Spain is an enduringly popular destination for thousands of British holidaymakers annually, lured by the promise of stunning beaches, a warm climate, great food and plenty to do and see. The problem is many resorts are subsequently a victim of their own successes, in as much as the sheer volume of tourists who descend on some hot spots put many more potential visitors off. However that’s not the case with the picture postcard town of Roquetas de Mar, which lies on the scenic Costa de Almeria coast. Despite being transformed from a laid and stripped back traditional Spanish fishing village into a popular, facility-laden holiday destination, it’s retained much of its charm and appeal; and doesn’t entertain the mass migration of holidaymakers year on year. Essentially just enough tourists know about its gorgeous sandy beaches (some 12 kilometres in total), upmarket marina, long promenade, tapas bars, auditorium, bull ring, restaurants and shops, and the fact that its old town is steeped in local history and architectural delights. Which is just the way we like it. Sprinkle in a healthy dose of the flamingo-spotting Punta Sabinar Nature Park, local aquarium, and we think most summer holiday 2017 angles are covered. But we’ll let you be the judge of that.
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Spanish
- Time Zone: GMT +1
- Average flight time: 2h 45m
When to go
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The list of things to do and see in close proximity to Roquetas de Mar really is extensive to say the least, and will appeal to all ages at the merest mention of a great many of the tourist attractions. Be it themes of fun, nature, history, culture or exploration, every base is well and truly covered in this Costa del Complete Holiday! In fact, there’s so much to tell you about we don’t quite know where to begin. So, in no particular order of preference (although some will want to check out some before others), we give you – or rather, Roquetas de Mar gives you – a host of medieval monuments which architecturally document past times. Forts and castles such as the medieval Castilla de Sana Ana and the Plaza de Toros are both fascinating places to head for during a break in the region, with the latter boasting a small museum which celebrates Spanish culture.
Or perhaps the natural world is more your bag? And if so, then just 5 kilometres south of the town is Las Marinas salt marshes; home to hundreds of rare breeds of birds including flamingos, egrets and avocets. Staying on a nature tip, the Roquetas de Mar Aquarium is a must-see place for families, which affords visitors unique insights into the life and times of the vibrant marine life which exists beneath the sea. Water plays a huge part at the children-(very) friendly Mario Park, which is a fun water theme park which comprises of numerous pools, slides and inflatables. Scuba diving and sailing opportunities are also plentiful in and around Roquetas de Mar and its outlying areas too, while horse riding and golf pull in many holidaymakers.
Wine and Dine
Whatever your tastes in food, there’s one thing for certain. And that’s Roquetas de Mar will cater for yours. Located just 15 minutes’ drive from the regional capital of Almeira itself, the town has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining options; options no less that will appeal to the influx of foreign tourists from far and wide who descend on Roquetas de Mar throughout the main holiday season. Not exactly difficult to believe, the regional speciality is that of seafood in its various forms, which is obviously captured daily by the resident Spanish fishermen. And with this in mind, there’s a number of beachfront chiringuitos and restaurants offering perfect locations for a spot of lunch, while in addition to these there are a raft of top quality, slightly more upmarket restaurants in town offering the very best of traditional Spanish cuisine. If we were to drop a few names (always handy when forming a bite-size guide), the foodies repeatedly utter the likes of Michelin-recommended Alejandro’s and Bacus (Aguadulce), with the un-starred – yet equally sought after - San Rocco, Di Modena Asador, Mosaico Eco Cafe Bar, Brasserie Panini, La VitaLa Vita and Don JamonDon Jamon making up the best of the rest as such.
With a beach – La Bajadilla – purportedly measuring some 80 metres in width and 1,300 metres in length (somebody’s got to do it, we guess), it’s fair to say there’s room for ticketholders in a sold out Wembley Stadium to sunbathe in relative peace and quiet on Roquetas de Mar’s sandy frontage. Therefore families (of all sizes) can relax in their own personal spaces to their heart’s content. Another sandy spread is found at Playa Urbanizaciôn, which is regarded as one of Roquetas’ liveliest beaches, with volleyball nets and children’s play areas joining water-based activities like pedalos, jet-skis and windsurfing. Of course, and is often the way with kids, once boredom kicks in (after much swimming, sandcastle-creating and beach volleyball), thankfully there’s a host of alternate pursuit to actively engage children in. Like for example the Aquarium Roquetas, where visitors get to stroke a manta ray, swim with a shark and discover why piranhas have been getting such a bad press. All HSE-compliant, just for the record! You’ll also see lots of seahorses, tropical fish and octopuses, too.
Elsewhere you might want to take the kids to explore the old quarter's castle and lighthouse, which was first built to protect the town against pirates. Records show that the 16th Century Castle of Santa Ana was devastated by the earthquake of 1804, yet was reconstructed and today serves as a cultural centre. You can get in for free to see regular art exhibitions, and if you climb up to the roof, you’ll get a fantastic, wide-screen view of the town and beaches. Or maybe you and your brood wish to commune with nature, which works in your favour. Not least because animal lovers have got Punta Entinas Sabinar Natural Park just 5 kilometres out of Roquetas de Mar. And where rock roses, wild thyme and juniper cover the dunes, and herons, flamingos and avocets nest in the lakes and protected wetlands.
