Things to Do on the Costa de la Luz (Cádiz)

Located at the meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean in the very south of Spain, the Costa de la Luz has played a remarkable role in European history over the centuries. It is home to some of Spain’s most impressive Roman ruins at Baelo Claudia and to La Rábida Monastery in Palos de la Frontera from where Columbus set sail on his first voyage to the New World. The coast was also the scene of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon off Cape Trafalgar.

Whilst visitors can take day trips to visit these historic landmark, the modern-day Costa de la Luz is best known as a holiday destination. The Cádiz section of the Costa de la Luz stretches for 135km from Tarifa on Spain’s most southerly tip to the sherry town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This is where the Río Guadalquivir flows into the Atlantic Ocean and the province of Huelva begins at the coastal wetlands of the Doñana National Park.

Costa de la Luz: Tarifa

Best 14 Things to Do on the Costa de la Luz


Set at the meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, Tarifa is Andalucía’s southernmost town which is a world-renowned destination for kitesurfing and windsurfing. It also has a port with frequent ferry services across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tarifa in Morocco which is used by day trippers from the Costa del Sol. Another popular excursion from the port is its Whale Watching boat tours which ferquently spot dolphins, pilot whales and orcas. The historic Old Town of Tarifa has a number of interesting attractions as well as some excellent tapas bars and restaurants which ensure a lively nightlife.


Located 22km along the coast to the north-west of Tarifa is the small Costa de la Luz town of Bolonia which is famous for two reasons. Firstly, it is home to Playa de Bolonia which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole Cádiz region. And secondly, is home to the incredible Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia archeological site which has a history dating back to 206 BC. The beach is another popular destination for kite surfing and has some great little beach bars.

Roman Ruins on the Costa de la Luz

Zahara de los Atunes

Zahara de los Atunes has a laid-back bohemian vibe where days are spent on the golden beaches with long lunch breaks at the lively beach bars known as ‘chiringuitos’. A popular beach is Playa de Atlanterra which is set alongside high sandstone cliffs. Its beach bars are known for serving excellent seafood dishes. A scenic drive that is highly recommended is along the CA-2240 road which goes out to the Cape Trafalgar viewing point.


The next resort as you head north-west along the coast is Barbate which attracts mainly Spanish tourists. Its lively fishing harbour is where the day’s catch is landed and served as fresh as can be at local eateries around the port as well as many of the best seafood restaurants along the Costa de la Luz.

Los Caños de Meca

Los Caños de Mec owes its name to the freshwater springs which flow from its sandstone cliff. It was ‘discovered’ as a tourist destination in the 1960s and became a popular place for the hippie community. Today it continues to attract free spirits but also a much wider audience including surfers, naturists and a growing number of family tourists. Similar to its neighbouring resorts, it is home to a number of golden, sandy beaches and has some great chiringuitos serving local seafood. A nearby excursion which is worthwhile is to the pine forests and wetlands of the La Breña y Marismas de Barbate Nature Reserve.

Vejer de la Frontera

This is one of the most stunning White Villages of Andalucía which are commonly referred to as ‘Los Pueblos Blancos’. The town stands on a hill and is made up of a maze of winding lanes filled with colourful patios, ancient walls and historic sites. You can still see the remnants of the original medieval walls which encircle the historic quarter and walk up to the El Sotillo mirador for panoramic views over Vejer de la Frontera and the coastline of the Costa de la Luz. The town’s beautiful Plaza de España is a good place to find some lively bars if you’re here in the evening.

Vejer de la Frontera

Conil de la Frontera

The first time we visited Conil de la Frontera I remember swimming in the sea and looking back to the coast thinking there was something wrong. On the contrary, there was something very right. Having become so conditioned to seeing the visual destruction of much of the Spanish coastline in the name of development it was fabulous to lie in the waters off Conil de la Frontera looking at a white village rising in the distance without a high rise apartment or hotel in sight.

Playa de los Bateles is the main beach of Conil which stretches the whole length of the Paseo Maritimo and beyond. The Hotel Fuerte Conil is a good choice as a place to stay if you don’t mind a short walk along the seafront. It’s also near Playa de la Fontanilla where you’ll find some very nice fish restaurants right on the beach. In fact, you can take a table that’s actually on the beach and enjoy the feeling of sand between your toes as you dine in the moonlight.

