The marina in Santa Pola was filled with fishing boats. Few people were cleaning the nets after busy early morning out in the open sea. The characteristic smell of sea and fish was looming around, irritating my nose slightly. The marina was quiet, out of season. Few catamarans taking tourist to the Island of Tabarca were comfortably sitting at the shore, letting the water rock them slightly.
The sky was grey and I started wondering if our planned trip was a good idea. The weather on the island is always unpredictable, changeable and uncertain. I was hoping we could swim in the crystal clean waters surrounding the island, very famous for its visibility and plenty of fish. The paradise for lovers of snorkelling.
The ride on a catamaran took about an hour and cost us 20 euros. Not many people took the ride with us and I could look at the island slowly getting bigger and bigger in front of us. I was amazed that the whole town was built at this tiny piece of land, occupied by Barber pirates in the past and becoming a prison at one point.
In high season Tabarca gets busy, with more than 3.000 visitors daily and many yachts mooring here. There are hostels and a hotel as well, if you fancy staying the night. Many shops and restaurant are located on this tiny island. As we were traveling out of season, the island and marina were rather deserted, but few restaurants were opened and we could try local cuisine – caldero – rice and fish (gallina – red scorpionfish).
There is a special way to eat the dish as the waiter at the restaurant showed us. You eat fish and potatoes first and then use the remaining gravy for your rice. I had mixed feelings about caldero – I did not enjoy the fish very much. It tasted strange, like a meaty jelly, with a sublime taste of slime. Rice was a different story – with a hint of leftover gravy it was light and filling at the same time. The gravy was quite distinctive and you could not really use too much and let it dominate the rice. Just a hint to dampen the rice was enough.
Exploring the island took us about 30 minutes. At 1.800 meters long and 400 at its widest point even if you tried really hard getting lost was impossible. Wandering thought the streets I was trying to imagine how busy the island might get with tourists in high season. Now the streets were quiet and deserted, a lot of shops closed and just few restaurants opened. All the doors and shutters firmly shut, awaiting the return of the owners. Cats were the kings of the neighbourhood now, looking at us as unnecessary intruders, but begging for food at the restaurant table.
On our way back from the town we have decided that swim in the clear crystal waters of Tabarca is a must. Even without diving masks we could spot some incredible fishes surrounding us all the time. The water was warm enough and more people enjoyed the swim. The sun did not disappoint and we could spend some time lying on the beach and enjoying the nature. The beach is tiny and I was pleased that again, our out of season wandering gave us an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful place without thousands of tourists on our back.
One day is quite enough to explore and enjoy this incredible place. You can catch a boat from Alicante, Santa Pola, Guardamar or Benidorm. We went to Santa Pola marina and we would recommenced taking a boat from there, since we had a chance to compare prices. This looks the most affordable! As we were out of season we paid 11 euros for a return ticket instead of 13.