A Private Island Like No Other: A Creba, Spain – Review

By Margaret Hussey

2 weeks ago

Think a private island is not for you? Think again.


Margaret Hussey goes ashore at the luxuriously understated A Creba, a private island in Spain.

Read the C&TH Guide To Responsible Tourism

Review: A Creba, Spain

Outdoor pool with a sun loungers and a view of the mountains.

You know you truly feel at home when the island’s pet dogs come up to greet you, tails wagging.

We are on the private island of A Creba, near Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain. This beautiful spot is owned by the unshowy Penas family, who have recently opened up their holiday home to guests.

Jose Penas, whose grandfather bought the island as a rock in the 1970s, says their aim was to create a home-from-home feel. And with dogs like Pipo and Lua – not forgetting resident donkeys Dora and Lupita – they are already achieving that. The island and house can be rented out in its entirety for ten guests, and it has five beautifully furnished suites.

Jose tells me: ‘With the house, we wanted to do something with its spirit, keep it authentic. You come and you feel the energy.  With the materials we use, we always try to make a balance in what we do, to do things in proportion. We don’t do it to impress people.’

That’s apparent throughout the property. Finds that have washed up over the years or were discovered during renovation have been reused. Diving ephemera has been repurposed as plant pots, there are giant anchors at the entrance gates, and on the house’s substantial outdoor lounge there’s an impressive rib bone of a whale.

‘Me and my family are crazy for things that are lost or underwater,’ says Jose. ‘We found that part of a whale rib near the house. We cleaned it and put it up because it is part of the history of Galicia. We want people to know about our culture.’

Being in the north west of Spain, Galicia is very different from the Mediterranean south. Summers are not as hot, there’s a huge gastronomic scene – Galicia has 17 Michelin star restaurants – and the vibe is much more relaxed.

‘You are not coming here for something like Ibiza,’ says Jose. ‘You come here for the environment, for fishing, for water sports, for wellness. It’s a very relaxed place. Galicia is like Scotland, but Spanish style. It’s very Celtic. It’s one of the best parts of the country for food.

‘The North is not for everyone. It’s for people that want something different, who have a different mindset and want to discover another culture.’

Dining room with long wooden table, mosaic chandelier and a view of the mountains.

A Creba is in the Muros y Noya estuary off the Atlantic coast. If seafood is your thing, you will be spoilt for choice here. Octopus is a staple as is John Dory, clams, mussels and the bizarre-looking goose barnacles.

We take a boat trip to see mussel farmers Xindo Amado and Michaela Lago, who tell us about life out on the water. Their eucalyptus-wood farming platforms have 500 ropes hanging from them, with mussels taking up to a year to grow. Good growing conditions are cold, nutrient-rich water, which this estuary has in abundance. It’s a tough job but one which they obviously enjoy, as their knowledge and enthusiasm is infectious. On our way home, armed with a bag of mussels which becomes that evening’s supper, we spot a pod of bottlenose dolphins jumping joyfully in the water. We whoop from our boat as they carry on their display to their new audience.

Back at A Creba, the mussels are handed over to the kitchen. There are on-site private chefs, who will cook traditional Galician dishes or whatever your dietary choices are. Before arriving they send you a questionnaire about your likes and dislikes and you can order any food preferences in advance – from oat milk to Marmite.

There are fruit trees on the island too – the lemon in my preprandial gin and tonic tasted amazing – and the family has plans for a kitchen garden on site, as well as chickens.

Jose says his family have been living with an organic food philosophy for a long time. The majority of their produce is sourced from locals less than a kilometre away. ‘My grandfather is a farmer at heart,’ he tells me. ‘Even though he’s a successful businessman and has hotels and supermarkets, he’s crazy about fruit and vegetables.’

This green philosophy extends to the house. ‘When we built the house, we didn’t want to disrupt the environment, it’s as if the house was born here,’ says Jose.

Bedroom with a desk, king-size bed and a model ship on the wall.

At the moment they are 90 per cent sustainable thanks to solar panels, wind and biomass from willow wood chip. There’s a sustainably heated outdoor pool and hot tub.

When Jose’s grandfather bought the island 50 years ago (‘for the price of a small car at the time’) there was hardly any vegetation. They have sensitively planted and landscaped it with Mediterranean pine trees, which smell heavenly when you go for a morning run or evening stroll.

The majority of tourists coming to Galicia are here for a different kind of walk, however: the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, which finishes in the capital. A Creba is about 40 minutes from Santiago de Compostela and a six minute boat ride from Portosín and well worth a trip either on your way to the island or on your way back.

Outside the impressive cathedral you will see dozens of groups of emotional walkers hugging each other after finishing their journey. The cathedral is said to house the relics of St James (‘Santiago’ in Spanish) who was one of Jesus’s apostles.

Grab a coffee and Tarta de Santiago, a delicious almond cake, at the cute Paradiso Cafeteira and just amble around the winding streets. Staff at A Creba will also help with suggestions for excursions up the coast to Fisterra, water sports or visits to wineries. I can vouch that the local Albariño is delicious. Sipping a glass of that as the sun set while cuddling Pipo and Lua was pretty magical.

A cliffside with deck chairs and a fire, photographed at sunset.

And if you still haven’t relaxed by this stage – highly unlikely – you can unwind in their treatment room with anything from foot reflexology from to lymphatic drainage or cupping. There’s also a very well-equipped gym.

The Penas family has pretty much thought of everything. And that’s because family is at the heart of it all.

‘We like to spend time with our family and with things that make us happy,’ says Jose. ‘We want to be one of the most recognised places for luxury, sensitive tourism. This place is very special. It has its own niche.’ It certainly has.

BOOK IT

Stays at A Creba Private Island are from €9,200  per night with a minimum of two nights, and include full-board dining, local airport transfers, non-motorised watersports and daily housekeeping. acrebaisland.com

Margaret’s return flight had a carbon footprint of approximately 0.411 tonnes of CO2. ecollectivecarbon.com


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