Want a great sea view? Follow the Costa Blanca lighthouse trail!

If you want a really great sea view, head for a lighthouse! After all, that’s why they are where they are – their locations chosen for maximum visibility. Whoever heard of a lighthouse without a view?

There’s a great series of faros (lighthouses) on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. You can follow a trail of spectacular viewpoints, starting at Xàbia (Jávea) in the north and ending up at Santa Pola, 90 kilometres to the south as the crow flies. Jump to a map here.

That’s a total of seven lighthouses in all. And just to make it even more interesting, two of them are on islands off the coast.

Each one has its own special character. The only downside is that you can’t get inside for a visit. The exception is el Faro de l’Albir near Benidorm – and if they can do it here, maybe a few others can too? To be fair, there is a nationwide project called “Faros de España” to open up lighthouse sites for leisure activities, so maybe we’ll see some progress – as long as it’s done with style.

Faro Cabo de San Antonio

Perched 500 feet up (175m) on a headland between Dénia and Xàbia (Jávea), it’s so high you can see the island of Ibiza 50km away on a clear day (sadly, we couldn’t).

El Faro del Cabo de San Antonio – Cap de Sant Antoní in Valenciano. On a good day you can see Ibiza from here

You can drive or cycle on a good road all the way to the lighthouse gates. Leave Xàbia (Jávea) on the CV-736 towards Dénia, turn right onto the Carretera del Faro and it’s about 4km to the faro itself.

The site is part of the Parc Natural de Montgó – el Montgó is the distinctive peak looming behind you as you look out to sea. There’s a nature reserve around the lighthouse with wild rosemary and lavender growing among the rocks and a marine reserve in the sea below.

Looking down to Jávea marina from the mirador near the faro Cabo de San Antonio
The sheer cliffs on the Cabo de San Antonio

A few metres away, there’s a mirador overlooking Jávea/Xàbia – gaze down on the toy-like boats in the  marina and across the bay you’ll see our next port of call, el Cabo de la Nao.

Faro Cabo de la Nao (Cap de la Nau)

About half an hour’s drive through Jávea and out the other side, you reach the headland of Cabo de la Nao (la Nao means ship or vessel) and a rather handsome lighthouse on a 400 foot (122 metre) cliff.

Park up nearby and follow a short wooden track up through the trees to the cliff-edge mirador and look across to the lighthouse.

Follow the path up to the lighthouse

Unusually on our lighthouse trail, you’re not short of something to eat here – Restaurante Cabo de La Nao has a clifftop terrace right next to the lighthouse.

And Restaurante El Mirador nearby has a terrace with terrific views south to El Peñon d’Ifach, a distinctive rock formation on the coast at Calpe. You don’t have to eat there to get the view though – there’s a viewpoint right next door.

Looking southwards at sunset from the viewpoint next to El Mirador restaurant. The island is La Isla del Descubridor

The lighthouse was built in 1914, and its beam can be seen for 43 kilometres (26 miles). It’s actually the easternmost point of the entire Comunidad Valenciana. There’s a huge sea cave, Cova dels Òrguens, below the cliffs where you can paddle in with a kayak. Full disclosure – I haven’t done it myself!

Looking northwards from el faro de La Nao

Faro de l’Albir

Our next stop is my favourite lighthouse on our trail, the Faro de l’Albir. Two reasons – one, there’s a beautiful walk to get there and two, you can get in to the lighthouse itself (check opening times though).

The faro (lighthouse) of Albir. To the left, you can see the ruins of an old watchtower, built in the 1500s to defend against pirate attack.

The little town of L’Albir is just north of Benidorm, about an hour’s drive from our last stop at Cabo de La Nao. There’s a car park on Camí Vell del Far about 2km from the lighthouse – you have to leave your car there and walk the rest. But it’s a gentle stroll into the Parc Natural de la Serra Gelada on a tarmac road that was built to serve the lighthouse back in the 1960s. You get wonderful views across the bay to Altea and el Peñon d’Ifach – for more on this walk check out my blogpost here.

Stunning views to Altea. There are handily placed miradors (viewpoints) where you can get spectacular vistas across the bay
A nicely paved road now, complete with a tunnel. But spare a thought for the lighthouse keepers back in the day. They had to struggle along a stony path back and forth from Albir. The road was only built when the lighthouse was automated in the 1960s

The lighthouse has a Centro de Interpretación where you can see more about the geology and the wildlife, plus a great little photo gallery featuring the lighthouse keepers who manned this lonely outpost before it was automated.

The lighthouse keepers’ stories; a rare glimpse into the lives of the men who manned the faro and their families.

Use the free telescope on the terrace to admire the view out to sea – apparently you can spot bottlenose dolphins out in the bay. All lighthouses should be like this one!

Outside on the lighthouse terrace
Three hundred feet straight down; not a place for vertigo sufferers!

For the next stop, we’ll take the short drive (20 mins or so) to the tourist mecca of Benidorm and hop on a boat.

El Islote de Benidorm

Benidorm is a 20-minute drive to the other side of the Serra Gelada cliffs from L’Albir; five kilometres of golden beaches lined with high-rise hotels and apartments. We’re heading for the port, where Benidorm’s Playa de Levante and Playa de Poniente meet, to pick up a boat to the Islote (little island) de Benidorm you can see out in the bay.

