When we visited Isla de Tabarca as a day trip from Alicante in October 2013, I was determined to sample the island's local dish; Caldero. Our guidebook recommended that we shouldn't miss this seafood and rice stew, popular with the local fishermen.
Unfortunately, the restaurants on the island know that tourists want to sample their speciality dish and price it accordingly. After reading the menus of most of the restaurants on the island (maybe a dozen at most), we discovered that Caldero would cost somewhere in the region of €22 per person and required a minimum of two people to order it. As Emma doesn't like seafood, this was not an option for us. Besides, I discovered that I could have a full 3 course meal, with drink, for around half of the price of the Caldero.
One such place where we were able to take advantage of a good value "menu del dia" was Amparin Restaurante. This simple restaurant, specialising mainly in seafood, is located on an elevated area overlooking the island's main beach.
I ordered the €12 set menu, while Emma was able to negotiate a €10 set menu option which includes a meat and pasta option instead of seafood.
The first course of our meal consisted of a shared salad. We received a large plate of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, grated carrot and green olives. This was accompanied by a basket of crusty bread and a small bowl of garlic dip. The garlic dip was so pungent that we could smell it as it arrived at the table. It tasted as strong as it smelled! Very nice!
I then received my second course; 3 small fried fish and a handful of squid rings. It was very enjoyable. After I had stripped all the fish away from the bones, I threw the skeletons and fish heads to the group of cats that had been watching me enjoy my meal. They clearly appreciated it and continued to prowl around our table as we enjoyed the rest of our meal.
My main course was a large pan of paella with squid, fish, a large prawn and a couple of mussels in it. It was nice, and I was able to throw a few pieces of fish (and the discarded prawn shell) to our new feline friends.
Emma's main course was rather bland in comparison; spaghetti in a tomato sauce, with just a little bit of meat in it, and topped with cheese. She ate it all, but it was nothing special.
Our shared dessert consisted of segments of orange, slices of watermelon and a couple of pieces of a creme caramel type cake.
To drink, I had a beer (served in a San Miguel glass, but I'm not sure if it was San Miguel) and Emma had a glass of Sprite.
When our bill came we discovered that it contained an additional 8% I.V.A (tax) which hadn't been clearly stated on the menu when we ordered. In many restaurants, it is made clear that prices are subject to a further 8% I.V.A, but not so here. This took our bill from the expected €22 to just under €24. We simply reduced the tip accordingly and left the same amount that we were planning to leave.
We had wondered how the staff got home after a day at work at the restaurant. We expected to see them on our boat back to Alicante. As we were waiting for our boat to leave, we saw the waiters and chefs leaving the island on the company speedboat!
Good value set menu meals overlooking the beach. Especially good value if you like seafood, but lacking a little in choice if you don't.
Here is known to its best prepared and popular fish dishes like "Caldero", stewed fish prepared in a huge metal kettle or deep saucepan. We had a savoury Paella though and fried squid rings.
The island of Tabarca is a 1 hour boat ride from Alicante. We visited as a day trip in October 2013 and the following details were correct as of that date.
Boat crossings to Tabarca are more frequent in the busier summer months, but were relatively infrequent in October. Boats operated by "Kon Tiki" leave Alicante twice a day and return to Alicante once a day. Strictly speaking, they return to Alicante twice a day, but the first of these is the return journey of the day's first outbound trip and so tends to return without any passengers on board.
Boats leave from Alicante at 11:00 and 13:30, and return from Tabarca at 17:30. We caught the boat at 13:30, arriving at Tabarca at 14:30, giving us 3 hours to explore the island. This proved to be more than adequate time for visiting what is a rather small island. We arrived back in Alicante at 18:30.
We purchased our tickets (from a kiosk at Alicante marina, next to where the boats depart) about an hour before we travelled. In October, there was no need to purchase them any earlier; in fact our boat was less than half full and we could have simply purchased tickets immediately before the boat sailed.
The cost of a return ticket was €18.
Kon Tiki have several boats. The one that we travelled on was "Kon Tiki Dos". It has an open air top deck with plenty of seating so we could enjoy the sunshine and sea breeze as we made the crossing.
Had we been better organised (and especially had it been high season), we might have explored other means of getting to Tabarca island. For example, we could have caught a bus to the town of Santa Pola, from where the boat crossing to Tabarca is only 30 minutes. This might have proven to be more cost effective (although more time consuming) than taking one of the tourist boats from Alicante. It is an option that may be worth researching.
Arrival at Tabarca is into a small and quaint harbour. The beach (and several seafood restaurants) is directly behind the harbour. Walk left to explore the "wilderness" side of the island (cacti, rugged coastlines, cicadas under feet, a lighthouse and a couple of abandoned brick buildings). Walk right to explore the small town, with a handful of restaurants, souvenir shops and a church.