Historical Note: The words ‘de la Frontera’ at the end of town names in the Cadiz region dates back to the Reconquest when the Christians were fighting with the Moors to regain the territory they had lost. The border between the two forces was constantly changing hence the words ‘of the Frontier’ was attached to the name of towns where the line between the two armies stood at the time. Along the coast of Conil you’ll see four watchtowers which were there to protect the town and to watch over the nets which had been placed in the sea to catch tuna.

The old centre of Conil is quite a small area with plenty tapas type bars and fish restaurants. Once you’ve walked up Avenida de la Playa from the seafront heading into Plaza Santa Catalina you’ll see a variety of places offering local specialities including atun encebollado (tuna cooked in onion) and chocos con patatas (cuttlefish with potatoes).

Tuna is in fact a delicacy of this area as it is caught in the Atlantic waters off Cadiz. A great time to visit is in June when they celebrate ‘Tuna Week’ and restaurants serve up superb tuna dishes at subsidised prices.

El Palmar

The fine white sand of Conil de la Frontera extends for many kilometres in both directions. If you drive just 7km to the south you’ll come to Playa El Palmar which is a personal favourite of mine. Here you can enjoy the days on one of Spain’s finest uncrowded beaches and dine in the evening on fresh tuna, swordfish and seafood paella at one of the seafront restaurants.

Chiclana de la Frontera

This is one of the largest urban areas along the Cádiz coast which has a rich history dating back to 1303. Its main attractions for tourists is the 6km long La Barrosa beach and the nearby Castillo de Sancti Petri fortress. Chiclana de la Frontera is also a good base for golfers who are planning to play the nearby Novo Sancti Petri Golf Course.

City of Cádiz

Founded by the Phoenicians over 3,000 years ago, the ancient port city of Cádiz is a historic gem on the coast of Andalucía. Whilst there are numerous examples of Roman and Moorish architecture, its premier attraction is the magnificent 18th century cathedral with its dome of golden tiles. The narrow streets of the Old Town are a great place to wander and explore sites like the Central Market and Plaza de Mina. The city is home to two excellent urban beaches of Caleta and Santa María del Mar right in the heart of the city.

Cádiz City is on the Costa de la Luz

El Puerto de Santa María

Founded originally by the Phoenicians, El Puerto de Santa María has a rich history as a port town dating back to the 8th century BC. Today, ‘El Puerto’ thrives as part of the esteemed Sherry Triangle wine region. It is home to the famous Osborne sherry bodega where visitors can take tours and tastings. Other attractions include the 13th century Castillo San Marcos and its maritime museums which celebrate capture its seafaring traditions. Many visitors come to El Puerto de Santa María simply to savour its exquisite seafood in the local restaurants. Flamenco music and bullfighting are additional elements of the town’s culture.


Thanks to its strategic location, the town of Rota has been home to the largest American naval base in Spain since 1953. It also enjoys a thriving tourism industry thanks to the charm of its historic centre, its excellent seafood restaurants and its proximity to the beaches of the Costa de la Luz.


Chipiona is another picturesque town on the Costa de la Luz which is known for its beautiful beaches, rich history and delicious seafood cuisine and moscatel wines. Its most popular beaches include Playa de Regla, Playa De Las Tres Piedras and Playa de las Canteras. Its most famous historical attraction is the Chipiona Lighthouse which is the 5th tallest in the world. Another notable attraction is the Chipiona Castle which has a history dating back to 1295 and now houses the “Cadiz and the New World” museum.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Last, and by no means least, we arrive at Sanlúcar de Barrameda which is the final place to visit on the Cádiz section of the Costa de la Luz. This is another town withs ancient origins going back to the Phoenicians which has served as an important port for trade and defense over the centuries. Nowadays Sanlúcar is famous for its unique manzanilla sherry and is part of the prestigious Sherry Triangle along with Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa María.

The town also serves as a gateway to the Doñana National Park wetlands which makes Sanlúcar a popular for nature tourism. Activities include boat tours along the Guadalquivir and birdwatching in the marshlands. A great time to visit is in August when the Carreras de Caballos takes place. This is Sanlúcar de Barrameda’s annual horseracing festival which takes place on the beach.