Valdevaqueros development spearheads new Tarifa growth

Since it was first ‘discovered’ by surfers back in the 1970s, Tarifa has become a Mecca
not just for lovers of wind- and kite-surfing, but also for tourists seeking a different
summer and winter holiday experience. What made Tarifa different and appealing to such
groups, who came from abroad but also from different parts of Spain, was the fact that it
didn’t look and feel like conventional tourist resorts do. What grew out of this over the
years was a small town with a distinct surfer’s culture and a trendy hippy ambience that
some have described as ‘Tarifa chic’.

Tarifa is therefore characterised by boutique hotels, beach clubs and low-rise resorts and
campings that occupy restored old town buildings or lie within the pine groves that run
right up along the beach in a westerly direction. Many would understandably like it to
remain this way, but perhaps excessive restrictions on development limited the facilities
available and the ability of the region to make the most of its tourist potential. Though
still very popular with surfers and day-trippers, Tarifa has lost a lot of potential visitors
to the luxury beachside resorts and amenities of Novo Sancti Petri and Conil, just up the

Driving growth
Earlier schemes to emulate the high-rise hotels and multiple golf courses of large
resort towns were thankfully shipwrecked on tight planning restrictions, and so the
area remains largely unspoiled, yet the economic downturn has done Tarifa no favours,
resulting in a marked increase in empty commercial spaces and rundown buildings. The
town’s mayor, Juan Andrés Gil, is determined to reverse this situation and bring growth
and employment back to Tarifa. His initiative, to develop 1423 hotel places and 350
residential properties overlooking Playa de Valdevaqueros, forms the spearhead of this

In a bid to use the natural beauty of the region to draw visitors and to become more
competitive with other resorts by providing more up to date facilities, the mayor and
his team have approved the development and commercialisation of this 700,000m2 area
located on the north-side of the CN340 coastal road along the Costa de la Luz coastline
west of Tarifa. The plans have been made possible by a relaxation in the regional
planning regulations, and though the mayor represents the PP (Partido Popular), he has
the support of the majority of the other political parties.

There has, however, been opposition to the project, and though the Junta de Andalucía
has given assurances that it will ensure compliance with environmental laws, protection
groups have taken their objections to the European Union. The mayor, meanwhile,
backs the Town Hall’s approval of the plans on the grounds that they involve a
sustainable model of development focused on low-density, low-rise construction that will
aesthetically blend in with the environment and greatly improve the quality and offer not
only of tourist facilities, but also public amenities.

Not actually built within the dunes and beach area of Valdevaqueros, but across the road
from it, the proposed development promises to have less visible impact than the many
hundreds of wind turbines that have sprung up all around this region – including on
the ridge behind the area in question. Moreover, the project itself represents a sizeable
investment that will certainly bring employment to the town and enhance the standard
and variety of its tourist infrastructure, potentially opening up this surfer’s paradise to a
whole new kind of tourism.

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