Zahara de los Atunes Beaches

Zahara de los Atunes © Michelle Chaplow
Zahara de los Atunes

Zahara de los Atunes Beaches

Although Zahara de los Atunes lies within the municipal district of Barbate, these beaches are so good that they deserve their own dedicated page. Playa de Zahara de los Atunes is one of the most well-known beaches in the area, and beyond. Famous for its 6.3km-long shoreline of virtually untouched sand, this beach stretches from the little fishing village of Zahara de Los Atunes all the way south to Cabo de Plata. Most of the beach is backed by sand dunes, coastal vegetation and low-density, low-rise housing.

Playa Zahara de los Atunes

This beach is also known locally as Playa de Zahara or Playa el Carmen. Visitors flock from across Spain to Zahara de los Atunes for the tranquility of the beach and the Caribbean-esque turquoise blue waters. There is plenty of room for water sports, which are very popular here, such as windsurfing and sailing. 

Zahara de los Atunes beach is well-equipped with high-season lifeguards, a first-aid hut, flags to signal the state of the sea, changing rooms, public toilets and showers. Three beach bars open during the summer, as well as two restaurants. You can find a campsite and parking nearby, as well as a bus service that runs between Atlanterra, Zahara de Los Atunes village,  Barbate, Conil, and Cadiz and Sevilla.

The beach is so extensive that even in the highest season summer weekends, it is not crowded, except at the part next to the village with summer parking facilities and boardwalks across the dunes to the beach. 

About 50 metres offshore from the old fort are the sunken remains of an old steam ship known locally as 'El Vapor'. It can be clearly seen at low tide; all local children have swam around what has become a symbol of the village. The wreck has two reported origins. One says it is the wreck of the SS Gladiator, which sank on 12 December 1893 under captain David Kin, transporting sugar from Gibraltar to Liverpool. The SS Gladiator ripped an opening in the hull on the rocks when rounding Tarifa and after taking on too much water the SS Gladiator had to be run aground at Zahara de los Atunes. The 17 crew and passengers  were all rescued locally and taken to Cadíz. Other research by D. Francisco Nuñez Cazalla, owner of the restaurant Ropiti, records that the steamship Gibralfaro, registered in Bilbao and loaded with cement, ran aground here on 12January 1902.    

The beach has been awarded the Blue Flag award by the European Union for high standards of facilities and cleanliness.

The southern end of the beach is outside the municipal district of Barbate and is within the (seemingly far away) municipal district of Tarifa. In this area you will find fewer facilities.


The sun-kissed beaches of Zahara de Los Atunes ©Michelle Chaplow
The sun-kissed beaches of Zahara de Los Atunes


Playa de Atlanterra

Playa de Atlanterra is the southern continuation of Playa Carmen or Playa Zahara de los Atunes. This magnificent golden sand beach is three km long and between 30m and 80m wide. The beach has a number of exclusive modern developments which were built in the 1980s and 2000s, such as Atlanterra Pueblo, Mar de Plata, Atlanterra Plata, and Bahía de la Plata, as well as Camping Bahía de la Plata and the large Hotel Meliá Atlanterra. Access to this beach is from the CA-2216.

At the south of this beach is the small Cabo de Plata headland. Here the sea is often turquoise and ideal for snorkeling. The headland affords a superb view of the beach. One large immovable rock, the size of a small house, is testament to how the sand moves: some years the beach is level with the top of the rock, other years the rock towers above the beach.

Located in this headland are ruins of large military bunkers from the Second World War. You can take paths down to the beach at the headland, but parking by the narrow road is difficult in the summer.

On the Tarifa side of this headland is a little cove accessed by a steep stepped path known locally as la escalerilla de los alemanes. The cove is a sought-after location when the famously strong, hot levante wind blows, as it is an unusually sheltered and well-protected spot. In the rocks at low tide you'll find mini natural pools that are shared between the bathers, the fish and the molluscs. 


Playa de los Alemanes

This beach, also known as Playa de Cabo de Plata, enjoys an ideal location - sheltered between the two headlands, Cabo de Plata and Cabo de Gracia, the latter with a lighthouse called Faro Camarinal or Faro de Gracia. As there is no vehicle assess southwards along the coast towards Bolonia and Tarifa, only the most determined travellers reach this far. The hinterland is occupied by an exclusive residential development; the area is quiet, with parking and a couple of beach bars, but little else in the way of services.

The name Playa de Los Alemanes (Germans' Beach) come from the first tourists to discovered this spot in the late 1940s. They started to build houses, which developed into an urbanization (housing estate). Persistent local rumours of Nazis hiding here originate in the fact that Franco donated land to his Nazi allies to build their own houses. It must have been an isolated existence here in the early days before the roads were improved.  

From Playa de los Alemanes, stroll or drive up to the lighthouse. The Faro Camarinal was built in 1989 on top of a 16th-century watchtower called Torre de Gracia. More recently, a mirador (viewpoint) has been built here. With strong shoes, you can walk or mountain-bike, but not drive, on the old road past the Roman site of Baelo Claudio and on to the village and beach of Bolonia.

Playa del Cañuelo

Alternatively drop down to the small (470m long and 50m wide) sheltered cove called Playa Arroyo del Canñuelo. This is true virgin beach with golden sand and the added bonus of small waves.

This beach has no facilities at all; even the path down to is quite difficult to traverse. You are now inside the Parque Natural del Estrecho, and will have to bring your own food and water. Whilst it is not an official naturist beach, its isolation makes it one in practice. 

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