Cíes Islands are one of the most famous spots in Rías Baixas, Galicia. They are located on the mouth of Ría de Vigo, blocking the wild Atlantic ocean and protecting the bay. But they are also a unique natural paradise comprised of three islands: Faro, Monteagudo and San Martiño.
Faro and de Monteagudo Islands are the most visited and photographed ones. They are perfect for trekking and nature lovers but also for those looking to sunbathe in the worldwide known beach of Rodas. And if you are interested in perfect spots to watch the stars at night, they also belong to the Starlight touristic spots.
But, what should you know before you head into Cíes and the Natural Park of Illas Atlánticas?
5 pro tips to enjoy a trip to Cíes Islands at Ría de Vigo, Galicia
Getting to Cíes Islands in fashion
Access to Cíes Islands is controlled by the National Park of Atlantic Islands (Parque Nacional Illas Atlánticas) and is limited to a closed number of visitors per day. This has made most people choose the standard transport to Cíes, a ferry-like boat that takes you from Vigo, Baiona, Portonovo or Sanxenxo to the harbor by Rodas beach.
It is easier than aplying for anchorage, fairly cheap and you can book your tickets online at Piratas de Nabia, Mar de Ons o Cruceros Rías Baixas(Spanish). Plus you choose your own timetable for the trip.
But, if you are looking to experience a more interesting trip there, rent a private boats (you need to get authorized for anchorage before heading to Cíes) or a private tour to Cíes. It is the only way you can visit the third island and you will be able to do it on a catamaran, a schooner or any other interesting vessel (the standard boat is a bit, wel… standard.)
Plan your visit ahead
Since the Natural Park has daily limits on the number o people visiting the islands, Summer season can become a bit difficult for booking your trip or getting authorized to sail there. Add to that: the nice but moody Galician weather (regular boats might not return your ticket fare due to weather conditions so check the cancellation policy before you book).
Also, if you are not planning to visit on Summer, take into account that regular ships are not all-year-round. Daily boats run from June to September (with cheaper tickets and other offers in June and September) and some weekends in May and Easter and other major bank holidays when there is good weather.
Having said that, if you didn’t get tickets for your desired date, try again on the same day (or the day before) at the ticket counter in Vigo. They get cancellations every once in a while and it could be your lucky day.
Extra: if you want to sleep at the camping site (the only option in the Islands) book ahead and buy the tickets at the same time. They are separate companies.
Keep your ticket at hand
Since the park has limited access, both authorization and standard tickets are untransferable and fixed-date (and hour). You won’t find ticket offices on the Islands to change the ticket or buy another one if you want to return earlier (or later). Plus, the boat won’t wait for you.
Having said that, you will need your ticket or your authorization for the boat if you plan to camp at Cíes Islands. And the park guards can request it during your visit, son don’t leave it at home (no, there is no mobile ticket or similar, you will need the paper one to board the boat back home, so remember to exchange your reservation code for a real ticket before you head to the boat.)
What things should you take to Cíes Islands?
Ok, you thought right, the basic things are: towels, flip flops, sun cream, cash, the ferry ticket, id cards… but there are some extras that you shouldn’t forget:
Boots or walking shoes. There is not only beaches on the Cíes Islands. Unless you are planning to sunbathe all day long, which you can do everywhere else in Rías Baixas, you will need proper shoes to trek the islands and see the birds and climb to the lighthouse.
Food and water. Although there are some places to buy drinks and food near the dock on Rodas Beaches and at the Camping, you will find it’s expensive (for an average Galician store) and there aren’t plenty of choices. We recommended taking some food and water, specially if you plan to go to Figueras Beach or visit the cliffs. Also, restaurants and bars are closed during low season.
Basic Rules to enjoy Cíes Islands.
In addition to the daily limit of visits, there are a series of restrictions that are set to protect the environment of the Natural Park of Illas Atlánticas. Follow some basic rules and you’ll be ok, but just in case:
Don’t bring pets: the fauna and flora can’t be bothered, so it is forbidden to introduce pets with the exception of guide dogs. Also: stick to the paths, don’t take shells or pluck plants. And never plan for free camping.
If you want to sleep there, there is a camping site with some small bungalows and tents you can rent (or bring your own). More information at their site.
Take your garbage with you (and bring your own trash bag). You’ll have to take all your garbage back with you when you leave the islands and there are no garbage bins around, so don’t leave your stuff behind.
Some extra info
Regular transport to Cíes Islands is available by ship during Summer and some weekends of May and Easter. They connect the main islands with Vigo, Cangas and Baiona.
Other ships need to request a permit for sailing and anchorage. More info: Atlantic Islands National Park website.
How to get there
By boat from Vigo, Cangas do Morrazo, Sanxenxo o Portonovo.
By train: Nearest train station is in Vigo. Renfe operates direct trains from A Coruña, Santiago de Compostela and even Madrid, Barcelona and Portugal (via Porto) on a daily basis.
By plane: Nearest airport is Vigo airport (VGO 20km), next are Santiago de Compostela (SCQ 101km) and Porto (OPO 150km).