Off the Beaten Track
The tide was rising slowly and steadily, creeping ever closer to our tent. It was nearing midnight, an hour after we had thought high tide was to peak that night, but the lapping of the waves against the stony shore was unmistakably edging its way closer to our bare feet.
Maybe, just maybe,
we had set up a bit too close to the coast that night.
But this is the Canary Islands and we’re not easily given to panic here.
So, we did what any responsible campers would do – we popped open another bottle of sweet, volcanic wine and continued dipping queso majorero (local goat cheese) into the spicy mojo picón as we talked and laughed beneath the Atlantic stars, all the while measuring the progression of the tide and now and then, taking turn to push our tent just a little bit back from the shore.
Camping in Fuerteventura:
Five Days Off the Beaten Track
With only five days to explore Fuerteventura – the second largest of the Canary Islands – we would need to do a lot of moving around. We arrived without an itinerary, determined to follow the advice of locals on our search for the most beautiful beaches and avoid the wilder winds (Fuerteventura, after all, translates to “strong wind,” and for good reason).
While there are some official campsites in Fuerteventura, I’ve been advised many Canario friends over the years that the best spots are the… “unofficial” ones, and that supposedly it’s more or less okay as long as you leave the area cleaner than you found it. In other words, the plan was to pop up our tent in areas recommended to us by locals, in a semi-condoned way.
Because our campsites are unofficial, I’ll only include our general locations and it will be up to you to ask the locals (known as majos in Fuerteventura) to point you in the right direction.
If they trust you that is 😉
The North of Fuerteventura
El Cotillo, Fuerteventura (Day One)
We flew into the capital of Fuerteventura – Puerto de Rosario – on a puddle hopper from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. After picking up our rental car (a must on the islands), we headed directly north in search of turquoise beaches, endless dunes and hidden coves.
Our first stop was the town of El Cotillo, complete with a small port and several sunny, seaside cafes. After pepping up with a coffee, we made our way down to the lovely coastline of Playa la Concha.
Endless pools of turquoise water glittered beneath the clear blue skies, showcasing the white sand and busy schools of fish swimming below. We lazed away the afternoon splashing and snorkeling, but soon enough the warm March sun didn’t stand a chance against the strong winds. We were forced to retreat into the refuge of a little cove until finally giving up and packing into the car in search of a campsite.
We met a group of surferers coming back from an afternoon of catching waves who pointed us in the direction of the rugged surfing beaches along the west, where the cliffs and dunes would protect us from the wind.
The rocky dirt roads along the northwest coast offered incredible views of wild coastline and crashing waves, and though at times the stones threatened to make us turn our little compact rental back around, we eventually made it to the little corner of paradise where we’d make camp for our first night.
We arrived at golden hour and climbed down a narrow path to set up camp beneath the setting sun of the western-facing beach. In addition to having this gem all to ourselves, we had front row seats to a spectacular sunset, slowly dipping into the Atlantic in flashes of oranges, pinks, reds and finally the lavender and misty blue shades of twilight blending into the sea.
Not a bad start.
Get Lost in El Cotillo
- Visit Playa del Castillo, Playa de la Concha and the turquoise lagoons
- Brave the stony, unpaved highways to see the wilder coastline of beaches like El Esquinzo
- A snorkel is a must to take full advantage of the crystal clear waters
- Check out an Aloe Vera shop (word on the street is that there’s one that gives away a free aloe plant with any purchase!)
Corralejo, Fuerteventura (Day Two)
We woke up the next day to the sounds of the sea and the morning sun warming our tent. Despite the likelihood of strong northeastern winds, we were already near the top of the island and decided to take our chances checking out Corralejo on the northeast coast.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that the weather wasn’t going to play nicely with us. Although the sun was warm, the winds were fierce, agitating the water with choppy waves and blowing a thick layer of sand and dust a foot above the dunes, covering the road and forcing us to roll our windows up.
The views along the northern highway were spectacular and nearby Isla de Lobos looked close enough to reach out and touch. Soon enough we reached Corralejo Natural Park and my memories were drawn back to the first time I saw the Moroccan desert – layer upon layer of dunes as far as the eye could see.
Along the coast of the national park, we set up for lunch and a swim in one of the many rock pits built to protect beach goers from the wind, but it ended up a useless feat. After snacking on sand sandwiches while trying not to blow away, we decided to cut our losses and try our luck migrating south in search of sunshine and cerulean waters rather than a sandstorm.
A proper exploration of the beautiful region of Corralejo and the Isla de Lobos, which I’d already waited so long to visit, would have to wait for my next trip.
Nothing wrong with having a solid reason to come back!
Get Lost in El Corralejo
- Take a short 15 minute ferry to nearby Isla de Lobos, a natural paradise worth spending a full day exploring
- Take a walk through the natural dunes of Corralejo Natural Park
- Try not to blow away!
