Spain is hugged by the Mediterranean from the East and by the Atlantic from the West (with a little side action by Portugal). Unless you’re purposefully trying to avoid the beach, there’s no way you won’t stumble onto one during your travels in Spain. The issue here is that there are just too many to know which one to choose! First world problems.
In this post, we’ll focus on beaches on the east and south coasts. Our list of the best beaches in Spain can help you choose a spot for your beach vacation. Or, if you aren’t a beach bum, add some sandy wanders to your otherwise non-beachy holiday. The beach makes any trip somehow better, doesn’t it?
Karin and I aren’t ones to laze around the beach all day, rather appreciating the beach from a nearby tapas restaurant with a beer in hand. That’s the life! We do love spectacular nature, so finding a beautiful natural beach is fun, too. Our list includes both city beaches and the more natural types.
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Is this an exhausting list? Absolutely not! With thousands of kilometers of coastline, this is barely scratching the surface. But it might give you an idea where to start, since you probably don’t have the time or stamina to research all the hundreds of beaches available. You’d turn old before you made a decision on the best one to visit.
Best beaches near Barcelona
The capital of Catalonia would have a lot going for it even if it didn’t have beaches. But it does, so this is our top pick for the perfect city beach destination. Stay in one of the top rated hotels in Barcelona to make your stay a memorable experience.
1. Barceloneta Beach
You can thank the 1992 Olympics for this symbol of Barcelona’s beach scene. They wanted to make Barcelona more attractive, and adding a beach steps away from all the cultural highlights was the way to go.
It’s an artificial beach that isn’t easy to maintain—the sand needs to be topped up every once in a while and can cost up to a million euros to do so. But the people gotta sunbathe, so topping up is what they’ll do.
La Barceloneta is full of life and beautiful people, it’s where you go to see and be seen. There are beach bars and beach gyms, and the palm trees on the boardwalk give it the extra summery feeling. With many restaurants and bars lining the beach, it’s a place where you can spend days and nights.
2. Bogatell Beach
They didn’t just build one beach for the Olympics. It was actually a string of beaches. If you move a few steps up north from Barceloneta, you get to five other shorter beaches, each with a bit of a different vibe.
Bogatell is the longest of the bunch, and it retains Barceloneta’s urban vibe but with less crowds. That’s mostly thanks to less tourists. You’ll find mainly just the locals hanging out here. Could this really be the best beach in Barcelona? The hip Poblenou neighborhood is just opposite the beach. You’ll like it there if you are into quirky art galleries and craft beer joints.
3. San Sebastian in Sitges Town
To get out of Barcelona, head 20 minutes south to Sitges, a cute little town worth spending some time in. It has several beaches that are clean and relaxed. The sand here is so fine you’ll be finding it in all the wrong places days after you return home.
San Sebastian Beach is right in the center of town, nestled between the rocky coast on one end and the historical buildings standing just centimeters from the sea on the other. They make for nice views. The water at the beach is shallow and clean.
Stop by the Palau de Maricel, an art museum right by the sea. You can see it from San Sebastian Beach. The architecture and design is really cool. So very Spanish with a colorful, charming courtyard and an obvious affinity for the color blue.
Best beaches near Valencia
Valencia’s main beach area stretches from the harbor and continues north. There are supposedly three beaches in this main stretch, but where one ends and another begins is impossible to tell. The main distinction is that the further up you go, the quieter the beach.
4. Malvarrosa Beach
The middle section of the almost 4 km long beach area (that’s 2.5 miles for you non-metric folks) is the beautiful Malvarrosa Beach. The sand is wide with plenty of room for everybody, it’s bright and clean and slopes gently into the turquoise sea. You will still find beach restaurants here, but unlike the party beach to the south, you won’t feel out of place not wanting to take a shot of tequila at 1 pm.
5. El Saler Beach
Get out of town to the nature reserve to the south of Valencia, Parc Natural de l’Albufera. It’s a wide beach that can get a bit windy, but with the super clean sand and beautiful nature around, you can’t be mad at it. It deserves its spot on the list of best beaches in Spain for its natural beauty. You can always go for a walk to the nearby lake if you get sick of the sea.
Tip: Here are some of the best beach hotels on Valencia’s coast.
When you get hungry, you can try your luck at one of the many little restaurants in the vicinity. It is said that paella was born here. Not in the general area, but actually here in these itty bitty towns. We tried the fantastic garden restaurant called Alqueria de la Mar and were not disappointed. The food and setting will make you forgive it the missing sea views.
