Cíes Islands 2024: Caribbean in Europe or a natural paradise?

Praia de Rodas, uma das praias mais bonitas do mundo.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the Cíes Islands in Galicia, Spain. I acknowledge that the title is a bit challenging, but visiting the Cíes is also a challenge! Stick around and see what I mean.

It’s a constant challenge, both to get there and to be there, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it!

And because I believe that the Cíes are a place that deserves to be explored with respect, throughout this article you will find suggestions on what to do in the Cíes, including the best beaches, hiking trails, and precautions to take.

I also include information on how to get there and the location of the Cíes Islands, and I also answer the questions that I believe visitors have when they visit this region for the first time!

Furthermore, I also share with you my experience visiting this paradise, and (spoiler alert!) I loved every minute.

Fun fact: In 2007, The Guardian named Rodas Beach in the Cíes Islands as the most beautiful beach in the world!

What to do and see on the Cíes Islands

Exploring the beaches of Cíes

Praia de areia branca, praticamente deserta, nas Ilhas Cíes.
Cíes: White-sand beach, nearly deserted.
Praia de Figueiras, nas Ilhas Cíes.
Figueiras Beach.
Praia paradisíaca nas Ilhas Cíes.
Beautiful Beach.
Praia de Rodas.
Rodas Beach.
Praias nas Ilhas Cíes.
Beaches on the Cíes.
Trilho junto à praia.
Footpath along the beach.
Conhecer as praias das Cíes.
Exploring the beaches of Cíes.
Mar de gente numa praia nas Ilhas Cíes.
Crowded beach scene in the Cíes.
Conhecer as praias das Cíes.
Discovering the beaches of the Cíes Islands.
Praia com poucas pessoas nas Ilhas Cíes.
Beach with few people.
Mar agitado nas Ilhas Cíes.
Rough sea.
Praia escondida nas Ilhas Cíes.
Hidden beach in the Cíes Islands.

There’s a reason why the Cíes are called the Caribbean of Europe, as the fine white sand and transparent waters with different vibrant shades of blue evoke memories of beaches in Mexico, Cuba, or the Dominican Republic!

However, despite understanding the comparison, let’s give credit where it’s due; the Cíes Islands are not the Caribbean.

Now, I have no doubt in saying that the beaches of the Cíes Islands are BEAUTIFUL!

Surely everyone has their preference, but my favorite beach in the Cíes is Bólos Beach.

The truth is, because this beach is farther from the ferry landing dock, many people choose Rodas Beach to spend the day and miss out on other beaches in the Cíes, which is a shame.

By the way, Figueiras Beach is a nudist beach and usually has fewer people.

Trails and hikes in Cíes Islands

Trilho Roda do Alto do Principe.
Trail “Alto do Principe”.
Percursos pedestres nas Ilhas Cíes.
Hiking trails.
Miradouro nas Ilhas Cíes.
Viewpoint on the Cíes Islands.
Andar a pé nas Ilhas Cíes.
Walking at enjoying nature.
Natureza no interior das Ilhas Cíes.
Nature within the Island.
Vestígios arqueológicos nas Ilhas Cíes.
Archaeological remains.

Did you know that you can discover the Cíes Islands by hiking? Well, there are four routes that allow you to explore this magnificent territory in depth, with the advantage of being properly signposted.

So, choose the one that appeals to you the most, and if you have time, do more than one!

  • Mount Faro Route: 7 kilometers, not circular, medium difficulty, and duration of 2h30.
  • Porta Lighthouse Route: 5 kilometers, not circular, low difficulty, and duration of 1h30.
  • Prince’s Peak Route: 3 kilometers, not circular, low difficulty, and duration of 1h.
  • Mount Agudo Route: 5.5 kilometers, not circular, medium difficulty, and duration of 1h45.

Watch the sunset at the Cies Lighthouse

Fim de dia na praia.
End of the day at the beach.
Subir ao miradouro, com o Farol no horizonte.
Climbing up to the viewpoint, with the lighthouse on the horizon.

The Cies Lighthouse is the ideal spot to observe the sunset, as it is quite high and offers an incredible view of the ocean.

However, if you visit the islands during the day and don’t spend the night there, I still recommend enjoying the views from the lighthouse.

By the way, there are three lighthouses on the Cies Islands: the Cies Lighthouse, the Porta Lighthouse, and the Peito Lighthouse, and although I find the first one the most beautiful in terms of landscape, it’s worth visiting the others for the stroll and not so much for the lighthouse itself.

Day trip to the Cies Islands: our experience

Visitar as Ilhas Cíes em família.
Visiting the Island with family.
Praia (quase) deserta nas Ilhas Cíes.
(Almost) Deserted beach in the Cíes Islands.
Praia de água turquesa e areia fina.
Beach with turquoise water and fine sand.
Dia de praia em família.
Beach day.
Mar agitado.
Rough sea.
Regresso de barco.
Boat return.

We left home around seven in the morning, as we had a journey of about 150 kilometers to Vigo, where we caught the ferry to the Cíes Islands.

The ferry ticket was purchased on the spot, and we headed to the boarding dock.

Expectations were high because we had heard wonders about this place. But we were also warned that the water would be very cold, which is 100% true.

