For more general advice on booking a holiday in Spain, see our Spain summer holidays guide. Our guide features expert recommendations for cities, beach, villa, culture, food and drinkand activity holidays.
All prices are for the cheapest double room in spring or summer unless stated otherwise. They are subject to availability.
Far from the typical tourist trails, the cliff-edged, emerald-green eastern coastline of Asturias boasts some of the most exquisite beaches in Spain. Beneath the Picos de Europa, rocky coves, remote golden crescents, low-key beach towns and a buzzing surf scene await. But this superb country deserves exploration as much as sunbathing sessions, and the region’s beauty lies in the immediate accessibility of both sea and mountains – “mar y montaña”. A great way to do this is with Inntravel’s one-week, self-guided, tailor-made “Rugged Hills Coast of Asturias” trip, which combines coastal escapades with mountain walks, from the lovely rural base of the British-run, 100-year-old farmhouse Posada del Valle near Arriondas.
From £535pp based on two sharing, including seven nights accomodation, most meals and car hire, flights not included (01653 617000, inntravel.co.uk)
2. Langre, Cantabria
Hidden away amid the tranquil, rural country of the Costa Trasmiera, Langre’s wild, secluded beaches are arguably Cantabria’s most spectacular. Endless green meadows top sheer limestone cliffs that lead down to two golden arcs of sand, fronted by thundering waves that make this a top spot for surfing. It was originally a hit with nudists for its wonderful isolation, and it’s hard to imagine that the lively capital, Santander, is a mere 25km away to the west. Enjoy the peace and quiet in comfort at rustic-chic countryside hotel La Posada de Langre, about 500m back from the beach.
3. West Coast Cantabria
Western Cantabria’s beaches almost feel more like Sydney than Spain – except that this 50km-long coastline is lined with pretty fishing towns and backed by peaceful green hills sprinkled with roaming cattle and centuries-old stone farmsteads. Much of it lies within protected natural park land, which makes for some of the most pristine beaches around. It’s tricky to choose favourites, but those between Comillas and San Vicente de la Barquera might just top them all. Brittany Ferries offers an extensive selection of transport-plus-accommodation beach holidays to this area. An excellent base among these is the simple but cheerful Hotel Joseín, with an unbeatable sea-facing position on Comillas Beach.
From £996 for two people, including return ferry crossings to Santander and three nights’ b b at Hotel Joseín (0871 2441444; brittanyferries.com)
4. Tamariu, Costa Brava
If you like the idea of secluded smugglers’ coves and broad stretches of golden sand fringed with pines and coral pink rocks, look no further than the Costa Brava. Far from the braying crowds of the larger resorts, the stretch of coastline between Palamós, about an hour north of Barcelona, and Cadaqués near the French border has some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean. Without so much as a high-rise for miles, many of the small bays still have the feel of the fishing villages they originally were. One of my favourites is the horseshoe bay at Tamariu, lined with fish restaurants yards from the sea. The family-run Hotel Tamariu there has simple, fresh rooms with a blue and white nautical feel. Perfect for a beach holiday.
5. Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria
Playa del Inglés and the dunes of Maspalomas have been attracting sun worshippers since the heady, hippy days of the 1960s, and with good reason. Seven glorious miles of honeyed beach morph into seductive sand dunes at the southern end, catering for those who prefer privacy and an all-over glow. In an attempt to recapture the spirit of the hedonistic Sixties, in 2012 one of the resort’s original hotels, located behind the beach, was refurbished beyond recognition to create Bohemia Suites Spa. Retro-chic design, a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views over the dunes, and a pleasure palace of a spa combine to provide a groovy boutique hotel for “free-minded” people and Austin Powers fans.
6. Cala Mesquida, Majorca
Cala Mesquida, on the north-eastern tip of the island, is a stunning beach of pale sand, framed by dunes and pine forests – with a few hotel complexes on one side. If you need to stay somewhere with excellent facilities but want to explore a quieter part of Majorca, the Viva Cala Mesquida Resort should fit the bill. You stay in spacious apartments – it is definitely worth booking one with a sea view – and can choose any permutation from self-catering to all-inclusive. This remote bay used to be a smugglers’ haunt, but is now a favourite of windsurfers. Although it still has a wild feel, there are a couple of bars and restaurants on the beach and lifeguards to keep an eye on the sometimes choppy sea.
Read more: the best hotels in Majorca
7. Es Pujols, Formentera
Best beach in the Balearics? We could argue about that all day but Formentera, the little island south of Ibiza, has some pretty convincing contenders for the title. White sand and clear, calm water are the norm here, making Formentera a good choice for families with young children – the island is certainly not the sole preserve of the boho brigade. People also come to dive, kayak or windsurf, to cycle or hike around the island or go birdwatching in the wetlands – a great option in spring, when accommodation is very reasonable. The new Hotel Blanco Formentera is two minutes’ walk from Es Pujols beach, which has a handful of bars and restaurants. Stylish yet simple, the hotel fits right in with the island’s laidback vibe.
8. Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
The low-key resort of Playa Blanca in the south of the island curves around beaches of golden sand that are great for families. The idyllic Papagayo beaches are a short drive or boat ride away and you can take a ferry across to Fuerteventura for a quick change of scene. Right by the sea, the five-star Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort is a neocolonial complex with enough pools, restaurants, sports and children’s activities to keep everyone happy.
Read more: the best hotels in Lanzarote
9. Costa Calma, Fuerteventura
With its never-ending beaches and facility-filled hotels, Fuerteventura is a wonderful destination for families, but it is fast becoming a rather cool destination, too. This is largely down to the surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding scene, as well as diving and cycling. If the big hotel scenario is not your thing, there are plenty of quirky, smaller options to choose from, both inland and on the coast. The Vik Suite Hotel Risco del Gato is by the beach just outside the resort of Costa Calma in the south of the island. You stay in futuristic “pods” – individual curving, white structures, each with an area of 110sqm including the outdoor spaces – which are more like villas than hotel rooms.
10. Marbella, Costa del Sol
There is a stretch of sand to suit everyone in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, whether you want the buzz of a glitzy beach club or a laidback family-friendly vibe. Stay at the freshly revamped Puente Romano hotel and you can step straight out of the hotel on to the beach – and perhaps take a few lessons in stand-up paddleboarding too. Or improve your tennis at the hotel’s prestigious club, where you might well spot a professional player on the next court. The Puente Romano is laid out like an Andalusian village, with low-rise white buildings concealed by subtropical gardens, so you don’t feel you are in a huge complex.
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