Mediterraneo” on the east side. Keep in mind that it’s not always easy to walk the promenade – when the winds are very strong it’s almost impossible (and certainly unpleasant). Undoubtedly, it’s one of the best things to do in Tarifa with stunning views all around you.
After years of renovations, Isla de las Palomas was reopened to the public in December 2022. Entry tickets cost €4 (May 2023) and have to book in advance in the Tarifa Tourists Office located in the town center.
Castle of Santa Catalina
A few meters from the promenade is the hill of Santa Catalina and the Castle of Santa Catalina (es. Castillo de Santa Catalina) is located at the top. It occupies a strategic location overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Playa Chica, the causeway to Isla de los Palomas, the Atlantic Ocean, and Playa de los Lances.
It was designed in 1928 following Renaissance canons and completed in 1933. Not long after, in 1936, the building was bombed and suffered huge damage. In 1937 it was declared useless for service but in 1972, after almost forty years of abandonment, the building was restored. I was a control center for the passage of ships through the Strait of Gibraltar, a weather station for the Spanish Royal Navy, and later a National Institute of Meteorology. In 2000 the shipping control center moved to more modern facilities and the castle served briefly as a night-time lookout point for the Guardia Civil. 2001 ownership returned to the Tarifa Town Council.
Currently, Castillo de Santa Catalina is in disuse and closed to the public.
Castle of Guzman the Good
Castle of Guzman the Good (es. Castillo de Guzman el Bueno) is one of the town’s main attractions and things to do in Tarifa that can’t be missed. This well-preserved castle was built in 960 by the order of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III. The main purpose was to protect the town from attacks from the sea. Castle of Guzman the Good is located in a strategic position, on a small hill, thanks to what guards could see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and had plenty of time to prepare for whatever was coming.
The original construction used to have 15 defense towers, and the wall that surrounded the old town of Tarifa that started from the castle. Later, in the 13th century, the Guzmán el Bueno Tower was added, as well as a church of St. Mary. The building was rebuilt in the 18th century and served as a garrison for Spanish-British troops who were defending Tarifa from Napoleon’s army in 1811-1812 during the War of Independence.
An interesting fact is that the castle was named after its governor Alfonso Perez de Guzman who defended the town in 1294. During a Muslim siege, he refused to surrender and sacrificed his own son in order to keep the population safe. It’s said that he himself threw a dagger at the Muslims to kill his son which was held, hostage. To honor Guzmán el Bueno in 1960 a statue was put in front of the Castle of Guzman the Good.
Entrance to Castillo de Guzman el Bueno cost: €4 for adults, and €2.5 for children (May 2023). The castle is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM. For current prices and opening hours visit juntadeandalucia.es.
Jerez Gate (es. Puerta de Jerez) is one of the most famous landmarks of the town. It’s the only part of the medieval wall that surrounded the historic part of the town and that survived to this day. Gates are dating back to the 13th century. Above the arch, you can see an inscription celebrating King Sancho IV who conquered the city from the Moors – “Very noble, very loyal and heroic city of Tarifa won from the Moors while reigning Sancho IV El Bravo, on September 21, 1292” (es. Muy noble, muy leal y heroica ciudad de Tarifa ganada a los Moros reinando Sancho IV El Bravo, el 21 de Septiembre de 1292). Puerta de Jerez restoration took place in 2000.
Puerta de Jerez will take you directly to Tarifa Old Town.
Tarifa Old Town
Tarifa Old Town with whitewashed houses, narrow streets, corners, and squares has a typical Andalusian vibe. Its streets are full of restaurants, bars, small shops, and hotels. Enter through Puerta de Jerez, lose yourself in this charming maze, and look out for the remains from the Arab times. You should be able to spot some of the Arabic decorations or still-standing remains of the city walls. It’s definitely the second-best thing to do in Tarifa, after spending time on one of its beaches.
Church of St. Matthew
Church of St. Matthew (es. Iglesia de San Mateo Apóstol) is the main church of Tarifa located in the old town. The church was built in Gothic style on the remains of an old mosque and dates back to the early 16th century. Torcuato Cayón redesigned the main facade in the 18th century in Baroque style. The entrance to the Iglesia de San Mateo in Tarifa is free.
Mirador El Estrecho in Tarifa
Mirador El Estrecho is located about 7km from the Tarifa Old Town. From there you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the coast of Africa as well as one of the Pillars of Hercules – Jebel Musa. The Rock of Gibraltar is the second pillar.
There are some legends about the Pillars of Hercules. Some of them say about horrific seas, fiendish weather, and devilish serpents, some include Hercules and his twelve labors. If you want to read more about it check out this website. Here’s the most popular one:
“According to some Roman sources, while on his way to the garden of the Hesperides on the island of Erytheia, Hercules had to cross the mountain that was once Atlas. Instead of climbing the great mountain, Hercules used his superhuman strength to smash through it. By doing so, he connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and formed the Strait of Gibraltar. One part of the split mountain is Gibraltar and the other is either Monte Hacho or Jebel Musa. These two mountains together have since then been known as the Pillars of Hercules, though other natural features have been associated with the name.” Source: wikipedia.org
Whales watching in Tarifa
Tarifa offers a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look at whales (fin, pilot, orca, sperm, killer) and dolphins (common, bottlenose, striped) in their natural habitat, in a safe way, both for you and for animals.
The season for whale watching in Tarifa lasts between April and October. The peak season is mid-June through to early September. During this time most tour operators can promise a high chance of seeing whales.
Expect to pay at least €45 per person for a 2-3 hours trip. Check out prices and book your whale-watching trip on the Get Your Guide website.
