Moraira town Costa Blanca is small but inviting
Though Moraira thrives mostly on tourism these days, the area has been host to quite a long parade of humankind beginning, according to certain objects found on the Cap d’Or, during the Upper Paleolithic Period in 15-20,000 BC, which would have been the first ‘settlers’ that we know of. Much later the Moors took over much of the the coastal region, and their influence can be seen everywhere in the architecture and in the agricultural terrain.
During the Barbary Pirate raids of the 16th century the area was fortified with a watchtower on the Cap d’Or; this has been restored and today you can visit the landmark, called the Torre de Vigilancia, right on the summit of the Cap. Seen from out at sea, the tower is not huge (11 metres high and 36 metres round) but seems to signal defiance and stake its claim on the territory beneath. Its walls are solid – no windows or doors – and the only way to get in was by climbing a rope ladder let down from above. There is no mention of how the rope-lowerers got up there, but it certainly made for a good defensive position.
Since its inception Moraira has survived as an agricultural community and then as a fishing port; the terraced hills remain as reminders of the Moors, and much of the land is still planted in vineyards and citrus trees, whilst the port retains five commercial fishing boats and the local fish market is renowned on the Costa Blanca.
Grapes that are made into wine have been a main industry for hundreds of years, although little land is now given over to wine-making and more is used to allow new construction. However, the City Council’s restrictions on high-rise buildings and over-development have been instrumental in keeping a good portion of small community, Old World ambiance.
Like other coastal towns and villages on the Costa Blanca, Moraira’s population of permanent residents, which is around 10,000, more than triples during the summer months, with the majority of tourists being English, French, German and Dutch. Though there are always quite a few Spaniards visiting too, and almost all the businesses in town are owned and run by Spanish people, a lot of the permanent population is made up of British, French and German expats.
Visitors are attracted to Moraira in large part because of its lack of modern ‘conveniences’ in terms of sprawling shopping malls. KFC and humongous hotels. There are fairly limited accommodations within the immediate vicinity, and if you want to go during peak season you need to book well in advance. In fact only a handful of establishments (about a dozen) that are classed as hotels or B&Bs are to be found within a 2-mile radius of the town centre, so you’ll want to do some online research in advance. Check out some of the villas for rent; there are many in a close radius, and most are outstanding.
Once you’re in town, however, most everything you’d want to see or do is within walking distance, and since even in January the temperature seldom drops below 15C, there’s never a time when walking isn’t a great way to travel. Holidaymakers from the northern parts of Europe don’t seem to mind a dip in the sea even on the chilliest day, but of course in warmer months the water beckons like the most beautiful siren ever encountered (or imagined) by the mariners of old.
Moraira has claim to eight beaches, some well-known and a few unheard of by most visitors. Some have lots of amenities, some few or none. Near the town centre there are strict regulations regarding the line between bathing areas and power or sail boat waters, with marking buoys; you can earn a stiff fine for ignoring them.
The largest and most easily accessible (therefore most popular) is L’Ampolla beach, right at the town centre and near the Castle. There is probably more soft sand on this beach than all the others put together, and it shelves gently off shore so it’s great for kids. There are lifeguards on duty all summer, a Red Cross cabin, and loads of bars and restaurants as the beach is next to the main Promenade.
The ‘centrepiece’ of the Promenade is Moraira’s own castle, the Castillo de Moraira, and you can’t miss it if you’re in town. The castle is actually more of a small fortress, built in the 18th century as part of the town’s fortifications against those pesky Barbary Pirates; there are cannon ports atop its 10-metre-high walls. The edifice was badly damaged by the British navy in 1801, but it has been lovingly renovated and holds pride of place in the port.
Playa Platgetes is also golden sand, basically two beaches with some rocks, linked by a promenade, about 200 metres along a small bay just off the road from Moraira to Calpe. There is a free car park and easy access; several restaurants and bars are handy, as well as life guards during the peak season. Both Ampolla and Patgetes are Blue Star beaches.
Possibly the nicest beach of all, though not quite so easy to reach, is Playa del Portet, about a kilometre up the coast from Moraira town centre. You can easily walk there from town or just drive to the end of Del Portet Avenue. Portet beach is curved within the sheltering arms of the headland on one side and Moraira’s marina on the other. It’s small soft sand beach and amazingly clear warm water make it an ideal spot for both families with kids and lovers with picnics.
Portet beach is also Blue Flag, with life guard on duty during summer, beach showers and toilets, and several pleasant cafes and bars right along the beachfront. Further up the hill a lovely first-class restaurant called the Dauphin offers a glorious view as well as real gourmet Spanish fare. Also note that from Playa Portet you can drive most of the way up the Torre del Cap d’Or, then walk to it following the sign posts. You can also walk from Portet beach or from the cliffs above to the small, secluded beach named for the tower; this is the only access to Cap d’Or beach, so it’s a great getaway spot.
