Most of us have bought into the idea of a ‘babymoon’ – a last relaxing holiday hurrah before the arrival of our new bundle of joy, aka ‘sun lounger spoil sport’. Common criteria for the perfect babymoon destination are usually safety, simplicity, beach & sun, and general comfort.
The small beach resort of Isla Canela in the Spanish region of Andalusia offers all this, and more. For me, it’s the perfect babymoon destination.
How to get to Isla Canela
Isla Canela is on the Spanish south coast, in Andalusia. It is quite literally the last fleck of beach in Spain before hitting Portugal. A bridge over the Guadiana, the mouth of the river separating the two countries, connects this part of Andalusia with the Portuguese Algarve opposite.
Isla Canela is best accessed via Faro in Portugal, which offers a whole choice of cheap flight connections to the UK and other parts of Europe. From there it is an easy one hour drive to Isla de Canela – just make sure you let the car hire company know that you are taking the car to Spain. Alternatively, the airport of Seville is 160km east of Isla Canela.
What kind of place is Isla Canela
Isla Canela is a relatively small beach resort, popular with predominately Spanish tourists. So yes it’s touristy, but in a Spanish kind of way, so it still feels authentic for us visitors from abroad. The town consists mainly of holiday apartments and hotels, numerous bars and restaurants and a supermarket. And not to forget the endless, unspoilt beach! There are just enough cafes and bars on the beach, to offer variety while not interfering too much with the calmness of the place.
It’s best to visit towards the end of the season, when the majority of tourists have returned home but most restaurants are still open for business. Towards the end of September Isla Canela gets very quiet, but nearby Ayamonte remains lively. So if you visit out of season, enjoy the quiet of the beach and hotel and head to Ayamonte for dinner, it’s a 10 minute drive with easy parking in the town centre – after all, there’s always a designated driver on a Babymoon!
What is there to do in Isla Canela
First and foremost, enjoy the beach and calm sea waters. Treat yourself to breakfast on the beach, in one of the cafes right on the sand. Indulge in authentic Spanish tapas on the promenade. Take an evening stroll along the newly refurbished marina.
If you’re up for a bit more activity, head inland to the small town of Ayamonte, stroll through its charming old town, enjoy the sunset over the harbour and soak up the atmosphere on the market square.
If you want to make the most of the proximity to Portugal, pop over the bridge to the picturesque town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio for a taste of all things Portuguese, souvenirs and, for anyone with pregnancy cravings like mine, cake!
If you’re interested in flora and fauna, there are nature reserves on both the Spanish (Marismas de Isla Cristina) and Portuguese (Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Marsh Natural Reserve) sides, with marshlands, dunes and meadows.
Where to stay
Apartments Leo San Bruno offer simple but spotless self-catering apartments with a sun terrace and large swimming pool. The complex is beautifully maintained and a decked path leads from the gardens across the dunes to the beach. It’s on the western end of the town, with an easy 10 minute walk to the centre. Given the size of the apartment complex I suspect Leo gets quite busy during high season, but we visited in September just towards the end and found it wonderfully quiet and relaxing – exactly what you need on a babymoon!
Although most accommodation here is self-catering, you can find a number of higher end resorts and hotels in Isla Canela. If you fancy a bit of luxury, check out the Playa Marina Spa Hotel for example, as well as the Iberostar, Barcelo or Melia.
Where to eat
We loved La Puerta Ancha in Ayamonte so much we ate there twice. This ‘culinary bar’ is right on the Plaza de la Laguna, with a wonderful atmosphere in the evenings and beautiful, tasty dishes. We also enjoyed the tapas at Restaurante Neptuno, just a couple of houses down from La Puerta Ancha.
Most mornings during our stay, we took a walk along the beach from our apartment to Los Barriles, a small bar / restaurant that serve a simple but lovely breakfast, which you can enjoy right on the sand.
Daytrips around Isla Canela
If you fancy a day out, head to Seville, the capital of the Andalucia region, which is only a couple of hours’ drive away. Spend the day exploring the sights of this beautiful city, such as the cathedral with its landmark bell tower (La Giralda), the Real Alcázar castle complex or the bullring (Maestranza). Seville may be the 4th largest city in Spain, but has a distinctly laid back flair, with cafés hidden in historic alleyways, and tiny plazas popping up around every corner. The colourful, cobble-stoned old town is wonderful to explore on foot, in fact, most main sights are easily reached this way.
It’s just over one hour’s drive to Albufeira, the Algarve’s major holiday resort. Despite the huge crowds and ‘English breakfast’ offers everywhere, this former fishing village manages to retain some of its charm. There are decent restaurants and cafes, and the broad sandy beaches are lovely. If you’ve got time, it’s worth a daytrip, or a simple half day stop before heading back to Faro airport.