by Victor Sesma
Victor Sesma is an Alicantinian living in London. He is a Software Engineer who likes writing about the city he was born.
Tabarca Island is part of the city of Alicante situated 20km (12mi) south of Alicante Port. It is a small island with a beach, coves, restaurants, nature, historic buildings, a small traditional town and shops. It is the only inhabited island in the region. The area has a natural value as it is one of the few marine nature reserves in Spain with an explosion of sea plants and sea fish species in the area.
Is Tabarca Island worth visiting? Yes. The island deserves a day trip to enjoy its cosy charisma. Your day will be filled with a mix of adventure -you will need to travel by ferry or speed dinghy-, quality traditional gastronomy, beautiful beach and coves and walks at places filled with centuries of history.
There are several points to have in mind when planning your trip so it becomes a memorable quality experience. Tips on how to get to Tabarca Island, the traditional dishes original from the island, some enigmatic places to visit and the story behind the island are down here. Therefore, you can play your day in Tabarca and make the most of it.
Visiting Tabarca needs some planning. The trip is somehow special and probably will fell you tired at the end of the day. You will be sailing to the island, eating in one of their amazing restaurants, spending time outdoors under the sun, going to the beach if it is summer, doing some snorkelling, walking around the traditional old town…
All these activities will use most of the time of your day.
So there are a few things to have in account when planning your visit:
The first thing to organise is the ferry/speed boat to Tabarca. The most adventurous might want to buy an experience on a jet ski or sailing bout. Most people will use one of the ferries from Alicante, Santa Pola, Torrevieja or even Benidorm as the experience is less intense but very convenient.
There is more information on ferries to Tabarca below.
Once you have decided on how to get to the island it is important that you plan your day outdoors.
The first thing you need to think a bit more about is the sailing trip. Ferries or speed bouts from Santa Pola take from 15 to 25 minutes per trip. The journey from Alicante, Benidorm or Torrevieja is longer. If you are a person who gets dizzy easily there are some drugs you can get from the pharmacy. Investigate Viodramina con cafeina and ask the pharmacist about it. Viodramina makes you sleepy, the caffeine will wake you up so you get the anti-dizziness effect but not the drowsiness.
If you tend to feel a bit sick during a road trip or on buses, then this advice is especially good for you.
There are not many places to settle in Tabarca, some restaurants have an indoor saloon but most of them have also outdoor terraces with awnings. In summer it can get very hot so be sure you bring water, solar protection cream and sunglasses. If you are going for a swim (truly recommended if you go in summer) be sure you prepare for that also. So here is the list of essentialities to bring on your trip to Tabarca:
In Tabarca there are public (and free) toilets, in front of the beach. Restaurants also have private toilets. You can easily get changed there. Also, Tabarca Island has the only beach in Alicante with showers for the full body instead of foot showers like other beaches in Alicante such as El Postiguet or San Juan.
The last thing to have in mind is food. It is worth eating in one of the restaurants in Tabarca. Prices are higher than in mainland Alicante but some dishes are traditional from the island. The traditional dishes are mainly based on fish but there are also vegetarian options, for example, in most places they can prepare fully vegetarian Arroz (in Alicante Arroces are prepared instead of Paella, being a similar dish but with distinctive nuances in its preparation).
Most restaurants will accept cash and the mobile internet works fine but having some cash in case things fail is a good idea.
The traditional dish is Caldero de Gallina. It consists of a first plate based on fish and the second plate of Arroz. There are other many options such as salads, Arroces de verduras (vegetarian), Spanish omelettes and many others, just like in traditional restaurants in the centre of Alicante.
Tabarca has many restaurants around its town but in summer it can get extremely busy. An option is to book your food before going to the island, some ferry companies offer bundles with food at the restaurants booked and paid in advance. The peak time is usually at Spanish lunchtime, somewhere between 1 pm and 4 pm.
Also, remember that you can bring your own food if you want to save money.
Tabarca doesn’t need to be sort of tranquil. There are many other activities you can do. Here are some ideas:
There are few hotels on the island. Ferry companies such as Kontiki (transfer from Alicante) allow using the return ticket any other day. There are several reasons why you would like to sleep in Tabarca.
Maybe you want to do a small retreat during the low season. Or practice some water sports, such as snorkelling, for a longer time in summer.
Recently, Tabarca Island has been chosen as a Starlight site. This means it is one of the best places in Spain to watch the stars at night. As the island is a bit far from the coast and big cities there is a clear sky for star sighting. The organisation Starlight has support from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO, which approves the certificates issued by Starlight. So this is another perfect reason to sleep at the isle.
