Spanish Costa Beaches
Have you previously ruled out visiting the Spanish Costa Beaches because you think they are too tacky? Well think again! There are 10 Spanish Costas to choose from, all for very different reasons. The Spanish word ‘Costa’ simply means coastline. All 10 of these defined coastlines comprise a good scattering of beaches. This article highlights the best of the Spanish Costa beaches. Find out which one is best for YOU!!
Nine of the Spanish ‘Costas’ lie on the Mediterranean sea with the tenth and most southerly facing the Atlantic ocean and bordering Portugal. While admittedly some of the beaches that comprise the Spanish Costas ARE tacky, it isn’t my intention to cover these here! And when you come across the words ‘playa’ or ‘platja’ in this article, they simply mean beach!
Spanish Beaches for everyone
Spanish Costa Beaches cater for everyone. Whether you are into surfing, cool beach bars, nude sunbathing you’ll find something here. Also you’ll find suggestions for things to do in the nearby areas of the beaches covered. If you need a beach with disabled access, there are suggestions here too.
Airports serve all the whole Spanish Coastline
39 airports on Mainland Spain means all points on the Spanish coastline is accessible from at least one of these. And you don’t always need to hire a car to get to your preferred Spanish beach. Many transfer companies offer beach transfers all year round as do airlines offering flights to Spanish coastal airports. SO TO FIND OUT THE BEST SPANISH COSTA BEACHES TO SNORKEL, CLIFF-JUMP, SEE THE BEST HISTORY, VISIT THE LARGEST THEME PARK IN SPAIN, TAKE A MUD BATH, SEE MAGNIFICANT SUPERYACHTS, DO SOME BIRD WATCHING, DIVE (and see under water archaeology)-READ ON!!!
All 10 Spanish Costas
Costa Verde: The green coast
Costa Brava: The wild coast
Costa Dorada: The gold coast
Costa del Alzahar: The orange blossom Coast
Costa Blanca: The white coast
Costa Calida: The warm coast
Costa Almeria: The Watch tower coast
Costa Tropical: The tropical coast
Costa del Sol: The sun coast
Costa de la Luz: The light coast
Perhaps the least well known and furthest north section of the Spanish coastline. Although towns such as Santiago and San Sebastian are better known. All of the Spanish costa beaches on Costa Verde lie at the foot of the Basque mountains and along the bay of Biscay. Biscay is a Spanish province which sits on the Atlantic ocean. This area consists of The principality of Asturias, the Basque areas and Cantabria region (formerly Santander).
Asturias (Oviedo), Santander and Bilbao are all airports useful for beaches at Spanish Costa Verde.
Features that set the Spanish Costa beaches in Costa Verde apart are their remoteness and striking mountain range backdrops. It’s an area of nature reserves and lush green parkland.
Many parts of Costa Verde have higher rainfall than the rest of the Spanish Costas due it’s elevated position. In fact summers can be a little unpredictable just like a British summer. But that’s the trade off for such a lush green area. This is why these Spanish costa beaches and the fields behind them have a Cornish coastal feel about them. But don’t worry, it doesn’t rain all the time by a long shot. You can always expect at least some hot sunny days!
This area has it’s own language of Asturiano or Bable although traditional Spanish (Castellano) is also spoken
Best for Camping
Somo beach in the Cantabria region is my first recommendations of the Spanish Costa beaches in Costa Verde. It’s a 2 mile stretch with great conditions for water sports such as kitesurfing and surfing. There are plenty of options for camping; a great way to holiday in such natural and rugged surroundings.
Also in the Cantabria region is Valdearenas Beach with good facilities if you need disabled access.
Need to Know
Many of the beaches on Costa Verde are remote and you may need to drive there depending on where you stay. Make sure you pack all your sun cream, water and snacks. Often there are no cafes or bars.
Costa Brava is the Catalonian region on the eastern side of Spain. The Spanish Costa beaches here are scattered from the French border down onto Barcelona. Costa Brava started as a package holiday destination in the 1960’s. It was a natural choice for the overspill of south of French holiday makers as the cote d’Azur started to burst at the seams in the summer months.
