La Joya de Cabo de Gata

Almeria, Spain Book from

Rustic self-catering eco retreat in the desert gardens of Cabo de Gata Natural Park, near Med beaches
This is where the Almería desert meets the sea; a place of ochre and terracotta landscapes, tinkling goat bells, palm trees swaying in a warm North African breeze, fiery sunsets and velvety night skies. One of the most protected areas in southern Spain, it’s a place that’s often overlooked by tourists. Hidden behind rough stone walls, La Joya is a celebration of everything this unspoilt region has to offer - its native plants, architecture and traditions. Lovingly created by Charo García (a city high-flyer before she escaped Madrid to build her Almerían sanctuary), its cluster of earthy buildings was designed to blend perfectly with the desert setting.

In addition to Charo's house, there are 3 simple cottages for 2-4 all run on eco-friendly principles. In the garden, among cacti and bougainvillea, there’s a cool pavilion offering massage therapies; the Phoenician pool is fed by a well. From a hammock swinging from a Peruvian pepper tree, you can look across the canyons of the desert hills to the sea. Agua Amarga, with its sandy beach, white cliffs and dazzling white-cube houses, is 3km away.


  • An awesome location, with lots to see: Cabo de Gata Natural Park has 34,000 hectares of desert wilderness, pretty villages, dunes, cliffs, volcanic rocks and a wetland Biosphere (with flamingos)
  • Good value
  • Soaking in the Jacuzzi as the sun goes down, or at night, gazing up at the stars
  • Charo’s passion for the area is infectious, as is the slow pace of life she prescribes for her guests
  • The incredible beaches of Cabo de Gata are among the most beautiful in Spain - and just a few kilometres away


  • No air con, but the desert nights are usually cool, even in summer
  • The area is not big on public transport so you'll need a car; no restaurants or shops within walking distance
  • You'll want sensible shoes for the rocky garden paths, especially the steep steps leading down to the pool
  • Resident wildlife includes snakes, spiders and scorpions, though we only saw skittering lizards
  • Note the fairly strict cancellation policy

Best time to go

Cabo de Gata enjoys a warm-dry climate rather like North Africa’s, with very little rain (this is the driest place in Europe) and mild winters. Visit in spring or autumn when the sun is not quite so hot, the nights are cooler and the beaches are more or less empty. The summers are hot and sultry; the winters are still warm, but chilly in the evening.

Our top tips

Protected by National Park status, Cabo de Gata is one of the few areas of Spain’s Mediterranean coast that hasn’t been spoilt by over-development. It also has the peachiest of beaches, with long strips of fine white or dark volcanic sand framed by high cliffs and desert dunes. Los Genoveses and Monsul are the best known, but Playa del Playazo is easier to get to and just as beautiful. Just remember to take water and a hat or a parasol. On these pristine beaches, there are no shops and no shade.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Rural Retreat
  • 3 cottages for 2-4
  • Self-catering (restaurants a drive away)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor 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


The 2 cortijos - Cala Enmedio and Cala el Plomo - are attached to Charo’s house and built in the same style: a colourful fusion of painted beams and timbers, with kilims on rustic terracotta floors and a homely jumble of old and new furniture (comfy sofas, original art and quirky details like recycled sewing-machine tables). Both have 2 bedrooms (a double and twin), a living room with a fireplace (winter evenings can be chilly), a kitchen-diner and 2 shaded terraces, the latter designed to capture the sun at different times of the day. Enmedio has a shared bathroom, el Plomo has 2 ensuite shower rooms; both have underfloor heating. And both have dreamy views of the desert, the pool and the gardens.

Since our visit, a third has been added: Cala de Aguamarga has just one bedroom and views towards the palm grove, but the styling is very much in keeping with the other cortijos.

Features include:

  • Barbeque
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Honesty bar
  • Kitchenette
  • Mosquito net
  • Oven
  • Phone
  • Pool/beach towels
  • Radio
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


All the accommodation is self-catering, with an electric stove or hob and an arsenal of pans and cooking utensils. Alfresco dining tables overlook the gardens, pool and the landscape, and in the evening you can dine by candlelight under the stars. There is also a communal BBQ (wood for cooking is supplied) with a large circular table - a lovely shaded corner with views across the desert to the Mediterranean.

Nearby Agua Amarga has a bakery, deli and small convenience store; for more comprehensive shopping there are supermarkets in Carboneras (15 minutes away). When available, you can use herbs and vegetables from Charo’s organic garden, and eggs laid by her hens.

For eating out, Agua Amarga has a handful of relaxed beachfront restaurants serving reasonable meals, and there are more in Carboneras, Isleta del Moro and San José. Ask Charo for recommendations.

Features include:

  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Hob stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Oven
  • Toaster
  • BBQ area


  • Book a massage in the restful Arabic Pavilion. Therapeutic treatments include quiromassage, reflexology, shiatsu and kinesiology
  • Visit Agua Amarga: this whitewashed fishing village has a gorgeous sandy beach, cafés and bars, and a few shops. It also has a weekly market and there are canoes to rent in high season
  • Cabo de Gata has some of the loveliest beaches in Spain, many of them completely undeveloped and natural
  • Enjoy the desert on horseback. A local riding stables offers guided excursions, lessons for beginners and pony rides for kids
  • Explore the Cabo de Gata on foot. With 16 marked trails (ranging in length from 1.5 to 11km and largely sticking to the coast), it’s a great way to see the beaches, rock formations and rugged terrain of this wildly beautiful region
  • The Cabo de Gata is a bird-watcher’s paradise, particularly on the salt flats and lagoons of Las Salinas, where you can see storks, plovers, herons and crowds of greater flamingos
  • Take a day trip. Options include a tour of the canyons, gullies and filmic cowboy landscapes of the Tabernas Desert (where the Spaghetti Westerns were filmed), or a 4x4 tour of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. You can also rent bikes, go scuba-diving or paragliding, or do a boat trip around the coast

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Paragliding
  • Private guided tours
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife


Children are welcome and the 2-bedroom cortijos are designed to accommodate families. Nearby Agua Amarga has a great family beach.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The 2-bedroom cortijos each have a double and twin bedroom and can fit a baby cot.


On request.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

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

Families Should Know:

The pool is not fenced, and it can get extremely hot here in summer.

Kid Friendly:

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