Let’s going to start with the ways of not going to the island. Every year there is a race where people go swimming but these are professional swimmers accompanied by rescue dinghies so don’t try it on your own. Another bad idea is to use bouts such as kayaks as the distance from the coast to Tabarca island is 8km (5mi). In addition, the sea is not always calm and the wind and maritime conditions can change quickly. So do not try kayaking either.
So the way to go to Tabarca is by ferry or speed boat.
There are several cities with regular ferry services to Tabarca. Santa Pola is the central hub as the distance to the island is only 8km (5mi). To the centre of Alicante, Tabarca is 20km (12mi) away. Services from Benidorm or Torrevieja are also available depending on the year’s season. Hint: the cheapest service is from Santa Pola by Speed Boat Taxi.
|Ferry Company||From||Time to Tabarca||Price|
|Kontiki||Alicante||45-60 min||21€ return|
|Tabarkeras||Santa Pola||20 min||12€ return|
|Speed Bouts||Santa Pola||15 min||from 15€ return|
|Excursiones Maritimas Benidorm||Benidorm||A few hours as it stops in Alicante||35€ return|
|Ferry Torrevieja-Tabarca||Torrevieja||60 min||24€ return|
The company operating the Alicante-Tabarca Ferry is called Kontiki. They have a set price for the trip on any of their ships. The fee (20 €) is usually set for a return trip. A one-way trip takes from 45 to 60 minutes. During the winter season, they have fewer services than in summer or no services at all. On their Kontiki web page, there is a schedule with the ferries going to Tabarca Island.
The company Kontiki also has other services than Tabarca Ferries. They are available for private hire, to see the Hogueras de San Juan fireworks from the sea or the Ocean Race Reggata starting from Alicante’s port.
Kontiki has a few boats docked at Alicante’s port. All of them are catamarans (bouts with two parallel hulls) so they are a little bit less prone to swing than traditional ships. Some have also subaquatic vision, with glasses that allow them to see the sea bottom.
There are a couple of ways to buy the Kontiki Ferry ticket to Tabarca.
The price is 20€ return. In case you choose to sleep on the island (more about that above) the return ticket can be used any other day. The distance that separates the city port from the island port is 12mi (12 km) so the journey takes a bit longer than from Santa Pola.
Also, it is important to know that the Kontiki company usually cease operations for a few months in winter. If you plan your trip during the winter season and the Kontiki website shows no services the alternative is to find a different transport company, such Tabarkeras which operates from Santa Pola-Tabarca.
Webpage to Book Tickets: https://cruceroskontiki.com/en/
Contact Phone numbers: +34 686994540 / +34 695212063 / +34 686994539
Address: Passeo Maritimo de la Libertad, S/N, 03002 Alicante, España
The ferry from Santa Pola takes less time than from Alicante, just 25 min, as the distance to Tabarca is only 8km (5mi). The ferry company operating the service is Tabarkeras. A return trip cost 12€.
Travelling from Alicante to Santa Pola can be inconvenient. There are buses operating from Alicante Bus Station to Santa Pola. The cost is economical, only 2.40€ but the frequency is low so you need to plan it. Check the bus tickets to Santa Pola at Movelia’s website. Another option is to use the Spanish Uber-like app (as Uber doesn’t operate in Alicante) or a traditional taxi. But these two options are more expensive.
On the Tabarkeras ferry website, there is available the timetable, prices, ship description, information about Tabarca Island, other services they offer, etc.
At Tabarkeras, the ferries are orange, catamaran shaped and most of their bouts have underwater vision with glasses in their hulls.
There are two ways to book tikes for the ferry from Santa Pola to Tabarca:
8km (5mi) is what separates Santa Pola Port from Tabarca Port. The cost of this journey is 12€ for adults and 9€ for children. They are open all year round, including during the winter and summer seasons.
Booking Phone number: +34 608 962 266
Address: Puerto de Santa Pola s/n, 03130 Santa Pola, Alicante, Spain
The company operating this route is Excursiones Marítimas Benidorm (in Spanish). They operate from May to October. The prices are 35€ for adults and 20€ for children. Traditional day trip services have also a stop in Alicante before going to the island.
They use a fast blue catamaran called SEA WORLD.
Torrevieja has ferry services to the isle during the summer season. This is the website of the company operating the route.
They use a fast white trimaran (3 hulls) with services depending on the demand. Their phone number is +34 966 70 21 22
Starting from Santa Pola there are several companies with Taxi services to Tabarca. The bouts they operate are smaller speed bouts or small catamarans. They can be cheaper than Tabarkeras or Kontiki, they also launch offers every now and then.