Horse riding on the beach in Tarifa
Thanks to long and wide beaches, horse riding has become a popular thing to do in Tarifa. If riding a horse along the beach and feeling the breeze of the sea, and a sense of freedom is something that you were dreaming of – then this is an activity that you need to try. You can also go horse-riding in Tarifa’s Natural Parks: the Parque Natural del Estrecho and the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales.
Expect to pay at least €30. On this site, you can check out sample prices.
Bird watching in Tarifa
Tarifa lies on the migration route for more than 400 species of birds that fly towards the Straits of Gibraltar to spend the winter in Africa and then return again in spring.
The best times for bird watching are March and April when the flocks of birds return to Europe for the warmer months; and mid-August to October, when they migrate to Africa for the winter.
Taste the local tuna fish
Tarifa is famous for its delicious tuna dishes. If you’re eating fish don’t miss the opportunity to taste some of the local specialties. Bluefin tuna have been fished in Tarifa for three thousand years. Currently, this species is protected, and its fishing is controlled. Interesting fact: bluefin tuna is the world’s largest species of tuna.
If you’ll be visiting from late May to early June, you can take part in the Ruta del Atún event. It is one of the most popular gastronomic events in southern Andalusia. Various best restaurants in Tarifa are taking part, preparing special tuna dishes for visitors to try.
Things to do around Tarifa, Spain
Day trip to Tangier, Morocco from Tarifa
A day trip to Morocco is definitely one of the most popular things to do around Tarifa. Tangier is a beautiful, historic Moroccan port city, located right across the Strait of Gibraltar. You can go there on your own as well as book an organized day trip.
To get to Tangier you need to take a ferry from Tarifa Port. There are several daily ferry services, but it’s best to take morning ones so you’ll have the whole day in Tangier available. FRS company offers the fastest crossing, within an hour. On ferryhopper.com or frs.es you can check schedules and buy tickets.
It’s a fast and easy journey which takes about an hour.
A standard one-way ticket from Tangier to Tarifa with FRS Service costs €41.9 or €55.9 for premium class (May 2023). To book your tickets visit FRS website.
If the sea is rough, crossings are suspended. Also, remember that Morocco is a Muslim country so you should keep your body covered and respect their culture.
Other day trip ideas from Tarifa, Spain
One-day trip to Tangier isn’t your only option for getting to know the area better. Here are some of your best options (click the links and learn more in our posts):
- Trip to Bolonia, to see Baelo Claudia, the ruins of the Roman city, and the dunes
- Day trip to Gibraltar from Tarifa, to see a small part of the United Kingdom, but in the sun
- Day trip to Cadiz from Tarifa, to see one of the oldest towns in Europe
- Day trip to Vejer de la Frontera from Tarifa, to see one of the most beautiful villages in Spain
How to get to Tarifa, Spain?
Airports near Tarifa
The nearest airport to Tarifa is located in Gibraltar (45km away, but remember that it’s the UK, not Spain) and the next ones are located in Jerez de la Frontera (120km) and Malaga (160km). Each airport offers bus or bus+train connections with Tarifa. To learn more about connections that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
Where to park in Tarifa?
There are many free parking lots and places on the streets in Tarifa, so you shouldn’t have any problem with finding a place. We can’t really recommend any but saw that many were parking in this place.
To Tarifa by bus
You can also get to Tarifa by bus. For example, the trip from Cadiz will take about 1h 45min (€8-23), from Malaga about 2.5h (€11-35), and 3h from Seville (€19-45). To learn more about bus connections that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Tarifa by train
Unfortunately, there is no train station in Tarifa. The closest one is located in Algeciras, about 25km away, and from there you can take a bus or taxi to Tarifa. You can check out a map of available connections on acprail.com.
Campings Tarifa, Spain
If you’re traveling by camper here are places where most vans were staying that might interest you too:
- Area de Autocaravanas de Tarifa (paid)
- Free big parking right next to the beach
- Free smaller parking right next to the beach
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Tarifa?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Tarifa:
Where to sleep in Tarifa?
Hostal Tarifa is a charming and affordable guesthouse located in the heart of Tarifa. It offers comfortable and spacious rooms, some with balconies and views of the town, as well as a communal terrace where guests can relax and enjoy the Mediterranean climate.
Apartamentos Caravane is located in the center of Tarifa, just a short walk from the beach. The apartments are modern and spacious, with fully equipped kitchens, free Wi-Fi, and a terrace with sea or city views. Guests can also enjoy a shared rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the town and the coast.
Posada La Sacristia
Posada La Sacristia is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Tarifa's historic old town. With its stylishly decorated rooms, intimate atmosphere, and personalized service, this hotel offers a unique and memorable experience for guests. The hotel's on-site restaurant serves delicious Mediterranean cuisine using locally sourced ingredients.
Hostal El Asturiano
Hostal El Asturiano is a budget-friendly accommodation located in the historic center of Tarifa, just a short walk from the beach. The rooms are simple but comfortable, and the hostal offers free Wi-Fi and a communal kitchen for guests to use. Overall, it's a good option for travelers looking for a basic and affordable place to stay in Tarifa.
Beach Hotel Dos Mares
Beach Hotel Dos Mares is a charming boutique hotel situated in a tranquil location on the beachfront in Tarifa, Spain. The hotel features stylish and comfortable rooms with ocean views, a restaurant serving delicious Andalusian cuisine, and a relaxing outdoor pool area.
Apartamentos Villa Pirata Tarifa
Located in a quiet area of Tarifa, Apartamentos Villa Pirata Tarifa offers self-catering apartments with a private terrace or balcony overlooking the sea. The apartments feature a simple yet elegant decor with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and a flat-screen TV. Guests can enjoy the outdoor pool and sun terrace, while the beach is just a 10-minute walk away.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com