Welcome to the first blog post in our new Beach Comber series. Each week we will be giving you a run down of the best beaches in a selected country or region. This week the focus is on sunny Spain and the top five beaches to visit there. Our Beach Comber articles will be published every Monday at — so keep your eyes peeled for the next one…
Playa de La Concha – San Sebastian
Where: Playa La Concha is located in San Sebastian, in Basque country, northern Spain, and is widely regarded as the best city beach in Spain. It has amazing soft sand and shallow, warm water that is great for kids. It is smack bang in the center of the old town of San Sebastian so you can take in some sights in the morning and chill out on the beach in the afternoon. The beach is shaped like a wide crescent and there is plenty of space to stretch out on the sand, although things can get pretty busy in July and August. There are some beautiful turn of the century buildings that line the promenade just behind the beach and a distinct lack of high rises that you may find in other Spanish seaside resorts. The nearest airport to San Sebastian is Bilbao.
Nearby bars/restaurants: San Sebastian is famous for having the best tapas (also known in the region as pintxos) in Spain so getting good food near to the beach is not a problem as there are pintxos bars everywhere you look serving reasonably priced, delicious food. If money is no object San Sebastian is a food and wine lovers paradise with 3 Michelin starred restaurants in the city. Bar Nestor is a must-visit, an authentic Basque bar and restaurant that is famous with locals alike. Try their speciality ‘Steak, green peppers and tomatoes.’
Special features: La Concha is very family friendly with children’s play areas along the front, shallow waters and fantastic changing and showering facilities. There are also lockers available for valuables.
Go there if: You want to explore a beautiful city and one of the best beaches in Europe.
Avoid if: You like music pumping while you sunbathe. Although it is a city beach San Sebastian is very chilled out and you won’t really find any party animals here.
Links: San Sebastian Tourist Office
Playa La Carihuela, Torremolinos – Costa del Sol
Where: Torremolinos picked up a bit of a bad reputation during the 60s when high rises appeared and it was seen as the quintessential ‘Brits abroad’ destination. Well, things have changed! Torremolinos is now a perfect family holiday resort with clean beaches, great value accommodation and hundreds and quality restaurants. La Carihuela lies to the east of central Torremolinos, towards Benalmadena. This was once a small fishing village but now it is a cosmopolitan resort with restaurants, shops and leisure facilities; and most importantly, a fantastic beach. La Carihuela Beach stretches for 2.1km and it is easily accessible from the seafront promenade which is lined with beach bars and restaurants. The sand is perfect for making sand castles (so don’t forget your bucket and spade) and there are very few rocks or pebbles
Nearby bars/restaurants: The Torremolinos coast is famous for its ‘pescaito’, small fried fish that are served in restaurants in the area. Seafood in general is outstanding here and the restaurants in La Carihuela are of a very good quality. The usual ‘Chiringuitos’ (beach bars) line the sand and you are pretty much guaranteed to get good food here. If you venture further into town there are lots of great seafood restaurants and tapas bars, be adventurous! Seafood lovers should try La Lonja just off the seafront where you can pick your own lobster for dinner.
Special Features: La Carihuela is a clean, safe beach with plenty of comfortable sun loungers for rental (for about €5 each) and lots of space for kids to build sandcastles or dig themselves a large hole to sit in! It has a feeling of a family seaside resort with the added bonus of having a superb selection of bars and restaurants to eat and drink in.
Go there if: You are on a family holiday. The beach is clean and safe. The sand is perfect for kids to play in and the water (although a little bit cold out of season) is good for paddling.
Avoid if: You want to be part of the Marbella set. This might be on the Costa del Sol but you won’t be bumping into A-Listers here. It’s all about good, family fun in La Carihuela.