They are sometimes more flexible on timetables, being able to adapt the schedule to big groups of people or offer different bundle activities such as Tabarca transport + lunch, Tabarca transport + snorkelling, etc
The tickets can be booked on their websites or at Santa Pola port. Here is a list of some of the speed bout companies:
These bouts are usually smaller and faster than big catamarans. The journey might take as little as 15 minutes and the sailing experience might be more intense than in bigger bouts.
There are also different ways to go to Tabarca Island. For example, there are companies renting bouts for people with sailing licences or organising trips to Tabarca on a jet ski or sailing bouts. Another option is joining an organised trip with the restaurant included in the price or snorkelling or swimming.
During the summer, the island gets a lot of bouts visiting the natural maritime reserve. May bouts cast the anchor in front of the island’s main beach every year, making it a very enigmatic place to enjoy time with your friends. Some restaurants even deliver food to anchored bouts.
Tabarca is a beautiful island with a lot of history and heritage. There are several old buildings and places that are worth visiting. Some are on land and other places are in the water to enjoy in summer.
In Tabarca there is a beach filled with hold sand. Just as in Alicante mainland (remember Tabarca is a neighbourhood of Alicante) the city hall maintains it clean and safe.
The beach has all the services you would expect, such as lifeguards, public toilets, cleaning services, hammock rentals, etc.
But the official beach is not the only place where you can go swimming. The island has several coves and rocky corners where to go for a swim and snorkelling. One famous is the cove Birros i la Guàrdia. It is beautiful, good for snorkelling and directed at the open sea.
It is situated in front of Tabarca’s town, leaving Spain’s mainland on your back.
But this is not the only place where you can go swimming in Tabarca. The best advice is to walk around the island and choose a place you like. Note something thought: Seagulls.
The Island of Tabarca is a marine reserve. It means there are heavy restrictions on fishing and what can be done in the reserve. Seagulls have a heavy presence on the island and they are very territorial animals. If you get too close to areas they have nests they will start flying in circles above you. If the seagulls feel you are a threat chances are they will start flying towards you, getting quite close.
Good advice is not to go down the beaches where seagulls are, or swim on rocks with many of these birds. Walking around the set paths on the island is perfectly fine.
Each region in Spain, even each city, has its own traditional food. In Tabarca Island, the most traditional dish is Caldero. It consists of two separate plates, one based on fish and the other based on rice.
Most restaurants in Tabarca cook Caledero. You can go around the town and sit at the restaurant you like the most.
Even though Caldero is the most traditional dish in Tabarca is not the only option for restaurants. If you are a vegetarian, another traditional dish is Arroz de Verduras (which means vegetable rice). This dish is traditional in Alicante. It is similar to paella, made in the same pan, but with some nuances that make it special from Alicante.
But if you are not convinced with any of these dishes, do not worry, there are many other options such as salads, Spanish omelettes and many other dishes available.
Tabarca is the smallest inhabited island in Spain. The small town is called de San Pedro y San Pablo and it is protected by old fortification walls. There are many old doors around all Tabarca’s town.
A walk around the island’s town is a comeback to the past. There is a church, also called “Iglesia de San Pedro y San Pablo“. It was inaugurated in 1779 but is usually closed to the public.
There are small islands next to the main Tabarca Isle. Some of them are accessible only by sea, but others are disconnected from the main island by waters that are not deep.
Some people cross from the main island to the smaller one in summer but is not recommended. If the sea conditions change, and they can change fast, you will have a hard time going back.
At the very east end of Tabarca, there is a Christian cross on the top of a rock separated from mainland Tabarca by the sea.
It is situated at the end of the old orchard on the island. On your way there you will find Tabarca’s lighthouse, the cemetery and other old buildings such as La Torre de San José, built in 1790.
The city of Alicante has plenty of museums that tell the story and hold heritage from the city and province of Alicante. Since was to be expected, there is also a Museum in Tabarca.
The museum has two showrooms to dive into the island’s heritage and ecological value. Tabarca is a maritime natural reserve and many species live in its waters.
There is also a long history of human colonization on the island that has left a rich heritage of anchors and other archaeological objects that can be visited in the museum.
All the explanations are also in English. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday. It has different opening hours depending on the season:
Tabarca Island is a neighbourhood of Alicante city in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is 20km (12mi) away from Alicante’s mainland port. It is southeast of Santa Pola, 8km (5mi) away.