There are many interesting places to see if you visit Tabarca Island, whether you sail across during the day from Santa Pola or Alicante, or even if you want to spend the night there.
Located in front of the cape of Santa Pola, it is the only inhabited archipelago of the Valencian Community.
It is very easy to walk around the Tabarca Island in one day since its extension is small, less than two kilometers long and about 400 meters wide. With restaurants, historical sites and beaches, here’s what to do and see on Tabarca Island.
💯 Read here our article on Things to do in Alicante in 2 days.
Where to stay in Tabarca Island
Although many people visit Tabarca Island during the day from Alicante or Santa Pola, it is worth staying at least one night to experience the night atmosphere of the island and witness the sunrise or sunset. In addition, after 7 PM there are not so many tourists on the island, which allows you to walk the streets with more tranquility.
There are several hotels on the island to rest, our recommendations are the following:
- La Trancada: it is located in one of the typical houses of the island. Very good attention. It has rooms with terrace and sea views.
- Hotel Santacreu: modern inside with air-conditioned rooms and WIFI. They offer continental breakfasts.
- Hostal Masin: comfortable and luminous rooms, some of which have sea views. Good value for money.
Need more options? Check these hotels in Tabarca Island.
Map – how to get and what to see on Tabarca Island
As can be seen on the map, the island is small and easy to navigate. Geographically it is closer to Santa Pola on the Costa Blanca but we visited it from Alicante.
1) Brief history before visiting Tabarca Island
Although there are indications that it was populated by the Romans many centuries ago, it is known for sure that Tabarca Island was used by the Berber corsairs during the 15th and 16th centuries. Basically, they were Arab pirates who attacked Christian ships and plundered the coasts.
In the 18th century and to protect it from pirate attacks, Charles III ordered its fortification and population. The first inhabitants were not Spanish. Tabarca Island was home to fishermen of Genoese origin who had been held captive by the Tunisian King Ali I on the Tunisian island of Tabarka and had been rescued. Nowadays, most of the surnames of the inhabitants of the island are of Genoese origin.
Between the mid-19th and 20th centuries, the Tabarca Island was practically abandoned. It was not until the 1960s that the reconstruction of the old walled area began, and in recent years it has become a very popular tourist destination, especially during the summer.
2) What to see if you visit Tabarca Island
There are two distinct places to see in Tabarca Island:
- The historic and fortified town: declared a Historic-Artistic Site. It is the area facing the peninsula and where you can find the old wall, the houses of the islanders, restaurants and hotels.
- The desertic area: where there are no buildings, only sparse vegetation and not very fertile land. It has a hiking trail that goes to the lighthouse and the cemetery. From here the sea views are spectacular.
– The fortified town
Within the walled area you can find all the historical heritage of the archipelago. The wall has three access gates built in baroque style which are the San Rafael, San Gabriel and San Miguel gates. There are sections of the wall that are in good condition and others that have been destroyed by the sea.
Among the buildings that are in the inner area of the wall stands out the Church of San Pedro and San Pablo, built in the 18th century. With beautiful details in the windows, some of its construction used stone from the island. The church also served as a fortification centuries ago.
Another of the buildings to see on Tabarca Island is the former Governor’s House, today converted into a Tabarca Island boutique hotel. It still maintains its two-story structure, but inside it has been completely renovated with rooms overlooking the sea.
Finally, it is worth entering the Nueva Tabarca museum, the only one on the island. Through photographs, maps of the island, found objects and a room that projects a documentary, you can soak up even more of the history of the place.
The rest of the time in the walled area is to stroll through the streets and buy some souvenirs of the island in the local stores.
– The desertic area of Tabarca Island
Once you finish with the Nueva Tabarca museum and cross the main beach of the island, the landscape changes completely. Small bushes, desertic soil and a bit of wind coming from the interior of the Mediterranean Sea await you.
Walking along small marked routes, you first arrive at San José Tower. Square in shape and with an inner courtyard, it served during the 19th century as a prison.
Further on, Tabarca lighthouse awaits you, built on a two-storey house. A very photogenic place but unfortunately you can’t enter inside.