Playa de Bolonia, Tarifa – Costa de la Luz
Where: Playa de Bolonia is in Tarifa, one of the southern-most points before you cross the Gibraltar Straits to Morocco. Apart for anything else this beach looks amazing! White sands, turquoise waters with dramatic waves and a HUGE sand dune at one end which is perfect for hiking up and then rolling back down! It is actually located 20km north of Tarifa but the village of Bolonia has its own bars and shops. The beach is pretty big (3.8km long) and 70 metres wide so there is no shortage of space on the sand. The beach is popular with the surfing crowd due to fairly strong winds for much of the year and the hostels and bars that line the seafront reflect this laid back vibe.
Nearby bar/restaurants: La Cabana is just one of the beach side chiringuitos that welcome young, cool surfer-types with an array of cocktails. There are a number of these chilled out bars that also serve good seafood and local dishes as well as more snack bar type options. You’ll often find live music in the bars later in the evening as well.
Special Features: As well as being one of the best surfing spots in Spain, Bolonia also the Baelo Claudia Roman ruins right on the beach! Baelo Claudia was a Roman settlement dated back to around 2000 years ago and this is the best example of the ruins of a Roman town anywhere in Spain. History buffs will be in their element!
Go there if: You want to surf and hang out in funky bars with the cool kids. Or if you want to explore ancient ruins while you are on the beach!
Avoid if: You want luxury accommodation and shopping malls. Bolonia has largely avoided mass tourism so far.
Links Surf Centre Tarifa
Playa El Cristo, Estepona – Costa del Sol
Where: There are lots of great beaches on the Costa del Sol but what makes El Cristo different is that it faces west, rather than south like most of the beaches along this stretch of coast. This means that the beach is almost completely sheltered from the wind and it also means that you get the most spectacular sunsets here. It is located just west of the town centre, immediately after Estepona Marina which means that is it also well located for the restaurants, shops and bars there. The beach also has Blue Flag status which is awarded for cleanliness and excellent facilities.
Nearby bars/restaurants: There are two chiringuitos on the beach, Lolaito or the Havana Beach Club. The Havana Beach Club is a little bit trendier than the more traditional Lolaito and plays chilled out Ibiza-style tunes throughout the day, giving it a bit of a cooler vibe but it is also slightly more expensive; so if you want tasty, good value food head to Lolaitos. It’s nice to sit and enjoy a drink at the end of a day at the beach at Havana.
Special Features: Because the wind is pretty non-existent on El Cristo it’s a great place to play ball games without the ball flying away. The water is shallow and great for kids and also snorkelling as the water is calm and clear. It’s also great for sunbathing if you like to feel the heat!
Go there if: You don’t want to be surrounded by Brits. This beach is popular with locals and other nationalities but it definitely has a more Spanish feel than lots of beaches on the Costa del Sol.
Avoid if: You like big waves or watersports that need wind. The water is still here and there is little breeze.
Links: Estepona Tourist Office
Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona
Where: Most people go to Barcelona to check out Las Ramblas, the Basilica or the nightlife but if you want to take a few hours out of the hectic city life then Barceloneta Beach is the place to go. It is busy, but not too busy. Sunbeds are around 6 Euros for the day which is pretty reasonable and you are sure to be entertained by musicians, people trying to sell you tings or people watching in general. Needless to say this is not the calmest beach in Spain but its 15 minutes walk from Las Ramblas and there is always something going on here.
Nearby bars/restaurants: Unsurprisingly Barcelona is heaving with places to eat and drink and with the city centre just 15 minutes’ walk away you are spolit for choice. If you want to stay close to the beach try out Shoko where the hip crowd hang out. Shoko is a bar and club so you can stay here til late. There are lots of other trendy bars and restaurants around this area, near to the Hotel Arts and the fish statue.
Special Features: Lots of beautiful people.
Go there if: You want a party atmosphere with plenty to entertain you; or if you fancy a break from city sightseeing.
Avoid if: You want peace and quiet. Barceloneta has too much going on to really chill out.
Links: Barcelona Tourism Office