A 15 kilometre-long stretch of wild and remote golden-sand beach, accessed by a single dirt track with barely a building in sight. Cofete is the largest and one of the wildest beaches in the Canary Islands and in my opinion, one of the most spectacular. Apparently I am not alone; Trip Advisor users voted it one of the top 10 European beaches in 2015.
Set in the remote south-west of Fuerteventura, Cofete sits within the Jandia Natural Park. A cliff-like ridge, crowned by the island’s highest peak, Pico de la Zarza (806m), towers above Cofete, creating a spectacular backdrop to the miles of sand. The Barlavento (windward) beaches take more of a beating from the Atlantic, especially compared to the eastern side of the island (where the tourist resorts are located). Unlike La Pared to the north, Cofete is not recommended for surfing unless you are very competent and the conditions are right (which isn’t often). Strong currents and high winds mean that this area is not suitable for swimming.
Access to Cofete is via a graded dirt-road or on foot. And while many visitors make this journey in a ‘regular’ car, most hire companies don’t insure you ‘off-road’, so you could end up paying for a tow-truck out of your own pocket. The dirt-track is generally well-maintained, however its condition does vary throughout the year, so a 4×4 is recommended. A special 4×4 Bus service runs twice a day from the bus station in Morro Jable, however we suggest that you do not rely on it, since it fills up very quickly – we have tried twice to catch this bus and were turned away on both occasions due to it being full. Interestingly, the Mercedes buses used on this route were specially-made for the production of the Ridley Scott Movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, to ferry extras and crew back and forth, before gaining a new lease of life as local buses in 2014.
Along the road to Cofete is a stunning view point called Roque del Morro, a great place to take a picture and the first of many stunning views of the area.
There is a great walk to Cofete (ref: PR-FV-55) which really is worthwhile and you can reward yourself with food and a nice cold glass of beer at the restaurant in Cofete before making the return journey (it’s 10km each way). The walk is clearly signposted on the turn-off to Cofete, just before you reach the harbour in Morro Jable. You can also drive a little further, parking either at the cemetery just before the tarmac road stops, or further along the dirt road in a small car park next to a number of small holdings. The walk takes around 2.5 hours each way, including a few breaks, and isn’t overly challenging. The route begins with a gentle uphill slope through Gran Valle and a final 15-20 minute assent to degollada de Cofete. The descent down the other side of the ridge to Cofete village takes around 45 minutes (and another 15 minutes to reach the beach).
In 2005, Fuerteventura, in conjunction with the Cape Verde islands, started a loggerhead turtle re-introduction programme. Eggs collected in Cape Verde were buried on Cofete beach and, once hatched, the young turtles were brought to the Morro Jable Turtle Nursery, where they were raised in safety, before being released once they had grown a little larger (giving them a better chance of survival). Unfortunately this has not continued in recent years, as it appears the Fuerteventura government didn’t keep its end of an agreement with Cape Verde. However, don’t be disheartened, as you can still see rescued turtles at the sanctuary in Morro Jable harbour, where injured turtles are nursed back to health and then released on beaches across the Jandia peninsula (click here for a video of the turtle release in Morro Jable in 2016). It is also hoped that the first turtles released on the beach a few years ago will now start to return to lay their own eggs on the beach.
The imposing Villa Winter stands out against the vast mountain-ridge backdrop. This large property was built by German Engineer, Gustav Winter, and is shrouded in mystery. Rumours abound, with tales of Winter’s links to Franco and Hitler, secret re-fueling of German Submarines and the even more unlikely story of senior Nazi party members receiving face-changing plastic surgery before fleeing to South America. None of the claims have been substantiated, however the nearby World War II-era airfield, discarded railway tracks and the fact that locals were not permitted to enter the area during the war, mean that stories continue to circulate.
Sat alongside the beach, near the car park, is a small desolate cemetery. Small mounds of rock and sun-bleached wooden crosses are partially buried underneath the shifting sands. The graveyard dates back to the early 19th century, when the impoverished residents of the Jandia peninsula were forced to create an improvised burial ground for their dead, since the nearest church (in Pajara) was too far away. Feudal-style land ownership meant that the locals had to bury the corpses in the only common ground available – the seashore. The last internment was in 1956. It’s quite an eerie place, a cemetery lost in time.
The small ramshackle village of Cofete consists of around 20 small properties, of various build quality. There is one small restaurant, simply called Restaurante Cofete. We have eaten here a number of times, and although you shouldn’t expect a gastronomic feast, the food went down very well after a long hike. Try the Lapas (local limpets) which are probably the most popular item on the menu (especially with locals). One thing we like about this place is that they serve Estrella Damm beer, a nice change from Tropical! Prices are a bit on the high side, it gets busy and the service can be a bit slow, but you are in a spectacular location, so just relax and enjoy the view.
Halfway along the beach is a rocky outcrop connected to the main beach by a sand spit, known as El Islote. It’s a great view point and photo opportunity as you have the wild Atlantic on either side of you.
If you don’t mind the long and bumpy journey back to civilisation in the dark then I would highly recommend watching the sunset in Cofete. Most people head off well before then, so you are likely to have the beach almost to yourself. The sunset is best viewed during the summer months, as the sun sets over the mountains (rather than the sea) during the winter.