Spain is quite rightly one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Beach resorts such as Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and the Costa del Sol are great fun and offer plenty in the way of sun, sea and sand.
More and more of us in search of somewhere a bit different are heading off the beaten track and exploring the kinds of beaches that are usually popular for the locals. So, if you fancy experiencing them for yourself, book a holiday to one of these beach resorts and hop in a hire car to unearth the best hidden gems that Spain has to offer…
THE CÍES ISLANDS, GALICIA
How do you fancy relaxing on a beach that’s been dubbed the ‘Galician Seychelles’? Well, with white sand beaches that glisten in the sun due to the presence of tiny particles of quartz and crystal clear waters that’s what you’ll get if you head to the three Cíes Islands – Monteagudo, Faro and San Martiño.
Located off Spain’s north west coast, an hour’s ferry ride from the city of Vigo, the islands’ total of nine unspoiled beaches are protected by their National Park status.
Monteagudo and Faro are linked by Rodas beach, a 1200 m long spit of sand shaped like a boomerang with a natural lagoon just behind it. However, for a truly deserted stretch of sand check out the beach of San Martiño. This island can only be reached by private boat, so its beach has a real air of exclusivity.
There are no hotels here, only a campsite, that is served by just a couple of basic restaurants. For longer stays, head to Vigo and explore its art galleries and museums on your return to mainland Spain.
With a 330 m stretch of golden coral sand, invitingly clear green waters and a marina at one end, Llafranc beach in the Costa Brava is hardly an undiscovered paradise. However, the majority of sun seekers who lay down their towels here are local residents from nearby Calella de Palafrugell or the owners of yachts berthed in the marina.
For those without access to a boat, the beach is accessed by walking under a canopy of trees that give off a sweet scent of jasmine and pine. Alternatively, walk the path from Llafranc up to the cliff top Sant Sebastia lighthouse, which offers great views in addition to a café.
If you fancy stepping back in time and experiencing some history, travel 22 miles to the Ruins of Empuries – some of the most impressive Greco-Romans ruins in Catalonia. Or, if you fancy less travelling, hop over to the Cap Roig Botanical Gardens (about half an hour away on public transport) before booking a table at the Casamar restaurant in Llafranc for delicious food with a great view.
ZAHARA DE LOS ATUNES, CÁDIZ
Playa de Zahara de los Atunes is one of the most well-known beaches in the Costa De La Luz due to its near four mile-long shoreline of virtually untouched sand stretching from the fishing village of Zahara de Los Atunes all the way south to Cabo de Plata and its spectacular sunsets.
The part of the beach closest to the village of Zahara de Los Atunes has white sand facing the Atlantic Ocean and offers views of Africa. Here, watersports are on offer in the summer when this stretch of sand is also home to local restaurants, bars and cafes that are frequented by locals and tourists.
The English translation of Zahara de los Atunes is ‘flat place of the tuna fish’ and the site has been producing excellent tuna since 300CB. In fact, the Romans built a major town in the area Baelo Claudia – the ruins of which are about half an hour by road from Zahara de los Atunes – that was used to export preserved tuna all over the Roman Empire.
Alternatively, drive back up along the breathtaking coastal road towards the city of Cádiz stopping in Sanlúcar to sample the tapas at Casa Balbino, beloved by celebrities and locals, finishing the night in a Cádiz for a glass of Spanish wine.