West Coast Fuerteventura
Ajuy & Betancuria Rural Park, Fuerteventura (Day 2)
After lunch, we ditched the dust in the north, making a bee-line for the west coast which is known for suffering less from the island’s relentless wind and calima – the sand blown over the islands from Saharan desert storms which had been bathing us in golden dust since we arrived in the northeast.
We stopped first in the picturesque little town of Pájara to stock up on supplies and an afternoon café. After chatting with a few locals at the charming Restaurante La Fonda, we determined our next destination, just outside of the touristic town Ajuy.
We’d make camp that night at a small, pebbly west coast beach, complete with soft, black volcanic sand, ancient caves and fascinating rock formations, including an enormous arch overlooking the sea. The setting was perfect – almost too perfect – as our setup so close to the shore was threatened by the rising tide carrying us away.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t 😉
Get Lost in Ajuy
- Journey to the center of the earth in the Caves of Ajuy
- See some of the oldest rocks of all the Canaries, including remnants of ancient rivers and dunes formed from magma as many as 70 million years ago
- See a sunset from Ajuy black sand beach
Costa Calma, Fuerteventura
Playa de Sotavento, Fuerteventura (Days 3 & 4)
After a gorgeous night’s sleep and the pleasant realization that we hadn’t been rudely awakened and sent out to sea by the rising tide, we woke up with one single mission: to find a perfectly sunny beach. Sanz wind.
And we did!
We loaded up the car and travelled south to Costa Calma, which at first appeared to be a bust – not because of the weather (which was perfect) but because there were resorts as far as the eye could see. Determined as we were, we spotted an unpaved road heading south from the city center and set off to explore.
The first beach we came across was Playa de la Barca, a nudist beach with clean, white sand and clear, refreshing water. We spent the morning soaking up the salt and the sand until a fresh wave of energy hit and we decided to discover what lied beyond the rocky outcrop along the south end of the cove.
Making our way around the bend, we were greeted by dozens of friendly chipmunks looking for treats and – clearly spoiled by generous tourist before us – not shy at all about approaching us to ask for them. And finally, we arrived at the beach we had been waiting to find since our arrival.
Playa de Sotavento.
Endless golden sands stretched out before us, far into the distance beyond our line of vision. To the left, shallow, cerulean lagoons reflected the clear blue skies and sandy desert hills rose up beyond them. To the right, the dazzling sea was decorated with the purples, reds and yellows of the dozens of wind surfing sails taking advantage of the sea breeze.
This was it.
Our ocean oasis.
As the sun died down in the late afternoon, we followed the advice of a local surf instructor to cross the narrow width of the island to make camp in a small beach near Barranco de los Chiguigos.
We arrived after dark and rushed to make camp and have an early night, determined to take full advantage of a complete and total day of doing what we came to Fuerteventura to do. Absolutely nothing.
And we did.
The entire next day was spent swimming, snorkeling and snoozing at Playa Sotavento, and it was just what the doctor ordered.
Get Lost in Sotavento
- With 9 km of golden sand, you can probably guess the main activities in Sotavento!
- If you’re feeling active, take a kite or windsurfing class
- Dip you feet into the warm water of the blue lagoons at high tide
- Get natural! There are tons of nudist beaches in the area if you´re feeling free
Puerto de Rosario & Around (Day 5)
Knowing that we’d have to wake up early the next day to return our rental car, we spent our last night camping at a small beach near the salt museum at Salinas, not far from the airport.
We woke up to perfect eastern views of the sun rising over the Atlantic, groggy but eager to enjoy our final day on the island. After a quick rinse at the car wash, we dropped off our car and caught a bus back to the capital (a mere 10-minute trip) to round off our Fuerte-adventure before our return flight that evening.
A tiny seaside capital, Puerto de Rosario doesn’t pack a lot of punch, but it does have a nice city beach with a sunny promenade (complete with, for some reason, a whale skeleton) and plenty of lovely street art and murals decorating the town.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch of local majorero cheeses (yes, again, obvio) and a fish platter at La Frasquita in Playa Caleta de Fuste, some beach time at Playa Chica and a stroll around the town. And then, back to reality.
Lol, just kidding!
We live in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, reality ain’t that bad 😉!
Our week in Fuerteventura left us salty, sandy and kissed by the sun.
And with plenty of desire to go back for more.
Getting to Fuerteventura
Flying into Fuerteventura is the fastest and most economical way, unless you live in the islands and are eligible for the Canary Island Resident Discount.
The Fuerteventura Airport (FUE) is located just outside the capital city of Puerto de Rosario. There are car rental agencies and buses servicing the capital city and main tourist destinations from the airport.
Daily flights are also serviced from mainland Spain and several international destinations.
From Lanzarote, ferries leave from Playa Blanca at the south of Lanzarote and arrive to the north of Fuerteventura at the port in Corralejo. The journey takes just 30 minutes and passage costs about €30 each way.
From Gran Canaria, ferries leave from the port in Las Palmas and arrive into Morro Jable in the south, or to Puerto de Rosario. One-way passage takes 120 minutes on the Fred Olsen Speed boats, or 3-5 hours on Armas. See website for pricing.
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