This is the best beach in Spain, HANDS DOWN, and I have been to a lot of beaches!
Isla Canela, you say? What? Where is that? I’ve never heard of it! YES, exactly; that’s why it’s so GREAT! It is located south of the town of Ayamonte in Andalusia, Spain, on seven kilometers of beautiful sand! The mouth of the Guadiana River meets the Atlantic, and if you look to your right you can see Portugal!
As always, my job is to scout the area, price the flights, and find us housing. Of course, I always have to locate a gym and basketball court, otherwise my hubby is grouchy! We have seen and read about all the touristy places – Barcelona , Malaga, Mallorca, Gran Canaries.
I know they are beautiful, but just not what I was looking for. I wanted a sleepy, authentic village with amazing beaches, great seafood, and where no one else had ever been! I looked, and looked, and researched, and researched!
Then one day, up came Isla Canela (Island of Cinnamon in English)! There was very little information about it, but from what I could see it was untouched, non-touristy, and GORGEOUS! Isla Canela sits right on the Atlantic Ocean near the Portugal and Spain border. The sand really does look like cinnamon; here, take look!
Beyond this, I found very little information about the place. This is exactly what I was looking for! The hubby, who is normally open to my crazy travel adventures, was not too sure about this place! He couldn’t find information, had no reviews to read, and really wasn’t sure it was a good idea! Quite frankly, he doubted that any of the pictures I was showing him could possibly look that way in real life!
We wrestled over the flat; we haggled over the price; and we debated on other locations. He wanted Malaga; I wanted Isla Canela! He wanted a bigger city; I wanted a sleepy village. He wanted proof of gorgeous; I was flying by the seat of my pants! Finally, after a month of struggles, I convinced him that this was the place to go and promised that he would not be sorry. Finally, he gave in! Yay!
I booked our flight tickets trough JetRadar from Cologne , Germany to Faro Portugal. We rented a car for the summer, with Fox Rent a Car. Then I booked us a beach-front flat for 8 weeks! I was excited! I found our apartment on Airbnb, you can see it here. The owners name is Juan Miguel and anything I had a question about, he answered for me. Juan would email me photos of him fishing and snorkeling. I was counting the days! I just knew this was going to be the best vacation ever!
My husband doubted me right up until the moment that we walked through the door of our…
AMAZING, 3 bedroom, BEACH FRONT, PENTHOUSE APARTMENT!
I don’t use these words lightly, but I have to tell you – I WAS SPEECHLESS! I can’t say enough about the beautiful apartment we rented! Then there was the beautiful beach we looked out over each day! The warm, blue, clean water was fantastic!
If you go, check out the flat we stayed in. The building has a great pool with a full-time lifeguard, so I had no worries about the kids. It had a nice little bar near the pool that served snacks and cocktails. We were literally steps from the beach! The whole compound was fenced in so we felt fine about having the kids run around with all the new friends they made.
Have you ever stayed in such a beautiful place that you didn’t even need to leave the patio? Well, that is how I felt! We watched the sunrise and the sunset! Day after day after day, we would rush to the patio, coffee in had, to just enjoy; it never got old! The island is only three streets wide with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the marina on the other, so you can walk everywhere.
We walked on the beach in the morning, practically alone, lounged with our umbrellas, picked up baby starfish in the surf, and dug our own fresh clams for dinner. Doesn’t it just sound like a dream?
We had dinner on the beach at the local chinguiritos. We danced to live music, met the bands, and ate plates of seafood for $9.
If you stop by our favorite local place, Cerveceria Cayuelitas, directly in front of the Isla Canela Marina, visit our fav bartender, Miguel!
He will be more than happy to give you a great drink and some tapas! They have these cool tables that have the beer taps built-in so you can just pour your own beer. How much you drink is calculated on the electronic board near the bar. If you stop by, you can see my hubby’s picture on the wall! A plaque of sorts, a medal of honor, for drinking five liters of beer in one night! Oh, I am sooo proud!
They did have to practically throw us out of the place around 2 a.m.! Luckily, we only had to walk one block home.
When you visit, a must have is their plate of Galician-style octopus! They chop it up, lay it on top of grilled potatoes, sprinkle with salt and paprika, and voila! We could not get enough!
The town of Ayamonte is close by (drive or bus); only 10 minutes. They have an amazing fish market there! Every morning we would get up, have coffee on our amazing patio, look at the ocean, and run to the gym (which was a local gym, and gave us a monthly membership for those of you who need your gym fix like my hubby).
Then we would wander through the fish market trying to decide what to eat for dinner. They have everything from hundreds of fresh fish and seafood to Iberian prosciutto to fresh-baked bread to farm-grown vegetables! It was loud, colorful, smelly, and so much fun!
Lastly, you must have some seafood rice or arroz de mariscos – a tasty recipe that originated in Portugal but is very popular in southern Spain!
No, it’s not paella; it’s better! The best place on the island is at the tip of the island called Resturante Antonio. Now don’t let the shack appearance scare you. This place has some of the best food we ate while in Spain! We ate a whole pot of seafood rice for $15, and it was delicious.
On our last night in town, our awesome waitress brought us two shots of chilled Amarguinha to bid us goodbye, but we promised to return soon to this amazing and beautiful island! Cheers, or salute, as they say in Isla Canela!
The little marina was so quaint! Our boys spent a week taking sailing lessons with all their new friends! You could get a water taxi to neighboring towns, rent a boat, or even take a fishing excursion! It was just an amazing place!
Just so you know, you will not find very many people who speak English, unless they are local expats. SO brush up on your Spanish with Pimsleur Language Programs
. Click above and get a free Spanish Lesson.
I sniffled as we packed, and my eyes teared up as we said goodbye to our beautiful apartment, to-die-for views, and all of our new friends! My little island of cinnamon, we will be back, and sooner than you think!
Thanks for reading, have you ever been to Isla Canela? Love to hear about your time there!