El Cancho

near Tarifa, Costa de la Luz, Spain Book from Book from £88 per night

Three wonderfully secluded beach houses (sleeping 2-6) on a hillside in a natural park, with views across the straits to Morocco
Just 3km from Tarifa, on a private grassy hillside overlooking the windswept beaches of the Atlantic, lies El Cancho: a trio of open-plan beach houses surrounded by rocky outcrops and pine forest. The largest, Wallpaper House (sleeps 4-6), was designed for Milan’s Salon del Mobile (1998), by Swedish architect Thomas Sandell and Wallpaper* magazine. Its design credentials are evident in the sleek wooden floors, perspex walls and the cubbyhole bed. Just up the hill is the smaller, wooden Boston Beach House (sleeps 2-4) whose all-glass frontage frames sea views and a protected deck, handy for sitting out even on the windiest of days. Finally, at the top of the hill, sits the cosy Small Stone House (sleeps 2-5), complete with an open-plan living area, a cool kids’ bunk room and the longest views of all.

These relaxed spaces can be many things to many people. They're perfect as a romantic couple's hideaway, a chilled-out family base or for groups of kitesurfing friends hoping to make the most of the area’s strong winds.

They offer a real back-to-nature experience with eco-friendly ideals: solar panels provide electricity, whilst gas heats water directly from the mountain spring. The local farmer still herds his goats around the hillside, so you may even have the enchanting soundtrack of jingling goat bells while you take a siesta.

Highs

  • Total solitude and privacy. The houses are a good distance apart and you'll share the hillside with cows, goats, pigs, owls and swooping red kites...
  • ...But you're not completely cut off from civilisation. The main coastal road and Tarifa town are just a 5-minute drive away
  • Panoramic views over rocky crags, the sparkling sea and Morocco beyond; on a clear night you can see twinkling lights across the water
  • BBQs on the terrace as the sun goes down, accompanied by the melody of goat bells in the distance. There are kitchens, too
  • Kite- and windsurfing beaches aplenty; some of the most beautifully secluded bays in Europe are within a short drive

Lows

  • No air-con and wholly dependent on natural energy - without sunshine you may find yourself without power (although the owners promise "a limitless supply of tea lights and twinkling stars")
  • The open-plan sleeping arrangements might not suit everyone
  • The strong winds can be exhausting, but this is why many people travel to Tarifa
  • Access is via a slightly treacherous single-track road, with the last 30-100m on foot; a car is essential

Best time to go

El Cancho is open all year round. May and June are the best months for wild flowers and quieter beaches. Summer brings a good party scene, but the main road can get very busy and Tarifa town fills with tourists. September is quieter but warm; the annual 7-day feria is quite something, with 500-strong horseback parades, rides, raffles and surfing competitions. The bird migration is from October to June.

Our top tips

Bring high-factor suncream (the wind can be very deceptive), a windbreak for the beach, walking boots, your binoculars and your iPod (compatible speakers are provided). Kite / windsurfing gear is useful if you have it, although there are plenty of places you can hire it from.

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Beach Houses
  • 2 houses for 2-6
  • Self-catering (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Board games
Room: Little Stone House

Rooms

The 3 open-plan houses share similar layouts, which apply to the shared areas and the sleeping arrangements. Décor is in keeping with the simplistic, contemporary vibe - and you wouldn’t want much distraction from the stunning landscapes outside every window.

The Wallpaper House (sleeps 4-6) has a (totally private) minimalist double bedroom. The other beds (2 singles and a double) are built cabin-style into the corridor walls, and can be screened off by curtains. The kingsize double nook is particularly cosy, with large-scale woodland images printed on the ceiling and a long window at its foot. There’s one shower bathroom, and a lounge-diner-kitchen with assorted seating. The outdoor terrace has hammocks and sun loungers.

The Boston Beach House (sleeps 2-4) was built in Boston and shipped to Spain. It's far simpler in design, but still stylish and modern, and romantics will love the all-glass frontage. Although the house can sleep 4, we feel it’s best suited to a couple (perhaps with a child). As with the bigger house there's a kitchen, indoor and outdoor lounging areas, a shower bathroom, and a refreshing outdoor shower.

The Little Stone House (sleeps 2-5) is small but perfectly formed, with an open plan kitchen-living and bedroom area, a separate shower room and a kids’ room with 3 bunks reached through a little hobbit-style door. There’s a large sofa with mountain views and plenty of indoor seating. Outside, there's a shaded terrace with sofas and sun loungers.

Features include:

  • Barbecue
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
  • Ipod dock
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

El Cancho is completely self-catering and, while the kitchens aren't sophisticated, we wanted for nothing the entire week. Each has a decent-sized fridge-freezer, gas hobs, a blender, and all the necessary cooking implements and crockery. You'll also find a few basics such as salt, pepper, oil and washing-up liquid, plus a bottle of wine for guests booking through i-escape.

