I was probably brought up a Francophile. I learned French in school, went on ERASMUS in France for five months, I would have been of the view that there’s nothing of value that can’t be done within the borders of France.

However, another tourism giant has shoved the French aside.  Spain’s great cities, such as Seville, the under-rated Madrid, San Sebastian and more won me over, and InterRail journeys showed me more of the country.

Last year, we travelled in a way we hadn’t done for a while.  We booked a flight to Malaga, had two nights booked there, and then had no plans for a week.  We thought we’d visit Ronda (we did, by train for two nights and stayed in a really quirky boutique hotel, Enfrente del Arte), and then we hired a car in Algeciras and drove west through Andalucia until we found a spot we liked.

Malaga's old town
Malaga’s old town

It was difficult to decide in advance where to go.   There was Cadiz as an option, or perhaps Tarifa, or one of a few beach or hill towns along the way for which – as it was September – it wasn’t clear if they would be very quiet or lively.

We discounted Tarifa fairly quickly, then started to check some smaller beach towns.  Zahara de los Atunes was pleasant if a little too packaged seeming.  Barbate didn’t hold the attention much.  But then…. the little town of Los Canos de Meca really drew us in.

It had a selection of impressive beaches, enough nice looking bars and eateries to hold the interest for a few days, and a very laid back atmosphere in keeping with its “hippy hangout” reputation.  We checked in to Hotel Mar de Frente, at the eastern end of Avenida de Trafalgar, the main road running through the town.  It overlooked a magnificent beach that was busy without being overrun the way you sometimes envisage Spanish “costa” beaches.

Dawn on this beautiful beach... not overrun at all!
Dawn on this beautiful beach… not overrun at all!

However, the hotel was overpriced, and though clean it barely rose above the basic.  So we moved down the road to Hotel Madreselva.  It was everything Mar de Frente was not.  It wasn’t directly on the beach, but was less than 30 seconds from one.  It was cheaper, it had a pool, free parking, it had very warm and friendly staff, and it was to be our base for the rest of the week.

As well as being a lovely place to be in its own right, Los Canos was also a good base for the wider area. We did a day trip to Cadiz, we also went to the foodie town of Vejer de la Frontera, but most of our time was on one of the range of beaches,  from Mar de Frente down to Capo Trafalgar; in one of the Chiringuitos or other local restaurants eating magnificent seafood; and seeing the sunset from the fun (if pricey) Jaima Bar, along with everyone else in the area it seemed.

Jaima, the spot for sunset in Los Canos de Meca.
The sunset they come to see, past Capo Trafalgar

If you’re travelling here, it would probably be better to fly into Seville.  You will need a car, as public transport is limited.

The coastal area generally seems to be a hotspot for windsurfing and kitesurfing, though nearer to Tarifa seemed to cater for purists for those pursuits to a greater extent.

Some of the local establishments may not look all that much, but when a plate of whitebait, a grilled whole fish, or an artistically-created paella is presented to you, you’ll see what really matters.

So for a different side of Spain, the beaches they seem to keep to themselves while nearer Malaga is thronged, we loved it, and it would definitely be worth exploring the region a little further.