A summer getaway to Spain is always a good idea. From foodies eating their way through Mallorca’s Michelin-starred restaurants to architecture aficionados wandering around Barcelona, every region provides a feast for your senses.
But for many, a summer getaway means one thing: beach time. Venture to Spain’s popular coastal regions – the Costa Brava and Costa del Sol – and you’ll find travelers blissfully soaking up the sun and sea. So which coast do you belong on? Here’s a breakdown of the best beaches in each area to help you decide.
Natural Splendor on the Costa Brava
When you reach the Costa Brava, it doesn’t take long to understand why it has been an inspiration to legendary artists (Salvador Dalí had a house here) through the years. Translating to “wild” or “rough” coast, Costa Brava stretches north from Lloret del Mar, some 60km northeast of Barcelona, all the way to the French border. True to its name, the landscape is varied – hills peppered with lush greens, quiet pebble beaches and soft, rich golden sands.
For families, Tamariu beach is ideal with its ultra-calm swimming waters, plus there’s several restaurants along the beach too (our favorite is El Clot dels Mussols). If your family is the active type, you can rent small motorboats or kayaks for the day too.
If you’re looking for true unspoiled beauty, go to Sa Tuna. It’s a quiet cove tucked away in the charming town of Begur with pine hills covering the backdrop, and an emerald Mediterranean Sea. Through relatively small, Sa Tuna has two rocky headlands that make for excellent snorkeling.
If the “rugged” aspect of the coast doesn’t quite appeal to you, and you’re partial to Caribbean-esque beaches, you’ll be impressed by Sant Pol de Mar. It’s just 50 minutes by train outside Barcelona, so it can provide a welcome break for the day from the crowds at Barceloneta beach.
Where to stay on the Costa Brava
The sunny sands of Costa del Sol
Compared to the Costa Brava, the Costa del Sol, or “sunny coast”, is much bigger, encompassing the relatively large city of Malaga and several other busy towns. But it too wholeheartedly embodies its name: Spain’s southernmost region enjoys hot, dry weather and almost 320 days of pure sunshine a year. The Costa del Sol is a favorite with European tourists so expect to share the beach with plenty of other people.
If you like a beach with a ton of action, go to Playa de Alicate just outside Marbella. The beach is home to restaurants and beach clubs aplenty (and Antonio Banderas’ summer home). We recommend lounging all afternoon, then finishing the day with a sunset dinner at Los Sardinales. If you’ve got any energy left, put on your dancing shoes at head to South Beach Club.
In the other direction, just east of Marbella, you’ll find Playa Nagüeles. It’s the most exclusive stretch of sand in Costa del Sol, the backyard of the area’s top-notch hotels. Its calm waters are perfect for little swimmers. Plus, you can rent everything to bicycles to yachts for the day, so if you ever tire of the sun and sand, there’s plenty to entertain you.
For a taste of Ibiza on the mainland, head to Nikki Beach, a playground for those whose beach day is comprised of sipping pink champagne in glamorous clothing. If you do decide to spend the day here, we recommend going all out: rent a VIP daybed and dance until your feet hurt.
Where to stay on the Costa del Sol