The Columbretes Islands nature reserve is located 27 nautical miles 50 km southeast of Oropesa in the province of Castellón. Its location is framed between the parallels 39º 51 ′ and 39º 55 ′ of North latitude, and the meridians 0º 40 ′ and 0º 42 ′ of East longitude, on the edge of the widest continental shelf of the Western Mediterranean.
The Park has 5 nautical miles (9.26 km) from north to south and 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 km) from west to east. A total of 4400 hectares.
The islands are: the Big Island, the Ferrera, the Forada and the Bergantín (Carrallot). In addition there are several reefs and shallows, everything is of volcanic origin. Despite its small area, barely 14 hectares, the slas Columbretes are one of our most valuable insular spaces. Together with the Majorcan archipelago of Cabrera and the Catalan Medas Islands, they constitute one of the most exceptional enclaves from the natural and scenic point of view of the entire Iberian Mediterranean coast. Its colonies of seabirds, its numerous endemisms –both invertebrates and vertebrates–, its unique volcanic origin and the richness and beauty of its seabed make the Columbretes Islands an enclave of exceptional importance in the western Mediterranean.
The name of the islands comes from the impression of the first navigators, Greeks and Latins, who included them in their geographies with the name of Ophiusa or Colubraria, admired for the abundance of snakes found there. Visited only by fishermen and pirates until the beginning of the 19th century, the archipelago was colonized in the middle of the last century with the construction of the l’illa lighthouse (1856-1860). The lighthouse keepers inhabited the islands practically uninterruptedly for more than a century, in precarious conditions, as evidenced by the tombs in the island's small cemetery, and taking full advantage of all the resources offered by a poor land environment and an extraordinarily rich seabed.
The small colony that attended the lighthouse and their families finally left the islands in 1975, when the lighthouse was automated. Since then, the islands were uninhabited until the installation of the first surveillance services established by the Generalitat Valenciana in 1987.
Of volcanic origin and located off the coast of Castellón, the Columbretes Islands have gone from being used as a shooting range for the army to becoming one of the main maritime-terrestrial natural spaces in the western Mediterranean.
Both its seabed and the emerged part of the archipelago represent an authentic sanctuary of flora and fauna, with several exclusive species of animals and plants.