Action and Adventure
Water sports are the order of the day at Playa de las Salinas, or enjoy the easy accessibility of the sandy Urbanización and Aguadulce beaches we waxed lyrical about earlier. Yet action and adventure are just two words used to describe the Wild West experience awaiting visitors to the full-day Western Theme Park Tour of Mini Hollywood. Here you get to spend an extraordinary day in the famous Tabernas Desert, where’ll you’ll be the guest of the western-inspired theme park, Oasys (known as Mini Hollywood). And if channelling your inner cowboy doesn’t do it for you, then those choosing to holiday in Roquetas de Mar may alternatively opt for the full-day tour of the Sierra Nevada Mountains , which sits within the Sierra Nevada National Park.
Life's a Beach
As we’ve already touched on, Roquetas de Mar doesn’t serve as a magnet to great swathes of holidaymakers as other destinations on the Almeria coast does, which equates to there always been more elbow room for those looking to lounge around and sunbathe on the beaches, or maybe take a dip in the warm, calm waters. Which can sometimes be quite the challenge on other, notoriously overcrowded Spanish beach resorts as is well documented. It helps that Roquetas de Mar doesn’t just have the one beach for sun worshippers to wrestle other sun worshippers over, as there’s a choice of sandy strips to find a place and burrow in for the morning or afternoon. Although brought together by a lengthy, palm tree-lined promenade, this stretch of the Blue Flag-awarded coastline still has more than enough pockets of space, even after sunbeds and umbrellas have been figured into the average family beach equation. Showers and designated play areas for children also make the beach experience a far more pleasurable and relaxing one for all concerned. Just note that there’s a dedicated nudist part of beach at Playa de Cerillos, otherwise you may have to hastily cover a few eyes to spare some blushes.
The good news is that if you’re looking to escape that often-spotted English or Irish ‘theme bar’ (which is relatively commonplace in some Brit-friendly Spanish resorts), then you’ve arrived in the right place here in Roquetas de Mar. As there isn’t a single one. The bad news is, nightlife is pretty quiet and unanimated here, save for a foray around the clutch of bars in the Urbanización area and around the beach. But that works to the advantage of families with younger children and the more mature holidaymakers, and that’s not to say there aren’t alternative good times to be had in the bars of the beach-front hotels. In terms of actual things to do once the sun sets on the Almerian day, then what could be more enticing than the simple pleasures involved in promenading down the, well, promenade with the other tourists and locals in this post-dusk semi-pedestrianised area where strolling in and out of bars and restaurants for evening meals is de rigeur. What’s more, you could mingle with others exploring the little tented areas of artisan products which pop-up by nightfall in Roquetas de Mar’s main thoroughfare, lit by fairy-lights and selling clothes, hand-made jewellery and paintings.
If you’re on the mooch for a more upbeat evening’s entertainment then we suggest that you take a short trip to Almeira, which is positively teeming with lively, friendly tapas bars where tasty treats are served up with your drinks; and where bar-hopping guarantees a good night out. Music bars open late and don’t pull down their shutters until 4am, while summer disco marquees near the beach start to get wild around 3am. The buzzy bar zone is around Calle Trajano and Plaza Masnou between the Cathedral and Paseo de Almería, with a host of other clubs and assorted bars worth checking out include Bodega Montenegro, Mae West, La Parada, Manhattan Karaoke Show Bar, El Quinto Toro.
If escapism is your number one priority during your Roquetas de Mar holiday, then we’ve got the perfect deals for couples this summer season. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, make your way to the wide, shingly Serena Beach, for some serious relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of the town, while a stroll down to the port area of a morning will enable you to witness the fisherman’s catch being brought in. Meanwhile if a spot of retail therapy is more to your liking, then why not visit the Grand Plaza Mall, which mixes Spanish brands with Hermès, Mango and Zara on the contemporary fashion front. Or if you prefer to remain outdoors, take the opportunity to peruse the assortment of market stalls which stretch out for nearly half a mile on both sides of Avenida de la Union Europe. Failing that, couples could always go to Almeria province’s capital city, Almeria, where they’ll discover the Moorish fort of Alcazaba standing guard over the city beneath its gaze. With towers, ruins and dungeons to explore, don’t forget to leave time to explore the cathedral too, with it Gothic ceiling and marble trimmings.
Evening in Roquetas de Mar can entail taking in a show or listening to various musical performances, courtesy of the some of the larger hotels in the resort which tend to lay on such entertainments for holidaymakers. Live music and cabaret is fairly commonplace, while the brand new Teatro Auditorio deals in flamenco, classical, jazz and English-language productions. Every July the town welcomes La Fiesta De Santa Ana and La Virgen Del Carmen, whereby a procession weaves its way down to Roquetas’ seafront with statues of the town’s patron saint, the Virgin del Carmen, and Santa Ana, the Virgin Mary’s mother. To the aural backdrop of a band playing, said statues are raised onto a flower-bedecked boat which then proceeds to sail around the town’s harbour, accompanied all the time by fishing boats. Back on dry land, live music and open-air bars plus a spectacular fireworks display take centre stage.