You're on the southernmost tip of Europe. Just ahead, across the Strait of Gibraltar, lies Africa. All around, windsurfers prepare to play under the admiring gaze of a cosmopolitan crowd. This is Playa de Los Lances, just outside Tarifa, on the Costa de la Luz, Spain's windswept southern Atlantic coast. The beach, 7km long, is split into three main parts. If you want to meet the locals, stay close to town. If you want to hang out with the cool crowd make for the centre, the sands around the rio Jara, near the Hurricane Hotel.
On the western edge of Tarifa, a Spanish-Moorish town with a labyrinthine Arab heart. Playa de Los Lances spreads northwest to the giant sand dunes near Punta Paloma. From the centre of Tarifa, walk along the main street towards the new town and drop down to the left to find the beach. The N340, now renamed the A7, from Algeciras to Cadiz, follows the coast. Take any left turn off this road.
August is when Tarifa buzzes. The chic Sevillanos arrive en masse, the restaurants heave with punters drinking fino sherry, and the surfers' sails turn the blue skies psychedelic. Get there after siesta with a picnic dinner and stay until after dark.
The gigantic sand dunes near Punta Paloma are extraordinary, whipped up by the famous winds. The views from the top of the dunes are breathtaking.
Put the latest mix of tunes on your CD Walkman and stroll the length of the beach to the dunes, which should take under a couple of hours. Try surfing, of any variety, at Spin Out Surf Base, near the dunes.
Dar Cilla, a recent addition on the edge of the old town, is an immaculately restored complex of Arab-style housing. The Hurricane Hotel is a local legend that has cool credentials.
The nightlife is funky and starts late. Eat dinner at El Souk in the new town then go bar-hopping. Or try the Hotel Misiana, which has reputable live DJs. Pick up a copy of local free magazines La Luz or Liquid for more ideas.
Tarifa travel facts
Calle Cilla, Tarifa (00 34 676 455 180; www.darcilla.com)
Ctra Nac 340, Km 78, Tarifa (00 34 956 68 49 19, www.hotelhurricane.com).
San Donato 8, Tarifa (00 34 956 681 759, www.lasacristia.net)
Spin Out Surf Base
Casa de Porro, Tarifa, (00 34 956 68 08 44, www.tarifaspinout.com)
18 Calle Jerez.
Mar Tirreno, 64 (00 34 956 62 70 65; www.souk-tarifa.com)
Calle Sancho IV el Bravo, Tarifa (00 34 956 62 70 83)