Best beaches near Alicante
We can’t not mention the beaches of Alicante in this list. You will certainly find the long stretches of golden sand and turquoise water, but what is special here are the coves and hidden bays. If you want to find some of the best secret beaches in Spain, head over to this part of the coast and explore.
Another reason the area is popular are the beach resorts of Calp and Benidorm. If you are the beach resort type and don’t mind a beach lined with hotels, these might be right for you. There are high rocks and some cliffs in the area, so you can also do some waking and ogling the views.
6. San Juan Beach
If you’re looking for more of a city vibe with a wide, white beach, San Juan Beach has got you covered. It’s at the east side of Alicante town with all the amenities and easy access. It’s 5 km (3 miles) long, so there is plenty of room for everyone. It’s a popular beach but it never feels crowded. You are close to many restaurants and bars, some are even right on the sand.
7. Cala Moriag
One of the hidden (but certainly not secret) bays of the area that we though stood out was the beach at Cala Moriag. The beach is short and rocky and you will need to walk about 15 minutes to get to it from the parking lot, but it’s worth it!
Our top tips for beaches in Spain: 💙 Best city beach destination in Spain: Barcelona 💜 Most charming beach resort with an Old Town: Estepona 💚 Wild and windy wonder: Bolonia Beach
Not a beach to lay around at all day, it’s more suited if you like to explore. The dramatic rock formations and caves are just calling for an adventure. Or at least some Instagram pics! The color of the water is just perfect since there isn’t much sand to murk it up.
Bring food and drinks, there are no amenities here.
8. Los Muertos Beach
Moving steadily down the coast towards Andalusia, the Beach of the Dead might not sound too inviting, but just give it a chance, ok? It’s on this list for a reason.
The reason is drama. First of all the drama of the name. It is called Playa de Los Muertos supposedly because this is where the sea currents converge and where the bodies of shipwrecked sailors would wash up. If that isn’t a reason to be on the best beaches of Spain list, I don’t know what is.
But the main drama now is the natural setting. The unspoiled beach is at the foot of a cliff and the rock formations give it its wild charm. Get there in the morning to avoid parking too far away. It is a 15 minute walk from the parking lot and has no amenities.
Best beaches near Nerja
We’ve written about the beaches around Nerja in another post, so check that out if you want more information about where to bathe and what else there is to do in the area. Overall it’s a great place to base yourself if you like beaching. If you don’t stay in nearby village Frigiliana (see the post mentioned above for more details), you can check out Nerja’s top hotels here.
9. Carabeillo Beach
In general, the beaches in Nerja will always be crowded in the main season. Carabeillo Beach is at the western end of the main beach, Playa Burriana. It’s sectioned off by a group of large rocks. You won’t be alone on it, but it makes the beach a little cozier.
Otherwise you can just walk a few steps to all the restaurants that line Burriana beach. Or, walk upwards, to the viewpoint called Mirador del Bendito. It’s at street level and you get a wonderful view of the coast without all the crowds of the nearby hotpot, the Balcon de Europa.
10. Alberquillas Beach
A short drive to the east of Nerja takes you to snorkeling paradise. The rocky coast makes for great sights not only above water, but also under water. So take your gear and expect more pebbles and rocks mixed in with the sand.
Playa de las Alberquillas is one of the many beaches that line the area between Maro and La Herradura. There are mountains that lead straight up from the coast, so even just a coastal drive is tons of fun and stopping for pictures. This also means you need to be prepared to walk down a trail to get to any of the beaches. To get to Alberquillas, it takes only about 10 minutes.
Stock up on food and drinks because this is a natural beach with nothing on sale.
Best beaches near Malaga and Marbella
Malaga is a popular city by default, since the international airport is where the majority of travelers land at when coming to southern Spain. While Malaga has fantastic restaurants and some interesting sites, you really don’t need to stick around, even if there is a beach.
The main city beach, La Malagueta, is not a beach you want to base your vacation around. If you want a city beach, head up north to Barcelona.
If you want a nice beach, drive further south and stay between Malaga and Marbella. Be warned that Marbella is like the Saint Tropez of Spain, with luxury homes, snobby restaurants and expensive everything. Go there if you want to beach and golf and feel like a celebrity. For some, this is where you have to go to find the best Spanish beaches. It all depends on the vibe you are looking for.
11. Carihuela Beach
The closer you get to Marbella, the more manicured the surroundings. That sounds like a complaint, but it really isn’t. Clean and pretty isn’t a bad thing, right? Not for me anyway. This beach is in Torremolinos town, which is still closer to Malaga than Marbella. The location hits the sweet spot between big city and fashionable resort.
