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The Bay of Santander faces a multitude of challenges and threats, mainly due to population and industrial pressure and all the consequences that derive from it.


The influence of the city of Santander and its metropolitan area cannot be ignored, which means that almost half of the population of Cantabria is concentrated around the Bay.


Santander Bay aerial view

Physical Considerations. ​ Our beautiful bay of Santander currently has an area of approximately 2,350 hectares spread over five municipalities in Cantabria: Santander, Camargo, El Astillero, Marina de Cudeyo and Ribamontán al Mar.

The Bay is formed from the union of different minor estuaries, such as those of Solía, San Salvador and Cubas, the latter being the mouth of the Miera River (popularly known as "La Ría del Cubas". On its shores there are extensive sandy areas such as those of Peligros, La Magdalena and Bikinis in Santander, or El Puntal, in Ribamontán al Mar. The latter forms the longest beach, with a length of 4.5 km. Its dunes close the Bay to the open sea and protect it from the fort Cantabrian waves Precisely between the Puntal to the south and the Magdalena Palace to the north, the mouth that connects the bay with the Cantabrian Sea is created.

Inside, there is a navigation channel 200 m wide and 10-11.5 m deep through which the main flow of water runs. The entrance to the Bay is preceded by the Ensenada de "El Sardinero", in where the island of Mouro is located, with a prominent visual presence in the landscape, despite its small size (1.7 hectares). It is entirely rocky and has a lighthouse at its highest point.

Historical considerations . The Bay of Santander can be considered as a historical bay since it began to be used as a port and refuge by the Roman Empire. Over the centuries it has played an important role in very relevant historical events (Hundred Years War, Brotherhood of the Marshes, expansion of the Kingdom of Castile, the Great Armada of 1588, overseas voyages to America).  As a consequence, it was the depository of great naval technology and commercial capabilities that made up the current community of Cantabria, especially its capital Santander.



The original morphology of the bay has undergone important changes, mainly in the last century due to intense industrial development, until it has become the most degraded area in Cantabria. It is estimated that more than 50% of its initial extension has been filled in, drying out an important area of marsh and of the real internal zone, with the consequent loss of the coast (more than 20%), of biodiversity and of natural habitats. The filling actions that have been carried out in the last two centuries have been motivated by the expansion of the port of Santander, the creation of new industrial, residential and service areas and the airport.

However, there have been some natural or naturalized areas in the Santander area of influence, which present a relatively good state of conservation or are potentially valid for regeneration and where precisely, a large part of the existing biodiversity in the Bay of Santander concurs important for the Conservation of Birds), Special Protection Area (ZEPA, 2014) and part of the  Network of Marine Protected Areas of Spain (RAMPE).


Fishing eagle

Ecological importance.  The Bay effectively has a great value not only for landscape -to the point that it is considered one of the most beautiful bays in the World-, but also for  ecological level due to the great variety of plant formations, many of them of community interest or fauna taxa of special interest. What's more,  it  Different habitats encompassed in this bay have also made it the most important wetland in Cantabria for wintering waterfowl according to the Census of Wintering Aquatic Birds of Cantabria, carried out by the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO / Birdlife) in 2009.  


Waders are the most abundant, followed by larids, sternids, and acids. In addition, it is home to such remarkable species as the Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) or the Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides). The presence of all these birds, which take advantage of the crevices of the cliffs to nest, and the interest in protecting them, has contributed to the naming of the  Isla de Mouro as IBA (Important Bird Conservation Area), Special Protection Area (ZEPA, 2014) and part of the  Network of Marine Protected Areas of Spain (RAMPE).

Protection. The characteristics of the Bay of Santander make this unique environment necessarily protected. That is why an important area of the Bay belongs to the Natura 2000 Network,  basic and essential figure to highlight the environmental importance of this environment.  

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