Zarautz

Zarautz is a town located 15km west of San Sebastian. It’s one of a number of coastal towns on the Basque coastline that is well worth a visit. 

If you’re looking for information on the town and what to do in Zarautz, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article we’ll run through the top things to see in the town, how to get there from San Sebastian and plenty more. 

Things to know about Zarautz

Before we get into the top things to do in Zarautz, it’s worth understanding a little bit about the past of the town and what it’s famous for. 

1. It’s a surfers paradise

Sufer heading out to the sea at Zarautz beach
Image from Turismo Zarautz Facebook

Although la Zurriola beach in San Sebastian offers some pretty good surfing conditions, Zarautz beach is without a doubt the surfing capital of the Basque Country. 

The beach has gained a worldwide reputation as one of Europe’s best surfing spots and surfers flock from all over the globe to spend a bit of time in this small town. 

The town also holds an annual surfing championship each September (Rip Curl Pro Surf Zarautz).

2. It’s a popular beach destination

Zarautz beach front

Whilst peak surfing season in Zarautz is from October to March, the town is also a highly popular summer retreat. 

In fact, Queen Isabella II of Spain used to spend time here when she used to head up north to the Basque Country to pass her summers.

The population of Zarautz is around 22,000, but this typically triples to over 60,000 in the summer. It can give you an idea of just how popular and busy this place can get!

3. It was once a whale hunters town 

The town of Zarautz dates back to the 13th century. It was originally founded as a fishing town, in particular for the Cantabrian whale!

However, as time passed and the number of Cantabrian whales started to decline, the town had to reinvent itself. 

Like nearby Pasajes, it tried its hand at ship building and even agriculture. But the town flourished as a tourist destination in the 19th century, and has done so ever since. 

Things to do in Zarautz 

Now you know a little more about the town in general, below we’ll run through the top things to do in Zarautz. 

1. Surfing

view from Monte Talaimendi in Zarautz

Given that the town is most famous for its surfing conditions, it’s only right that the top thing to do in Zarautz is to grab a surfboard and hit the waves!

The beach is particularly known for its consistent good waves all year round, regardless of the tide. So whenever you make the trip over, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to get out on the board.

But don’t worry if you’ve not yet mastered sanding up on a surfboard. There are plenty of surf schools that will teach you from scratch, or help you brush up on your technique.

For beginners, summer is a great time to learn. Whilst the town (and sea) is busier, the waves are a little more gentle and the sea is a little warmer!

2. Relax on the beach

Toldos on the beach in Zarautz overlooking the mouse of Getaria
Image from Turismo Zarautz Facebook

At 2.5km long, Zarautz beach is the largest in the Basque Country. 

It’s also one of the prettiest, framed by mountains on either side and el ratón de Getaria (mouse of Getaria), a small mouse shaped island.

If it was fit for a Queen (when Queen Isabella II used to pass time in summer here), then you can get an idea of how good the beach is!

If you don’t fancy trying your hand at surfing, there are definitely different zones within the beach for those looking for a more relaxed atmosphere. The western most part of the beach is ideal for families, with calmer waves (and less surfers). 

The beach also has all the services you could wish for. Showers, public toilets, lifeguards, surf schools and plenty of cafes and restaurants are all just a short walk on the beachfront. 

3. Walk to Getaria

walking from Zarautz to Getaria via. the coast

Whilst you can admire the ratón of Getaria from the beach, it’s definitely worth heading over to the neighbouring town to get an up close view. 

There’s a stunning coastal walk from Zarautz to Getaria. It offers consistent incredible views over the Canbrian sea alongside some close-ups of the fascinating rock formations that line this coast. 

Coastal walk from Zarautz to Getaria

The walk takes around an hour, but when you arrive there’s plenty to see in Getaria too. 

It’s a beautiful small fishing town, the home of Juan Sebastián Elcano, the first man to sail the world. Similarly it’s the home town of Cristóbal Balenciaga, the world famous designer. And it’s also the birthplace of Txakoli wine, a Basque drink that’s definitely worth trying!

The more adventurous can try the walk to Getaria via. the mountains and Txakoli vineyards, returning via. the coast. 

4. Head up Monte Talaimendi

Whilst the walk towards the west to Getaria is pleasant, the journey east to Monte Talaimendi is equally as beautiful. 

The short climb up (just behind the Zarautz golf club) is well worth it. Once at the top you’re rewarded with views over Zarautz, Getaria and the Cantabrian Sea. 

You can also re-live a little bit of Zarautz’s industrial past. The Mollarri loading port sits at the top of Monte Talaimendi and was once used to ship minerals from the local mines.

Views from the mollarri loading port in Zarautz

It’s a fascinating building that offers stunning views, alongside a glimpse of the tough work that used to be carried out on the site.

5. Santa Barbara Lookout Point

The view of Zarautz town and beach from up high

Whilst the views over Zarautz are impressive from Monte Talaimendi, I personally think the views from the Santa Barbara lookout point just trump it.

It’s on the other side of the beach to Monte Talaimendi, towards the top of Monte Santa Barbara next to the Santa Barbara hermitage.

And once you reach it, it offers panoramic views of the town, beach and sea. 

The hike up is extremely pleasant. You’re surrounded by Taxkoli vineyards and green Basque countryside. However, if that’s not enough to convince you to walk, it’s also possible to reach the viewpoint by car.

6. Explore the Old Town

Zarautz bell tower in the Old Town of Zarautz
Image from Turismo Zarautz Facebook

Points 1 – 5 of our top things to do pretty much revolve around the spectacular coastline that Zarautz is located on. 

However, if you can whisk yourself away from the beach for an hour, the town itself is well worth visiting, particularly the Old Town. 

The gothic Torre Luzea (Tower of Luzea) is particularly striking, dating back to the 15th century. 

The Parroquia de (Parish of) Santa María la Real is another landmark building from the 15th century. Combined with the Torre Zarautz (Tower of Zarautz), they form an archaeological site which displays some remains through a glazed floor dating back to the 5th century. 

How to get to Zarautz

Getting to Zarautz is easy through a number of modes of transport. 

By car

Zarautz is located just off the AP-8 which connects San Sebastian to Bilbao and Cantabria. The journey takes just over 20 minutes. 

It’s worth noting that the AP-8 is a toll road, so it’ll cost you a couple of euros each way. 

If you want to avoid the toll roads, the N-634 is toll free, but it’ll take around 35 minutes to complete the journey.  

If you’re coming from Bilbao, you can access Zarautz from the same motorway, but it’ll cost somewhat more on the toll roads. 

Once you reach Zarautz most of the car parks and on street parking is pay and display.

By train

Perhaps the cheapest and easiest way to get to Zarautz from San Sebastian is via. the Euskotren. 

It leaves every 15 minutes (every 30 mins on Saturdays) from the main Euskotren station in Amara. You can check out the timetable here

It costs €2.75 each way and takes around 30 minutes. The good thing is the Euskotren drops you off pretty much in the centre of Zarautz and you don’t need to worry about parking.

By bus 

Lurraldebus has direct connections from the centre of San Sebastian to Zarautz (be sure you know where to get off in Zarautz as there’s no main bus station). 

The buses take anything between 30 minutes – 50 hour depending on the route you take (UK-09, UK-10, UK-11), the UK-10 being the most direct and fastest. 

The buses don’t run as frequently as the train, bou can check out the timetable here.

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