If you want unspoilt, wild beaches, the Costa de la Luz is for you. From the trendy wind and kite-surfing spot Tarifa, this Cadiz coast stretches to the Guadalquivir river estuary is a haven of tranquility.
Encompassing a 10,522ha flat landscape of sandy beaches, marshes, salt pans, freshwater lakes and tidal inlets, as well as the two natural areas of Isla del Trocadero and the Marismas de Sancti Petri, the Cadiz Bay supports a surprising wealth of wildlife, given the built-up areas that are in and around it, which make up a population of around 400,000.
Created in 1989, the Breña y Marismas de Barbate park is Andalucia's second largest coastal reserve and has one of the most spectacular stretches of rocky cliffs along the Andalucian Atlantic coastline, with stunning views over the sea and to the rocky headland of Cape Trafalgar and its lighthouse.
Created in 2003, the Parque Natural del Estrecho is the southernmost protected area in Europe. It is made up of a long stretch of coastline covering 18,931ha from Cabo de Gracia in the west near Bolonia and Punta del Carnero in the east, south of Algeciras.
Tarifa sits at the southern-most point of mainland Europe, where the Med meets the Atlantic. Just 14km across the Straits of Gibraltar at its narrowest point, the town enjoys spectacular views of the Rif mountains of North Africa, just across the water.
El Palmar is located 5km north of Vejer and is the Surf capital of Andalucia. Unknown by non-Spanish visitors until recently, El Palmar is becoming more popular for its laid-back atmosphere and unspoiled landscape. The dunes and foliage are being carefully preserved with elegant solid wooden walkways leading to the beach. The sand is golden.
The modern beachfront development of Urbanisacion Roche is located on the Costa de la Luz, between the coastal conurbations of Novo Sancti Petri and Conil de la Frontera. It is about 15km northwest of Conil.
Barbate is a town of some 20.000 people on the Costa de la Luz, 40km north of Tarifa. This modern town, (often called Barbate de Franco because the ex-dictator spent many summers here), has grown up around a fishing industry which goes back to Roman times when the fish-salting industry was at its peak.
Like so many towns in Andalucía the approach to El Puerto de Santa María along the main road is lined with garages, industrial plants and run down buildings. Keep going and cross the River Guadalete on the NIV (if coming from south) and turn into Calle Ribiera de los Mariscos and park in one of the car parks signposted.
Caños de Meca is a small, unspoiled community on the windswept but stunning Costa de la Luz. Deep in the Parque Natural del Acantilado, Caños de Meca has beautiful beaches, backed by cliffs and pine trees. Perched on the cliff-tops straddling the coast road, this little village is fast waking up to a reputation as a trendy place for beatnik travellers and wave-jumpers to spend the summer.