Home to more than 5,000 miles of coastline, Spain is blessed with a seemingly endless array of magnificent beaches.
Spain has an extensive coastline—around 3,000 miles—offering a variety of beaches from the North to the South. The Iberian Peninsula has something for everyone. From the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find rugged cliffs hugging the sea, extensive shorelines, and clean and pristine waters to go for a dip.
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WHERE: San Sebastian, Basque Country
Its shell-like, half-circle shape is what gives this beach, La Kontxa, its name, based in the heart of the charming city of San Sebastian. Hot and sunny days in the Basque Country aren’t necessarily a dime a dozen, so when the sun comes out to say hello, you’ll want to make sure to get a spot on the sand.
With beautiful views of Santa Clara island, this beach fills up with families and friends of all ages to soak up the sun and enjoy the calm waters of the Bay of Biscay. With so many wonderful pintxo (small plate) bars available, take a break for lunch and bar hop, or go for a menu del dia, a three-course meal at an affordable price (during the workweek) in the gastronomic capital of Spain.
Even though Barceloneta is the best known of Barcelona’s city beaches, Bogatell is the beach of choice among locals in the know. Why? Not only is it less crowded than tourist-heavy Barceloneta, but it is also cleaner and less popular with local pickpockets. The downside is that it requires a slightly longer trek from the city center. Whereas Barceloneta is an easy 20-minute stroll from La Rambla and the Old Port of Barcelona, Bogatell will take you an extra 15 minutes on foot (or five in a cab). But once you get there it is well worth the hassle, with cleaner water, considerably more space, and far better facilities (read: shorter lines for the public toilets).
Playa de Los Atunes
Dip your toes in the white, fine sand on this three-mile-long beach on the Costa de la Luz with crystalline waters. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, Playa de Los Atunes is a beach ideal for surf lovers, whether it’s kitesurfing, windsurfing, or surfing.
After several hours in the sea or soaking up the sun, give your taste buds a chance to enjoy the local gastronomy. Sample atun rojo de almadraba, bluefin tuna, or the day’s catch at one of the many restaurants and bars.
Playa Las Arenas
Given that Las Arenas literally translates to “the sands,” it goes without saying that Valencia’s most famous beach has been blessed with some pristine golden powder. Originally named Playa de Levante or Playa del Cabañal, it later became known as Las Arenas because it was home to the ultra-exclusive Balneario Las Arenas Spa, which opened in 1898 as a healing center for wealthy Spanish families who came here to take wave baths.
The water is calm and shallow, making it suitable for swimmers of all ages and abilities, as well as windsurfers and sailors. Meanwhile, the wide, busy promenade that runs alongside the grand beach is packed with bars and restaurants. Don’t miss an opportunity to try one of Spain’s national dishes of paella, originally conceived here in Valencia, even though purists will argue that a true paella Valenciana should actually contain chicken or rabbit and green beans, rather than shellfish.
WHERE: Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve, Costa de Almeria
Few places in Europe remain as wild and unspoiled as Cabo de Gata, the natural park situated in the southeastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula, a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1997. Its wild, arid landscape is a mix of secluded rocky coves, jagged cliffs, and white sandy beaches. Cabo de Gata literally translates as “cove or cape of the cat,” but the name is more likely to be derived from the agate rock that used to be mined in the area.
Cabo de Gata is particularly popular with eco-minded travelers, as it offers a wide range of sustainable outdoor pursuits, from bird-watching to wildlife photography, as well as diving and boat excursions. Situated near the small village of Rodalquilar, this 400-meter long stretch of white sand offers a gentle slope and excellent swimming conditions. Playazo is a superlative version of the word playa, or beach—a well-deserved appellation for these immaculate virgin sands.
Platja de Ses Illetes
One of the most photographed beaches on the smallest Balearic Island, Platja de Ses Illetes feels like a dream with its varying aquamarine and turquoise hues. The water is typically calm, more like a swimming pool than the ocean. Those on the shore pose for too many selfies while yachts anchor for hours, often with speakers blasting techno beats and the island of Ibiza as the backdrop.
