Feature: Cabo de Gata Beaches

Cabo de Gata's best beaches are strung along the south and east coasts, with some of the most beautiful southwest of San José. A dirt road signposted ‘Playas’ and/or 'Genoveses/Mónsul' runs to them from San José. However, from mid-June to mid-September, the road is closed to cars once the beach car parks (€5) fill up, typically by about 10am, but a bus (€1 one way) runs from town every half hour from 9am to 9pm.

The first beach outside of San José is Playa de los Genoveses, a 1km stretch of sand where the Genoese navy landed in 1147 to help the Christian attack on Almería. A further 2.5km on, pristine Playa de Mónsul is another glorious spot – you may recognise the large free-standing rock on the sand from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Tracks behind the large dune at Mónsul's east end lead down to nudist Playa del Barronal (600m from the road). If you bear left just before Barronal, and work your way over a little pass just left of the highest hillock, you'll come to El Lance del Perro. This beach, with striking basalt rock formations, is the first of four gorgeous, isolated beaches called the Calas del Barronal. Tides permitting, you can walk round the foot of the cliffs from one to the next.

A little west of Playa de Mónsul, paths lead from the road to two other less-frequented beaches, Cala de la Media Luna and Cala Carbón.

San José has a busy sandy beach of its own, and to the northeast there are reasonable beaches at Los Escullos and La Isleta del Moro. Much finer is Playa del Playazo, a broad, sandy strip between two headlands 3.5km east of Rodalquilar (the last 2km along a drivable track from the main road) or 2.5km south of Las Negras via a coastal footpath.

Las Negras, which has its own part-sandy, part-stony beach, is also a gateway to the fabulous Playa San Pedro, 3km to the northeast. Set between dramatic headlands and home to a small New Age settlement, this fabled beach can be reached only on foot or by boat (€12 return) from Las Negras.

Further up the coast, the small resort of Agua Amarga is fronted by a popular sandy beach. A short but steep 1.5km trek to the southwest leads to Cala de Enmedio, a pretty, secluded beach enclosed between eroded rocks.