Punta Paloma: Southern Spain’s Most Unspoiled Beach

Towering sand dunes, an expansive, golden-sand beach that goes on for miles, kite-surfers battling the strong, but warm, Atlantic wind…although Spain’s tourist hub of Marbella is just 63 miles to the east, here at Punta Paloma it feels a world away.

It’s a sunny Saturday in early September as I stroll along this beautiful beach, looking for a spot to lay down my beach towel. But I’m not pushing my way through thronging crowds of sun worshippers to claim my little piece of sand. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Except for the sound of waves lapping the shore and the distant bark of an excited puppy as he thrashes through the surf, it’s quiet and peaceful. You won’t find any sun loungers here, no kiosks selling warm sodas, and even the parking lot is hidden by the large sand dunes.

Punta Paloma is a 10-minute drive from the town of Tarifa. Although there are in-town beaches, it’s worth making the journey out here.

It’s not hard to see why wind- and kite-surfers have kept this place to themselves for years. Besides the fine, gold sand and crystal-clear, turquoise water, this beach’s backdrop is equally impressive. Massive sand dunes created by those stiff Atlantic winds rise up majestically behind the beach. (You have to trek through the dunes to get to the beach, but it’s worth the effort.) Beyond the few kite-surfers bobbing in the water, you can make out the hulking mass that is the Rock of Gibraltar, peeking out from behind hazy clouds. If you’re really lucky, on a clear day you can see the coast of Morocco on the horizon.

After a relaxing few hours here, finish the day by spending some time exploring Tarifa. It’s a last stop in Europe before Morocco (ferries for North Africa leave from the port here), and within the narrow, winding streets of the old town are white-washed buildings that house artisan jewelry shops, tiny cafés, cocktails bars, and restaurants offering every type of cuisine.

For a delicious snack, stop at café 10, near the medieval gate of Puerta de Jerez. With just a half-dozen brightly-painted wooden tables inside, this little café serves tasty eats. Try the goat’s cheese, caramelized onion, and arugula pita, and wash it down with fresh orange juice served in an old-school glass bottle.

© Dreamstime.com/Dariya Maksimova

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