WELL ain’t life a beach! Cadiz Tourism’s website is not very complimentary about my local strip of sand: ‘surrounded by industry’ and ‘not very attractive’, it says. And I thought the whole point of a tourist board was to promote tourism …

Los Palmones beach isn’t perfect but it’s better than Brighton’s, which consists mainly of tar and pebbles. It used to cost my Mum a fortune in eucalyptus oil, the smelly remedy for removing tar from skin when I was a gal growing up in Sussex by the Sea.

Brighton beach is no good for making sand castles, like Los Palmones is. Its nudist beach may be world famous but your bottom looks like perforated bubble-wrap after a few hours of sitting on stones.

It doesn’t take huge imagination to write something positive about Los Palmones, the last-remaining protected wetland on the Algeciras coastline

  • A beach with natural dunes that makes its own sand, instead of having to nick it from elsewhere.
  • Next to a river estuary with marshlands where you can ogle glossy ibis and black-tailed godwits as well as ‘birds’ in bikinis.
  • Not forgetting the IMAX cinema views to Africa across the Gibraltar Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

There aren’t many beaches that can boast close-ups of luxury ocean liners and container ships the size of Manhattan street blocks. There’s James Bond-style action too, when the Guardia Civil chase down cigarette smugglers in their high-speed launches. It beats having to watch the chubby dude in front of you changing out of his wet cossie while you’re eating your picnic!

Los Palmones is sandwiched between an oil refinery and an industrial estate, so it will never win a Blue Flag. You have to cross the N340 from Los Barrios to reach it, and there are petrochemical chimneys peeping above the palm trees.

But like the best things in life, it’s free. There are no exorbitantly-priced sun loungers lined up thigh-to-thigh, like hospital ward beds. There are no ‘Scandihooligans’ hogging the prime spots with their beach towels. There’s a shady riverside walk with a café where you can watch the fishermen raking for clams, feed the ducks and geese or have a giggle at the English translations on the tourist board signposts. I wonder if Algeciras Town Hall knows about the reference to its ‘city slums’, the translation for ‘estribaciones meridionales’, which mean‘southern foothills’ in English.

One pre-crisis signpost proclaims Los Palmones to be the ‘Gastronomic Centre of Cadiz’. OTT, maybe, but the seafood at Restaurant El Copo is still so fresh you can catch it yourself from their tank.

You can have Los Palmones beach to yourself, outside weekends in summer, as it’s only popular with locals. It’s well after 4pm when they descend with their tables and chairs and tents and cold boxes and half the kitchen sink. Although it’s time to leave when the kids get out their bats and balls and use your body as the net!

There’s only one downside to my local playa if you’re that way inclined. Hardly anyone goes topless. The reason, I’m told, is that they’re a bit too intimately acquainted – either blood relatives or next-door neighbours!

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