MY bean bag offers a front row seat to one of the best shows in Andalucia.
Parked above one of Spain’s best beaches, I’m sat mesmerized by a profusion of colourful kites, as they bob up and down, almost in tune to the strains of reggae on the sound system.
Welcome to Valdevaqueros, a beach bar/restaurant/all-round-hip-lifestyle venue, where anybody who wants to understand the unique Tarifa vibe needs to visit.
With a green mountain backdrop and an azure sea in front, you can happily spend the day hanging out, enjoying the buzz, while grazing on fabulous food and superb smoothies.
And, for those who feel active, the place also serves as the home of ion’s watersports centre and the launch pad of half of the world’s best kitesurfers.
“While it used to be just for sporty types, the majority of people come here now because it is super-hip,” explains Chris Ziaja, the boss of ion, formerly the Mistral centre.
“It’s Mojitos from 3pm but it creates a great atmosphere and it is surprising how many people end up renting out paddle surfs or taking a kitesurf lesson.”
It is certainly the spot to take up this fun, high-adrenaline sport, with current world champion Liam Whaley learning and basing himself here when not touring the world competing.
I recently gave it a go ( See Stung into action on page 26) and while the 40-knot winds wreaked havoc with my classes I still had a fantastic time.
But equally, it is a great place to just take the waters, have lunch or an afternoon drink at the achingly hip Tumbao beach bar.
Here, boss David Alvarez Trevino, a butcher by trade, works hard to run a happy ship, by bringing in a mix of good DJs and flamenco groups, and serving up the best burgers from his burger truck, which he takes to events around the country.
The main restaurant is also good, while the iZumo smoothy bar has some great drinks such as ‘magic maca’, which is delicious.
Opened by Daniela Di Placido, she has been serving up juices around the world for nearly a decade.
“They are mostly dairy free and I have a big range of minerals and vitamins I add to the drinks, which are great on the stomach.”
Next door is the funky clothes shop Graffiti, the very epitome of cool.
The story behind Valdevaqueros began over three decades ago when British adventurer Peter Whaley made an unscheduled stop off en route from his home in Ibiza to a holiday in Morocco.
A keen windsurfer he unwittingly found himself on the windiest beach in Europe and had the vision to launch a business there.
It was 1984 and he had soon found a partner (an Australian board maker Barry Pussell) to help him open the coast’s first rental business.
Named 100% Fun (now a successful nearby hotel) – the shack rented out windsurfs and sold clothes from his wife Terese’s successful fashion label Graffiti Ibiza.
“It was a low key launch and we had no idea how well it was going to go,” explains Peter today.
“What we did have was a great board maker and fantastic, totally Spanish-made clothes.”
It was the spark to launch the wind revolution on the Costa de la Luz, an industry that now brings in tens of millions of euros every year.
But, Peter quickly realised that in order to keep the growing number of surfers happy they needed to offer accommodation, so the following year he and his brother Michael, a builder, bought an old ruined 12-room hostal just up the road.
A third brother James, a film director and producer from London, was also soon involved.
A big figure in the film business – as well as the manager of Adam and the Ants – it was little surprise that the Hurricane Hotel was soon to become one of Andalucia’s hippest places to stay.
“I convinced my brothers that we would never make enough money from 12 rooms, so we obtained permission from the town hall to build an extra 23 and brought in an architect,” explains James, who is very much still the life and soul of the Hurricane – and its nearby sister hotel Punta Sur.
He continues: “Once opened we converted the bricklayers into our staff, some becoming cooks, others waiters, others receptionists or gardeners.
“I explained to the builders that making a cake was as easy as making cement. All you had to do was throw the right ingredients into a mixer and stick it in the oven at the right temperature for the appropriate amount of time,” he continues.
As the local restaurants back then were basic, at best, the brothers installed a herb garden and started to plant and grow their own vegetables.
As James had lived in Italy he got a friend to send rucula, or rocket seeds, and the coast’s best restaurant was also born.
“It just grew and grew organically,” explains Peter, who still spends half the year in Ibiza, where he has a farmhouse. “But now we think we have just the right ingredients to continue to be successful for years to come.”
Nowadays the group comprises four hotels – The Hurricane, Punta Sur, Valdevaqueros (100% Fun was sold five years ago) and a new hotel recently opened in Jericoacoara, Brazil, appropriately also a kitesurfing hotspot.
And it is not just Valdevaqueros that has the X-factor. Hotel Punta Sur not only has some of the most stylish, spacious rooms on the coast, it also has by far the best pool, massive and surrounded by lawns.
Well sheltered from the wind, it is perfect for families and with the addition of a tennis court and pool table, it has something for everyone.
Best of all, this year, the restaurant has added a special pizza oven, to keep the kids happy at mealtimes too.
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