Naval Station Rota, Spain (NAVSTA Rota) is a beautiful Navy base located in Southern Spain. Called “the Gateway to the Mediterranean,” the port sits on the Atlantic Coast, but is only a few hours from Gibraltar, Mallorca, and other Mediterranean destinations. It’s a small base, with the main buildings all within a mile of the port. There are busses to take you from port to the NEX shopping Center, and from there, you can walk or grab a taxi to the destinations below.
There’s plenty to do on base, off base, and in the surrounding towns, so keep reading and make your libbo plans before the ship pulls into port!
Top 7 things to do in Rota, Spain
1. Get essentials from the NEX. When ships pull into port, they can almost double the on-base population. This means longer lines for everything and a shortage of supplies at the NEX and Commissary. If you need to stock up on cigarettes, razors, snacks, or other essentials, then go here directly from the ship. That way, you’ll avoid the empty shelves at the end of the weekend.
2. Check out MWR tours. Rota is an active base with a small number of permanent personnel stationed there, but a large number of troops come through on ships — some of who remain for a deployment. The base MWR office plans weekly activities. You can find them listed in the Vamos magazine, on their website, or by calling 727-1517 (on base). MWR plans bus rides to local towns, flamenco shows, and castle visits. They handle the transportation and the local guide, so you can just relax and take in the sights.
3. Sign up for Outdoor Rec. Whether you want to rent a bike or SCUBA gear, go on a rock climbing excursion, find local hiking trails, or ride quads in Tarifa, the Outdoor Rec Center is the place to begin. They can fill you in on group activities (listed in the Vamos magazine) or help you plan your own adventure.
4. Visit the Liberty Center: If you need a place to relax or get Internet access, the Liberty Center has a lounge, TVs, computers, and pool tables to enjoy. They also host regular events for single service members, like movie and bowling nights, sports competitions, or trips to local restaurants.
5. If you don’t have a car, walk through Rota: You can easily walk out the Rota gate and downhill through the town. There’s a Welcome Center to your left just as you walk out the gate where you can grab a map or ask questions. Visit the town hall (a 13th century castle), a medieval church, the beach paseo (boardwalk), and have lunch at any of the restaurants near the water.
6. Go golfing. The base has a nice golf course with low rates for service members. They host regular tournaments and events, or you can rent clubs and play a round on your own. If golf isn’t your thing, round up some friends to enjoy the Foot-Golf course, which is set up to play with a soccer ball.
7. Enjoy Spanish food. While Spanish food is not at all like Mexican food (it’s much more mild and based on fresh, Mediterranean ingredients), it is refreshing and delicious. To eat, try paella (rice and seafood), tortilla (an egg and potato dish), gazpacho (cold tomato soup), or any fresh seafood. To drink, don’t miss out on sangria (chilled wine with fruit) or a cerveza (beer).
If you have a car:
You can rent a car on base at the airport, or off base, just outside the Rota gate. You just need ID and a valid American driver’s license to reserve a vehicle. It will be more cost-effective if you team up to rent with some friends. Rental cars are typically stick shift, so make sure someone in the group can drive manual. Having a car will give you access to the town of El Puerto (just a few miles outside the base Puerto gate) and any other towns in Southern Spain that are within your liberty limits.
Here are some of the most popular:
1. Spend a day in Cadiz. This city just 40 minutes from Rota has a great history museum, church, and amazing seafood. It’s a gorgeous city with plenty of parks and unique architecture, and it holds the honor or being one of Europe’s longest continuously-inhabited cities — 2,000 years of constant development and counting!
2. Drive to Seville. Over an hour North of Rota is the royal city of Sevilla, once the port where all the New World gold passed through. The medieval cathedral and alcazar (castle) are both gorgeous and worth the visit. This is also a great location to purchase colorful Spanish pottery.
3. Go to Gibraltar for a day. You’ll need a passport to visit Gibraltar because it is not part of Spain! The town actually belongs to England as an overseas territory. The residents there speak English, eat fish and chips, and have occasional parades of British soldiers. After enjoying lunch at one of the pubs around the main square, take the tour up the Rock to see the monkeys and the Pillar of Hercules.
4.See Roman ruins. The Roman town of Baelo Claudia has been excavated and partially restored, near the Spanish city of Bolonia. A quick day trip will let you walk through the ancient avenues, see the amphitheater, and marvel at the pillars of the public forum. This seaside port was once a bustling Roman town, and on a clear day you can see the coast of Africa. There are other places to see Roman ruins in Spain (statues in the history museums of Cadiz or Seville, aqueducts in Segovia, the theater in Merida), but Baelo Claudia is the closest day-trip to Rota.
Things NOT to do in Rota, Spain:
1. Avoid the forbidden clubs. Your libbo safety brief will probably include a list of establishments not to visit within the town of Rota. There are a few bars and clubs that are off-limits to service members. These establishments are on the list either because of illegal substances, or because they have experienced too many service member-related fights inside. Steer clear. Shore Patrol knows these locations and will check them regularly.
2. Don’t go to Morocco: Although the African city of Tangiers is just a ferry ride away from the Spanish town of Tarifa, service members are generally restricted from traveling to Africa. Not only would you need a passport, but you also need written permission from your CO because of occasional political unrest in Morocco.