A 30-minute ferry ride from Ibiza, most people take the expensive ferry for a day trip to spend the day on these shores. Rent a motorcycle or bike or hop on the shuttle bus that will bring you close to the beach entrance. Just avoid driving as parking fills up quickly.
INSIDER TIPBe warned that all the restaurants and bars are overpriced and serve up pretty mediocre food. Save yourself the frustration and plan ahead.
A wide expanse of white sand, this is the place to go if you’re staying in the center of Ibiza and want a day at the beach. No need to rent a car; take the bus and avoid the frustration of looking for parking. This is a beach where people go to be seen. Beach bars crank up the volume of the latest techno tunes for a lively, fun atmosphere. Meanwhile, hawkers offer whatever you may want while at the beach, including sarongs, sunglasses, mojitos, sangria, beer, and ice-cold water. There’s never a dull moment on these sands.
If you think Mallorca is overcrowded with beaches, run-down resorts, and drunk sunburnt tourists—think again. The largest of the Balearic Islands has a lesser-known and far more tasteful side that few travelers get to see. You can catch a glimpse at Es Trenc, one of the few long beaches on the island that has been spared from resort development. The water here is clear, while the soft white sand remains pristine and unspoiled.
Despite being located less than an hour south of Palma de Mallorca, and around 30 minutes from the tourist horror show at Playa de Palma and S’Arenal, Es Trenc harks back to a quieter and simpler time. The beach is not attached to a hotel, but it has excellent facilities, including loungers and umbrellas for hire, lifeguards, toilets, wheelchair ramps, and a variety of restaurants and beach bars. Popular with nudists and day-trippers, Es Trenc has a wild and natural feel and is an ideal spot to let it all hang out—if that’s what you’re into.
Playa Los Lances
Playa Los Lances is a little over four miles long and is known for its translucent albeit cold, Atlantic waters. Because this area receives plenty of wind, it’s a popular destination for those who love to windsurf and kitesurf, so you’re likely to see plenty of colorful kites dancing in the sky. On days with minimal wind, you’ll want to settle in and chill on this lovely beach. If the wind does pick up unexpectedly, you can always take shelter in one of the beach bars.
Playa de Papagayo
Situated between two big cliffs, the turquoise hues of Playa de Papagayo will make you want to go for a swim. The water is often calm making it a wonderful spot for snorkeling. Plan to spend the day here. This beach is also a popular spot to soak up the rays in the afternoon and to watch the sunset.
But be prepared for a bumpy ride on a dirt road before reaching the parking lot. Playa de Papagayo has a chiringuito (bar) so you can enjoy a drink before making your way down to the beach, or stop in at the end of the day and take in the views one more time before saying goodbye to this paradise.
Stretching a little over four miles, this white sand beach is the longest in Mallorca. With beautiful clear water that doesn’t get too deep, Alcudia Beach is fabulous for families or anyone who wants to have easy access to a beach with plenty of facilities, such as restrooms, showers, and the option to rent lounge chairs, umbrellas, or even paddleboards. There is also a promenade with an abundance of chiringuitos if you’re in the mood for tapas. Try tumbet, a Mallorcan dish of fried vegetables in a tomato sauce.
Playa de Las Teresitas
With a breakwater not too far from the shoreline, waves are minimal at this golden sand beach. Because the water is often calm, this is a frequent spot for snorkeling, so bring your flippers and mask. Or go for a relaxing swim or float in the sea. When you’re ready for lunch, order calamari and papas arrugadas at one of the chiringuitos or beach bars.
Playa de Las Canteras
WHERE: Las Palmas, Gran Canary
In the capital city of Las Palmas in the Gran Canary island, this urban beach is loved by residents and tourists alike, with several miles of shoreline. The water is typically calm on the northern side, thanks to reefs in the area. This zone is referred to as La Barra. On the south side of the beach, surfers gather on their boards to chase the waves at this section lovingly known as Cicer. Surf schools abound where you can rent boards or take a class, so if you’re intrigued or want to improve your surf skills, you’ll be in the right spot.
