The island of Fuerteventura is the second largest of Spain's Canary Islands -- 665 square meters -- and is the closest to the coast of Africa, with Morocco just 65 miles away. Around 100,000 people call Fuerteventura home, yet the goat population exceeds the number of humans. The islanders say Fuerteventura has the best climate of the Canary Islands. It certainly does not rain much, and the island has no permanent rivers, although dry riverbeds suggest that the skies open at least occasionally. The island is mountainous but offers good beaches and it's heaven for windsurfers, thanks to strong and steady winds on the south coast.
Tourism is the biggest industry on the island, and Fuerteventura has been a destination for package holidays since 1968. Today, the principal resorts are in the south and the north, while Puerto de Rosario, the small capital and the place where your ship docks, is located on the northwest coast.
Puerto del Rosario was known as Puerto de Cabras (port of goats) until 1956, when it adopted its current and more pleasant name, port of the rosary. The town has two notable sites, the home of the exiled poet Miguel de Unamuno, which is now a museum. The other is the culture center (Casa de la Cultura), where exhibitions, plays and concerts are held. However, planners recognize the need to develop the town to make it more attractive to visitors, and there are plans to build a municipal park and a quarter to serve the tourist industry.
Although tourism started in Fuerteventura quite late, there were many earlier visitors. These included the guanches, a people who came from Africa and who were the first humans to inhabit the island. In 1352, missionaries from Catalonia landed on the island, but they left after only a few years. In 1402, the Norman knight Jean de Bethencourt landed there under the sponsorship of the king of Castile. His force of 63 quickly conquered most of the island, although the mountainous interior took a little bit more work to bring under Bethencourt's control. Unlike in the cases of many islands conquered by Europeans, other powers showed little interest in Fuerteventura, and it has always remained under Castilian and, following the reconquista of 1492, Spanish rule.
Puerto del Rosario, the main town, has little to offer and so it pays off to explore rather than stay in the town. You can get a good glimpse of this island in just a day along scenic drives through its mountainous inner regions, where there are few signs of human activity. Expect to find great sand dunes, swimming and other outdoor activities.
Your ship docks in Puerto del Rosario, the capital of the island that has around 40,000 inhabitants. The harbor is the oldest part of town and is predominantly an industrial area. A new cruise ship pier was constructed features a rebuilt promenade with cafes and a tourist information center. Work is underway to construct a new marina, as of 2014.
The town center surrounds the pier, so it is a very short walk to shops, cafes and banks.
By Bus: There town has regular bus service. A 30-minute ride to the resort of Corralejo in the north (bus No. 6) will cost you 3.10 euros. The bus arrives once an hour.
By Taxi: Taxis are found on the quayside. Agree to a fare with the driver before venturing far outside town.
By Bicycle: You can hire a bicycle at FuerteBike, bookable through most hotel reception desks on the island. (629 362 795)
By Car: You can rent a car from local companies Cicar (928 86 05 77),
Avia Car (928 54 09 29) and Pepecar (902 99 66 66).
The euro is the currency. Several ATMs are located in Puerto del Rosario and at resorts. For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. Banks are open from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., but travel agencies and most hotels also have currency-exchange facilities. Credit cards are widely accepted. When paying by credit card, you may be asked to show your passport.
The island is part of Spain, and the locals speak Spanish, but many people in the tourist industry speak English, as well.
The islanders produce tasty sauces, such as mojo picon (paprika and chili), mojo verde (coriander and parsley) and gofio (roasted wholemeal flour), some of which you can taste free of charge with goat cheese at the Centro Insular de Artesania.
Casual: Abuelo Alfred serves excellent dishes made from local produce. The island gets so little rain that vines do not grow, although the restaurant sells palatable table wines. (Calle Real; 928 87 87 64; open noon to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday)
Traditional: Most of the restaurants on the island are in the resorts, such as Restaurante Tio Bernabe in Corralejo It serves mainly Canarian meat dishes grilled on an open fire. (Calle La Iglesia 9; 928 535895; open noon to midnight daily)
Local Eats: Molino de Antigua is surrounded by lush gardens. Food focuses on local specialties -- try papas arrugadas, small steamed potatoes, left with their skin on and covered in salt. (Carretera de Antigua; 928 878041; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday)
Local crafts make a good buy for yourself or to take home, such as embroidered table linen, blankets, wickerwork products, pottery, and straw hats. If you're musically inclined, then it might be worth your while to have a look at the violins and guitars which are on sale throughout the island.