The volcanic island of Fuerteventura (Spanish for “strong fortune”) is the second-largest of the Canary Islands (after Tenerife). Located about 100 km. off the North African coast, Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands – blessed with having the longest white sand beaches within that archipelago.
The Spaniards first settled in Fuerteventura during the early 1400s. However, since the island (along with other nearby Canary Islands) are geographically distant from mainland Spain and the Spanish crown in Madrid, Fuerteventura was subject to occasional pirate attacks, including one launched by North African Berbers in 1593 (who went as far inland as the capital), and the English in 1740 (which attempted but failed to take the Fuerteventura town of Tuineje), among others. No doubt, this and other Canary Islands were a port of call for successive waves of Spaniards en route to settle in the Americas – including Mexico and South America, and Cuba & Puerto Rico (when the two destinations were the last of Spain’s Latin American colonies in the 19th century).
With pirate attacks no longer being an issue by the 19th century, life at Fuerteventura became uneventful. Still, successive decades translated into limited commercial growth on the island (to commercial sea traffic). This remained the case well into the 20th century, until the Spanish government decided to build an airport at El Mattoral (just south of Puerto del Rosario — the island’s main town) in the late 1960s. With a functioning international airport, the Spanish authorities were able to tap into global commercial air travel as a solution to the island’s limited economic opportunities — with tourism being its engine of growth (especially from colder Northern European countries like the UK and Germany). As a result, the local population currently stands at 113,275 inhabitants, while 2.25 million tourists visited Fuerteventura in 2018 (according to surveyor Statista.com). That number is still modest, next to Gran Canaria (4.5 million visitors) and Tenerife (5.95 million visitors) in 2018.
Fuerteventura’s arid landscape meant that agriculture would always be a challenge, severely limiting the island’s population growth. Still, it made sense for Fuerteventura to turn to tourism for its economy, because the island is blessed with eternal Spring & Summer temperatures (meaning that it never goes below 15 degrees Celsius during the winter, nor rising above 30 degrees Celsius during the Summer). Its position in the sea means that trade winds usually keep hot Saharan winds away from Fuerteventura.
As a result, Fuerteventura is a great spot for windsurfers (especially those visiting Playa de Sotavento – on the southeast part of the island), along with Corralejo (a tourist enclave on the island’s north coast), and Costa Calma (which is not far from Sotavento). Other water activities pursued by visitors include traditional surfing, kite surfing and diving. Occasional windsurfing and kite surfing competitions are held at Fuerteventura, which literally puts it on the map among water sports enthusiasts.