If you continue walking towards the end of the island, you will find the cemetery and wonderful views of the sea at Punta Falcón. The cemetery is usually closed, but it is worth a visit for the tranquility of the place.
Staying overnight, one of the attractions you will see is the magnificent sunset. Just prepare your camera for a panoramic view that you will not forget.
3) The beaches
The central beach is located on the isthmus in the middle of the island that separates the two areas mentioned above. Although it is a pebble beach, once in the water you can feel the sand. It is characterized by crystal clear water and the large number of fish that can be seen, even a few meters from the shore.
The island offers beach umbrellas and sun loungers for rent, although you can bring your own on the boat. It is also possible to rent pedal slides, kayaks and jet skis.
All over the island there are small coves to visit, some of which are difficult to access but will allow you to enjoy the sea without so many people around. Many people go to La Cantera at the eastern end of the island. Nevertheless, you have to be careful because the rocks are slippery.
One of the best places to see on Tabarca Island is the Llop Marí Cave, located under the walled area and with a length of 100 meters. Ideal for diving, it is featured in an adventure book written by Nati Pérez Caselles and is said to be the home of a sea monster.
The surroundings of the island are ideal for diving, due to the visibility of the seabed and the large amount of marine fauna that can be seen, so don’t forget to bring your snorkeling equipment!
4) Try the caldero, the typical dish of the island
Like most islands, gastronomy is based on seafood, especially prawns, scallops, shrimps and other delicatessen.
And in Tabarca Island, the typical dish of the place is the caldero. It is a combination of a banda rice and some kind of fish such as sea bream, chicken fish or sea bass that is cooked in the metal container that gives rise to the name of the dish.
Despite being a small island, there are several restaurants scattered inside and outside the walled area to taste the local cuisine. In the case of caldero, it is usually offered as part of a menu for 2 people that is accompanied by a Mediterranean salad and squid and anchovies. Depending on the restaurant, the price ranged from 25 – 30 € per person with bread, drink, dessert or coffee.
In addition, as in the whole Alicante region, another of the dishes that can be tasted on Tabarca Island is paella or fideua.
5) Visit Tabarca Island with kids
To visit Tabarca Island with children is perfectly possible, even if you have to bring a baby stroller. The walled area has flat streets and firm paved ground, which allows you to walk with the stroller without problems.
If you want to go through the more desertic area, it is advisable to carry a baby backpack carrier because the terrain has many stones and is uneven.
In addition, the central square of Tabarca Island has a playground for children.
If your kids are more than 5 or 6 years old, an activity that they will love is snorkeling to see the colorful fish, they will not get bored in Tabarca!
Useful information to visit Tabarca Island
– How to get to Tabarca Island
The only way to get to Tabarca Island is by catamaran. The good thing is that there are four cities on the Spanish peninsula from where boats leave to visit Tabarca Island.
- How to get to Tabarca Island from Alicante: from the port of Alicante depart daily catamarans with underwater vision and capacity for 150 people to Tabarca Island. The duration of the trip is one hour. The company in charge of the transfer is Kontiki and has daily departures at 10, 11 and 12 am. With the round trip ticket, the return is open and you can choose the catamaran to Alicante at 5 or 7 pm.
- How to get to Tabarca Island from Santa Pola: it is the shortest way and has a high daily frequency. You have several options to choose from; either by catamaran a little slower, by fast boat that in only fifteen minutes leaves you on the island, or by boat rental in Santa Pola privately, where you can go with your friends quietly, you do not need a driver’s license and the price includes fuel. Great!
- Getting to Tabarca Island from Benidorm: they leave from Paseo Colon and have a daily service. The duration is one hour and fifteen minutes.
- How to get to Tabarca Island from Torrevieja: a daily departure from the port of Torrevieja. The catamaran has underwater vision to be able to observe the seabed.
Discounts and useful resources to save on your trip
- Cheap flights with Skyscanner
- Rent a car with Auto Europe
- Interrail Pass
- Eurail Pass
- Train Tickets with OMIO
- Bus tickets with OMIO
- Ferry tickets with OMIO
- Asia tickets with 12Go
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