Tarifa is a small town at the southern tip of Spain on the Costa de la Luz in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia. Its walled old town has bared witness to centuries of conflict since the invasion of the Moors in AD711 until it’s liberation by Spanish soldiers in 1292. Throughout the small fishing village, with its narrow cobbled street and whitewashed houses of the old town, have endured and nowadays are inundated by tourists and sun seekers than invaders.
Due to the bottleneck created by the Strait of Gibraltar, winds whip through the area, almost daily, creating one of the world's most popular destinations for wind and kitesurfing. Despite its small size, the town has a relaxed laid-back international feel, in part due to the proximity of the African continent, but mainly due to the kitesurfers drawn here year round.
How to get to Tarifa
Getting to Tarifa is relatively easy. The nearest well connected airports (to many destinations around Europe) are Gibraltar and Málaga where British Airways, Easy Jet, Monarch Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, SAS, Air France (to name a few) fly too.
There is even the option to arrive direct to Tarifa by ferry (FRS) or to the nearby Algeciras (Balearia) from the Moroccan city of Tangier if you’re on an overland journey. You can compare your options with Directferries.com
Once you’ve arrived into Málaga, Gibraltar or Algeciras you can of course hire a car from companies like Avis or Europcar, which will be of great convenience as Tarifa is a small town with limited public transport. They are surprisingly cheap to hire, as little as €10 a day! Besides having your own car will to venture to the popular windsurfing beaches, the car also comes in handy for the days when there’s no wind for day trips to some of Andalusia’s other attractions, such as Cadiz, Sevilla, Granada and any of a hundred other attractions.
If you’re travelling on a budget or solo and a hire car isn’t practical, there is a network of local buses that connects Málaga, with La Línea de la Concepción (walking distance across the border from Gibraltar Airport) with Algeciras, Tarifa, Cádiz and further afield to Sevilla and beyond. The bus schedules can be found on the Transportes Generales site, but can be difficult to workout if you don’t speak Spanish. However, if you arrive into Gibraltar and want to bus to Tarifa, you need to cross into Spain and find the bus station by the roundabout of Calle es Avenida Europa. You will want to take the M-120 bus (about €2.70 ticket brought on the bus) to Algeciras and change there to the M-150 bus (€2.50 ticket) which stops at Tarifa. You can also take buses from this local company from Tarifa to Malaga or Sevilla (€20) if you’re travelling further afield. For more information on buses to and from Tarifa you can find it on Andalucia tourism page.
Where to Stay in Tarifa
There are plenty of hotels, apartments and B&Bs in and around Tarifa, and many kitesurfing schools can also offer accommodation. I have stayed at three places in the Tarifa area and can recommend them all. The two hostels near the old town were Tarifa Kite Hostel and The Melting Pot both offering what the intrepid traveller is after and are a lot of fun. Another great option if you have a higher budget (and your own vehicle) to have your own bungalow is Tarifa Great Escapes (can be found on HomeAway under Tarifa (Chalet #65231)) run by the eccentric Brian which is located 6km West of Tarifa close to the windsurfing mecca of Valdevaqueros.
What to do in Tarifa
The major attraction in Tarifa besides hiking or exploring the quaint old walled town with its narrow meandering cobbled streets is that it’s a the best place in Europe to kitesurf and learn to kitesurf. There are dozens of Kitesurfing Schools offering gear to hire and either group or private lessons which you can almost do year round. I can recommend ION Club Tarifa which is based at Valdevaqueros beach (the popular spot almost everyone goes to due to its lushish onshore and cross shore winds) for gear hire and lessons and Tarifa Max. All of the schools provide lessons at about €60-70/hour for private and less if you’re in a group.
When is the best time to visit Tarifa
The best time of the year to learn to kitesurf in Tarifa is between April and October when the days are longer and brighter and the water warmer, but try avoid June to August as its crazy busy! So busy that you have to queue to get in the sea for your lesson!! September and October are probably the best months, but April and May are great too.
Be sure to venture down to the Taco Way Bar in the evenings to enjoy their strong cocktails and happy hour (before 11pm) where you’ll meet other kiters, international travellers and probably even your instructor!