With almost 5,000km of stunning coastline, Spain has a beach for everyone, writes Heidi Fuller-Love
Whether you prefer hidden sheltered coves lapped by sparkling waters, long stretches of toddler-friendly silk-soft sand or super sophisticated seaside resorts where you can sit and sip cocktails, with almost 5,000km of coastline stunning sun-soaked Spain has a beach for every taste.
Secluded island life on laidback La Graciosa
The Canary Islands’ newest hidden gem, this little-known atoll just a 30-minute ferry hop from Lanzarote is part of the Chinijo archipelago – one of Europe’s largest marine reserves – and has some of the country’s most beautiful unspoilt beaches. The best way to explore on this car-free island is to hire a bike and head out along sandy tracks that link the lovely pristine coastline with a string of small villages.
Half an hour from main town Caleta del Sebo, Playa de las Conchas’ fine golden sands strewn with seashells are a paradise for sunseekers, but keen swimmers will prefer the crystal clear waters of Playa del Salado on the island’s sun-dazzled southern coast.
Sweeping beaches and spaghetti westerns in the Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Níjar
At the heart of the spectacularly wild Cabo de Gata-Níjar park, the sand and shingle Playa de los Muertos beach stretches for more than a kilometre between the pretty hamlets of Carboneras and Agua Amarga, with their charming guesthouses and seafood restaurants.
Fringed by cobalt waters, this beach lovers’ oasis at the heart of Almeria’s rocky, cactus-studded landscapes which have been the backdrop for countless Spaghetti westerns, can only reached by foot from the Mirador de los Muertos viewing point.
This isolated cove is also linked by a dramatically scenic coastal footpath to the 19th century Mesa Roldán lighthouse standing high on its rocky outcrop looking out over the Mediterranean.
Sun worshipping on the Playa de las Catedrales
Named for its spectacular rock formations, which resemble the soaring arches found in Gothic basilicas, Playa de las Catedrales, near the Galician town of Ribadeo, is a watery wonderland for sun worshippers.
Washed by brilliant blue sea, the smooth sand beach – which is reached via a steep stone staircase – is ideal for sunbathing, but at low tide when the beach’s natural wonders are revealed, you can wander beneath lofty stone arches and explore the gruyere-like labyrinth of sea caves, before beating a rapid retreat when the waters rise again.
Sophisticated city beaches in the centre of Cádiz
Sun-seekers and urban beach babes who long to be close to the action will love the Blue Flag beaches of La Caleta and La Victoria at the heart of one of Andalusia’s liveliest cities.
Most popular with locals, the Playa de la Victoria has plenty of facilities, including sunbeds, a sports area and its own outdoor cinema. For a more laidback vibe head to La Caleta, a pristine beach between the picturesque Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de San Sebastián castles, which is backed by lovely bars and beach shack chiringuitos serving brine-fresh seafood.
Paella and perfect beaches in Valencia
Valencia, on Spain’s east coast, is famed for its fabulous beaches.
Closest to the city’s lively centre, Playa de las Arenas’ dusky sands fringed by shallow seas are ideal for families, who can spend days lazing on the soft sand beach and evenings supping on local specialities – including paella, which was invented here in the mid-19th century – in a string of stylish restaurants and bars behind the seafront.
For a more peaceful beach experience make a beeline for the soft sands of Patacona beach, with its seaside cafes where you can sample deliciously refreshing local drink horchata de chufa made with made with the tiger nuts that are grown next door in Alboraya.
Volcanic landscapes and glorious seascapes in the Canary Islands
At the heart of Fuerteventura’s Parque Natural de Corralejo – with its seascapes backed by endless dunes rising to a height of 50m in places – is one of the Canary Islands’ most breathtaking beaches.
Half an hour’s bumpy car ride from capital Puerto del Rosario’s whitewashed houses and pretty fishing port this beach, dotted with ancient circular stone windbreaks known as corralitos, is also just a 20-minute boat ride from the tiny uninhabited volcanic island of Los Lobos, which is home to rare seabirds and endangered Mediterranean monk seals.
Elsewhere in the Canary Islands, sultry, dark-sand shores can be found in Northern Tenerife. The black-sanded Puerto de la Cruz is backed by an old harbour housing a 17th-century customs house and the crumbling, 18th-century fort of Batería de Santa Bárbara.
Gran Canaria also has its fair share of dramatic beaches. Maspalomas beach is a protected nature reserve, with its own palm tree oasis, lagoon and undulating sand dunes. Also in the south, the dark-sand Playa de Patalavaca has a more local vibe, with a good selection of traditional Canarian restaurants within walking distance. From here, an hour’s drive around the eastern curve of Gran Canaria will take you to Playa del Confital, a rocky nature reserve that’s popular with surfers.
Lanzarote’s Playa de Famara is a good bet to escape the crowds. Framed by towering cliffs, this vast, sweeping bay draws those seeking fresh air, good surf and wide open skies.
Paradise found in Ses Illetes
Regularly listed as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, this magnificent croissant-shaped curve of sand on Formentera’s northern tip is just a short boat ride from buzzing Balearic island beauty, Ibiza.
Part of the Ses Salines d’Eivissa and Formentera Natural Park, Ses Illetes’ golden sands – backed by Marram grass-tufted dunes and lapped by warm shallow waters – gaze out over five tiny uninhabited islets where rare seabirds come to breed.
With a scattering of restaurants serving seafood specialities within easy waking distance, you’ll probably never want to leave.
The beautiful Balearics
Head east from mainland Spain to explore the four largest islands of the Balearics – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera – and the smaller islands and islets that surround them. For the sheltered coves of Mallorca’s coastline, try Cala Deià, a tiny shingle beach that offers clear waters and rock pools, and is one of few beaches on the island’s west coast. It’s about an hour’s steep walk from the mountain village of Deia, with it’s honey-coloured houses and World Heritage Site status.
On Menorca, much has been done to protect the island from overdevelopment. In 1993, it was awarded Unesco Biosphere Reserve status, which today means being spoilt for choice when it comes to virgin beaches and coves. In the south-west, powdery white sand beaches are backed by dense pine forests. Visit Cala Trebalúger – accessible only by boat or a 40-minute walk – for quiet sands. In the north, enjoy the orange-red glow of the sands at Cala Pregonda, Cala Cavallería and Cala del Pilar. It’s a walk to get to each, but the payoff of quiet beaches in secluded landscapes is well worth the effort.