Spain's best beach resorts

The thought of Spain conjures up many evocative images – historic sights, distinctive culture and buzzing cities – but for many, the first would be the country’s marvellous beaches. Here, our local expert guides you around the country's best coastlines
Landscape of Lloret de Mar Castle near Girona. Photo: Shutterstock
Landscape of Lloret de Mar Castle near Girona. Photo: Shutterstock

Spain is blessed with an incredibly varied coastline, with the hugely popular Costas stretching from the eastern end of the Pyrenees all the way round past Gibraltar to the Costa de la Luz and the border with Portugal, while the Costa Verde (Green Coast) extends along the northern coast, passing through Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia on its way from the Basque Country. Don’t forget, either, the Balearic Islands off Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast, with resorts that range from the rowdy to the refined, while visitors from the northern hemisphere in search of serious winter sunshine and swimming need look no further than the volcanic Canary Islands.

The bonus for travellers in search of the perfect Spanish beach, however, is that so many of them can be enjoyed while being based in a genuinely interesting resort or city. Below, our local experts have revealed their favourite stretches of coastline and which destinations to head for. Don't forget, when you're ready to book your own holiday, our trips to Spain are completely customisable: if you like the look of one itinerary but want to add a stop at any of the places listed below our local experts have it covered. Simply select the trip you'd like to take and modify the itinerary. Alternatively, get in touch with our local experts today to plan your holiday from scratch.

1. Barcelona

With its cutting-edge architecture, design, culture, cuisine and renowned nightlife, Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations. It’s also only a short hop across the harbour from the medieval Gothic Quarter to a string of seven beaches, which collectively form Barceloneta’s 4km-long waterfront. Head down the landscaped route from the city to Port Olimpic marina, which is lined with restaurants, bars and cafés, to find your perfect bit of sand, or promenade in the evening, when DJs move into the beach bars. Explore this stretch of sand for yourself on Insight Guides' Cultural Cities of Spain holiday, which takes in Madrid, Seville and Granada too.  

2. San Sebastián

Perched at the northernmost point on Spain’s Costa Verde, in Basque Country, with the Pyrenees to the east, San Sebastián rose to prominence as an upmarket resort for the Spanish and South American aristocracy in the late 19th century. A perfect horseshoe bay of sand forms the centrepiece of what is still Spain’s most stately summer resort, home to jazz and film festivals, as well as humming street life in the Old Town. Insight Guides' local experts can plan, book and organise your entire beach break for you: get in touch with your San Sebastián holiday requirements today

View on San Sebastian, Spain.View on San Sebastian, Spain. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Cádiz

This ancient Atlantic seaport of narrow streets was built on an isthmus and as a result, now has beaches to choose from on three sides. Located on the Costa de la Luz in Andalusia, this is a delightful resort for both enjoying the beach and immersing yourself in local history and culture, with some fascinating museums, a striking cathedral and a notable flamenco tradition. Tour the region at your own speed, with a two-night stop in Cádiz, on Insight Guides' Andalusian Road Trip tour

4. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

The Canary Islands – seven isolated islands off the west coast of Africa – boast extraordinary contrasts and near-year round sunshine. Gran Canaria shares the status of capital of the Canaries region with Tenerife, and it is here that you will find the busy resort of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Both elegant and a bit seedy, the city has a handsome old colonial quarter and various interesting museums, as well as the classic bustling Spanish plazas. There is also an excellent beach, Playa de las Canteras, a 3km stretch of sand, lined with cafés and restaurants. Take in the best of the island on Insight Guides' Tenerife Explored adventure

5. Palma de Mallorca

The capital city of Mallorca, the largest Balearic island, was once best known for its package holidays, but is increasingly renowned as a boutique destination. Whatever your travel style, Palma is rich in sights, including Arab baths, the mighty Gothic cathedral and a 13th-century castle. This smart, urbane city is built around a sheltered bay and is classically Mediterranean, with palm trees lining the streets, alfresco dining and bobbing yachts in the bay. It’s also not far to the first of the beaches for which this island is famed, with Cala Major located in beautiful surroundings. 

Matching a a city break with a beach holiday is easy in the pretty city of Girona.Matching a a city break with a beach holiday is easy in the pretty city of Girona. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Valencia

Standing in the middle of Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast, the city of Valencia has an enviable location. Known today for its dazzling architectural projects and equable climate, Valencia also has a city centre packed with monuments and museums – including the famous Museu Nacional de Ceramica – that is only a tram ride from the beach. Visit the Mercat Central, one of the largest markets in Europe, for a picnic, then jump on the tram to the waterfront district. The port was redeveloped in order to host the prestigious Americas’ Cup race and is a smart place for a stroll, including on the palm-shaded paseo that follows a wide sandy beach northwards.

7. Costa Brava

Spain’s most attractive strip of coastline extends from Lloret de Mar to Pals in Catalonia, a succession of cliffs and coves concealing traditional fishing villages and secluded beaches. The term “Costa Brava” means “sheer, bold, rocky coast” and the suitability of this name will be evident to anyone making their way along it. Visit Girona for its well-preserved, medieval Jewish quarter, L’Escala for Salvador Dali’s surrealist-furnished castle, or the extraordinarily wild and unspoilt landscape north of Lloret de Mar. The major tourist centre here is Alicante, which remains perfect for traditional tourism and a classic beach holiday.

Taking a holiday to Spain's best beaches: how to get started

Insight Guides can help you with planning, organising and booking your trip to Spain. Simply, get in touch and share your budget, interests and travel style. Our local experts will create an itinerary exclusive to you and your requirements, which you can amend until it's just right. Alternatively, browse and modify ready-made holidays to create your dream trip today. 

This article was originally published on May 9th, 2014.