Gerona is the main airport if you are staying in northern Costa Brava. Barcelona airport is a better bet if you are holidaying at a southern Costa Brava beach location.
Costa Brava is on the Mediterranean sea where summers hit 30 degrees centigrade. Winter temperatures don’t drop much below 10 degrees.
Many Locals still speak Catalan although traditional Spanish is also spoken and understood here.
Best Costa Brava beaches
Roses has a beautiful bay, and is well placed for natural parks and wetlands. The town is a former Greek colony with both Greek and Roman structural history including tombs and a castle. You can take a ride on the Roses and Cap des Creu tourist train to get around.
Platja de Canyelles petites
This white sand beach is 2.5 kilometres from the town of Roses offering water sports amenities.
The Spanish costa beach of Empuriabrava is in the north of Costa Brava and has good winds for water sports.
The coastline here has the coveted blue flag status and is surrounded either side by protected green spaces. It’s an ideal area to explore on foot or by bike.
Why not hire out a small boat at Empuriabrava’s massive marina and explore it’s local canal network?!
Beach Accommodation at Empuriabrava
K Beach D Luxe is accommodation within easy reach of Empuriabrava’s sands and within an easy drive of Girona airport.
Sant Pol de Mar is a calm and tranquil beach in southerly Costa Brava. You can get here by public transport or car from Barcelona El Prat Airport in around an hour
Things to do
If you feel like leaving your sun lounger and exploring, here are a couple of suggestions.
5 kilometres from Empuriabrava town is Castillo; the town that’s been named after the Castillion word for castle. Otherwise you can drive 45 minutes to Cadaques to visit the artist Salvador Dali’s house-turned-museum.
The Spanish coastline known as the gold coast. It’s a good choice of a Costa if you want to visit Barcelona with it’s famous gothic architecture. Barcelona is right next door to Costa Dorada (going South).
Spanish Costa Dorada beaches worth a visit are Sitges and Tarragona.
Sitges sits below the Garraf mountains of Barcelona and it is just 40 minutes by bus from here to Barcelona. There was a massive clean up of Barcelona’s polluted beaches before the 1992 Olympic games were held there. It has made a difference but still locals travel north from Barcelona to Sitges to swim and sunbathe. Sitges beaches are considered exceptionally hygienic.
Popular Gay Scene
Sitges is well known for all it’s gay bars and clubs such as ‘Man’ in Carrer Santa Bonaventura. Did you know the first and original Pacha opened in Sitges? Sitges is also well known for it’s carnival and film festival. The carnival is at the end of February each year. The Sitges film festival runs from the beginning to mid-October annually. Book your Sitges hotel as early as possible to avoid disappointment if you want to go.
Platja de la Bassa, Sitges
Platja de la Bassa is a famous gay town with the main gay beach of Platja de la Bassa Rodona. Sitges has over 15 different beaches. Although the area is popular on the gay scene, of course everyone is welcome!
Platja de Terramar is one of the quieter Spanish Costa beaches in the Sitges area.
Tarragona has it’s own train station and you can reach Barcelona by train from here in about an hour.
Tarragona Beaches for Nudists
Platja de la Mora beach in the Tarragona region welcomes nudists.
Tarragona Nudist Beach
Altafulla beach has access for people with reduced mobility
Tarragona Town is the venue of an annual August water-themed festival called ‘Sant Magi’. The dates for 2019 are August 13th-August 19th.
Cambrils and Salou
Cambrils is a large town in Costa Dorada. Salou is just under 7 kilometres away from it and you can walk along the coast between these. The coastline between the two towns is especially popular with families.
Massive water Park for Families
Costa Dorada features heavily with British tourist operators and targets families especially around the Salou area. This is because the multitude of activity choices in the area make it good for kids. Spain’s largest theme park is on the doorstep in Salou. Water parks, a zoo, horse riding and golf are also easily accessible in Costa Dorada vicinity. So if you’re after a kid-free holiday avoid these areas in favour of other Spanish Costa beaches!
