From Galicia to the Basque Country and from Catalonia to Andalusia, Spain has a surprising number of small islands, just a short boat ride from the mainland. Each of them is its own separate universe, with defining characteristics and exciting activities for those seeking a more secluded and sustainable form of tourism.
Sálvora Island, Ribeira, A Coruña
Sitting on the northern coast of Galicia, Sálvora has an unspoiled beauty as it was privately owned until 2008.
You can now set foot on the island with a guide and enjoy its white sands and picturesque village, and stop should be the lighthouse that was erected after the Santa Isabel (known as The Galician Titanic) shipwreck in 1921. The lighthouse stands atop a cliff that has great views of the rocky shores of the island. The quaint village made up of old stone houses. The standout is the pazo, a traditional Galician aristocratic country house which, according to legend, was built atop an old salting factory.
Ízaro Island, Bermeo, Biscay
Ízaro is a protected ecosystem so you can’t actually set foot on the island.
However, a boat, leaving from Bermeo, makes a daily journey around the island so you can observe its beauty close up. From the boat you can also see the ruins of a monastery, from one of the island’s sporadic periods of human occupation. Uniquely, a gas station in Mundaka has another one of the best views of the island.
Santa Clara Island, San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa
Off the coast of the northern city of San Sebastián, the island is reachable boats that run every half-hour from the fishing port in the summer.
Alternatively, you can go by kayak and even swim to it. In the summertime the island is very lively, especially on the beach and at the pier’s terrace. At low tide the island gains its own tiny beach and you can climb its forested paths to a small lighthouse. There are also picnic tables and a simple cafe. As you follow the path up the island’s cliff, you’ll find many picnic tables shaded by tamarind trees to enjoy your meal.
Medes Islands, Torroella de Montgrí, Girona
The seven Medes Islands have been under environmental protections for three decades to preserve their unique underwater ecosystem.
For those fascinated by life underwater, the Medes archipelago makes for the perfect vacation. These islands are home to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving. You can see a variety of sea life, including fan mussels and, most notably, salps, a unique transparent underwater creature. For people looking to do a deep dive, expect to see grouper fish, gorgonian coral, and moonfish. If you prefer to stay above water, the islands are a great place to try out paddle boarding, sailing, or kayaking.
Benidorm Island, Alicante
The island is 3.5 kilometers from the coast of Benidorm in Alicante, and you can get there by ship, glass-bottomed boat, jet-ski, or even kayak. One of the most interesting things to do is to take the yellow submarine: Aquascope III can take you to the sea floor for an incredible view of marine life. La Caleta Beach is another stop on the island to add to your list. Here you can grab some food on the island bar and restaurant and followed by some snorkeling close to shore.
Sancti-Petri Island, Chiclana de la Frontera, Cádiz
This island notable for its rich history, and is home to the Sancti-Petri Castle, built in the 17th century over the remains of a Phoenician temple dedicated to the god Melqart. It is also where the Romans believed Hercules was buried. Located one kilometer from the coast of the city of Cádiz, Sancti-Petri is an island of ancient walls and historic significance. Besides its history, the island itself is a beauty deserving of a visit. Come for sunset for some incredible views. You can reach it by boat or kayak, and there are many guided tours, some of them also including a barbecue or a paella to be served during your trip.
Cover image via @castillosanctipetri