The Isle of Tabarca, known also as Nueva Tabarca (Valencian: Nova Tabarca) or Isla Plana (Valencian: Illa Plana) is an islet off the coast of Alicante, less than 5 Km from Santa Pola, in the Valencian Community. The waters of the island form part of a protected marine reserve.
With its 59 permanent inhabitants (2013) Tabarca is the smallest populated isle of Spain. Ironically is also the biggest island of the Valencian Community and the only one populated. It's a popular one-day trip from the Costa Blanca. Having being a traditional village of fishers, nowadays the islet depends deeply on tourism.
Tabarca is 22 Km away from Alicante, 8 Km from Santa Pola center and 4.3 Km from the mainland at its nearest point. Being known as a difficult spot to navigate since the Greek times the islet became a refuge for Berber pirates who attacked the coast. In the 18th century the Spanish king Carlos III ordered fortifications for the isle and settled a permanent population on the isle. The walls are still one of Tabarca's distinguished attractions.
The islet gets very busy in summer due to its small size and that may not be what everyone is looking for. For the visitors wanting a relaxing and inspiring spot, it would be advisable to visit it in the spring or the autumn.
The only way to reach Tabarca is by boat. The timetables may change within a short time, so for people planning an organized day-trip it may be adviced to contact the companies to know the exact departure times. Besides Santa Pola the other ferries are organized tourist trips to the island. They may be convenient instead of moving to another city, but they are also more expensive.
In high season you would probably find the persistence of the different vendors annoying, so don't worry about not finding them: they will certainly find you.
- The closest port going to Tabarca is in Santa Pola. Transtabarca  runs ferries during the whole year from Puerto de Santa Pola to the islet. In the summer they depart hourly but in winter the frequency is lower. The last departure coming from Tabarca to the mainland is at 18:45. The trip takes 15 minutes on a catamaran with submarine vision. It costs 15 € round trip for adults. Transtabarca also offers a "taxi boat" (Barco taxi) service at any time.
Tabarkera offers the same service for the same price, but a "cruiser" like service may be booked, including food on board or special events.
- From Alicante Cruceros Kontiki  makes the route. One daily departure from the Puerto Deportivo on weekdays and two on weekends. The trip takes around 45 minutes and costs 18 € round trip.
- From Torrevieja Marítimas Torrevieja  has a service to Tabarca on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but not in winter. Price: 22 € round trip
- From Benidorm Excursiones Marítimas Benidorm  offers the service as a day trip to the islet on board one of its Sea World ferries. The trip takes 1 h 15 minutes but offers nice views of the coast on the way to Tabarca. It costs 27.50 € round trip. The service runs only on Thursdays, from May until August.
Tabarca is very small. Being just 2 Km long the islet lacks roads and cars are rarely seen. You can reach every corner of the isle by foot. The streets are made of sand and stone.
Tabarca's highlights are the beach and marine fauna, but the historical town, even being quite small, will definitely entertain most of the travelers.
Monuments and museumsEdit
- The Wall (Muralla) surrounds the city. It was constructed in the 18th century to protect the inhabitants from the pirates. Some parts are quite dilapidated and has fallen off and in to the water, but since the 80s a new process for protection and restoration has been undergoing.
The wall has three gates worth a sight: Puerta de Levante or de San Gabriel, to the east; Puerta de la Trancada or de San Gabriel, to the west; and the smallest Puerta de de Tierra, de Alicante or de San Miguel.
- Governor's House (Spanish: Casa del Gobernador; Valencian: Casa del Governador): Originally planned to be a castle, finally a "decent" house for the governor was adjusted. Today the building hosts a hotel, the Hotel Boutique Isla de Tabarca .
- Iglesia de San Pedro y San Pablo: The only church on the isle, dating from the beginning of the settlement in the 18th century. Located in an interesting spot next to the water.
