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La Manga del Mar Menor (or simply La Manga) is essentially a very long, narrow stretch of land forming a natural border between two seas - the Mediterranean and Mar Menor (or "small sea"), Europe's largest lagoon whose waters' temperatures almost never drop far below 18 °C. Much like other resort destinations, La Manga really comes to life in summer, when sun-kissed vacationers bring a pleasant buzz to the narrow strip. Averaging about 300 meters in width, La Manga is a land spit where one is never too far from the beach, and being a destination popular with visitors it also boasts quite some tourist infrastructure. Apart from golfing, active pursuits in the area - unsurprisingly - revolve around water. Sporting equipment is available for hire, and popular sports range from canoeing to jet skiing and kite-surfing. The spit's two most popular areas are Zoco and Plaza Bohemia, while Cape Palos to the south is the closest field trip destination on the mainland. The sleek Tomas Maestre Marina is another unmissable spot, a departure point for boat tours and simply a pleasant location for an afternoon stroll.
The nearly 20 kilometer strip is where much revolves around beach-going and water sports (the area is also known for superb golf courses - Veneziola Golf enjoys quite some popularity), but further pursuits await on the mainland. Cape Palos, Calblanque Park and Punta Brava make for good day-trips, while the closest big city is Cartagena - a historic port settlement with plenty to explore.
Fish and seafood are the fundamental building blocks of regional cuisine - they feature prominently on restaurants' menus. Eateries abound in La Manga itself as well as the nearby Cape Palos, La Manga's slightly less tourist-geared southern neighbour. Seafront dining is, naturally, available throughout.
Quintessential La Manga cafes are the so-called "chiringuitos" - beach huts whose specialty is grilled fish (sardines cooked on a wood spit are rather typical). Another common local meal is the "caldero" - a rice dish cooked in flavourful fish broth, leaning almost more towards being a very thick soup than a main. The more classic variety of cafes with coffee and snacks dot the spit, too.
When it comes to nightlife, the choice in La Manga is to be made between the areas of Zoco and Plaza Bohemia, or one of the many relaxing beach bars along the strip's two shores (if an evening on the quieter side is what you happen to be looking for). One would need to take a trip south (off the strip) to find some of La Manga's rowdier, club-type establishments, most featuring open-air terraces and some set directly by the water.
La Manga itself might not exactly fit the definition of shoppers' paradise, but its surrounding area certainly has some attention-worthy shopping spots - the Sunday market in Cabo de Palos, for example, is a good place to go head for bargains on foodstuffs and clothing, while the Dos Mares mall north of the strip is the place to go for brand-name shopping. In La Manga itself, stay on the High Street and look around Zoco for best shopping opportunities.
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