Playa d’Andrago is pebbly rather than sandy, but the powerful upside is that the water is so clear it makes for outstanding snorkeling and diving conditions. Andrago beach is small, secluded and also just off the road to Calpe. Another bonus is an excellent restaurant right on the sea front; a wonderful spot to enjoy some tapas or paella as you take in the view.
We must include Moraira’s northernmost beach, La Cala, though it is not accessible except by a long hike along the cliffs, or by boat, a boat is the preferred means of access. Either way, La Cala is a beautiful spot – just a small rocky beach with crystal clear water. Visitors arriving by boat are advised to check tide times and weather conditions, and be sure to carry your mobile phone just in case, since there is no life guard on duty or much of anything else close by.
One more beach should be mentioned, though it is not open to the public. The Club Nautico has its own private beach, though it’s possible just to walk onto it from the marina; if you ask first they’ll probably allow access. However the Club Nautico and the marina form one of Moraira’s biggest attractions.
The Yacht Club and the Moraira Club Nautico have been in operation since 1983, and it’s one of the first in Europe to be awarded the Blue Flag for environmental management and top standards of service in the harbour. There are 620 moorings for boats with up to 6 metre draught, and 20 full-time attendants to provide the highest quality service for boats and their owners. The club also offers a sailing school during summers, at Easter break and on weekends all year round, and is considered one of the best social and sports centres in the area.
You don’t have to be a member to enjoy the club facilities; the club’s restaurant bar, known as the Upperdeck, is a favorite spot for many locals and visitors to enjoy a cocktail or two along with a gorgeous view of the harbour, then go back downstairs for a fine meal and attentive service from the friendly staff. You might want to break out the fancy duds, as this is not a barefoot bar by a long shot.
In case you need some new fancy duds, or some really fresh produce, or maybe some good shoes, don’t miss the weekly street market. In Moraira it’s on Friday morning in part of the car-park just inland from the shops. This is a relatively small market but busy and chock full of good things to eat as well as leather goods, carpets, ceramics and other household goods, but no furniture as of last reports. Neighboring towns all have their own weekly markets on different days, so you can catch them all if you’re staying for a while.
As for what to eat, depending on your personal preferences you can find ‘standard’ fare like hamburgers, shakes and fries in many or most of the beach cafes and restaurants, but you’ll be missing one of life’s greatest pleasures if you don’t try some of the local dishes such as a variety of paellas and tapas. Moraira has a number of restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisine, and they vary from beach-side cafes to elegant dining establishments.
You’ll find it a very cosmopolitan array, with seafood at the forefront of most menus, but due to the high percentage of permanent residents from other countries and the mix of tourist origins, there are plenty of options that include Italian, Indian, German, French, Japanese, Thai, Slovakian and English. It’s worth a mention that more than one fish & chips eatery has gotten rave reviews from British tourists. Also, keep an eye out for the ‘Menu del Dia’ which is displayed at most restaurants – it’s often a great way to get delightful meals at considerably less than ‘normal’ cost.
If it’s nightlife you’re after, to be honest the options are fairly limited; you won’t find the all-night, rowdy raucous discotheques that abound in some of the larger Costa Blanca towns. However there are plenty of good bars and restaurant/bars; if you’re looking for the height of current action, ask any bartender for the best discoteca.
If on the other hand you prefer the great – really great in this case – outdoors, you’ll have no problem satisfying your appetite. Water sports are a big item, with scuba diving and snorkeling obvious choices due to the clarity and temperature of the waters along the coast.
You can hire boats for charter or just a fishing trip, golf on one of three excellent courses, go horse back riding or go-karting or any number of other activities that an ideal climate makes so enjoyable.
Highly recommended are the scuba diving tour operated by Scuba Moraira and Snakebite MTB Adventures, which offers a marvelous variety of bike trips for enthusiasts at all levels of experience and stamina.
If you’re worried about lacking excitement, be sure to schedule your visit (with advance accomodation reservations) when one of Moraira’s many festivals is in progress. The Three Kings Festival starts January 5th, the Moors and Christians Festival is a three-day event on the third weekend in June, the Holy Fountain Festival is on the first weekend in July and the Moraira Village Festival begins in mid-July and lasts for ten days.
For travelers whose general preference is for a quieter, less commercial and slower-paced environment, and for the wonders of nature over the handiwork of developers, Moraira will surely be your cup of tea, though a fresh citrus drink or a mellow Spanish wine would be a very pleasant alternative.