We cooked virtually everything on the fantastic gas BBQ on our terrace - from pork and sausages over the flames, to chilli prawns and asparagus on the hot plate. Our fondest memories are of dinners outside under the stars, sitting on huge floor cushions at a table adorned with candles. There are also indoor tables (seating 6 in the Wallpaper House and the Little Stone House, and 4 in the Boston Beach House) for rare rainy days, and if you’re staying in the Wallpaper House you can retreat from the wind in the sheltered central courtyard.

The food market in Tarifa’s Old Town is wonderful for fresh fish, meat and vegetables, and there are a couple of supermarkets on the road into town. There’s also a lively bar and restaurant scene both in Tarifa and along the main road (the owners will give you a comprehensive list of recommendations). In the Old Town we loved Anca Curro, a tiny but famous tapas bar, and Karpanta, which has an international menu specialising in tuna. Also worth trying is vegetarian restaurant Chilimosa, while friendly bar and grill Vaca Loca (‘Mad Cow’) is perfect for committed carnivores.

Features include:

  • Barbecue
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
Eating: Wallpaper
Activity:

Activities

  • Tarifa is a mecca for kite and windsurfers from all over the world, and surf schools can be found along the beaches; Valdevaqueros is one of the best

  • Keen bird-watchers need step no further than the terrace. The houses sit directly under one of the most important bird migration routes between Europe and Africa, and from October to June you'll see flocks of white storks, black storks, lesser kestrels, short-toed eagles, Egyptian vultures, sparrowhawks, red and black kites, marsh and Montagu's harriers, ospreys, buzzards, booted eagles and more

  • Go hiking: the house is within a natural park, so you can set off on foot for wonderful walks and breathtaking views. A small path takes you to a headland looking out over beaches in both directions - stunning at sunrise and sunset

  • Stroll along the beach or venture north towards Punta Paloma and Bolonia and you'll be able to walk to some gorgeous secluded sandy coves

  • Try deep-sea fishing, or rent a motorbike and explore the countryside. Both of these can be arranged in Tarifa

  • Head to the Hurricane Hotel (opposite the turn-off to the houses) for a riding lesson, or arrange a hack along the beach at sunset

  • Have a round of golf: there's a course near Vejer de la Frontera (approximately 25 minutes' drive)

  • Take the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier in Morocco and visit the souks. Be warned though: they say the crossing is a mere 35 minutes, but you actually end up being on the ferry for almost 2 hours, so allow extra time

  • Or sit back and enjoy doing nothing at all. We relished lazy days swinging in a hammock on our terrace, watching animals roam the hillside and birds swooping in the skies above

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Kitesurfing
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children are welcome and will love the beach, the space and the local animals. Our 3-year old absolutely loved it and has asked to go back more than once – we think he's largely lured by the LEGO and the Wallpaper House's cubbyhole beds and being able to play freely (without being shushed).

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Wallpaper House has 2 double beds and 2 single beds. The smaller Boston Beach House has 1 double and a day bed for 2, though we'd say it's best suited to a couple with 1 child. The Little Stone House has a double bed and bunk beds for 3 children.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and toys are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Families Should Know:

Bear in mind that the terrain around the houses is quite rocky, so keep an eye on new walkers. Also, walking from the car might be a bit of a schlep with lots of baby equipment.

Kid Friendly: Little Stone House

Location

El Cancho is 3km north of Tarifa town, on the southern tip of Spain. It is set back from Playa de los Lances and Playa de Valdevaqueros, with views across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco.

By Air
The nearest airports are Gibraltar (50km / 1-hour away), Jerez (80km / 1.5 hours away) and Málaga (150km / 2-hours away).

From the Airport
El Cancho is off the beaten track, so hire a car to prevent feeling isolated. From the on-site car park, the houses are a 100-metre walk across a stream then downhill.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Andalucia and getting around

Airports:

  • Gibraltar International 50.0 km GIB
  • Málaga Pablo Ruiz Picasso 150.0 km AGP

Other:

  • Beach 0.5 km
  • Shops 3.0 km
  • Restaurant 0.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 3 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
8/10
Food
8/10
Service
9/10
Value
8/10
Overall

Great location with stunning views. Beautiful house. Very secluded but close to nice restaurants and beaches. Plenty of outdoor activities! Only improvement would be for the owner to give a brief introduction to the house or leave an introductory guide

7/10,

What a great house in a fabulous setting - we enjoyed our stay so much! It‘s a really perfect place to relax.

9/10,

We had an amazing week at El Cancho. It’s such a beautiful setting, peaceful and remote when you’re in the house, with the most fantastic panoramic views of the sea out to Morocco. Our family, including two young boys 4 and 2, loved the open plan layout and, of course running around the space outside. The beaches nearby are beautiful, particularly Bologna beach. Theres lots of great places to eat in Tarifa. We had two fantastic day trips to Vejer de la frontera and Cadiz.

Tom was absolutely brilliant at making sure we had everything we needed, including bringing over some toys for our sons to play with and providing us with lots of great recommendations of places to eat and things to see. We would highly recommend it.

9/10,

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