History of Xàbia: the first 'beach bars' on Arenal Beach
Jávea.com | Xàbia.com

History of Xàbia: the first 'beach bars' on Arenal Beach

May 26 from 2024 - 08: 03

The history of the first beach bars, also known as 'merenderos', located in the Arenal Beach from Xàbia, are an example of hard work, family effort, innovation and adaptation to the arrival of tourism and its evolution. These establishments, pioneers in offering restaurant services by the sea, emerged in response to the needs of vacationers and in search of a business alternative.

From its humble beginnings to its evolution into large restaurants and meeting points. The beach bars are part of the history of seasonal businesses in Xàbia in the face of the urban and social transformations of the town.

The beginning of these establishments, now so desired, dates back to the mid-20th century, at a time when fishing and agriculture dominated the local economy. Some of the xabieros, entrepreneurs and visionaries decided to try their luck in a different business: beach hospitality.

Simple structures of wood and shade occupied the desert Arenal Beach to become the point of social and culinary activity. These establishments, set up and dismantled with each season, offered not only food and drinks, but also a place where locals and tourists could enjoy the sea, the sun and good company.

Diana, The Fontana, The Dolphin, nesfor and El Almendro were the pioneers in this adventure.


The pioneer in this business was the Diana beach bar. It was around 1955 when Gaspar Cruañes opened the doors of the beach bar, tired of working on the land and encouraged by his cousins, who encouraged him to open a bar in Arenal.

The beach bar was assembled and dismantled by hand every year, "we started after Easter so that it would be ready at the beginning of summer. Shaded areas, woods, the whole family worked in the business. We were about 10 people,” recalls María Cruañes, Gaspar's daughter, who adds that the beach bar was large. It was a removable wooden house with a bar, kitchen and capacity for about 150 people.

Buses full of tourists arrived daily, and María's mother cooked a variety of dishes: paellas, cocas, cruet, zarzuela and even baked meat. "They came from Alcoy to have lunch and spend the day on the beach," says María.

Gaspar implemented the charging of one peseta for occupying a table and chair without consuming and also for the use of a room to change swimsuits. Over the years, bathrooms were added to the establishment.


In fact, he tells us one of the anecdotes regarding the language: "a French family arrived and asked for 'poulét' - pronounced pulé -, my parents understand that it would be puree, so not having a mixer, my father leaves in bike to the port to buy one while my mother cooks the vegetables. Customers are starting to get desperate because they don't understand why it's taking so long. When my father arrives, they finish the dish and serve the puree, to which the customers indicate with sounds and mimes that what they wanted was chicken. "It was a laugh," says María and her sister Ángela. These types of stories filled everyday life at Diana with laughter.

Diana's day-to-day life continued without stopping. But in 1972 they had to leave the beach area after almost 20 years opening summer after summer. The works on the Paseo del Arenal force them to not be able to renew the permit and have to look for an alternative. And they do it at the back of the beach. In 1973 they opened and maintained it until 2000, although in 1985, when their mother died, the brothers also decided to separate themselves from the business.

María does not want to continue running the kitchen and only the brother who decides to close the work works, leaving in memory the preparation of dozens of paellas, reaching the kitchens with 100 kilos of rice in one day, or making paella for 300.

The dolphin

It was in 1962 when a new beach bar was installed on Arenal beach. This is El Delfín run by Jaume Iborra, owner of the Bar Noy del Arenal. Given the expropriation order for the construction of the Parador Nacional, Jaume is granted permission to settle in Arenal.

During the first season I had both stores open, but the beach bar barely offered drinks and chips; «It was like a kiosk, or at least that's what we called them. If anyone asked for a tapa, it was made at the Noy restaurant and we took it to the beach," say children Ana and Jaume Iborra.

Its name, painted on the hut by Antonio Espídos, was given "by the large number of dolphins that then approached the beach and could be easily seen," says Ana.

Already in 1963 and in the face of expropriation, the Iborra family began the season by expanding the house with a kitchen equipped with six burners to make paellas, a fryer, oven and bathroom. It had capacity for about 100 diners and about seven people worked. It remained open for 10 years.

The children remember what those long work days were like; «I remember it as a happy stage. We all helped. When we were younger we were on the beach under the surveillance of friends and clients, but then we faced the work day either serving or selling ice cream. Although yes, every morning you had to sift the sand, rake it...».

Come 1972 and faced with the impossibility of continuing for another year, the builder of the Arenal commercial premises, Agustín Miravet, a friend of the family, offers a commercial premises to Jaume so that he can continue with the business, thus installing a cafeteria called also El Delfín, which over time became a store.


