The Costa Brava, an area of lush natural beauty on the top right-hand corner of the Spanish coast, encompasses the areas of Port Bou near the French border, right down to Blanes in the south.
The 200 kilometres of wild and rugged Catalan coastline lends itself to dramatic scenery, secluded bays, quaint fishing villages and natural parks. The region also boasts some of the most alluring beaches you’ll find in all of Spain.
During a Costa Brava vacation, discover the beautiful beaches of Calella de Palafrugell, Llafranc and Begur. See ruins of ancient settlements by the shoreline in Empúries, or enjoy snorkelling at beaches near the bustling resorts of L’Estartit, Tossa de Mar and Platja d’Aro.
This region delights at every turn, and the best Costa Brava beaches may not be the most obvious. We love the quieter, off-the-beaten-track coves, and the less touristic stretches of shoreline. Ready to explore like a local? Read on!
Cala Pi, Portbou
Let’s begin the list with the most northerly, land-accessible Costa Brava beach, Cala Pi. This small, perfectly formed pebble beach near the French border is hemmed by rocky cliffs and surrounded by nature.
It’s known in the English language as ‘Beach of the Pines’ and is the ideal sun worshipping and swimming spot for couples. It’s also a clothing-optional beach if you don’t want any tan lines!
Legend has it that Cala Pi was once a place where pirates stashed valuable booty, in the cliff’s caves. Therefore, it’s also a wonderful place for snorkelling and diving to see if sunken treasures can be found!
It’s fair to say this isn’t the easiest beach to access. It’s around half a kilometre’s walk along a coastal path from Portbou village, but the scenic trail and small cove at the end are worth it, just remember to bring plenty of water and snacks with you, and take any rubbish home with you when you leave.
Cala Fredosa, Cadaqués
This next beach is one of my favourites – a tiny slither of coarse sand, known as Cala Fredosa. The hidden cove is located several kilometres outside the picture-postcard village of Cadaqués – once the home of the twirly-moustached surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
Nestled in Cap de Creus Natural Park, beneath a lighthouse, Cala Fredosa is a prominent stop-off point for hikers seeking a refreshing dip. The sea here is almost translucent in colour with perfect conditions for snorkelling and diving, and below the surface, it’s possible to view ancient sunken shipwrecks, starfish and live sponges.
There are few facilities on this beach (though there is a restaurant nearby) therefore it may not appeal to families, but if you’re searching for peace, serenity and plenty of photo opportunities, it’s one of the best beaches of the Costa Brava.
Platja de la Rubina, Empuriabrava
Tucked between the modern, upscale resort of Empuriabrava and the Grau Estuary is the two-kilometre-long Platja de la Rubina a.k.a. the ‘Wild Beach’.
This long stretch of golden sand is surrounded by Natural Park Aiguamolis de L’Emporda – home to shifting sand dunes, biodiverse lagoons and rare bird species.
La Rubina is a great beach for families, dog owners and watersports enthusiasts with the beach divided into sections that cater to all. Here you can learn to sail, windsurf or kitesurf, enjoy a leisurely swim or kick back and relax with a cocktail in the chiringuito (beach bar).
When you’ve concluded your day here, pop into neighbouring Empuriabrava – the Venice Beach of Spain – with 24 kilometres of canals, a residential marina, boutiques and lively tapas bars to enjoy!
Platja d’Empuries, Sant Marti d’Empuries
Platja d’Empuries at Sant Marti d’Empuries is a beach with a rich history. The area was once a disembarkation port for Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans arriving by ship, and remnants of one of their ancient settlements can still be viewed behind the tree-lined promenade.
This beach forms part of the Bay of Roses, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and jewel of the Costa Brava. The bay has been recognised as one of the most beautiful in the world.
Platja d’Empuries is a great spot for snorkelling and watersports, and boasts calm waters for swimming, thanks to a manmade breakwater. This beach is popular with outdoor adventurers as myriad biking and hiking trails are located close by, plus, if you’re feeling hungry, there’s a beach bar and several Catalan restaurants are tucked away within the old town walls.
Related Reading: Best Day Trips from Barcelona
La Pletera Beach, L’Estartit
L’Estartit boasts three main beaches including Els Griells and Platja Gran, both of which are awash with restaurants, water sports activities and kid’s clubs. However, if you’re seeking something a bit more laid-back and magical, head for Playa de la Pletera.