Getting to Costa Dorada
Barcelona airport is closest to Sitges and Tarragona. Reus airport is best for the Cambril area.
Scattered beaches comprise the coastline of Costa Alzahar which stretches for over 200 kilometres. As well as beaches there are large natural parks, rustic villages and old towns to visit. The Spanish Costa beaches of Costa Alzahar serve the biggest of it’s towns: Castellon de la Plana in the North of the region. Valencia is in the South of Costa Alzahar and some of the northern beaches of Valencia fall under this costa’s radar as well.
The Costa of Citrus Fruit
‘Alzahar’ refers to the copious amounts of orange blossom out in the spring in this area. You can even smell it in the air!
Benicàssim has Spanish costa beaches that are more famous for it’s annual music festival than for sunbathing.
The ‘FIB’ (international festival of Benicàssim) is held here.
Playa Voramar offers reasonably priced accommodation if you are attending the festival. Camping is also possible in the Playa Almadraba area for festival goers.
Sounds in the Sun
The line-up for 2019 festival includes Fat Boy Slim, Lana del Rey, Kings of Leon and Jess Glynn. It’s taking place in Benicassim between 18th and 21st July there is still time to get tickets. There’s nothing like listening to your favourite tunes on a hot beach! Every year there is a great line up of music artists.
If you’re into reggae the Rototom sunsplash reggae festival takes place on August 16th-22nd August 2019. This is also near Benicàssim.
Getting to Costa Alzahar
Valencia and Reus Airports both serve Costa Alzahar.
Some of the Spanish Costa beaches of Costa Blanca are especially popular with the British. Some of the coastal areas along the Costa Blanca have more of an English feel than Spanish vibe. Many Brits have holiday homes here or live here and parts of the Costa Blanca are ‘English settlements’. If you are going on holiday to the Costa Blanca, particularly if you are from the UK, you probably want to visit Costa Blanca playa with a more Spanish vibe. So here are some ideas!
History near Costa Blanca Beaches
Do you love visiting historical sights on holiday? Then the La Marina Alta area of Costa Blanca will suit you down to the ground. The historical areas of Denia and Javea in the Northern Costa Blanca region have an up market feel. Although this part of the Costa Blanca is just 10 kilometres from Benidorm, it couldn’t feel more different.
Javea is thought by many to be the jewell of the whole Costa Blanca with it’s old town and port.
Visit ‘Alta La Vella’ the old town of Alta Marina. See the castle and the remains of a Moorish fort. On Thursday evenings in July and August you can do a tour of the town. Book at the tourist office.
Best Beaches close to Historical sights
The Spanish Costa Beaches near Denia and Javea are the furthest north in the Costa Blanca area. Sandy beaches and rocky coves make up the 20 kilometre stretch of Denia coastline.
Easy Access to the Balearics
Costa Blanca is the nearest of the Spanish costas to the Spanish Balaeric islands of Menorca, Mallorca and Ibiza. You can get a ferry across to Balearic islands from Denia Port.
Beach with good disabled access
Les Bovetes beach is one of the largest and most popular beaches in Denia with good access for prams and wheelchairs.
The Southern Costa Balanca
The Orihuela coast makes up much of the Southern Costa Blanca. This is where you find areas such as Torrevieja and Alicante. These are the areas I meant when I mentioned ‘English Settlement’.
Best Spanish Costa Beaches in Torrevieja
Torrevieja covers a large area and La Mata beach is one of the best beaches of this predominantly English region. La Mata is small but perfectly formed with a couple of good restaurants and cafes. Punta Prima and Playa Flamenca are fairly good beaches both in the Southern Costa Blanca area.
Alicante airport serves the area well with regular, competitively priced flights with low-cost airlines. The Northern Costa Blanca takes longer to get to from Alicante; Valencia airport is another option.