El Islote de Benidorm – you can’t miss it from the beach. The lighthouse is on the seaward side.

Now this doesn’t qualify as a fully-fledged faro – it’s a baliza (beacon), a small light with only a 6 kilometre range on a short, concrete stump, not a patch on the rather elegant towers elsewhere on our trail. But the trip out to the island is fun and the views of the serried ranks of skyscrapers on Benidorm seafront are spectacular.

The beacon (baliza) on Benidorm Island. As lighthouses go, it’s a tiddler – the beam only reaches 6 nautical miles out to sea.

There’s a rocky track that takes you to the top of the island, and the beacon is about two thirds of the way up. When we were there, the entrance gates had been knocked flat so you can wander about with just the seagulls for company.

Catch the boat from el Puerto de Benidorm out to the island
The Benidorm skyline from the top of the Islote de Benidorm

Book the boat in advance here (€15 per adult) or buy at the ticket office in the port itself. Sometimes boats won’t land on the island if the sea is rough, so if the weather looks dodgy, call to check here. They also may not run in low season. Parking near the port is very tricky – street parking is often limited to 2 hours, so your best bet is the car park above Mercadona supermarket on Carrer del Mercat just a few minutes stroll away. Or you can take the tram and walk from the station (about 20 mins away).

Faro Cabo de las Huertas

Next up is the lighthouse at the end of another tourist mega-beach, this time Playa San Juan near Alicante. It’s about 50 kilometres south of Benidorm and guards one side of the bay for the ships heading in and out of the port of Alicante.

El Faro Cabo de las Huertas or Cap de L’Hort in Valenciano

Don’t bother driving up to the lighthouse gates – you can’t see anything there.  Park instead on Calle de la Musola, walk down the stony track to the sea and around the base of the lighthouse. It’s a beautiful walk with waves breaking over the unusual rock formations on the shoreline, and it’s a world away from the tourist beachfront just behind you.

Follow this track down to sea level and walk around the base of the lighthouse
Rock formations on the shoreline below the lighthouse. In the distance are the high-rise towers of Playa San Juan. The waters here are crystal clear and good for snorkelling.
The sponge-like rocks below the lighthouse

There’s actually a bit of a row going on locally about whether the lighthouse site should be opened up and a restaurant built there. The port of Alicante chose a company to do the job under the “Faros de Espana” development project (which I mentioned at the top of this post). But a lot of people didn’t like the plan and the issue is in stalemate right now.

This strangely-shaped rock formation is nicknamed el fardatxo (the lizard in Valenciano)

You can walk all the way round the cape to the Playa del Albufereta, taking in views of Alicante city itself – route here.  Look across to the opposite headland, where you can just about see the lighthouse on the Cabo de Santa Pola, our next stop.

Follow the path all the way to Albufereta. The towers in the distance are Alicante city.

Faro Cabo de Santa Pola

It’s a 40-minute drive south through Alicante city to el Cabo de Santa Pola. The road to the lighthouse is a few kilometres south of El Altet on the N-332 near the airport, but you can’t turn left across the oncoming traffic. Head a little further on, turn around when you can and you’ll see the sign for the lighthouse to your right. Then it’s about 4km on a mostly single-track road to the cliffs.

Faro de Santa Pola – sadly you can’t get any closer than this.

Park up and walk along the side of the lighthouse for some amazing vistas across to the island of Tabarca out in the bay. As a bonus, there’s a very cool skywalk which takes you out over the cliff edge for a fantastic birds-eye view.

The skywalk that takes visitors out over the cliff edge, Cabo de Santa Pola
The island of Tabarca clearly visible a few kilometres out to sea

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a free airshow – el Cabo de Santa Pola is one of the best places in Spain for paragliding and there are often several canopies in the air, riding the fierce updrafts along the cliffs. For more on el Cabo de Santa Pola, see my post here.

Paragliding at the Santa Pola cliffs over the lighthouse

And for our final lighthouse, drive down to the fishing port of Santa Pola and jump on another boat, this time heading for Tabarca island.

Faro de Tabarca

Our final lighthouse is the closest to sea level, largely because nowhere on Tabarca is more than four metres above the water. It’s a speck of land less than two kilometres long and it’s the smallest permanently inhabited island in Spain.

El Faro de Tabarca
The ferry over from Santa Pola

Step off the ferry (cost €10 from Santa Pola; you can also get there from Alicante, Benidorm and Torrevieja) and head off to your left across the scrubland, past the squat Torre de San Jose to the lighthouse. Unlike our other island location (el Islote de Benidorm), this is a proper lighthouse, not a beacon

Walk a little further on, past the little white-walled cemetery, to Punta Falcó and some beautiful views out to sea.

Views out to sea from Punta Falcó near the lighthouse

Tabarca is a marine nature reserve and its waters really are crystal clear, ideal for swimming and snorkelling around the rocks. For more about Tabarca, see my post here.

So that’s it; the last stop on our lighthouse trail. The next lighthouse in the chain is an hour and a half drive away on the Mar Menor (El Estacio, if you’re keen to keep going). But that’s it for us. Seven lighthouses, seven unbeatable sea views!

The Costa Blanca lighthouse trail

© Guy Pelham

More cool places to visit

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