La Pletera is situated inside Ter Vell Nature Reserve with rolling sand dunes, lakes and swamps. There are opportunities to kite surf, dive or snorkel on the beach, or simply pop on your favourite playlist and relax on a lounger as the sun’s rays warm your skin.
Arrive here early in the morning to see the sunrise over the Medes Islands or stay for the sunset, immersing yourself in the scenic landscapes.
Sa Tuna, Begur
Some of my favourite holiday memories have been made at this small beach near Begur (one of the prettiest towns in the Costa Brava). A serene cove with a smattering of whitewashed houses on one side, and wild pineclad cliffs on the other, it creates a blissful scene.
The beach, a mixture of fine sand and coarse pebbles, is often strewn with fishing boats and sun umbrellas in equal measure. But despite its local popularity, the limited nearby parking means it’s never overrun. Just be sure to get there early to nab a coveted spot!
Low-key beach bars are within arm’s reach of the sand, offering freshly caught fish and local fare. And if you feel like stretching your legs, take a picturesque walk along the coast to Cala Aiguafreda in the north, or the secluded Cala s’Eixugador in the south.
Playa de Aiguablava, Begur
If you’re looking for the absolute best of Costa Brava beaches, check out Playa de Aiguablava between the above-mentioned Sa Tuna, and the seaside village of Tamariu (one of the most scenic areas of the coast!).
This beach has turquoise crystal-clear waters, tree-lined cliffs and the softest white sand, making it a scenic spot to spend the day. In summer, locals arrive to play beach games, hire a pedal boat or snorkel, and boats sailing along the coast often drop anchor in the bay just to enjoy the views.
In low season, Playa de Aiguablava is a place to relax and unwind with a favourite book, take a leisurely stroll along the coastal path, or learn how to dive. There are restaurants nearby serving reasonably priced set menus or you can simply sip a glass of wine as the sun sets. Bliss.
Platja de Llafranc, Llafranc
Llafranc is one of the best places in Costa Brava to stay if you’re looking for a laidback vibe and easy day trips. The coastal town exudes an old-world charm, with chic beachfront hotels, upscale restaurants, shops and a small marina.
The beach is a long sliver of golden sand with pine-clad headlands protecting it at either side. It’s popular with couples and families, although it does tend to get busy in the summer months.
Enjoy relaxing days swimming in azure open waters, soak up the sunshine or snorkel to see the abundant marine life. Alternatively, venture along the trail to the old lighthouse of Sant Sebastià for incredible views along the coastline.
El Canadell, Calella de Palafrugell
Platja del Canadell is one of the most idyllic beaches of Costa Brava. With golden sands, shallow water for swimming, low-rise pastel-coloured houses and boat stores at beach level, it’s a picture-perfect place to spend a day.
The beach is located in the heart of Calella de Palafrugell, one of the best beach towns in Costa Brava, flanked by pine forests that sweep down to the bluest of water.
In high season, it’s possible to rent kayaks and paddle boards, and in low season, El Canadell is a peaceful place to partake in morning yoga or a seaside walk.
It’s a charming destination with paella restaurants, pizzerias and a scenic coastal clifftop walk. If you are visiting during July and August, the nearby Cap Roig Botanical Gardens hosts up to 20 concerts featuring the biggest names in pop and rock.
Platja de Castell, Palamós
In one of the prettiest remote areas of the Costa Brava, free from hordes of visitors, and surrounded by pine forests and pastures, is Platja de Castell near Palamós.
The beach is named after the ancient settlement of Castell located at one end of the beach, so there’s plenty to explore, plus, there are several amenities to keep everyone entertained.
Whether you wish to lounge on a sunbed listening to music, enjoy a kayaking trip along the coast, sip tinto de verano (summer wine) in the local cafe or swim and paddle board in the calm Mediterranean Sea – this is the perfect spot to do it!
This beach is also great for those with limited mobility, as there is a dedicated parking lot relatively close to the beach, and from there, accessible walkways to the beach and bar.
Platja del Pi, Platja d’Aro
Not to be confused with the Platja del Pi near Portbou, this secluded cove is tucked away north of Platja d’Aro in central Costa Brava.
With soft swathes of golden sand, the 65-metre-long beach is tucked away in a bay between rocks and lush greenery. The turquoise water is a joy for swimming and snorkelling, and it’s often frequented by locals and hikers rather than tourists. There are no services on this beach as such, so remember to pack a gourmet picnic, drinks and your own beach towels and shade.
