We lived in Puerto Banus for 4 years and during that time I regularly drove the kids to Bolonia beach to spend the day there. People always asked me why I would drive for over an hour to go to a beach when I lived right next to the 'golden mile' but anyone I took there understood. Bolonia was always a well kept secret back in 2002 and I remember seeing mainly Spanish and some occasional German and English visitors at that time.
Ten years on it's just as beautiful as I remember but with much better facilities for visitors. To sit and watch the sunset from the top of the dune or a chiringuita is still a magical way to spend an evening. There are now 3 chiringuitas that offer typical Spanish cafe food and some new, much needed and very clean beach side toilet and shower areas that will cost you 50c a visit! The Roman ruins are easily accessible if you want a bit of culture but check the opening times or you will have to peer through the fencing from the beach.
Bolonia has (I'm told by Spanish friends) the largest sand dune in Europe. The beach is really long with clean, soft golden sand and as it sweeps around it culminates in the huge sand dune that you see in the photographs. You will note the people trying to climb to the top of the dune but it's a hard climb in the heat of the summer and can take up to an 45min-1 hour or more with kids in tow.. It's on the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Mediterranean so the sand is golden and the sea will always be rougher than Marbella.The water is beautiful- really clear and great waves for body boarding. Be warned that Tarifa is a centre for wind and kite surfing for good reason- it will always be windy there -the wind seems to pick from the morning and get stronger towards the afternoon.The kite and windsurfers congregate at Tarifa town beaches and especially Punta Paloma the beach before Bolonia-you won't see any at Bolonia beach.The beach is consequently safe for children as long as they are supervised as the wind direction and current tends to move swimmers along the beach towards the sand dune end and it's easy to lose your bearings and the view of your pitch. I would recommend arriving early (by 10/11am-the Chiringuitas open at 11.30am-12 I think) in peak season-July/August and pitching in the area just past the roman ruins as it tends to be less busy (never as busy as Marbella beaches) as people arrive and it's near the chiringuita by the ruins. On arrival if you park by the central chiringuita where the road inland to the beach terminates, you will pay 2 euros to park all day. If you are planning on staying for the day and you have children (or not)you must take some form of shelter as the cooling effect of the wind gives the impression that the sun is not as ferocious as it actually is. I have seen very serious cases of sunburnt kids at the end of a day at Bolonia. I have an open fronted beach tent which is perfect but I saw lots of pop up tents which are just as good and light to pack in your luggage. They give better shelter than beach umbrellas and have the advantage that you can weigh them down inside (to avoid tent surfing!) with some of the large stones that are scattered over the beach (another reason for arriving early!)A bright tent also makes it easier for the family to find each other on the beach.
One last point-To get to Bolonia from Marbella you take the motorway (Toll Road is better) past Gibraltar towards Algeciras.From Algeciras the motorway ends and becomes the coast road.Follow the signs to Tarifa, pass the turn off to Tarifa town and keep going. You will see the beach of Punta Paloma in the distance.Follow the road along and pass the left turn sign to Punta Paloma (Dove point) continue on the road until you see a small sign 'Playa de Bolonia' pointing to the left.There's a little fruit shop at the turning where it's good to stock up on fruit, veg and water if you're taking a picnic with you. The road then continues inland for about 10 minutes winding through a valley until eventually Bolonia beach and it's enormous sand dune comes into view. The winding drive along the mountainous coast to Bolonia can be a little hair raising and it's not well lit for a drive home in the dark.It's easy to miss the turning to Bolonia beach from the main road. It's better to come early and come back in the light or book a night in one of the hotels en route before you go-last minute accommodation is difficult to find in the nice hotels in July/Aug. I stayed years ago at the Hurricane hotel which was great, I remember another hotel 100% Fun was basic but did offer a good value family room-check out some recent reviews on TA . There are also lots of camp sites along the beach road from Tarifa town to Bolonia but availability in peak season may be a problem. Some of the big hotels and resorts such as Marriotts Playa Andaluza run day trips by coach to Bolonia beach which include lunch and a visit to the Roman ruins. That may be a more relaxing option but I don't think you'll get to see the magnificent sunset or climb to the top of the dune. Either way if you get the chance go and see it you won't be disappointed but be prepared for the elements.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.