The Vaporcito del Puerto. Cadiz

A ship with a lot of history

The Vaporcito del Puerto. Cadiz

The Vaporcito del Puerto. Cadiz 1200 630 Andalucia360

The Vaporcito is a boat that crosses the Bay of Cadiz

It is a good option to enjoy the Bay of Cadiz by boat. The old Vapor del Puerto or Vaporcito is now a modern catamaran that works as public transport and connects Cádiz with Puerto de Santa María.

NOTE: Andalucía 360 Travel is not the official website of the Cadiz Catamaran. Tickets for the trip must be purchased at the port ticket offices or at the authorised tobacconists. We tell you about our experience and a little bit of history.

Our recommendation is to take the boat early, stroll through the centre of Puerto de Santa María, eat “pescaito” (some fish) in one of its bars and set sail back. We show you the trip in the video above. 

catamaran cadiz

Port of Cádiz from a small steamer.

When leaving Cadiz you will see the spectacular bridge of La Pepa (bridge of the Constitution of 1812) from a different point of view. You will also come across many sailing boats sailing in the calm waters of the Bay. You will feel the sea breeze on the upper deck of the boat where there are rows of open-air seats. To port (left) you can see Rota, its military base and the mouth of the Bay. To starboard you will see the Cabezuela dock, where the shipyards are located, and the enormous Valdelagrana beach.

Puerto de Cadiz

Port of Cádiz. In the centre are the towers of the Cathedral.

The mooring in Puerto de Santa María is located in the Guadalete river. Access to the river is between breakwaters. If you look closely, on the starboard side of the dock you will see a dilapidated boat out of the water. It is the old Varporcito del Puerto, a charismatic boat that many would like to see restored.

Vapor de Cádiz

Adriano III stranded on the right bank of the Guadalete river (David Pedrero. Flickr. CC BY 2.0).

Since 2006, the current boat also connects Cádiz with Rota, but we focus on the route to Puerto de Santa María.

Current catamaran linking Cádiz with Puerto de Santa María and Rota.

A bit of history

The route between Cádiz and Puerto de Santa María has been common and frequent at least since Roman times. Documentary sources indicate that the Cadiz patrician Balbo the Less was the one who ordered the opening of the Valdelagrana coastal arrow in the sands. The first artificial mouth of the Guadalete was thus built, where the infrastructures of the commercial port of Gades were established. Since then, transit between the two enclaves has been more or less constant.

Adriano III de Cádiz

Adriano III departing from Puerto de Santa María (Emilio. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0).

The first surviving documentation dates from the end of the 15th century. At that time, the “passenger ships” were “faluchos”, lateen-sailed vessels that were common in the area. For centuries this service was monopolised by the Dukes of Medinaceli and in the mid-18th century the activity was liberalised after the city of Cádiz was transformed from a seigniory to a royal city.

Falucho de la Bahía de Cádiz

Old postcard of a falucho in the waters of Cádiz. The bastion of the capital in the background.

For centuries this route has been plied by the inhabitants of Cadiz and the Port, but also by illustrious travellers, thinkers and diplomats, including Pío Baroja, Alejandro Dumas, Théophile Gautier and Camilo Borghese. In the mid-19th century, the first steamships began to arrive. The little sailing boats disappeared as they could not compete with the comforts offered by the new machines. Many boats crossed the Bay. In 1929 the last steamer called “El Cadiz” exploded on the quay.

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El Vaporcito

From 1930 to 2011 three ships called Adriano I, II and III have crossed the Bay every day. All three were built by a Galician shipowner. Although known as steamers, none of them were steamships. Their name must have been popularised by the previous vessels that were. The Adriano I shared life with the Adriano II until 1955, when the former retired.

Vaporcito de Cádiz

Adriano II by the waters of the Guadalete, 1940 (Faculty of Business and Public Management. Huesca. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Adriano II was designed with the conditions of the Bay of Cadiz in mind. It was the inspiration for the famous pasodoble ‘Vaporcito del Puerto’ by Paco Alba. This song from the 1965 Carnival shows the extent to which the Vaporcito became an icon of the Bay of Cadiz.

“Vaporcito del Puerto”

The Adriano III stopped operating in August 2011 after sinking in the port of Cádiz. The light of Cadiz, its spectacular Bay, and the charm of the Vaporcito favoured the shooting of films such as “La Lola se va a los puertos”, “La Becerrada” or “Calle 54”. This old ship is a true icon of Cádiz and was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2001.

Pepe el del Vapor

José Fernández Sanjuán (1909-2001) was the nephew of the owner of the three ships. Pepe captained the ships for 68 years of his life. He was an affable and talkative man. With his good work, this Galician who never lost his accent, won the sympathy of the Cadiz community and became an institution in the Bay.

To write this post we have relied on two very complete and interesting articles that we recommend you if you want to know even more.

Puerto de Santa María

San Marcos Castle in El Puerto de Santa María. The old town of El Puerto is a real delight to stroll through.

Prices and timetables of the Vaporcito

The price is really cheap, 2,75 € each way (updated price summer 2019). For that price you can sail around the Bay of Cadiz. And for 5,50 € you have a return ticket.

From Monday to Saturday, boats sail at varying times: from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Both on the outward and return journeys. On Sundays the frequency is reduced. To find out all the timetables and status of the service visit the official official website.

Remember that:

  • Ticket sales will end 5 minutes before departure.
  • Boarding will close 3 minutes before departure.
  • Children under 4 years old need a free ticket for boarding.
  • You can buy your ticket in advance two days before your trip.
  • Check your ticket before you leave the ticket office.

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