Whether you’re living in Rota, Spain year-round or just visiting, you’ll fall in love with this laid-back beach town on the sparkling Bay of Cádiz. Most of the things to do in Rota involve outdoor recreation, eating, drinking, or relaxing. Sounds pretty good, right?
Here are 12 of the best ways to enjoy Rota!
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1. Visit the Amazing Beaches
With Rota’s beautiful weather and location on the coast of southern Spain, it’s no surprise that the beaches are the top attraction. Rota, Spain beaches are beautifully maintained and luxuriously long; they extend for several miles along the town’s entire coastline.
Whether you want to swim in the ocean, run or walk along the shore, watch the kite surfers (a common sight on windy days), or simply relax in the sun, you can spend all day at Rota’s beaches.
2. Stroll, Eat, and Drink Along the Boardwalk
El Paseo Maritimo is the boardwalk that runs along Rota’s most beautiful beach: Playa de la Costilla. Dotted with bars and restaurants, el Paseo Maritimo is a flurry of activity, with people dining al fresco, strolling, or walking their dogs. It’s particularly busy on weekends, when local families eat at the restaurants and make their lunchtime meal into an all-day affair!
3. Paddle, Surf, or Sail in the Bay of Cádiz
Rota is an ideal place for water sports, including kayaking, standup paddle boarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing . . . you name it! You can rent equipment or take lessons from local outfitters, such as Club Surf Educa or Over Limit Centro Náutico.
Naval Station Rota MWR’s Outdoor Recreation Center also rents kayaks and standup paddle boards (plus car mounts, if you need them). Contact them about lessons and organized tours!
4. Get Your Exercise in the Pine Forest
Where the Paseo Maritimo ends at the north end of Playa de la Costilla, this beautiful and fragrant pine forest begins. Located on the sand dunes above the beach, it has a raised wooden trail that winds through the pine groves, with several offshoots that lead to gazebos with panoramic views of the Bay of Cádiz.
Depending on the time of day, many parts of the pine forest have shade, making it the perfect place for a walk, run, or bike ride. It’s also a very scenic route to travel from one end of Rota to the other!
5. Ride the Rota Greenway Nature Trail
El Camino Natural de Rota, which starts here, is a mixed-surface trail that passes through Costa Ballena and continues on to Chipiona. It traverses the beautiful rural areas surrounding Rota, and it’s a change of scenery from the beach.
You will definitely want a hybrid or mountain bike for this trail – it’s not hilly, but some parts of the trail have rocks/gravel.
If you don’t have your own wheels, Rota MWR has you covered! The Outdoor Recreation Center rents mountain bikes (and beach cruisers). Rentals come with helmet and lock.
6. Eat Gourmet Ice Cream
After all that exercise, it’s time for dessert! By far, the top sweet treat in Rota is ice cream. Some locals would debate us on this, but we think it’s no contest: the best ice cream in Rota is at Margarita La Fresca!
With dozens of artfully-presented choices, including numerous variations of chocolate, delicious dairy-free sorbet, and gourmet flavors like Fig & Cheese or Carrot Cake, it’s hard to pick just one or two.
If you live in Rota, we challenge you to try every flavor. In town for a visit? You better get started, you have a lot of ice cream to eat!
7. Hit the Golf Course
You have two great options for golfing in Rota. The first is the Naval Station Rota golf course, a nice track that is conveniently located just inside the gate of Rota Naval Base. This 18-hole course is open year-round (thanks to the fantastic weather in Rota, Spain), and the base holds frequent tournaments.
The other Rota golf course is Costa Ballena Golf Club, a 27-hole championship course with incredible ocean views and one of the best practice facilities in Europe. With your military ID, you can get a reduced rate after 1300. For the 19th hole, enjoy a meal at their restaurant with beautiful views overlooking the greens.
8. Visit Rota’s Historic Center
With narrow, winding streets lined with Mediterranean-style buildings, Rota’s Centro Histórico has the feel of old Europe. Indeed, the town of Rota dates back to the 12th century.
