What is it that turns a standard trip into an adventure? I think it all comes down to spontaneity and the ability to go with the flow. That’s what turned a small weekend getaway in Nerja into a truly unforgettable experience. From all of the things I did whilst living in and travelling through Andalusia, camping on a secret beach in Nerja is definitely one of the highlights.
When I was living in Spain, my girlfriend Lea and I tried to take every opportunity to travel somewhere and experience something new. Luckily, that’s not too difficult in Spain as there are so many amazing things to experience, especially in the south.
It was last November and we had decided to finally make good on our plan to visit Nerja, a small seaside town just an hour away from Malaga. In many ways, Nerja is your standard Spanish beach destination. At certain times in the year, there are so many people on the main beach in Nerja that you cannot even see the sand. Now that’s really not my thing.
Though we did want to go to see the beach in Nerja, the main reason for our trip was to experience the view of Nerja’s cliffs falling into the sea from the famous “Balcón de Europa”. It didn’t disappoint; the view is stunning. By the end of the day, we decided to trek out of the city in search of a place where we could set up our tent and camp for the night.
We walked along the cliffs, peaking over seemingly abandoned plots, trying to figure out whether we could get away with squatting there. With little success, we decided to look for a local in hopes of getting some directions and maybe a few tips. After an hour of fruitless exploring and picking wild pomegranates, we walked up to a huge plot that stretched all the way to the edge of the cliffs. At the end of the plot was a single solitary bench, pointed towards the sea. A hippie-like man came out of the house, calling us over and asking if he can help us with anything. We explained that we were looking for a place to camp for the night, half hoping he’d say we could camp on his plot.
In keeping with his appearance, it turned out that the man was a yoga teacher in Malaga and that he had rented this beautiful plot to get away on weekends, practice yoga and collect fresh water from the mountains. After some chatter, he told us that there was an abandoned secret beach at the bottom of the cliff. According to him, this was the most perfect beach in Nerja and that the only people who ever frequented it were hippies living off the grid. We had talked about camping on the beach in Nerja, but apparently it’s illegal and police do regularly check. This secret beach sounded like the perfect solution. Our yoga instructor friend gave us his card, a bottle of his fresh mountain water and pointed us in the right direction.
After trekking around the cliffs, we finally found the beach. The yoga guy wasn’t kidding; there really was a secret beach in Nerja. Secret though it was, it wasn’t quite abandoned. A group of hippies surrounded by dogs had set up tents and shelter and were standing by the water with a makeshift fishing rod. The guy holding onto the rod was shirtless, tanned and wearing ragged shorts. He had dreads in his hair and had a huge wooden cone pierced through his earlobe. The guy next to him was the polar opposite; a chubby, young-looking fella with short hair, wearing khaki shorts and a red t-shirt. The chubby guy was ‘cooking’ potatoes with cream and ketchup on an open fire. The sight was pretty surreal.
We walked down to the beach and started chatting with our soon-to-be neighbors for the night. The hippie was Belgian and had been on the beach for over a month with his girlfriend, another couple and their 4 dogs. He only ever went into town to buy some food and go for the occasional drink. The chubby guy was clearly the odd one out. He was from Estonia and had spent almost 3 months on this beach in Nerja with his dog, watching others as they came and went. I don’t know whether he was unhappy, or whether that was just my impression, but I felt sorry for him. Where the Belgian seemed open, free spirited and spontaneous, the Estonian seemed sad and lonely.
All of them were very nice and they were happy for us to set up our tent a few meters from the water. The setting was amazing: a perfect small sandy beach, nestled in an enclave with cliffs and rock towering above it on either side. Part of me wanted to go to bed out of excitement of waking up to the view. Obviously, the entrance of our tent faced the sea.
After setting up the tent, we realized how unprepared we were. We didn’t have food or water, having brought along nothing but some weed and a bag full of handpicked pomegranates. Luckily, the hippies told us where we could get water. For all the trekking and exploring we had done, it turned out that the main beach in Nerja was just around the towering rock to the right of our secret beach, just a short, freezing swim away. As we swam around, we saw the biggest beach in Nerja, crowded with tourists, all of them lying lethargically on the beach, burning to a frazzle whilst getting Thai massages. Meanwhile, our own little beach looked like a scene from Castaway or Robinson Crusoe. Two very different worlds separated by a single natural wall.
As we got back to our tent, I felt grateful to be on our side of the rock. It just goes to show that sometimes the most amazing secrets are hidden in plain sight.
Note: This is without a doubt the most beautiful beach in Nerja and one of the nicest beaches I have ever seen. If you would like to see it for yourself and need directions, just get in touch!