It is the largest and the only inhabited island of the Costa Blanca. It deserves a full day and even spend the night to watch the sunset in an enviable location, but before reviewing what to see in Tabarca we give you a glimpse of the history of the island.
If you stay at our camping Benidorm Arena Blanca, the best option to go to Tabarca is Alicante, which is just over half an hour drive. From there you can take a ferry with one of the shipping companies that cover the route, and be on the island in about an hour. The ticket costs about 20 euros per person.
Other options to get there are Santa Pola, Benidorm and Valencia. If you are more of a car person than a boat person, the shortest way by sea will be from Santa Pola.
The island has been losing inhabitants over the years, and today only about fifty people live there. They are dedicated to fishing and tourism, since the island receives up to 3000 visitors a day in summer, all of them attracted by the attractions of Tabarca. We review them:
A walk along the wall
Visiting the perimeter of the wall is a must when traveling to Tabarca, although it is worth mentioning that the entire town has been a Historic-Artistic Site since 1964.
It runs along part of the perimeter of the island, the inhabited part, and is made of stone. Although some sections are somewhat deteriorated and the battlements are no longer there, in recent times rehabilitation works have been carried out to recover it.
The walk will also serve to contemplate its doors, all of them of baroque style.
Puerta de Levante
It is the one that connects the port with the town, and is located to the east. It is also called Puerta de San Rafael.
It is in the west and gives access to an old quarry from which stone was extracted for the different constructions of Tabarca. In its vicinity Roman remains were found, specifically, burials and dumps. It is also called Puerta de San Gabriel.
It is the smallest of the three, and it leads from the village to a cove where the old port was. It is also called the Alicante or San Miguel gate.
St. Peter and Paul’s Church
Its origins date back to the second half of the 18th century, coinciding with the arrival of the colonists. Already at that time there was a small chapel which was later enlarged.
Its structure has a single nave with lateral chapels, and under the floor there are vaults with burials. The facade is of baroque inspiration.
The visit to the lighthouse is worthwhile not for the lighthouse itself, but for the walk. Tabarca is divided into two land areas separated by an isthmus, a tongue of land on both sides of which the beach and the port extend. One of these two areas is the one that is inhabited, and where the places of interest we have mentioned are located. On the other, in the middle of the field, is where the lighthouse is.
There is not much vegetation, but on a sunny day you can see the lighthouse on the horizon. Between the 19th century construction and you will extend a wide area dotted with green and yellow that, at the end, meets the intense blue of the sky and the sea.
It is a two-story building that currently houses a hotel, and was built as the Governor’s residence. It is located on one side of the square, in an austere but singular building.
Nueva Tabarca Museum
It was founded in 2004 and occupies an old warehouse used mainly for tuna fishing. It relates the relationship that the populations that have settled there have had with the natural environment of the island, and also shows its terrestrial and marine wealth.
San José Tower
Although it was in the 18th century that settlers inhabited the island, it was much earlier, around the 15th century, when the construction of a defensive system was proposed to help safeguard the coasts of the peninsula from the Barbary corsairs from Algiers.
It is the germ of this construction with a square base, although it is more recent. It is in the uninhabited part of the island, where the lighthouse is also located, and in the 19th century it served as a prison.
Llop Marí Cave
It is a natural treasure hidden under the very walls of the island, and has two contiguous accesses that can be reached by sea, in a small boat that can travel 100 meters. It is a good idea to approach it to sail the waters that, let’s remember, constitute the first marine reserve in Spain since it was declared as such in 1986.
If you go with a local, he or she will probably want to tell you the popular legend that circulates about it. According to this, the cave is the lair of a sea monster with a slimy body and a huge mouth full of teeth that plagues the inhabitants of the island at night.
Beaches and coves
If you go to Tabarca in summer, a favorite choice of most tourists, you may contemplate the sun and sand tourism. Its beach is quite extensive and occupies the perimeter of the tongue of land that separates the two parts of the island, the inhabited and the uninhabited.
You have several coves also next to the lighthouse, in case you prefer tranquility, and on the other side of town, past the Puerta de Tierra, is the Cala dels Birros. The latter, together with the surroundings of the Llop Marí Cave, are excellent options for snorkeling and discovering the marine flora and fauna, which earned it the declaration of Marine Reserve.
History of Tabarca
Historical research suggests that the Greeks called it Planesia (Strabo defined it as a dangerous island), although in medieval times it received the name of San Pablo. Roman remains such as shipwrecks and amphorae have been found on the island, indicating that it was inhabited at that time, but it was not until the second half of the 18th century that it was inhabited again.
There were about 300 people who settled on the island from different places, and with the objective of taking advantage of its strategic position as a defense. The settlers were assigned houses and were granted privileges such as exemption from the service of arms and the payment of taxes.
And if you are on vacation and have a few more days, do not hesitate to visit some of these towns on the Costa Blanca.