The main highlight of Zarautz is, without a doubt, its 2.5 kilometers long sandy beach, which is the longest of the Spanish Basque Country and one of the longest along the Cantabrian Sea.
The beach is popular not only among Basques, Spanish and French, but it also receives visitors from all over the world: families with children, young and old couples and, of course, surfers.
The beach is divided in three different areas. The western end is dedicated to families and bathers, the center is for surfers and the eastern end is less sparsely packed and a good spot for those that want to bare it all.
The beach is also framed by a nice promenade. There are various sculptures along the path as well as slides and swings for children. The path even continues west out of Zarautz until reaching neighboring Getaria (about 4 km away).
Surfing is one of the most popular sports in Zarautz. The waves of Zarautz are famous worldwide and several competitions are held here throughout the year. Every September the town is home to the Rip Curl Pro Surf Zarautz championship.
Zarautz’s beach is ideal for surfing: there aren’t big currents, there are good waves all year around, regardless of the tides. However, generally speaking summer is the best time for beginners and winter for experts. Autumn is known as the “surfing season” because it is when the conditions are usually best for experienced surfers.
But don’t worry if you are not a professional yet because it is also a good place to learn. If you are up for it, there are several surf schools in Zarautz that will be able to help you out:
Iñurritza Protected Biotope
At the eastern end of Zarautz’s beach, stands the protected biotope of Iñurritza, formed by the estuary, the sand dunes and the marshlands. Although Zarautz is very proud of having the biggest dune system of the province, with 177,200 m2, most of its extension is occupied by a golf course. There is a walkway that allows visitors to walk through the public part of the dunes, but again most of it is behind the fence next to the walkway.
The best place to enjoy the views of the Iñurritza Protected Biotope is the top of the Mount Talaimendi.
At the eastern end of the beach, the path that goes along the dunes continues crossing the river estuary and up to Mount Talaimendi. At the top of the mount there is a lookout point which originally was a watchtower for whale hunting. From this lookout point, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the town and the rocky island of Mollarri.
Santa Barbara Lookout Point
There is another interesting lookout point in Zarautz, located in the western corner of the town, by the Santa Barbara hermitage. To get there, start by heading to the Mutxio or Montetxio park, located at the bottom of the mount Santa Barbara. At the park, there is a path up to the hermitage with the same name (it is also possible to get there by car). The path is full of beautiful green scenery and surrounded by txakoli vineyards. From the church, it is possible to enjoy the beautiful views of Zarautz and its beach.
On those same hillsides, there is also another park called Vista Alegre (which is the name of that neighborhood). At its highest point there is an interesting construction built in 1913 as viewpoint known as “el torreón” (the tower). Unfortunately, it is now falling apart.
There isn’t too much to the old town of Zarautz, however, there may be a few buildings worth checking out if you need a break from the sun. Everything of interest can be found at western end of the beach. Wandering through the main street (“Kale Nagusia” in Basque), a building that stands out is the Luzea Tower. Built in the 15th century, it is a good example of Basque defensive architecture. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public. There is also a nice little market right across from the tower.
At the western end of the main street, there are two important buildings from the 15th century: the gothic church of Santa María la Real and the Zarautz Tower located right next to it. Together they form an archeological site, which contains remains that show the history of Zarautz from the 5th century B.C. until today. The Zarautz Tower is home to the Museum of Art and History and is the oldest building in town.
The last building of interest is the Palace of Narros which can be found on the western most side of the town, directly on the beach. It was constructed in 1536 and is where Queen Isabella II of Spain stayed during her summer visits to Zarautz. Today the Palace of Narros is a private house, so all admiring must be done from the outside.