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.