CIES ISLANDS, Vigo, Spain — The sand was so white and the ocean so perfectly aquamarine that the beach could have been mistaken for a tranquil Caribbean escape. Put your foot in the water, however, and you’re quickly reminded that this is an island off the coast of northern Spain, not Aruba. The ocean here is best for those with the fortitude to brave summers swimming in Maine. The polite euphemism for this is refreshing.
Despite the chill in the ocean, the Cíes Islands are an undiscovered gem to many outside of Europe. One brazen British travel writer even declared it the top beach in the world. Locals, and a few smart tourists, pack the ferries that depart from the small city of Vigo daily during the summer months. Because the Cíes Islands are a nature sanctuary and only reachable by boat, the number of visitors is restricted to 2,200 a day. Reserving a spot on the ferry in advance is a necessity.
The Cíes Islands may be a nature sanctuary, but I felt as if they were my personal sanctuary for the day when I visited last month. The islands are actually an archipelago. You can find the spectacular Playa de Rodas, a small crescent of sandy perfection, connecting the twin islands of Monteagudo and Faro.