Some of Rota’s historic sites are Castillo de Luna (Moon Castle), Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O (Our Lady of the O Parish Church), and Torre de la Merced (Merced Tower), which also houses Rota’s tourist office.
9. Catch an Epic Sunset at a Chiringuito
Chiringuitos are beachfront bars located right on the sand. Some chiringuitos have very good food, while at others, the main attraction is the view.
A Rota establishment that checks both boxes is Azucar de Cuba. With Cuban-influenced cuisine, a range of refreshing cocktails, and lively salsa music in the background, this is the perfect spot to grab a table and watch a Rota sunset.
10. Get Your People-Watching Fix
Spend a few hours eating or sipping a drink in one of Rota’s busy squares (plazas), and you’re experiencing life like a local! Two of our favorites for people-watching are Plaza de Jesus Nazareno and Plaza Barroso.
Plaza de Jesus Nazareno is best known for the iconic red Rota sign, and it’s a major thoroughfare between Playa de la Costilla and downtown Rota. The plaza is surrounded by restaurants, but La Tripona is our favorite for creative spins on traditional Spanish dishes.
Plaza Barroso, just around the corner from Castillo de la Luna, is Rota’s version of Grand Central Station on a weekend morning. The two restaurants in this square are among our top picks when dining out.
One is La Silla Azul, the best brunch spot in Rota. The other is Ristaurante Italiano Tuscania, a family-run Italian restaurant inside Hostal Sixto. The food is so authentic that this is the go-to restaurant for members of the Italian Navy when they’re in town. Need we say more?
11. Go Shopping at the Flea Market
Known locally as the “Gypsy Market,” this large bazaar takes place every Wednesday from early morning until about 1400. It’s located next to the Rota bus station, a two-minute walk from the main gate of Rota Naval Base.
This market has a little bit of everything, from clothing and shoes to olives, nuts, and caracoles (snails).
12. Enjoy an Upscale Night Out
Nightlife in Rota is fairly informal, but if you have a special occasion, celebrate it in style at El Embarcadero, Whether it’s date night, a birthday, a promotion, or you’re simply celebrating the fact that you’re on vacation, this restaurant in Hotel Duque de Najera fits the bill.
Seafood is their specialty, but the professional staff will help you choose the best dishes for your tastes. Grab a table on their outdoor terrace and enjoy views of the ocean and the pier while you dine!
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Make the most of your time in Rota, Spain by taking advantage of the beach, beautiful weather, relaxing vibe, and the many outdoor activities. You will quickly learn why NAVSTA Rota is a favorite duty station and why many military retirees call Rota home!
Recommended Hotels in Rota
Check out these ideas or search for other hotels in Rota, Spain.
Hotel Duque de Nájera – This is the best hotel in Rota. You can’t beat the location on Rota’s most beautiful beach and across from the ferry terminal! It’s right next to Rota’s historic center and and only a mile from Rota Naval base. Accommodations and amenities at this 4-star hotel are first rate, and they offer an incredible breakfast buffet. Check prices for your dates!.
Hotel Playa de la Luz – The sister property of Hotel Duque Nájera, the “Hotel Playa,” as locals refer to it, is equally beautiful and has similar resort-style amenities, in addition to paddle and tennis courts. It’s at the other end of the beach, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Rota, but still a quick cab ride away. Click here to read reviews and check rates!
Hostal Sixto – This extraordinarily charming guest house occupies what used to be a grand single-family home in Rota. When you think of the quintessential European hotel, this is it! Located in Plaza Barosso in Rota’s historic center, it’s also home to the fantastic aforementioned Italian restaurant, Ristorante Italiano Tuscania. Click here to see pictures and rates!
Summerland Apartments – If you want more space and a kitchen during your stay in Rota, Summerland Apartments are perfect! Centrally located and only a 3-minute walk from the beach, these apartments are clean, modern, and well-appointed. We’ve stayed in several Airbnbs in Rota, but Summerland is much nicer than any of those apartments, and it includes garage parking. Click here to see pictures and check availability!