Tabarca Island

Tabarca Island off the Costa Blanca seen from the sea.
Tabarca Island off the Costa Blanca seen from the sea.

Tabarca Island is situated just off the Costa Blanca in the Alicante region of Spain. It is the smallest year round inhabited island in Spain and it is home to a large marine reserve. The island has a population of 68 people, but during the tourist season this swells considerably as there are quite a few ferries arriving throughout the day, the closest coming from Santa Pola (shorter distance at sea, about 20 mins) and others from the town of Alicante (about an hour trip at €19 r/t in August 2017). you can find some more information on the Alicante boats at the Cruceros Kontiki website here.

Kontiki III at the dock in Alicante
Kontiki III at the dock in Alicante

The friendly crew onboard any of the Kontiki boats are happy to take you out to the beautiful island of Tabarca, the bar onboard serves cold beer – have one to improve your sea-legs! Follow this link to the Kontiki Cruises (Cruceros Kontiki) website for more information.

Leaving the Alicante harbor for Tabarca
Leaving the Alicante harbor for Tabarca
Approaching Tabarca on the boat
Approaching Tabarca on the boat

The Tabarca island or as it is also known, Nueva Tabarca or Isla Plana it is about 5,700′ long (about 1,700m) and at it’s widest point it is just under 1,000′  (about 300m) wide. Up until the end of the 18:th century it was a refuge for Barbary pirates. Barbary pirates were African based pirates that raided and plundered the coastal towns of the Western Mediterranean. They also ventured further out into the world, but this was their main area of operation. In 1760 Charles III of Spain ordered the fortification of the island and he also ordered it to be repopulated. When a Genoese ship manned by sailors who came mainly from the namesake island (Tabarka) off the coast of Tunisia which was part of the Republic of Genoa until 1741 shipwrecked off the island, the sailors were rescued and eventually settled on the island together with a Spanish garrison sent to defend the island. It was officially renamed Nueva Tabarca in 1770 and the island was fortified. At one time the island had as many as 1,000 inhabitants, mainly fishermen. The Italian heritage can still be noticed in that many last names are still decidedly of Italian origin.

Looking out over the small crafts in the harbor on Tabarca
Looking out over the small crafts in the harbor on Tabarca
The Kontiki boat at the dock on Tabarca
The Kontiki boat at the dock on Tabarca
The Kontiki brings provisions to Tabarca and there is a frenetic activity when the boat arrives
The Kontiki brings provisions to Tabarca and there is a frenetic activity when the boat arrives
The signpost is there so you will know your way around the island...
The signpost is there so you will know your way around the island…
Look at it as a piece of public art...
Look at it as a piece of public art…
Since the islands was inhabited to protect the Costa Blanca from invaders the small town is walled.
Since the islands was inhabited to protect the Costa Blanca from invaders the small town is walled in.
One of the few 'streets' on the island
One of the few ‘streets’ on the island.
Sign in a window.
Sign in a window.
One of the nice swimming coves on the island.
One of the nice swimming coves on the island.

The island is home to the first marine preserve in Spain, created in 1986 to protect birds and aquatic life. The waters are clear and unpolluted which makes it a great environment for all kinds of marine wild life. It is notable that this was the last place in Spain where the endangered Mediterranean monk seal was successfully bread, unfortunately despite these efforts the species became extinct in this area in the 1960’s. Currently (in 2016) an estimated population of less  than 700 Mediterranean monk seals remain in a few other locations, mainly in the Aegean sea. An artificial reef was put in place near the island by the marine reserve authorities to protect it from fishing and to increase the marine biodiversity of the island.

The prettiest barmaid on Tabarca is ready to serve you a nice cold beverage at Isla Bonita Beach Club
The prettiest barmaid on Tabarca is ready to serve you a nice cold beverage at Isla Bonita Beach Club.

There are many places to have a cold beverage at on the island, the best in our opinion is at Isla Bonita Beach Club at Plaza Grande on the island of Tbarca, here is a link to their facebook page.  They also serves food and the environment is great, go there for drinks and food, and of course the prettiest barmaid…

You get a nicely chilled glass for your beer at Isla Bonita Beach Club
You get a nicely chilled glass for your beer at Isla Bonita Beach Club
Nature on the island, low slung vegetation of course - it is a windswept island with little shelter for the plants
Nature on the island, low slung vegetation of course – it is a windswept island with little shelter for the plants

The island is mainly volcanic rock with limestone and deposits from the Quaternary (the current and most recent of the three Cenozoic periods) time period.

Tabarca fort , it looks like a pyramid with the top cut off from a distance and is one of the landmarks of the island distinguishable from afar
Tabarca fort , it looks like a pyramid with the top cut off from a distance and is one of the landmarks of the island distinguishable from afar
Closer look at the old fort
Closer look at the old fort
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