Spain has more than 5,000 miles of coastline, much of which is graced with beautiful beaches. Although tourists tend to flock to the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol, there are gorgeous beaches lining the country on every single coast. But not all beaches are created equal, and just because one summer hotspot is popular doesn't mean you'll be a fan of it. If you're planning a summer vacation to Spain, knowing which beach is the best fit for you and your travel companions will help take your experience from "good" to "simply unforgettable." From the iconic Playa de La Concha in San Sebastian to the sunny southern shore of Andalusia, these destinations provide the full package when it comes to beaches in Spain.
La Concha Beach, San Sebastian. Forget about Spain itself for a second – La Concha is considered one of the best city beaches in Europe. With its fine golden sand, sweeping views of the bay, and characteristic sophisticated white promenade, this spot is practically begging to be Instagrammed. Situated in the north-east corner of Spain, near the western end of the French border, San Sebastián is a chic coastal city with excellent pintxos (think tapas, but Basque) and one of the nicest beaches you'll ever find in a city. There's plenty happening on and around La Concha Beach, too, so if you're looking for even more adventure than a typical beach vacation, San Sebastian is a great destination. San Sebastian is easily accessible by rail from Madrid, Barcelona, and other major cities in Spain. Click here to learn more about how to get around Spain.
Playa de Las Catedrales, Galicia. Although a bit more remote than La Concha, Playa de Las Catedrales is the best beach in Galicia, featuring pristine sandy beaches and rock formations created by the sea. Playa de Las Catedrales is located in northwest Spain, and the closest city is Ribadeo (though Foz is nearby as well). The region is known for its unpredictable weather year-round, and it isn't ideal for visiting during the winter months. Come summer, though, you'll practically have this natural paradise to yourself, as it isn't on most tourists' radar yet. Ribadeo is on the Narrow Gauge Railway which runs along the north coast of Galicia and Asturias. To get from Santiago de Compostela, get on a three-hour bus journey.
Playa del Silencio, Asturias. Beaches in the rugged region of Asturias are considered to be the best in northern Spain (narrowly beating out those of nearby Galicia), and of those stunning spots, Playa del Silencio is considered to be the best of the best. As with Galicia, sunshine is not as certain in Asturias as it is in other parts of Spain, but you can still find some affordable hotels in nearby Cudillero if you're looking to explore the region and take in a bit of culture on the cloudier days. Asturias is a popular destination for the younger crowd, and its major cities such as Gijón have plenty to offer in terms of parties, concerts, and special events. The Asturian coast is great for a day-trip. Trains and buses to Cudillero are available from many northern Spanish cities.
Ses Illetes, Formentera, Balearic Islands. Just off the eastern coast of Spain, the Balearic Islands are home to some of the most popular vacation destinations in the country including Ibiza, Mallorca, and Minorca. However, the island of Formentera was rated the best island for beaches by Viajar in 2015, including Ses Illetes and Cala Conta. Though the beaches are better on Formentera, the nearby (and larger) island of Ibiza tends to be more active. Formentera is an easy day trip (by ferry) from Ibiza Town.
Beaches of Sitges, Catalonia, Near Barcelona. Along the northeastern coast of Spain, the shores of Sitges are home to some of the best beaches near Barcelona. Located just a few miles from this thriving city, Sitges has become a well-known LGBT destination in Spain but is also known for its mixed and nudist beaches. Sitges makes for a popular day-trip from Barcelona, and a few hours spent exploring its charming streets is time well spent. If you'd like to spend a few days exploring this beautiful coastal town, accommodation here will likely prove more economical than staying in busy Barcelona.
Nerja, Costa del Sol, Andalusia. The Costa del Sol in Andalusia is one of the most expensive (and occasionally overpriced) regions of Spain, but the beaches here are worth the trek if you've never visited this gorgeous part of the country. Rather than heading west from Málaga to the likes of Torremolinos and Fuengirola, make your way east to Nerja. A typical pueblo blanco ("white village") with pretty houses and nice beaches, Nerja isn't completely free from the big hotels that blot the landscape all around this region, but overall you'll find a much more relaxed atmosphere and higher quality beaches. Alternatively, head a little further out and you'll find yourself in Motril, an even lesser-known corner of paradise just south of Granada.
La Barrosa, Chiclana de la Frontera, Cádiz. La Barrosa was voted the best beach in Spain by El Mundo Viajes in a very tight contest against hundreds of other beaches. However, if you'd prefer to be nearer to the city, Playa de la Victoria in Cádiz itself is also very nice. Both boast fine white sand, stunning views, and plenty of chiringuitos (beach bars – an important consideration for any seaside escape).
Tarifa, Cádiz, Andalusia. Tarifa has a lot going for it: windsurfing, whale-watching, and a fun nightlife. However, if you're just looking for a place to sunbathe, the wind might deter you from visiting this gusty beach. If you don't mind getting sand everywhere, Tarifa will do you fine, but the area is especially perfect for active watersport enthusiasts rather than casual sunbathers. It is also situated at the junction between the Atlantic and Mediterranean, which adds some novelty value. Tarifa is a surfer culture paradise, and you can expect the same crowd of "dudes" and "dudettes" as you would on beaches in Hawaii and California. However, the laid-back lifestyle and active culture also mean you'll be able to find more affordable hotels in Tarifa.
Gandia, Costa Blanca, Valencia. Valencia's Costa Blanca is made up of a number of small towns with pleasant beaches. Some towns are bigger than others (Denia is one of the larger ones) while others, like Benidorm, attract mainly holiday crowds. Gandia is one of the beaches that is more popular with residents of Spain rather than foreign tourists, so if you're looking for a more relaxed, local atmosphere, this is the place for you. The Costa Blanca is a great place to explore if you're looking for a bit more of a cultural, local adventure, and you can find some really unique hotels in Gandia and other smaller towns.
Playa de los Peligros & Playa de la Magdalena, Santander. Santander is the capital of the less-visited region of Cantabria, located between Asturias and the Basque Country. Though Playa del Sardinero is more famous, Playa de los Peligros and Playa de la Magdalena are more popular with locals and tourists "in the know." These two beaches look across the picturesque Bahía de Santander, a bay with ships sailing by and misty mountains in the distance. Peligros and Magdalena are also close to downtown Santander, and the beaches here tend to be more popular (though not overcrowded) as a result.