Conil de la Frontera is 60km from Tarifa, the windsurfers' mecca, and offers similar conditions without the crowds. For deserted beaches and peerless seafood, head for this idyll south of Cadiz
How about staying at a beach house built in the Moroccan style, with a garden leading directly to the beach, windblown by the Atlantic breezes but refreshing in the midday heat? In the other direction, through a small copse of Mediterranean pine trees, is the town of Conil de la Frontera. The apartment is not cheap – €95 to €140 a night – but it's worth the cost, being so close to the beach. (To book it, see http://conil.costasur.com, then enter reference ggco01 in the search field.)
This region of Cadiz is the last really attractive part of southern Spain to be developed, as the regional government places strict regulations on property development. Conil de la Frontera is about 30km south of Cadiz; quiet, peaceful and beautiful. Playa de los Bateles is the main beach of Conil which stretches the whole length of the Paseo Maritimo and beyond. Miles long, the fine golden sands are almost deserted except for a few wind surfers; the wind is ever-present here.
The Hotel Conil Park (rooms from €33.50 per person per night, based on two sharing) is also a good choice as a place to stay, if you don't mind a 15 minute walk along the Avenida de la Playa (seafront road) which takes you into the old quarter. It's also a good place to stay as you're near to the Playa de la Fontanilla in the other direction. Here you will find some fantastic fish restaurants right on the beach; in some, you can take a table that is literally on the beach. Try Francisco La Fontanilla (www.franciscofontanilla.com) at the end of the beach road. Frequented by locals as well as tourists, it serves what is regarded as the best seafood in town. Prices aren't bargain basement, and booking is advised in high summer – or get there early. I have eaten some of the best prawns I have ever tasted here, accompanied by local fino from Puerto de Santa Maria.
The old centre of Conil is quite small, but plays host to plenty of tapas bars and fish restaurants, as well as pizzerias, and even a Chinese. Try Bar Gloria, on Pasqual Junquera, where the Sicilian owners have brought their own particular flavour to the Conil nightlife; or La Gran Muralla classic Chinese kitchen, on Calle Padre Caro.
Once you walk up into Plaza Santa Catalina, you'll see a variety of places offering local specialities including atun encebollado (tuna cooked in onion) and chocos con patatas (cuttlefish with potatoes). El Gamba, a restaurant with an ivy-covered terrace, is of special note. Tuna is a local delicacy of this area and is still caught in the Atlantic waters off Cadiz. June is a great time to visit when the "Tuna Week" celebration is on; during this festival, restaurants serve up superb tuna dishes at subsidised prices.
Windsurfing is one of the most popular sports in Conil de la Frontera and attracts watersports enthusiasts from all over the world. Tarifa, 60km down the coast, is well known as the windsurfing epicentre of Europe. However, it can be quite busy, especially in the summer months. The conditions at the beaches of Conil de la Frontera are similar to Tarifa, but usually without the crowds.
The Poniente and Levante winds guarantee variety on the waters around Conil de la Frontera and one of them will certainly be blowing on most days of the year. In the protected bay, the water is mostly calm and the conditions are good; because Tarifa is nearby and relatively popular, you'll be able to surf here almost alone for most of the season. Make sure you bring a bigger sail size. For further wind information in Conil, see www.goconil.com/en/sport/windsurfing.html. Unfortunately, there are no windsurfing outlets in or near Conil de la Frontera itself – so you will have to bring your own gear. Alternatively, you can rent surfing equipment or take lessons in Tarifa.
The fine white sand beaches extend for many kilometres in both directions and there is much more to discover as you continue south to Los Caños de Meca, Barbate and Zahara de Los Atunes, including Cabo de Trafalgar where the famous sea battle was fought in 1805. My personal favourite in Zahara de los Atunes, where a restaurant worthy of special mention is Restaurante El Sal (+34 956 453 112) on Urbano Atlanterra Playa. Here you can enjoy traditional local cuisine with a touch of the East, including spiced sea bass, sea bream and sole.
Conil de la Frontera is a fine base from which to discover this coastline. However, it tends to be packed out during August when many Spanish tourists, particularly from Cadiz city, head down here. There are a number of local campsites, though some attract young people from Cadiz city who tend to take loud music on their travels. Having said that, I recommend Camping Rosaleda (www.campinglarosaleda.com), a well-organised site on the outskirts of town with a fine pool and good dining area.
Conil de la Frontera is about 66 km/45 mins from Jerez de la Frontera airport; 222 km/2hr 15 mins from Málaga airport; and 110 km/1 hr from Gibraltar airport.