In fact, being used to the cold waters of the beaches in Northern Portugal, I must confess that I couldn’t bring myself to swim in the Cíes..

However, traveling to the Cíes Islands is not just about going to the beach, as the island’s interior has well-signposted trails worth exploring.

Furthermore, from the highest point of the island, you can see the sea and the beaches.

Everything you need to know before traveling to the Cíes Islands

Where are the Cíes Islands located?

Parque Nacional Marítimo-Terrestre das Ilhas Atlânticas.
Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands.
Praia de Rodas, uma das praias mais bonitas do mundo.
Rodas Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

The Cíes Islands are an archipelago with three main islands: Monteagudo Island or North Island, Faro Island, also known as Middle Island, and San Martiño Island or South Island.

They are located at the entrance of the Vigo estuary, that is, they are part of the Province of Pontevedra, in Galicia.

The Cíes are a protected area and are part of the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands.

This region was inhabited by monks during the Middle Ages, but there is archaeological evidence showing that humans have inhabited these islands since 3500 BC.

Is it possible to visit all the Cíes Islands?

Miradouro, onde se vêem as Ilhas Cíes.
Passagem a pé nas Ilhas Cíes.
Footpath near the beach.
Ligação de areia entre a ilha de Monteagudo e a Ilha De Faro.
Sand connection between Monteagudo Island and Faro Island.

Yes, it is possible to visit all the Cíes Islands, but it’s not easy.

This is because the ferry docks at Monteagudo Island, which has a land connection to Faro Island.

However, only private boats can go to San Martiño Island, as there is no land connection to the other two islands in the archipelago.

How do you get to Playa de Rodas?

Playa de Rodas is the first beach you encounter when exiting the ferry boat.

How do you get to the Cíes Islands?

Barco da Empresa Mar de Ons.
Boat from Mar de Ons Company.

Visiting the Cíes is possible via ferry or private or rental boat, with the journey taking between 40-45 minutes.

In other words, the simplest way is to take the ferry from Vigo, Baiona, Cangas, Porto Novo, and Sanxenxo, but this ferry is only available in the summer and during Holy Week. During the ferry’s operating period, there are departures every day.

Furthermore, as it is a protected area, only 1800 people per day can visit the islands. Therefore, it is advisable to book your ferry ticket in advance to secure your spot.

Private or rental boats also need to request permission to dock at the Cíes Islands.

How much does it cost to go to the Cíes Islands?

Barco de Vigo para as Ilhas Cies (ferry).
Boat from Vig (ferry).

The regular ticket for traveling to the Cíes from Vigo, Cangas, and Baiona costs €22.50, with children aged 5-12 paying €10 and younger ones going for free.

However, for advance purchases, there are discounts, and it’s possible to find tickets tickets online starting from €21.

Is there accommodation on the Cíes Islands?

Parque de campismo nas Ilhas Cíes.
Tendas de campismo nas Ilhas Cíes.
Camping tents.

There is only one campground, as most visitors choose to go and return on the same day.

Are there restaurants on the Cíes Islands?

Gelados no Restaurante nas Ilhas Cíes.
Ice cream at the restaurant on the Cíes Islands.
Restaurante nas Ilhas Cíes.
Restaurant on the Cíes.

On the Cíes Islands, there are two restaurants, the Rodas Restaurante and the Tapería Illas Cíes Restaurant, but many people prefer to bring a picnic and eat on the beach.

Speaking of food on the beaches, there are no trash cans on the Cíes Islands, so on the ferry, they distribute garbage bags for you to collect your trash and take it back with you.

Furthermore, the seagulls are quite bold and don’t hesitate to steal food on the beach. Be careful!

Safety rules when visiting the Cíes Islands

Usar sapatilhas fechadas nos trilhos das Ilhas Cíes.
Wearing closed-toe shoes on the trails of the Cíes Islands.
Trilho de terra batida.
Dirt trail.
Sinalização dos trilhos, no interior da ilha.
Trail signage, inland on the island.
Trilhos marcados nas Ilhas Cíes.
Marked trails on the Cíes.
Zona de reserva natural, nas Ilhas Cíes.
Nature reserve area on the Cíes Islands.
Painel informativo praia de Figueiras (praia de nudismo).
Information panel at Figueiras Beach (nudist beach).
Gaivota pousada numa rocha.
Seagull perched on a rock.

Exploring the Cíes Islands is an incredible experience, but be sure to ensure the preservation of the environment and your safety.

Stay on designated trails, exploring the landscapes without harming the unique biodiversity. Be mindful of the mischievous seagulls known for stealing food, ensuring your snacks are secure.

Remember to bring water with you to stay hydrated throughout the day and consider wearing appropriate clothing, such as a hat and closed-toe shoes, especially on rough trails.

Given the sun exposure, generously apply biodegradable sunscreen to protect your skin from UV rays.

Carry a small first aid kit with basic items like band-aids and pain relievers, and make sure your phone is charged for emergencies.

Avoid touching local plants and animals to preserve the islands’ delicate ecosystem, check the weather forecast before your trip, and be prepared for sudden weather changes.

It’s a good idea to know the tide times, especially if you’re planning beach walks, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Additionally, bring snacks and a bag to collect your trash. Therefore, keep the islands clean and contribute to environmental preservation.

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