The ‘warm’ coast’ as it is known is famous for mud baths, warm seas and luxury sports and Golf complex of La Manga.
Beaches of Costa Calida
Spanish Costa beaches of Costa Calida spread out over a coastline of 70 kilometres. Costa Calida’s northern most border is at El Mojon. This Costa concludes South in Aguilas.
Costa Calida’s Spanish Costa beaches are mainly small bays situated in four different municipalities. Playa de Calblanque is an unspoilt beach in the Calblanque nature park completely away from built up areas. You can reach it by shuttle bus; cars to the immediate area are restricted to protect local nature. Playa de Calblanque is 30 minutes from the party area of La Manga and 30 minutes from Cartagena. Nude bathing is allowed only at one end. There are also some good spots for snorkelling.
Need to Knows about Playa de Calblanque
Take everything you need when you head off for a day at Calblanque beach. There are no chiringuitos (beach shacks) or amenities here. And bear in mind that you have to go quite far out to be able to swim in the sea.
Beach for cliff-jumping and great food
If you don’t want to travel so far for the sand and a swim try Playa de la Reya. That is if you are staying in the more southerly area of Costa Calida (the Port de Mazzaron end). This beach is also called ‘Junto de la Mare’ and locals call it ‘Playa de Bahia’. Funny how beaches are known by 3 different names. Whatever you call it you will like the non-built-up feel and it’s chiringuito which serves delicious rice dishes. Between Playa de Pava and Playa de la Reya there is a good rock section for cliff jumping.
More commercialised Beaches of Costa Calida
San Pedro del Pinatar and low pagan are beach resorts that are joined by a promenade. This makes it easier for prams and wheelchair users. Other well-known beaches in the area all with bus routes and amenities close by are Los Alcazares and Los Narejos. Obviously due to the good transport access to here, these beaches will be busier.
Mud Baths in Saltwater Lagoon
You can’t visit Costa Calida without taking one of it’s famous for it’s mud baths! These are possible in the Mar Menor which literally means ‘minor sea’, as in ‘little sea’.
The Mar Menor in Costa Calida is separated from the Mediterranean sea by La Manga. This makes it calm for you if you are afraid of the water but still want to take advantage of the mud bath, Mar Menor is the largest salt water lagoon in Europe and is 22 kilometres wide and 7 kilometres deep. It’s high saline content enables you to float and cover yourself in mud which is beneficial for arthritis and muscular problems.
Luxury Sports Resort
Costa Calida is also famous for it’s luxury 3 course golf and leisure resort ‘La Manga’. Ex-professional British sports stars are known to have holiday homes in this area. After all who wouldn’t want to escape cold old England for winters that don’t drop much below 14 degress centigrade.
The Most History of all the Spanish Costas
Cartagena town is an easy bus ride if you’re staying at Costa Calida and is built around a natural harbour. Cartagena port is a naval station; the capital for the Spanish navy in fact. Much of Cartagena’s history is associated with it’s port’s role in defence and trading goods. Roman history is evident in the town itself with plenty of ancient ruins to discover.
Cartagena provides a diving/snorkelling site at Cala Cortina which lies between it’s two harbour arms. You can see under-water archaeology when you complete a dive at this small quiet beach.
Murcia International (Corvera) Airport serves the Costa Calida.
The arab word Al-Mariyya means watchtower. This is how the Spanish town of Almeria took it’s name; it was an Arab stronghold. Watch towers are dotted along this stretch of 200 kilometre coastline known as Costa Almeria. The beaches here are mainly natural and unspoilt.
The average annual temperature on Costa Almeria is 20 degrees centigrade. The summers are hot and can reach 40 degrees and winters generally mild.
Film Set in the Desert
After all we are getting into desert territory here. Many westerns were filmed a short distance inland from Costa Almeria at Fort Bravo film village in Tabernas desert. It’s the only true desert in Europe and you can take a tourist trip there. See where scenes for films such as ‘The good, the bad and the ugly, Lawrence of Arabia and ‘Indiana Jones’ were shot. More recently scenes for Penny Dreadful were filmed here.
