With almost 5,000 km of coastline, Spain has at least 3,000 catalogued beaches including 442 Blue Flag beaches (2008), more than anywhere else in Europe. That's nearly double the numbers of France's beaches and more than double Italy's. Prices are low, jet-lag is zero from north Europe, sunshine just about guaranteed in season and most locals speak some English - and if not Spanish is the world's easiest language.
Beach resorts tend to be over-developed and under-cultured, but the sand is soft and golden, the waters warm during summer months, sunshine and watersports plentiful and costs low, particularly for all-inclusive packages.
For lengths of pristine, unspoilt sand from June to August sun-seekers will have to look long and hard, possibly finding it on Spain's spectacular Atlantic coast up north, the Costa de la Luz in the far south west, or on the islands, the Balearics or Canaries.
Beach Seasons: From May to late September are the most popular months for beach-lovers but the sea is still comfortable for swimming in October. Naturally beaches along the southern Spanish coast and Balearic islands have a longer season, even if the Mediterranean does get chilly and sunshine is less guaranteed, so it is not bad idea to go in the off-season for space, tranquility and even lower prices.
Spain's Canary islands offer the best beaches in wintertime, November - March.
Jellyfish: in recent years there's been regular jelly activity, with many swimmers stung off Denia on the Costa Blanca by purple Pelagia noctiluca as well as a less potent version of Australia's infamous Box Jellyfish species, Carybdea Marsupialis, while Atlantic north coast beaches are being visited by the Portuguese Man O'War. None of these are normally deadly though all unpleasant. Jellyfish stings information.
Spain's authorities are patrolling waters and warning swimmers when jellies appear. The Ministry of Environment said "The exact reasons to explain jellyfish blooms are currently under research. They seem to be increasing in recent years and the most likely causes suggested are the decline of natural predators such as turtle and tuna; changes in climatic factors such as rainfall or global temperature; hydrographic peculiarities of the area, as well as pollution from land based sources".
These are divided into area-specific pages so follow links for full information.
Islands come first, then the mainland Costas starting in the north of Spain.
Tenerife, Canary Islands
- Off the coast of west Africa, Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean
The sun-soaked, sub-tropical Canaries has a superb, year-round climate thanks to their hot, dry, southerly location off the coast of Africa that is moderated by the Gulf Stream and Trade Winds, a no-jet-lag four hour flight from the UK, fine beaches and extraordinary volcanic landscapes and parks. In fact, in spite of the relatively small size of this island group four of Spain's seven biggest nature reserves are found in the Canary Islands.
Majorca, Balearic Islands
- Balearic Islands, in the Mediterranean Sea
Located in just off the coast of Catalonia and a 45-minute flight from Barcelona, the Balearic island group - especially Majorca and Minorca - have been one of Europe's most popular sun 'n' sand holiday destinations for years. They are cheap to get to via package deals, enjoy a superb Mediterranean climate with plenty of sun and host some of the Mediterranean's best beaches.
However, the Balearic Islands have more to offer than just price-friendly beach life. From spectacular landscapes for nature lovers and hikers (Majorca), historic Spanish towns, museums and archeological sights for culture vultures (Minorca) to wild nightlife for wild things (Ibiza), the Balearics cover most holiday bases in more style than the mainland.
- Spain's north Atlantic coast, Costa Vasca/Costa Verde/Galicia
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.
There are well-established beach resorts with excellent facilities to be found on both the Costa Vasca and Costa Verde coasts, with more unspoilt beaches lurking further west in the Galicia region, north of Portugal.
- The north-east Mediterranean coast, Costa Brava
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. Although there are few untouched beaches here the Costa Brava still has a wilderness ambience in places.
- The central-east Mediterranean coast, Costa Dorada
Stretching south from Barcelona to Tarragona in the region of Catalonia, the Costa Dorada (aka Daurada) enjoys 150 miles of golden sand beaches, hence its name the 'Gold Coast'. This Costa encompasses one of Europe's most fascinating, cultured cities, Barcelona.
- The central-east Mediterranean coast, Costa Blanca
The 'White Coast' extends for 200 km along Spain's central-east shore and includes the attractive old city of Valencia as well as monstrous, package beach resorts such as Benidorm.
You won't get a real taste of Spanish culture on the Costa Blanca as the area has been leached of indigenous interest in favour of a bland and efficient sun and sangria-seeker support system. Nevertheless, although the landscape hereabouts isn't spectacular or special in any way, the water is turquoise in the summertime, the sand while not actually white is still an attractive pale gold, and the coast soaks in more than 300 days of sunshine a year.
- The south-east Mediterranean coast, Costa del Sol
Along 160 km of Spain's south east coast the Costa del Sol is the country's primo sun and sand destination. The beaches of the Costa del Sol, protected from northerly winds by the Sierra Blanca mountains, offer superb, extensive golden sands rinsed gently by warm Mediterranean waters.
In addition, visitors to this particular Costa have easy access to Andalusia's stunning inland tourist attractions such as Seville, Granada and Cordoba, and traditional white-washed, hill-top villages. This combination of glorious sand and glittering sights is a winner, enticing huge numbers of travellers throughout the year.
- The far south-west Mediterranean coast, Costa de la Luz
200 km along the coastline west of Gibraltar towards Portugal, Costa de la Luz has some of Spain's finest, least crowded beaches. The coast is spacious with a hot climate, warm, clear seas and abundant champagne-colour sand, making Costa de la Luz a winner for Spanish beach holidays most of the year.
However, some beaches can be uncomfortably exposed and windy, with the result that some places are among Europe's best wind-surfing and kite-surfing destinations.