I don’t like it when there’s a busy road right next to the beach, so what I appreciate at Carihuela is the wide, palm tree-lined promenade right next to the sand. You could spend all day (or several) eating and drinking at the many restaurants and chiringuitos along the beach and in the streets further out.
The sand is clean and golden, the water is the omnipresent green-blue of the Mediterranean, what more could you want. Stay at Sol House to be steps away from the beach at all times.
12. The dunes and beaches of Mijas and Artola
This next spot is a real treat. If you continue further down from Torremolinos, you soon get to the dunes of Mijas and Artola. The place is a nature lovers dream! Mountains of sand, what is not to love?
You have to take a stroll on the wooden walkway of the Senda Litoral Coastal Trail. You don’t need to do the entire 4 km (2.5 miles), but maybe just get to Max Beach. It’s a beach club with a restaurant and pool that gives you fabulous views to the sea. No need to leave the comfort of the tiled floor to enjoy this beach area!
For a more natural setting with no music and cocktails, find the wooden trails of the Artola dunes south of Mijas. Stop by Artola Beach for an unspoiled setting that can get a bit windy. You will need to bring your own drinks and snacks.
Or head to the west end to where this beach turns into Playa de las Cañas. There is a beach restaurant between the two called Triana Marbella that is great after a few hours walking in the dunes.
13. Estepona’s La Rada Beach
This is a great tip for a beach vacay. The old town here is so charming it makes me want to pretend I love staying in beach resorts. If you do, too, this might be the best beach spot in Spain for you.
La Rada Beach lines almost the entire town, so unless you’re staying out in the boonies, you’ll always be steps away from the sand. There is an inviting promenade that takes you to dozens of restaurants. Yes, there are hotels along the entire beach, but at least they aren’t of the high-rise and soul-less variety.
Best beaches past Gibraltar
In a surprising twist to our Andalusia travels, Gibraltar topped my list of favorite places in Southern Spain. But would I go there for a beach vacation? No. There is only one or two beaches that deserve a mention in the otherwise fantastic destination.
You’ll need to travel around the bend to the Atlantic coast for some more beautiful beach spots. The water temperature may not be as high as in the warmer Mediterranean, but the scenery may be the best yet. There are so many beaches that are worth seeing it is hard to find one that sucks.
This is the are to find Spain’s best wild beaches. Here are just a couple that stood out to us:
14. Bolonia Beach
A spectacular beach right by the ruins of a Roman city, surrounded by sand dunes. Are you sold yet?
It’s a long and wild beach that you can get fantastic views of from the big dune at the north end. It’s protected by the curve of the shore so the water is pretty calm considering it is the ocean. The beach is really special, if even just for a walk.
There is a tiny town with apartment rentals and a few restaurants right by the beach, so you don’t need to trek to get to this natural beauty. Look for El Albero Restaurant for great seafood.
If you explore the area you’ll easily find other wild beaches, too. Plan to spend a few hours here and don’t think twice about spending the time to get here.
15. La Fontanilla
If you prefer a wild, ocean-facing beach but with more amenities than Bolonia, La Fontanilla is very close to the town of Conil de la Frontera.
It’s a wide, sweeping beach, as they are in these parts. The sand is golden and the water is wild and clear, and the beach is backed by cliffs. There are lifeguards on duty and some beach bars, too. The real perk is the stunning sunset on this beach. You need to spend an evening there reminiscing about your travels through Spain!
You can also make time to visit Cadiz, which is only about 40 minutes away.
16. La Caleta Beach in Cadiz
You might already be planning a visit to Sevilla on your trip to Andalusia. Why not add a day trip to the coast? Or overnight in Cadiz? Cadiz is an easy, comfortable drive from Sevilla, about 1 hour and 10 minutes long. Plus it has some historic sites that are worth the trip, too.
The main city beach, La Caleta, has views to not one but two castles. Santa Catalina is right in the old town, and San Sebastian is out on the water! You can walk to it on the walkway that juts out 400 m (1300 feet) into the water.
La Caleta can get crowded and it isn’t a place you want to lay around all day. It’s more for the beach vibes in my opinion. Take a walk, have a beer, wander into town.
Not impressed? Well if you’re a serious beach-goer, shouldn’t you go to one of the islands instead? That’s what they’re for, right? The best beaches in Spain might require you to leave mainland and cross over to Mallorca for example. Check out these beaches on Mallorca, all waiting for you to explore.
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