Spanish speaking seaside town
Garrucha is a small working fishing town where you can see the fishermen at work at sunrise down at the old port. It’s famous for prawns and there is a large choice of eateries in town where you can find fresh fish. Especially where the pedestrianised new port area is at the north end of Garrucha. Many residents and business owners speak only a small amount of foreign languages. So take your phrase book with you to the shops, bars and restaurants and practise your Spanish!
Mojacar for a laid back beaches
Garrucha also has some of the best low-key laid back sands of all the Spanish Costa beaches to enjoy. There’s Boracay Beach at the southern end of Garrucha. The white-washed restaurant of the same name sits here with a separate tapas section where locals flock. There’s also a café-bar on the beach next to Boracay restaurant selling cheap wine, beer and cold drinks.
Getting to Costa Almeria
Almeria airport is roughly a 45 minute drive away from Costa Almeria beaches. There’s car hire at the airport (book first). There is also a reliable, reasonably priced transfer company called Exclusive Airport Shuttles. They provides a return mini-bus/coach service from Almeria, Alicante and Murcia International airports to several Costa Almeria beaches. Also they call at some of the Almeria towns and villages.
Costa Tropical provides the best located Spanish Costa beaches if you want to visit Granada and it’s ski resort.
This ‘Costa’ is often overlooked in favour of neighbouring Costa del Sol. Prices to holiday here are often cheaper than it’s more famous neighbour. The geography of the land here doesn’t lend itself for high-rise buildings; another attraction of the area. The uniqueness of Costa Tropical is how the Sierra Nevada Granada mountain range hug the meditteranean sea here.
Best Beach areas on Costa Tropical
It’s coastline stretches for around 50 miles and it’s main town is Motril. Beaches of Motril include Calahonda, Carchuna and Playa Granada. The two beaches closest to the town of Motril itself are Playa Granada and Playa Poniente.
Right next to Playa Poniente is the Elba Motril Beach and Business Hotel. A week in September costs £731 half board for two people, excluding flights.
It’s just over an hours drive on a good day from Motril to Granada. It would be a shame not to see Granada and all it’s uniqueness now you’ve come this far!
Visit it’s famous Alhambra Palace and gardens while you are there, it is only a short walk up from Granada town.
Costa Tropical is protected by the Sierra Nevada Granada mountain range. Peppers and other fruit and vegetables needing green house tropical conditions grow well here.
Beaches on Costa Tropical are within 45 minutes of Malaga airport.
Great for children
The beaches in the area are a mix of sand and stone but the stones aren’t annoying because of their smoothness. The water gradually gets deeper; there are no sudden dips which makes it a safe choice for children and families
Costa del Sol
Yes ‘Sol’ is the Spanish word for sun! It stands to reason these beaches have the most sunshine of all the Spanish Costa beaches.
Spanish Costa beaches here are incorporated in resorts such as Marbella, Fuengirola, Torremolinos and Puerto Banus. Put firmly on the map by the British ITV TV series TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex|) and it’s spin off ‘The Only way is Marbs’. In reality though Marbella started to become popular to tourists in the 1950’s and 1960’s way before this TV series! Marbella has come along way since the 1940’s. Until world war 2 Marbella was a jasmine-lined town with less than 1000 inhabitants. (thanks to Wikipedia for this fact click on the link to read more)
Glitz and Glam
Marbella and Puerto Banus are exactly like the characters in these TV series’: all glitz and glam. So if you want to hang out with ‘the beautiful people’ and celebrity spot, head right down to Puerto Banus. When I was last there I walked past Justin Rose the golfer enjoying some free time between tournaments.
Out of this world
The superyachts at Puerto Banus marina are out of this world, ditto for the price of the cocktails and champagne. But it makes for a glamourous holiday and is an enjoyable experience.
Beaches on Costa del Sol
The beaches here are not the best of all the Spanish Costa Beaches. Here it’s more about the kudos of the area. Beaches in the Marbella area are clean, enjoyable and enjoy hot summers and generally sunny winters.