- Lighthouse: Today hosts a marine laboratory, but the neoclassical building is well preserved. It's located further east, passing the Torre de San José.
- Museum of Tabarca: Located in the old tunny fishery storage building (Edificio del Almacén de la Almadraba). Opened the whole year from Wednesday to Sunday. Entrance: 2 €.
- Torre de San José: Defensive tower (looking more as a fortress) located outside of the walled town.
Nature and beachesEdit
Tabarca is well known for its marine reserve (Reserva marina de la Isla de Tabarca). The high quality of the waters serve as shelter for lot of species, from lobsters or sea stars to loggerhead sea turtles and groupers. The islet has also been declared a Special Protected Zone for Birds by the European Union.
There is only one sand beach in the islet, and it tends to be very full in summer. On the other hand the water is transparent and very appealing, and it's easy to spot masses of fishes and other animals. There are also several coves where it's possible to find a bit more of privacy, but the rocks are more uncomfortable than the sand.
The cleanness of the waters make it suitable for all kind of water activities, being snorkeling and diving of special interest. Bringing snorkeling equipment is a great idea, specially for the rock coves.
Scubaelx  or Anthias  offer diving courses and immersions in Tabarca (in Spanish). To dive in the reserve itself it would be neccessary to contact them at least one week before to fill up the permissions, as the number of boats and divers allowed is limited. They also offer immersions on the surroundings of the reserve free of bureaucracy problems, but the fauna may not be equal as in the reserve.
Any other water activities like windsurf or kayak are also available, but prices and saturation of visitors may not make it appropriate in Tabarca, having in Costa Blanca more suitable places. Also the sand beach tends to get very full. There isn't any shadows in Tabarca, so bring sun cream or/and an umbrella.
At around 19:00, when the last ship of day-tourists departs, the beach feels completely different.
Tabarca has only a few small grocery shops for essential goods like water, and a few souvenir shops. There isn't anything "typical" to buy from Tabarca as Tabarca has never produced anything, besides seafood (see below).
The traditional dish of Tabarca is caldero (fish rice dish), especially with gallina (red scorpionfish). Arroz a banda (rice in fish broth) is typical from Alicante and is also offered in Tabarca. Seafruits complement almost all options in restaurants.
The islet has a heavy presence of restaurants. It's recommended to walk and check several of them to see which one offers the best deal. Knowing that caldero is what lot of tourists ask for the price can get as high as 22€ per person. It may be advised to take something else instead as other seafood dishes have a more suitable price, at least until the price of caldero matches what you get for it.
It should be also advised to sit in a restaurant not later as 13:30 h in summer. At around that time the groups of tourists will be arriving and they will head to the restaurants. Finding a free table won't be a problem, but the service will be definitely worse.
On the other hand, dinning, for those staying over, it's a more pleasant experience.
There are several beach bars along the beach. As with the food, the drinks in bars may be expensive.
In recent years a few hotels have made their way into the isle. Walking around you will also see several houses for rent.
- Hostal Masín (D'en Mig 22) offers double rooms for 65€ on low season.
- Hotel Boutique Isla de Tabarca  is located in the Governor's House. Rooms with air conditioning, free WIFI, room service and 24 h water taxi service to Santa Pola and Alicante. Double room 110 € in high season, including breakfast.
- Tabarca Island House  is a rent house. It is a gorgeous 3 bedroom house, next to the most popular beach on the island, as well as some of the more secluded ones. From the balcony on the first bedroom you can see the sea, and you can see the coast of Alicante from the solarium. the renters are very nice people. Minimum one week stays. 145 €/night on high season.
Just avoid stress. Ferry and restaurant workers may insist in offering their services, but you should always check different alternatives to find the best price or just the most suitable one for you.
Around 3.000 tourists visit daily Tabarca in summer. This is not specially dangerous, but can disappoint people who look for a escape from mass tourism.
It's forbidden to fish or to take any other animal or plant from the marine reserve.