Readers tips: Spain’s best beaches
Want to escape the crowds in Spain and find a beautiful remote beach? Our Been there readers have some great suggestion
WINNING TIP: Poo beach, Llanes, Asturias
This is a fantastic child-friendly beach. The name puts children in a giggly mood before you even get there. This is enhanced by caves, a deeply shelving area with great waves, a shallow stretch for paddling, and headlands and streams. Two cafes provide snacks and loos. Lifeguards at most times, but observe the flag system.
Zahara de los Atunes, Cádiz
A small fishing village with stunning beaches and world-class gastronomy, this is a laid-back, off-the-beaten-track place, visited mostly by locals. The beach is wide, clean and endless – you can stroll as far as more developed Atlanterra. I recommend Camping Bahia de la Plata 1km from town, where you can rent wooden bungalows or pitches overlooking the sea. It has a restaurant where you can enjoy superb mojama (salt-cured tuna) and a chilled beer.
El Palmar beach, Cádiz
El Palmar is a deserted stretch of sandy, wind-blasted beach that goes on as far as the eye can see. There are no high-rise concrete hotel blocks, no fancy restaurants, no full English breakfasts. There are a fewchiringuitos (shanty-like bars) serving tinto de verano, a refreshing red wine and soda mix, boquerones (delicious deep-fried anchovies) and other tasty snacks. It’s always very, very windy here and there is little shade from the intense sun, except in the bar!
Near Vejer de la Frontera on route A-48, between Tarifa and Cádiz
Playa Santa María del Mar, Cádiz
This small beach effectively splits Cádiz in two. The beach has very reliable surf, and local refreshments are provided by friendly beach sellers. Mickey from Argentina is there all year round – he will join in with any football or volleyball match and throws a mean Frisbee. Playa Victoria stretches off along the new town, and in summer everyone inSpain seems to be here! So I suggest you visit in February and March for the carnival, or at Easter.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
Worth a visit at any time of year, the beach is lined with bars serving fresh seafood and manzanilla sherry. But for two weekends in August it is transformed into the most glorious racecourse. Horses gallop along the surf while families watch from deckchairs. The beach is decorated with colourful cardboard betting booths made and staffed by children, who will give you a handmade betting slip and a sweet if your horse comes in.
Salobrena is the jewel of the Costa Tropical and a world away from the faded glamour of Marbella and the all-day breakfasts of Torremolinos less than an hour down the coastline. It is made up of several beaches split in two by El Peñón – a huge rock that sticks out into the sea. Climbing the rock affords impressive views out to the sparkling Mediterranean or back towards the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains . The deserted beach offers an afternoon dose of warm winter sunshine after a hard morning skiing in the Sierra Nevada, or in the height of summer you’ll share it with generations of Granadinos escaping the heat of the city. Salobreña beach is most famous for its chiringuitos – nothing beats a glass of cold Alhambra lager with a tapa of the freshest squid or whitebait that money doesn’t have to buy.
Playa del Silencio
Deserted even in September, the Bay of Silence is on the Asturian coast north-west of Oviedo. From above, the view glimpsed through pine trees shows cliff-side steps twisting down a white cliff to a cove. The tranquil beach is inexplicably empty, while grey and cream flowlines of rock strata at the cliff base betray the tumultuous activity of past ages. It makes a great diversion for those on the Camino de Santiago trail.
Playe de Valdearenas, Santander
This beach on Spain’s north coast has amazing sand dunes and great coastal walks with sandy beaches and dramatic outcrops of rock.
Frequent buses go to Liencres from Santander, 15km to the west
This is one of the incredibly beautiful coves that nestle between the cliffs in the northern Costa Brava. Two shabby but wonderful fish restaurants sit on the beach, and there is no greater pleasure than sitting outside eating paella or freshly caught squid with cold sangria. A parador overlooks the beach from the cliff for those who want more elegant dining or to spend the night.
Parador Hotel Aiguablava (tinyurl.com/5szzmv2)
Sitges and Garraf
The picturesque town of Sitges is 35km south-west of Barcelona, and easily reached by train. As well as being chock-full of culture and carnivals, the area boasts 17 clean sandy beaches. The town beaches are the busiest, but to the east lies Les Botigues, a peaceful beach with open-air bars, and the long beaches of Castelldefels.
The beach at Garraf is family-friendly and popular with the locals, with great restaurants overlooking the beautiful bay. The village also has a restaurant housed in a charming winery – Celler Güell (gaudiallgaudi.com) – built by Gaudí.
RENFE trains run frequently from Barcelona, from Sants and Passeig de Gracia stations, sitges-tourist-guide.com
Playa de Rodas, Las Islas Cíes
This spectacular crescent of white sand sits off the coast of Galicia, accessible only by ferries, which run from early spring to late summer. There are no hotels, no litter bins and almost no development on these islands once treasured by Julius Ceasar. The stunning crystal clear waters, warm microclimate and soft white sands make this a heavenly escape from the mainland during the summer months.
A short ferry ride from Vigo or Baiona
Playa de las Catedrales, Ribadeo
While not offering the best sand, sunbathing or nightlife, this is one of the most spectacular beaches in the world. Only during low tide are the magnificent natural rock arches visible, stretching 30m high and providing the cathedral-like appearance from which the name originates. A truly incredible place to explore, with a myriad of once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities, it is easy to become spellbound among the cliffs and caves. A word of warning however: be sure to make your way back to safety before high tide covers this cathedral of sand almost as fast as it appeared.
La Concha, San Sebastián
La Concha, the beach in the middle of San Sebastián, has fine golden sand, a shallow slope into the sea and is surrounded by the lush green hills of the Basque country. Best of all, it is an enclosed cove with an island in the middle so that the two beaches are completely sheltered from ocean currents and waves and thus totally safe for swimming. There is an ideal surfing beach too. It is kept impeccably clean, and there are also changing rooms, lockers, showers and cafes on the beach which is right by the buzzing and beautiful old city centre.
Cala Gracioneta, Ibiza
A beautiful secluded cove just outside Sant Antoni de Portmany. It’s well hidden, so head for Cala Gració (it’s touristy big brother) and on foot, follow the rocky headland around and into the next bay. Here you’ll find an interesting mixture of locals, but more importantly peace and quiet, fine golden sands, and clear, warm shallow water; ideal for kids learning to snorkel, or adults winding down from the previous night. As if you need another reason to spend the day here, El Chiringuito (chiringuitoibiza.com) is an authentic cafe/bar serving seriously good cava sangria and the best paella on the island. Relax under the shade of the trees – eat, drink and enjoy the views!
2km north of Sant Antoni de Portmany; walk or catch the bus to Cala Gració
Cala d’en Serra, Ibiza
On the north coast of the island is one of the most peaceful, idyllic beaches I’ve ever been to. Situated in a shallow, sheltered cove with cliffs and fishing huts, Cala d’en Serra is only about 50m wide but absolutely stunning and I’ve never shared it with more than five other people. Chilled perfection!
Just north of Portinatx – a sign on the main road leads you down a dirt track
Playa de ses Illetes, Formentera
A beach at the northern tip of the island with white sand and clear water reminiscent of the Caribbean. It’s quieter in September and the water temperature is perfect.
Formentera is a 40-minute boat ride from Ibiza