It can get busy during peak season, particularly in July and August, but at any other time of year, it’s a perfect place to read a book, meditate on the rocks, build sand sculptures or listen to the sounds of gentle waves lapping on the shore.
Cala del Senyor Ramon, Baix Emporda
If lounging on sun-kissed beaches, and swimming bare-skinned in aquarium blue waters is high up on your bucket list, head for Cala del Senyor Ramon in Baix Empordà. The 800-metre-long golden beach is clothing optional, so come with an open mind and plenty of sunscreen to cover those delicate parts!
The beach is surrounded by jagged cliffs and dense vegetation, allowing for privacy, and thanks to the bay-like location, the waters are shallow and safe for taking a refreshing plunge.
Pack a cool box filled with sandwiches and refreshments and spend the day in this restful enclave. There are a few different places to park to gain access, but if you choose the free parking on top of the hill, remember to consider the steep steps, especially on hot summer days.
Es Codolar, Tossa de Mar
With one of the most striking backdrops along the coastline, Es Codolar (the pebble) is one of the top beaches in Costa Brava to visit. It sits with a backdrop of rugged cliffs in a sheltered enclave with shallow, crystalline waters. It’s a great place to sunbathe as the cove protects bathers from the Llevant and Tramontana winds that occasionally sweep along the Costa Brava.
Although there are showers and sun loungers for hire, and bars and restaurants are close by, this is a beach for contemplation, relaxation and a leisurely swim. You’ll often see painted row boats abandoned each day after fishermen return from bringing in their catch early in the mornings.
If that doesn’t sound idyllic enough, atop the hill behind you is 12th-century Vila Vela, the picture-postcard walled town and fortress of Tossa de Mar. To reach the beach, you have to navigate the old town and a set of steep steps. This puts most families with young kids off, as they tend to stick to Tossa de Mar’s main beach. But if you can make it here, do, the views and vibe are worth it!
Platja de sa Boadella, Lloret de Mar
For decades, Lloret de Mar has been a popular hotspot for beach holidays in Costa Brava, and just a few kilometres south you’ll find the Blue Flag beach of Platja de sa Boadella. With cliffs blanketed in pine forests on either side, this sandy horseshoe cove is protected from the winds, and with calm, shallow waters near the shoreline, it’s great for young children to go paddling and swimming.
If you’re concerned about it getting busy during peak season, don’t worry, this is one of Lloret’s quieter beaches – it rarely gets overcrowded, with most tourists tending to stick to the beaches in the resort itself.
While spending a day here, enjoy snorkelling or diving in the waters renowned for their unusual flora and fauna, fill up on snacks at the local beach bar, and if the desire strikes, it’s fine to skip the bathing suit here too.
Playa Santa Cristina & Cala Treumal, Blanes
Nestled beneath the protected Pinya de Rosa – a cacti garden with pine trees and rocky outcrops, the twin coves of Cala Treumal and Playa Santa Cristina sit just a few minutes’ drive from the bustling town of Blanes at the southern end of the Costa Brava.
These are beautiful beaches to visit at any time of year, spanning 400 metres of golden sand – perfect for practising sunrise yoga, enjoying romantic picnics or taking the kids for a swim.
In high season, sunbeds and boat hire are available and there’s a snack bar for light bites and drinks. At any other time, enjoy barefoot walks in the sand, letting the gentle waves lap your toes, go for a jog along the beach or simply relax in nature after exploring the botanical garden.
Platja de Sant Francesc, Blanes
The final beach on the list is Platja de Sant Francesc, also a few kilometres from Blanes centre. It’s one of the Costa Brava’s most beautiful bays stretching around 200 metres in length and lapped by turquoise waters.
Luxury apartments and villas are hidden between pine trees on the hillside, only noticeable by the fact that they are all painted in brilliant white.
It’s a popular beach for children, with rocky breakwaters allowing for safe paddling and swimming. In peak season an array of facilities are on offer too. Rent a sunbed for a day of sun worshipping, grab some friends and hop aboard a pedalo, or head to the local restaurant for a feast of paella and sangria.
With hundreds of beaches in the Costa Brava, there are many more exceptional coves to discover. So rent a car, and don’t be afraid to let your senses guide you to other secluded coves along your journey.