Considering it's in the Basque Country, the beach in Hondarribia is actually much broader than most along this part of the coast. Perhaps because it's trying to outdo the nearby beach of Hendaya, located on the other side of the border in France.
The construction of a tidal breakwater and other minor works carried out by the engineer Iribarren, after whom the seafront promenade was named in 2000, led to this beach undergoing partial modification. As part of the building work, a leisure and sports marina was added on, thus creating an area for trade as well as somewhere to enjoy free-time activities, with pedestrianized pathways, local shops, sports clubs and ample space for a carpark, which also provides an area for the many markets and trade fairs that pass through the area. This renovated space represents the natural advancement of a place which has lived its entire life dedicated to the sea.
At the end of the Promenade is Hondarribia's fishing port, managed by the Cofradía de Mareantes de San Pedro, or St Peter's Brotherhood of Seafarers, that was established just a few years back – 1321 to be precise!
Hondarribia's fishing port continues to be active and is the most important of its kind in Gipuzkoa, along with that of Getaria, though it is gradually on the decline. Just think, at the start of the 1990s, Hondarribia had a fishing fleet of almost 60 vessels and in 2004 only 35 remained. Some of them, the smallest ones, are used for catching mackerel, horse mackerel, anchovies and even tunafish, while the larger vessels are used by indpendent fishermen for the capture of hake and albacore fish, as well as to collect seaweed.
But don't let all these facts lead you to believe that this is not a place worth seeing. Nothing could be further from the truth! At the end of the port, where the jetty enters open waters but before climbing the slope up to the lighthouse, you find yourself slap bang in the middle of the setting for “Battle of Britain”. In the popular movie, filmed in the summer of 1968, the port and aforementioned slope were used to represent a part of the nazi-occupied French coast.
A little further on from where this scene was filmed one can still see a little castle which bears the name “de los piratas”, or “Pirates' Castle”. The castle was built not so much as a means to capture Blackbeard and other frequent visitors to Tortuga Island, but rather unfortunate sailors from French Corsica who - according to International Law – would be labelled as dirty pirates as soon as they entered the beach at Hondarribia.
An incident which took place towards the end of the 17th century offers a small insight into how the residents of Hondarribia operated in those days, as they even fired their cannons at the armed fleet of France's Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King.
To end, a little tip: take a seat anywhere along one of the jetties that look out at sea and take your time to breath in the sea air; it's a great plan for anyone who takes pleasure in the little luxuries life has to offer.