In 1963, Vicente Fornés, tired of going out to sea to fish, looked for an alternative business and opened, on a lot located on the second line of the Arenal beach, a beach bar selling only drinks, shaded parking and rental of scooters. inflatables.

It is a summer-only business, and after two seasons, in 1965, he observed that this place was not making a profit and decided to set up a picnic area - old beach bars. It is located in the middle of the beach. There he installed a wooden shed that was expanded year after year.

The beach bar, called Nesfor - Fornés backwards - consisted of a shade made with reeds and blinds. A structure that was assembled in June and dismantled at the end of September. Then, every day, the sand had to be tidied up, wet and cleaned of food remains.

The venue, located inside the arena, only served meals, that is, it provided service at noon, feeding around 250 people a day.

It was structured in two areas, the part of the bar where you could only have a drink and the lounge, located in the middle of the sand, was divided into two: the food part and the part where you just had a snack.

Nesfor had about 11 workers each season: six in the kitchen, three waiters and two at the bar. The curious thing is that the waiters went barefoot so as not to kick up sand. The menu offered was paella, cuttlefish, salad, mussels and snails. The clients were regular: on weekends people from Xàbia, during the week tourists from France, Germany and other Spanish provinces.

In those years, permission to install the beach bar had to be requested annually until 1972 was the last year they provided service because the beach promenade and the first commercial premises were going to be built.

There, it was then, in 1973, when they moved to Avenida del Plà, but now as a restaurant and celebration hall - parties, weddings, baptisms and communions - with a capacity of more than 150 people.

The objective was to open at Easter and take advantage of the season, but the works on the river bridge as it passes through the Plà cause a delay and traffic interruption, so they open their doors in the month of June.

His career is long. 25 years later, in 1998, it closed its doors due to the retirement of the cook and owner. The family does not want to continue with the business and rents the premises; becoming an Asian restaurant for 10 years -from 2000 to 2010-.

But, over the years, nostalgia returns and Nesfor reopens. The first and second generation does it. Fornés' daughter learns to cook traditional rice dishes and takes charge of the kitchen with her children to bring back life to what was the family restaurant. They do it from 2012 to 2023, being a smaller venue that would house 40 people in the room and 60 on the terrace, but with the same essence.

Although now, yes, it has made its final closure, the Nesfor remains in the memory of many xabieros.


If we talk about entrepreneurs, we cannot leave La Fontana, the only one that is still active, as a restaurant, after 60 years. It was in 1963. But it is worth noting that Cantina la Fontana was also the only 'chiringuito' that remained open all year round. Hence, when the storms arrived, the structure of the bar of this business was flooded.

The beginnings of this current reference restaurant on Arenal beach that continues to focus on local gastronomy comes from the father of Pepe Cruañes 'Mollet'. La Fontana was one of the first beach bars to be installed on Arenal Beach. "We were a family of farmers who suddenly found ourselves involved in the hospitality sector," says Pepe Cruañes.

Cruañes says that "when there were still no roads, and access to the beach was a dirt road, my father bought 'La Barraqueta'." He Restaurant La Fontana It has evolved and adapted to the arrival of tourism and the modification of the Arenal beach itself.

Cruañes, who was the one who ran the restaurant with his family, passed on to the young people. His nephew Javi Vives is the one who now faces the management of this restaurant taking care of the details and maintaining the essence of his beginnings.

The Almond tree

It began its journey in 1963 in the port of Xàbia at the hands of the brothers Rafael and Joaquina Serrat. The beach bar belonged to a nurse and she transferred it to these brothers, calling it El Almendro because there was one of these trees next to it.

Over the years, and after opening only in the summer season, they moved to Arenal beach. It was in 1971. Tourism was beginning to arrive in Jávea. But only one year later, in 1972, they were no longer allowed to settle due to the construction works on the promenade, which led them to open a store at the southern end of the beach. It was a simple structure, made of reeds, which little by little expanded and created a restaurant, Restaurante El Almendro, which remained open for more than 30 years, opening only in the summer and closing its doors permanently in 2002.

From the beginning, El Almendro was characterized by its paellas, initially made by the mother of the Serrat brothers.

  1. Donoso Rose says:

    I started working with Joaquina in that restaurant and Rafael was about 21 years old.

  2. David Grove says:

    Another very interesting article about the history of Javea. Is there a book from which these articles are extracted?

  3. Teresa says: