Playa Primera, one of the four Sardinero beaches in Santander, Costa de Cantabria.
The rocky shores of the Spanish Atlantic coast in the north present spectacular views of natural beaches framed by lush and dramatic landscapes yet to be overpowered by mass tourism (partly because the sea is bloody cold! ).
There are well-established beach resorts with excellent facilities to be found on the Costa Vasca (the Basque Coast), Costa de Cantabria and Costa Verde (Green Coast), with more unspoilt beaches lurking further west in the Galicia region, north of Portugal.
San Sebastian is the largest town in this region and is home to the spectacular, curving La Concha beach, one of the best urban strands in Spain.
San Sebastian’s La Concha beach, a huge space when the tide is out, backed by a calm, wide promenade and useful facilities. The Atlantic waters warm up quite quickly due to the shalowness of the bay.
Here are our choice of best beaches selected from the 90 along 220 kms Costa de Cantabria though if you want full services and facilities nearby then head for Santander’s half dozen urban beaches which are uniformly clean and well serviced with soft sand, plenty of facilities, free parking nearby and good bus services. They spread mainly along two shores, the Atlantic and just inside the large harbour. Santander is a mid-size, pleasant, relaxing city.
San Sebastian’s La Concha Beach, big, nice colour and very convenient.
Platja de la Barceloneta, Barcelona, Costa Brava. Photo by Sergi Larripa.
Extending north from Barcelona to the French/Spanish border, the rocky Costa Brava comprises a number of small towns with delightful sandy coves and diminuitive beaches but with few traditionally huge stretches of sand except for Barcelona’s sizeable stretch of beaches. Although there are few untouched beaches here the Costa Brava still has a wilderness ambience in places.
Our choice of best beaches on Costa Brava: Platja de Castell, a small, unspoilt, white sand beach surrounded mainly by nature with just the right number of services; Barceloneta for a decent beach with fantastic aprés-swim environment.
Cala Fonda, a clothing-optional nudist beach just east of Tarragona, Costa Daurada. Photo by Irene Aliaga
Stretching south from the border of Barcelona (which is not included) to Tarragona (included), Catalonia, the Costa Dorada (aka Daurada) enjoys 150 miles of golden sand beaches, hence its name the ‘Gold Coast’.
This Costa’s most popular beaches are found in Sitges (just south of Barcelona), La Pineda, Salou, Cambrils and Tarragona. Tarragona also offers the culturally interested sun-seeker a crop of Roman ruins and UNESCO World Heritage Site while kids may be more interested in PortAventura theme park that encompasses a ‘Costa Caribe Aqua Park’ and is the most popular theme park in Spain.