Beach front Apartments
If you want to stay within a short walk of Puerto Banus, try the Banus beach apartments, Gray d’Albion, 29660, Marbella. The luxury Puerto Banus harbour is within a half mile walk. A bus into Marbella town with all it’s beaches takes 20-30 minutes. If you’re feeling energetic you could walk all the way there along the Paseo Maritimo.
Climate best for winter sun
In summer the thermometer can go over 40 degrees centigrade. The main advantage of Costa del Sol is the generally sunny and warm winter days. This makes for a great winter sun location. And many people from cooler parts of Europe have holiday homes here to spend the entire winter in.
Malaga Airport is the airport serving the whole of the Costa del Sol.
Costa de la Luz
Costa de la Luz has some of the best Spanish Costa beaches and natural green areas in Spain.
Beaches here have the most light of all the Spanish Costa beaches. The clue is in it’s name; ‘luz’ is the Spanish word for light. The sand and long stretches of coastline here are just beautiful.
Costa de la Luz lies on the Atlantic ocean as opposed to the Mediterranean sea so the atmosphere isn’t so dry and arid. Nevertheless, the summers are still pretty hot with the theomometer reaching an average of 28 degrees centigrade with cool offshore breezes. Winter days vary from between 9 and 16 degrees.
Costa de la Luz Boundaries
Information for where the boundary for Costa del Sol ends and Costa de la Luz begins is conflicting. Some sources say it is at mouth of the Guadalquivir river where it meets the sea. If this was the case, Tarifa and Cadiz would not be a part of Costa de la Luz. Other sources say the boundary is where Tarifa starts. For the purpose of this article, Tarifa and Cadiz will be included as part of Costa de la Luz. This seems to be the more popular opinion of the two!
Spain meets Portugal
Wherever you believe the boundary of Costa de la Luz starts, it is by the straight of Gibraltar, the most southerly tip of Spain. Here the Spanish coastline starts to travel North to where it meets Portugal, which is where Costa de la Luz ends.
Different Sections of Costa de la Luz
The main regions of this western Andalusian stunning coastline are Tafira, Chiclana de la Frontera, Cadiz and Huelva.
Windsurfing capital of Spain
Tarifa is considered the windsurfing capital of Spain and one of the hippest hangouts for beach lovers and surfer dudes.
Playa Chica is a family friendly beach in this area. You can also do watersports at Zaraha de los Atunes beach by Cadiz city centre.
The beaches of Huelva have flatter sands and generally not as rugged as in other parts of this coastline
Wetlands for Birdwatching
Parc national de Donana is one of the most important ecological wetland areas in Spain. The park is in the middle portion of Costa de la Luz. Matalcanas beach and Playa de Castilla are conveniently placed for a visit to this beautiful park.
Best time to visit
Summer months see the Spanish Costa beaches at Costa de la Luz become very crowded. Inhabitants from Seville escape the heat of their city for the cooling winds from the Levante mountains in this area. Late spring and September are good months to find less crowded accommodation and beaches.
The only disadvantage of travelling here is that it is a further distance from airports. This keeps the area of Costa de la Luz free from being spoilt from British mass tourism. Although some of the major high street operators do advertise it in their brochures.
If you’re travelling to Huelva, Faro airport in Portugal is just over an hours drive away. Jerez airport is good for Cadiz. Malaga airport can get you access to Tarifa.
Or why not fly to Seville, spend a night or two in the beautiful city before continuing your journey to Costa de la Luz?
I hope this article has helped you decide which costa is best for you. Also I hope it has dispelled some of the myths about this coastline. Spanish Costa beaches are not all full of lobster red Brits downing beer and behaving badly. There is something for everyone whether visiting historical towns or wetlands nearby, doing water sports or sunbathing is your thing! Remember though, if you don’t like it too hot, stick to Costa Verde, the most northerly Costa, in the Summer. Or visit the hotter Costas in May, September or October.