Costa Brava spans 60 kilometers (37 miles) along the Catalan coastline from the city of Blanes to France. The region is a sought after holiday destination for both foreigners and locals alike due to its rugged terrain, beautiful coves, mouthwatering seafood and quaint beach towns.
Whether on a family vacation, low-budget backpacking trip or a romantic getaway, Costa Brava’s distinctive beach towns offer something for every travel style and personality. I visit Costa Brava for the outdoor adventure activities, but others go for the nightlife or to search for a quiet beach to pop open a book and try some of the best seafood in the country. Whatever the motive, Costa Brava provides.
Here are five of my favorite beach towns in Costa Brava:
Cadaqués is perfect for those looking for a little solitude and silence. Located close to the French border, this town’s iconic white buildings create a beautiful view when looking back at it from either side of the bay. Walk up the hill to the Iglesia de Santa María for another great photo opportunity overlooking the town. I can never leave the city without eating (and brining back) a box of Taps de Cadaqués. These famous little sponge cakes in the shape of corks are only made in one bakery, Mallorquina C.B.
Right off of the walking path is a pebbly beach with easy access. There are smaller beaches if you venture further along the bay. Port Lligat Beach and the Salvador Dalí House are both just a short walk out of town and shouldn’t be missed. Cap de Creus Natural Park has hikes for any fitness level plus stunning panoramic views of the rocky coastline. The area around the old lighthouse has additional hiking trails, a hostel and an Indian restaurant with great views from the terrace.
Don’t visit the city without brining home a jar of their famous anchovies! L’Escala even holds an annual festival for the fish with a concert of traditional fisherman’s songs, habaneras. Visit The Museum of the Anchovy and Salt to discover the town’s long history in the fishing and salting trade.
L’Escala has many great areas to swim or get a tan, ranging from large sandy beaches to small pebbly coves. It’s really incredible to be able to swim in front of the ancient ruins of Empúries at Les Muscleres beach and right next to the remains of an old Hellenic jetty at Moll Grec beach. The ruins of Empúries deserves a visit a visit of its own. The ruins were once an important trading port built by the Greeks, which was later occupied by the Romans. Visitors to the site view what’s left of the town, including intricate mosaics, an old salting factory, drainage system and forum.
If you want to tan by day and party at night, Platja d’Aro is your place. With lots of nightclubs, bars and surprisingly good restaurants, this town is known to attract a younger crowd. Visitors spend the day on the large sandy beach, Platja Gran d’Aro. The long beach boardwalk is a great place to go for a morning bike ride or jog before jumping in the water for a swim.
Just outside of the city limits are many campsites that are right next to the beach. I enjoy camping in this area because of its proximity to a number of great beaches and snorkeling spots. The campsites are still close enough to town, so it’s easy to go out at night or grab a bite to eat.
Calella de Palafrugell
This seaside escape is great for a romantic weekend with someone special and deserves a place as one of the best beach towns in Costa Brava. The open-air restaurants along the beach overlook the water, and cook up some really tasty paella and grilled seafood. For something sweet, head a little further into town for artesian ice cream, orxata, waffles, smoothies and crepes at L’Enxaneta Gelats d’Altura.
Calella de Palafrugell has a nice beach for swimming and is right along the Camino de Ronda hiking trail. After just a short 10-minute walk on the trail, the town of Llafranc appears, boasting its own sandy beach and seaside restaurants. The Cap Roig Botanical Garden and castle, known for its annual music festival are along the trail in the opposite direction. The Camino de Ronda also provides otherwise difficult access to secluded coves and incredible snorkeling spots.
Tossa de Mar
The impressive Castell de Tossa is perched on the outcrop overlooking the main sandy beach, Platja Gran. There are also many smaller coves and beaches, within walking distance. Sitting right below the castle wall is Platja d’es Codolar, one of the easier beaches to reach.
Don’t miss the chance to explore the castle and walk in the old town, my favorite thing to do in Tossa. It feels as if you’ve stepped back into the medieval times. Along the beach boardwalk and in the old town, there are many restaurants and bars serving up typical dishes with local produce and seafood.