“People come to Fuerteventura for the beaches, and once you see them you’ll understand why – they’re the best in the Canaries.”
With more than 150 swathes of sand to its name, Fuerteventura is the beach capital of the Canary Islands. Its coast morphs from the empty sweeps at Cofete to the busy, bar-lined stretches in Jandia. Then there’s the Parque Natural de Corralejo to think about. Unravelling along the coast for 10 kilometres, this national park is a huge expanse of rolling sand dunes.
Corralejo, the most popular town on the island, balances old and new. You’ll find traditional tapas bars in the old town and karaoke bars in the resort centre. Further down the coast, Costa Caleta is a family favourite, with watersports and international restaurants easy to come by. The Jandia peninsula in the south, meanwhile, teams up national park-protected beaches with duty-free shopping complexes and a clutch of cocktail bars.
The island’s coastline gives the green light to some of the best watersports in Europe. Kite surfing is big business here. And Playa de Sotavento, on the island’s south coast, has cornered the market for windsurfing. Head here in July and you’ll catch the World Championships.
If you can drag yourself away from the shoreline, Fuerteventura’s interior is well worth exploring. Wind-whipped lava fields and valleys of euphorbia give way to centuries-old villages that have missed the march of mass tourism.
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Fuerteventura’s beaches are the island’s star attraction. If you like wild, windswept stretches of sand and a rugged, rocky coastline, the northwest coast will float your boat. This is where the surfers gather, attracted by some of the best conditions to be found outside Hawaii.
One of the most unspoilt beaches is at El Cotillo, a former fishing village which, despite becoming an increasingly popular holiday resort, retains much of its traditional charm and character.
However, for sheer eye-popping beauty it has to be the south of the island, where you’ll find beaches that are so good they could even put some Caribbean ones in the shade.
One of the best, and therefore most popular, is Playa de Mattoral, which stretches north from Morro Jable on the Jandia Peninsula. It’s a prince among beaches, with miles of soft, golden sand and gently shelving waters that are just perfect for safe, family swimming. It’s also got a good watersports centre and a long prom lined with bars and restaurants.
A few miles to the north is the number one windsurfing spot on the peninsula, Playa de Sotavento, actually a series of lovely white-sand beaches stretching around 15 miles along the coast. Every July it hosts a leg of the Windsurfing World Championships.
Heading further north you come to Costa Calma, where you’ll find another outstanding beach, particularly popular with families. On the northern tip of the island is Corralejo. The beach there is good but quite small and often busy. However, the famous white sand dunes offer the opportunity to find a secluded spot for some quiet sunbathing. A wind break, however, is a must.
Alternatively, if you really want to get away from it all, and you don’t mind your sand a volcanic shade of black rather than pristine white or classically golden, head for Ajuy and Puerto de la Pena about half way down Fuerteventura’s west coast. There’s a coastal path that leads north from the beach offering spectacular views along the way.
Few people come to Fuerteventura with shopping on their minds. However, if you do fancy a spot of retail therapy to complement the sunbathing, there are plenty of places to spend your euros. Prices are reasonable due to a lower sales tax than the mainland.
What’s more, this is a duty free island, so there are real bargains to be had on spirits, perfumes, aftershaves and some electrical goods. Not surprisingly, the place to find the best shopping is the capital Puerto del Rosario.
The two main shopping thoroughfares are the Leon y Castillo and Avenida Juan de Betancourt, while the newest addition to the retail scene is Las Rotondas, a large mall with a range of shops selling clothes, electrical goods, home wares, food, jewellery and more. However, it’s also worth getting off the main drag into the backstreets, where you’ll find some interesting little craft and curio shops.
Fuerteventura’s two biggest resorts, Corralejo and Caleta de Fuste also have a range of shops, selling everything from suntan cream to souvenirs. They’re mostly concentrated in commercial centres in and around town, for example the Atlantico centre in Caleta de Fuste, which also has bars, restaurants, a bowling alley, an amusement arcade and a multiplex cinema.
If you’re looking for more traditional souvenirs or gifts, Fuerteventura’s wide array of arts, crafts and cottage industry products will give you lots of ideas. Hand-made lace, embroidered linen, glazed ceramics and leather goods are all good buys.
Then, of course, there are the famous Canary Islands cigars, which are extremely good quality. There are plenty of small craft shops in and around all the major resorts.
Or why not visit one of Fuerteventura’s colourful, atmospheric markets where you can shop side-by-side with the locals? There’s one for nearly every day of the week. Head to Corralejo on Mondays and Fridays, Puerto del Rosario and Jandia on Thursdays, Fuste on a Saturday and Costa Calma on a Sunday. No excuse then not to find a bargain.