by Chris Chaplow
Agua Amarga is a pretty fishing village and beach resort on the Almeria coast, in Cabo de Gata-Nijar natural park, with a population of just 400. Still undiscovered by large-scale tourism, this is one of Andalucia's hidden seaside treasures.
While its name may translate as Bitter Water, this delightful, laid-back beach town has excellent Mediterranean cuisine, good independent boutiques and trendy bars. During the season, May to September / October, the beach scene is lively and bars are buzzing.
The picturesque white village is protected by large headlands, with small fishing boats anchored in the bay. The beach is sheltered with smooth, calm waters, perfect for swimming and great for families.
The traditional, unspoilt village sits on a 500-metre-long beach, with houses and restaurants along the beachfront. While there is no seafront promenade as such, it's very pleasant for strolling along the beach.
This fishing village does not have a harbour - instead, small fishing boats are pulled up onto the beach. You can sample the freshly-caught fish at the superb, locally-renowned beachfront fish restaurant called "El Playa".
As well as the usual food shops and souvenir stores, hairdresser and massage salon, you can find holistic treatments and yoga classes. On-trend independent holiday boutiques such as El Gran Azul sell swimwear, desirable summer attire, and handmade jewellery.
In the small town square, blue-and-white-tiled Bar La Plaza is the focus of village life. Children will love the playgrounds, one of which is right on the beach.
Bars, Cafes and Restaurants
You can sample freshly caught fish at the locally-renowned beachfront fish restaurant El Playa which is open lunch and evening all-year-around. Costa Amarga and La Palmera restaurants are also front line.
The long standing ‘La Plaza’ café bar, located on the plaza adjoining Calle Ferrocarril Minero has been more recently joined by foodie tapas bars such as the Vinoteca wine bar (with Almeria province products such as cheeses, patés and conserves) and designer Restaurant Oleaje which has a wide range of Paellas from seafood to a special vegetarian option. Nearby is the Stanly and De Marco pizza restaurant. Others further back from the beach-front are Aguamarga 3 on Calle Aljibe 19 and Bar Carimón grill on Calle Noria.
The Agua Amarga beachfront comes to life in summer with a higgledy-piggledy row of chill-out and traditional bars, restaurants and beach-front apartments with mini-terraces. Try restaurant La Playa, with rustic wooden seating overlooking the shabby-chic blue-painted railings, awning and raised terrace. Whilst the menu might look pricey, most dishes are generous-sized portions. They play good music. The beach has a lifeguard service 15 June to 15 September as well as showers and public toilets.
You can walk to a number of pretty isolated coves to the south - be sure to take plenty of water: Cala Puente, Cala Chumba, Cala Montoja and the renowned Cala San Pedro; Cala de Enmedio and Cala del Plomo have road access (7 km along dirt track which begins ).
Cargadero de mineral
On the headland 2km to the north of Agua Amarga, you can see the site of the cargadero de mineral (mineral loading dock), the terminus of a mine railway that ran from Lucainena de las Torres. You can also see the old coal store on Agua Amarga beach, at the foot of the headland. Mine supplies were landed by ship and lifted up to the railway on the headland using a static engine that pulled small wagons up the very steep ramp using cables. More>
Mesa Roldan is a flat-topped extinct volcano, part of a massive rocky headland topped with a lighthouse and tower, between Agua Amarga and Playa de los Muertos. Mighty watchtower Torre de Mesa Roldan, documented since 1497, was considered the most perilous point for Moorish invasions on the Cabo de Gata coast. The lighthouse dates from 1863. More>
On the side of headland overlooking the village is the villa featured in the film Sexy Beast, staring Ben Kingsley as the retired criminal trying to persuade his long-standing friend to come out of retirement for one last job. The villa was chosen due to it hanging on the side of the headland.
Hotels in or near Agua Amarga
With half a dozen hostels and many apartments to rent, the town is very quiet in the winter but comes alive in the summer.
Book hotels in or near Agua Amarga
Don’t try and drive into the seafront area of the village, park and walk as it is only a few hundred metres. Best options are smaller car parks on Caraterra Carboneras (AL-5106) as it skirts just behind the village, or if full there is plenty of room on the Parking Rambla Aqua Amarga, the unsurfaced dry river bed just to the east of the village. Note on the latter, campervans are now blocked by a vehicle height restriction, however the fully serviced Agua Amarga Camperpark is just nearby.
Fortunately, Agua Amarga wasn't exploited during intensive coastal development during the early 2000s. Those who yearn for San José as it was decades ago should check out Agua Amarga, for a taste of the authentic coastal Spain.