From the rugged coves of the northern coast to white-sand bays on cerulean-silhouetted islands, Spain’s best beaches cater to sun-lovers of all kinds. Whether you’re looking for dance-until-dawn parties, coastal family fun or to escape the crowds (con o sin bikini!), there's a stretch of sand perfectly suited to you on the country's 4900km of coastline. Here's our pick of Spain's best beaches.
Editor's note: during COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel. Check the latest guidance before departure, and always follow local health advice.
1. Platja des Coll Baix
Journey through the woods to reach Platja des Coll Baix, a pristine strip of sand on the island of Mallorca. Snug below sheer, wooded cliffs, this shimmering crescent is all pale pebbles and teal waters. The catch: it's only accessible on foot or by boat. Come in the early morning or evening to see it at its peaceful best.
2. Playa San Pedro
Extending southeast of Almería province, along Spain's southern coast, the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Níjar boasts some of the country’s most flawless and least crowded beaches, and Playa San Pedro is perhaps the pick of the bunch. Accessible only on foot or by boat from Las Negras, this supreme ribbon of sand is backed by a pocket of verdant scrubland and the crumbling ruins of a 16th-century castle.
3. Playa Oyambre
The long, soft-blonde Playa Oyambre, west of the town of Comillas on Spain’s northern coast, is a sandy dream protected by the Parque Natural Oyambre. It has frequently surfable waves, a couple of campgrounds and a dash of intriguing history as the emergency landing spot of the first ever USA-Spain flight (1929). Waves and wind can be strong: swim only when the green flags fly.
4. Playa de Torimbia
This sheltered fingernail-shaped cove is an Asturian classic. Located near the northern town of Llanes, this clothing-optional spot is bound by rocky headlands and a bowl of green hills. Bathers will need to walk the last kilometre or so to the beach, which keeps the crowds here relatively thin.
5. Playa de la Concha
Scallop-shaped La Concha, in the heart of San Sebastián, is easily among the best city beaches in Europe. Tanned and toned bodies spread across the sand throughout the long summer months, when a fiesta atmosphere prevails. The swimming is almost always safe, making it a good option for families with young children. It’s also a great choice for beach-seekers who enjoy a good meal after a day in the sun, with San Sebastián one of the gastronomic hotspots of Spain.
6. Praia As Catedrais
This dreamy sandy stretch on Spain’s northwestern coast is strung with awesome Gothic-looking rock towers, arches and chambers, sculpted by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Avoid the hour or two either side of high tide when the beach is under water. Such is its popularity that during Semana Santa (Holy Week), July, August, September and some holiday weekends, permits (free to apply online) are required to visit.
7. Cala Mesquida
One of Mallorca’s best bathing spots, Cala Mesquida's beautiful 300m-long sweep of sand, dunes and pine scrub are not just appreciated by human visitors. The area is protected, in recognition of its importance to local birdlife. Just around the headland, horseshoe-shaped Platja de Cala Agulla is another beautiful, but busier, spot.
8. Playa de Mónsul
Another of the gasp-inducing, wild beaches fringing the semi-desert Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Níjar, Playa de Mónsul is a fabulous sandy wedge hemmed in by sharply eroded lava rocks and a towering dune. A distinguishing feature is its central rock stack, which makes a silver screen cameo in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
9. Flecha del Rompido
Possibly the most spectacular beach on Huelva province's Costa de la Luz in Southwest Spain, this 8km-long sand bar along the mouth of the Río Piedras can be reached only by ferry, which keeps the crowds away, even in midsummer. The waters on the inland side remain calm, while the south side faces the open sea. Part of the Río Piedras wetlands reserve, it's a place of great ornithological and botanical interest.
10. Platja de Ses Salines
Arguably the best of Ibiza's many top-class beaches, Platja de Ses Salines is a gorgeous sweep of white sand with glass-clear sea, backed by rolling sand dunes, patches of sabina pine woodland and buzzy chiringuitos (beach bars). Sun-seekers of all kinds flock here to work the bronzed, blissed-out Ibiza look. The scene varies from northwest (family-friendly) to southeast (with a more boho vibe and some nudism); things can get busy in summer.
This article was first written by Isabella Noble in February 2020, and last updated in February 2021.