Spain’s most south-westerly coastline, Costa de la Luz reaches from Ayamonte, near the mouth of the Guadiana River on the Portuguese border, to Algeciras, facing the Strait of Gibraltar. In between lie stretches of golden beaches, pine groves and whitewashed villages. The Doñana National Park wetlands are located between provincial capitals Huelva and Cadiz. Fortified Cadiz protrudes into the sea on a narrow spit of land, and inland can be found the sherry-producing vineyards around Jerez de la Frontera. At the southeast end of the coast the winds whistle through the Strait of Gibraltar past windsurfers’ favourite Tarifa.
Tarifa is the best-known beach town on the Costa de la Luz, popular for its ideal windsurfing conditions. Most Costa de la Luz beaches have fine sand including La Caleta in Cadiz, and El Puerto de Santa Maria, where kids also love Aqualand waterpark. Along the coast is Sanlúcar de Barrameda, famed for beach horse races. It faces the Guadilquivir River and Doñana National Park where the beach runs all the way to the modern family resort of Matalascañas. Near the Portuguese border, the busy fishing port of Isla Cristina is a summer resort with sandy beaches and a popular destination for holidays in the Costa de la Luz.
The Doñana National Park, at the heart of the Costa de la Luz, is a protected wetland with flamingos and Iberian lynx. Inland, you can see more animals at Jerez Zoo and Botanical Garden, home to white tigers, African elephants and pandas. Explore the waterways on boat trips from Huelva to Punta Umbria, or from Ayamonte across the border to Portugal. Several Costa de la Luz hotels are convenient for golfing, including the 18-hole Arcos Gardens inland or the coastal Dunas de Doñana.
In the sherry triangle towns of Jerez, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, ‘bodega’ sherry houses offer tours and tastings. Accompany dinner with white ‘fino’ sherry or Huelva’s fruity young wines. In Huelva, menus include pink shrimp and the best Iberian hams, while along the coast seabass and snapper come fresh to the grill or are added to stews. There are also plenty of meat dishes like baby goat and Jerez-style cow’s tail, and Arab-influenced pastries made with honey and almonds.
On a cultural Costa de la Luz holiday don’t miss the city of Jerez de la Frontera, where horse ballet astounds visitors at the Royal School of Equestrian Art. The birthplace of flamenco, Jerez is one of the best places to hear a passionate performance. You’ll need more than a day to explore the medieval and neoclassical buildings in Cadiz old town. Learn about the discovery of America in Huelva’s Casa Colon and Moguer, where Columbus pledged his allegiance to the Catholic Monarchs.