Playa de Albir
Playa de Albir is an urban beach located in the town of Alfaz del Pi, situated between Calpe and the city of Benidorm along the Costa Blanca. If you love spending time by the ocean but aren’t fond of sand, especially when the wind picks up and blows everywhere, you’re in luck—this is a pebble beach. Lounge chairs are available for rent if you find the small rocks uncomfortable. If you’re in the mood to snorkel, paddleboard, kayak, or windsurf; you’ll find plenty of places to rent gear.
Playa de Matalascañas
With an expansive shoreline, Playa de Matalascañas is one of the most frequented and well-known beaches in the region for its fine, golden sand and crystal blue water. Make a day of it at this beach or go in the afternoon and stay and watch the sunset at one of the chiringuitos. There is also a long boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants.
WHERE: Cabo de Gata, Almería
In the nature reserve of Cabo de Gata Nijar, you’ll find a beach that may seem familiar even if it’s your first time setting foot on the sand. Playa Monsul has been in numerous series, commercials, and films, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Wind and the Lion. The beach hugs volcanic rock formations with a big rock in the middle of the shoreline.
Popular among families who come for the day, this beach offers something for everyone, including those who prefer to leave their swimsuit behind and bare it all. Pack a lunch or snacks if you plan to spend more than a few hours here—part of the charm is there aren’t any bars or restaurants around.
INSIDER TIPThere is limited parking available so avoid frustration and give yourself more time to soak up the sun and play in the waves. Park in San Jose and hop on the shuttle.
Playa de As Catedrais
This almost one-mile-long beach is sought after for its impressive cliffs that have given its name Cathedral Beach, or in Galician, Playa As Catedrais. Many people come for photo opportunities and to walk among the cliffs during low tide. You’ll want to time your visit because when it’s high tide, there is very little sand to set out your towels.
Because this beach has become popular with residents and tourists alike, during the months of July through September and Holy Week (Semana Santa), the Galician government has implemented a reservation system with a limit of 4,800 visitors per day. That means, if you want a chance at spending time at this beach, it’s necessary to reserve a spot.
These pristine, translucent turquoise waters will make you feel far away from all your worries and cares on this small secluded beach. One of the several beaches on the Galician islands, Islas Cies, where the only way to arrive is via ferry. Figueiras beach feels like a world away and time slows down in this strip of paradise. Come for the day because once you arrive and stake out your spot, you’re not going to want to board the ferry home.
Playa de Covachos
If you’re up for an adventure, this beach is for you because it’s not easy to reach the sand! From the parking lot, you’ll walk along uneven terrain before reaching steep stairs that require careful navigating to get down. If you have limited mobility, unfortunately, you’ll have to skip this beach as it is not accessible.
Playa de Covachos isn’t far from the city of Santander, but feels like a world away, surrounded by the cliffs and the sea. One of the many beaches where nudity is common, don’t be surprised if you find people sunbathing sans swimsuits. Before planning your day at the beach and traversing the steep way down, make sure to check when it’s low tide so you’ll be able to sit on the sand. It’s equally important to know when you need to head out before it’s high tide so you don’t get stuck or forced to swim.
Sant Pere Pescador
Sand dunes form the backdrop of this wild beach spanning almost four miles on the Costa Brava. It’s popular among kitesurfers for its designated area to practice and enjoy the aquatic sport. There’s also a world windsurfing championship held every year, so expect a light breeze to an intense wind. If you want to try your skills at windsurfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, or other water sports, this is the place.
If reading on the beach is more your style, or you want to get away from the overcrowded beaches, this is also a good spot. And if you fancy a swim, pay attention to the currents as they can be strong and challenging for the novice swimmer.