Explore Santa Pola's Old Fisherman's Quarter

Sitting on the edge of a large salt lake between the bustling cities of Alicante and Torrevieja, Santa Pola is a top spot for a Costa Blanca holiday.

Santa Pola is famous for its fish, which is renowned for its variety and quality, so a great place to start a tour of the fishing village is by the harbour.

This is one of the most important fishing ports in the Mediterranean in Spain with a large and active fishing fleet. At about 5pm on weekdays, you can watch the boats return followed by a flock of squawking seagulls.

Fishing boats at Santa Pola

The fishermen bring their catch including tuna, octopus, squid, mackerel, monkfish, gilthead bream, prawns, crabs, sardines, anchovies, crayfish and hake to the port to be sold at auction at the fish market.

These fish and shellfish are highly prized for their quality and flavour.

Santa Pola is famous for its tasty fish dishes

 Look out for fish and fish restaurants bearing the mark ‘Peix de Santa Pola’ to be sure you are getting the first-class local produce.

At the entrance to the port is a lovely fish restaurant called La Cofradia in the Plaza Constitucion which bears the ‘Peix de Santa Pola’ hallmark and where you can try the prized oysters of the bay as well as the freshest fish and other shellfish.

The fish can be cooked in so many ways, either simply grilled, baked in salt or it is often added to a wide variety of rice dishes such as paella, arroz a banda (rice with fish stock), arroz negro (rice with squid ink) and the special caldero de Santa Pola, which is a tasty fish stew with rice and garlic mayonnaise.

Chic yacht in Santa Marina port

While fishing is a major part of the port’s activities, you will also see some fine sailing boats and motor yachts as well as little ferries taking visitors over to the tranquil little island of Tabarca, known for its clear waters and picturesque coves.

At the port entrance is the Esteban Gonzalez boat museum where you can climb on board an old fishing boat to image what life is like at sea. You can book a guided tour from the Aquarium, by phoning 965 416 916 or sending an e-mail to: barcomuseo@santapola.es

Levante beach at Santa Pola

On one side of the port is the Playa de Levante which is a fine stretch of sandy beach by the town hall and tourist information office.

On the other side is the Gran Playa sandy beach, which is another popular spot for sunbathing and safe swimming.

Variety of Mediterranean life in Santa Pola

Heading away from the beach, you can stroll up to the old fisherman’s quarter at the top of town at one of its highest points. Along the way, it is definitely worth stopping at the aquarium, castle and the maritime museum.

The aquarium in Plaza de Fernandez Ordoñez, just behind the Plaza Constitucion and en route to the Glorieta and the castle, shows the variety of marine life which lives around the Santa Pola coastline.. 

Opening times vary throughout the year and there is a small entrance fee. It is open from September 9 to June 23 on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 1pm and 5pm to 7pm as well as Sundays from 10am to 1pm.

From June 24 to August 31 it is open every day from 11am to 1pm and 6pm to 10pm. From September 1 to 8 it is only open from 10am to 1pm.

Santa Pola castle

Changing roles of Santa Pola castle

Next stop is the impressive Santa Pola castle which is a stunning example of 16th century Renaissance military architecture and is so well preserved, it looks like new.

It provided a garrison for 33 people and their families, including the governor, soldiers and a chaplain who lived within the castle walls built to defend the town against pirate attacks.

After Santa Pola lost the need for a military fortress, the castle has had various functions including being run as a hospital, court, Guardia Civil headquarters and is now home to a chapel, exhibition hall and maritime museum.

Santa Pola castle and maritime museum

The maritime museum is an interesting place to find out more about Santa Pola's history. It's split into three parts - Prehistoric era, the Iberians, and the Roman port and castle.

Fishing and the sea play a prominent role as you would expect in a town which has become well-known for the quality of its fish.

There's also an interesting section dedicated to the importance of music throughout history in Santa Pola, particularly in relation to the sea and the fishing industry.

In summer it is open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11am to 1pm and 6.30pm to 9.30pm. In winter it is open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm. On Sundays and public holidays it is open from 11am to 1.3pm throughout the year. There is a small charge.

Santa Pola's charming fisherman's quarter

From here, we continue heading away to the sea and up towards the Parque de la Cruz and the Plaza del Calvari, which is the traditional fisherman’s quarter in one of the highest points of Santa Pola.
You can enjoy great views from up here and it’s a peaceful little part of town.

Plaza Calvari in Santa Pola

This is an emblematic district of Santa Pola, with its charming little chapel built in a Moorish style at the beginning of the 20th century.

This stands at the end of the Calvary or Stations of the Cross in the park.

Next to the chapel is the pretty Calvari square with its ornate square, trees and plants surrounded by traditional townhouses.

Santa Pola chapel

How to get there

On the AP7 motorway take the exit for Aeropuerto-Santa Pola. Get on the N332 connecting Alicante with Cartagena. From the N332 you will see the turn off for Santa Pola.

The nearest airport is at Alicante, 10kms from Santa Pola, and the nearest trains are at Alicante and Elche. There are buses from Alicante city and Alicante airport to Santa Pola which run about every 30 minutes and take 35 to 45 minutes.

 You can read more about Alicante's fish dishes here