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Six of the Best: Beaches in Andalucia

June 15, 2013

Spain isn’t just about sun, sangria and sandy beaches – any discerning tourist or resident knows that – yet when temperatures begin to soar around mid-June, it becomes quite difficult to think about anything else.

This is especially true when you spend most of your afternoons trapped inside a stuffy classroom endeavoring to teach English to a bunch of sweaty, slumping, exam-bushed teenagers. Naturally, the mind begins to wander, usually ending up somewhere along the 800km stretch of sandy Andaluz coastline, watching the cool waves gently breaking onto the shore as you lie sideways, surrounded by best friends, sipping a beer straight from the cooler. And then someone says “Teacheeerrr! Que hora eeeee!!??” in that grating, all-too-familiar whine, hauling you back to reality.

Fortunately, at weekends these daydreams become reality, and if it’s a Puente weekend (which there are thankfully a lot of at this time of year), a proper beach outing is in order. So if you’re a newbie expat or likely visitor to Spain in the near future, then read on. Here are six of the best beaches in Andalucía – in my humble opinion, of course.

1) Bolonia, Costa De La Luz

beaches in andalucia, Bolonia Beach, Cádiz

Bolonia Beach, Cádiz

Reached via a dusty and rock-strewn road found at the tail end of the 7km long, coast-hugging CAP-2216 highway, this top-rated playa is among the most difficult to get to in the Costa de la Luz province. Evidently, the trip is well worth the bother.

The large bay’s curved nature forms three zones that have each been tailored to suit various tastes. The south part is frequented more by surfers looking to make the most of the strong easterly winds, while the central area is mainly earmarked for families who are generally glad of the sombrillas and sunbeds on offer and the fact that the Red Cross emergency first aid point is nearby should it be needed. Parking is free round the central area.

beaches in andalucia, Baelo Claudia, Bolonia

Baelo Claudia, Bolonia (Source)

The north part of Bolonia beach tends to be quieter, and is best-known for its 30m high sand dune – said to be among the largest in Europe – which can be scaled successfully with enough gusto and perseverance if you’re feeling restless. Beyond the beach itself are the Roman Ruins of Baelo Claudia, which offer a fantastic insight into the ancient practices of the old fishing town.

2) Zahara de las Atunes, Costa de La Luz

beaches in andalucia, Zahara de los Atunes

Zahara de los Atunes, (Source)

The next beach village along the Costa de la Luz heading westward and around the jutting ridge is Zahara de las Atunes, another tiny and timeworn fishing village. The beach is among Spain’s 648 that have been awarded with the prestigious ‘blue flag’ title, and stretches for 20km until the lighthouse at Cape Gracia.

Locals and tourists alike are particularly fond of this one, but thankfully this doesn’t mean the place becomes inundated with bronzed, speedo-wearing Spaniards and factor 50 smothered guiris throughout the summer months. You have to wonder why though, given its crystal-clear waters, fine, white sand and assortment of lively, fresh tuna flogging chiringuitos (beach bars).

beaches in andalucia, Zahara de los Atunes

Zahara de los Atunes, (Source)

Accommodation is moderately priced and free parking is available at weekends.

3) El Puerto de Santa María, Costa de La Luz

beaches in andalucia, Playa de la Muralla, El Puerto de Santa María

Playa de la Muralla, El Puerto de Santa María

Is this cheating? I said this post would be ‘six of the best beaches in Andalucía’ yet as I write more it’s increasingly becoming more of a ‘six of the best beach towns in Andalucía’ sort of a post. Ah well. There’re just too many not to mention.

El Puerto was my first home in Spain. For the nine months I was there, the last two were by far my best, thanks mainly to the port town’s collection of beautiful beaches. My favourite was Playa de la Muralla, next to the marina Puerto Sherry. It was incredibly difficult to get to if you didn’t own a car, as there were no buses servicing that particular area, but once you arrived the frustration of its inaccessibility would be quickly replaced with unqualified gratitude. No public transport = fewer people. Overlooking the enveloped bay are crumbling castle walls at one end, and a long line of restaurants and heladarías – each offering up tasty dishes and to-die-for ice cream – at the other.

beaches in andalucia, With friends at a Puerto Sherry eatery

With friends at a Puerto Sherry eatery

Other spectacular beaches elsewhere in El Puerto are Las Redes and Vistahermosa (literally meaning ‘lovely view’).

4) Nerja, Costa Del Sol

best beaches in andalucia, Balcon de Europa, Nerja

Nerja, Costa del Sol

Much of the Costa del Sol has sadly become overrun with real estate and expensive hotels over the years, which in turn has rendered many of the province’s once revered beaches rather unappealing. An exception to this unfortunate circumstance is Nerja, the furthest east of Malaga’s beach towns and another awarded with several blue flags. Here, the seven or so bantam beaches fringe still, turquoise blue waters and front staggering sea cliffs from where the vistas on a clear day are out of this world. Head to the Balcón de Europa for the very best.

best beaches in andalucia, Nerja, Malaga

Nerja, Malaga (Source)

The best beach of the selection to choose from in Nerja has to be Playa Carabeo, the second beach to the left when staring out to sea from the Balcón de Europa. It’s quiet here, and there are caves you can swim under just to the right of it.

5) La Herradura, Costa Tropical

best beaches in andalucia, La Herradura, Costa Tropical

La Herradura, Costa Tropical (Source)

Now we’re in my neck of the woods, and although I don’t half go on about how terrific it is to be within driving distance of both ski resort and beach, I must admit the overall quality of the beaches in the Granada province are of a comparatively lower standard. Most are brutally rocky, and require a pair of pretty sturdy sandals, lest you butcher the soles of your feet on the spiky stones beneath the water’s surface. Furthermore, many are bombarded by strong winds due to the principally straight formation of the Costa Tropical.

However, the horseshoe shaped bay of La Herradura is an exception. Here the sand is much finer and the beach is sheltered from winds on both sides by headlands Punta de la Mona and Cerro Gordo. There’s plenty of opportunity for watersport activities and some delectable restaurants to boot. 

best beaches in andalucia, La Herradura at night

La Herradura at night (Source)

6) Playa de los Muertos, Cabo de Gata, Costa De Almería

best beaches in andalucia, Playa de los Muertos, Cabo de Gata, Almería

Playa de los Muertos, Cabo de Gata, Almería (Source)

In 1987, Cabo de Gata was declared a national park by the Junta de Andalucía (regional government), which has since protected its mesmerizing landscape from the clutches of hoarding construction companies. It was helped further by UNESCO in 1997 when they named the area a Biosphere Reserve. As a result, the area’s pristine playas – packed with hidden coves, coral reefs, towering cliffs and ruined castles – have remained pockets of unparalleled beauty.

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Arguably the most idyllic of all Cabo de Gata’s beaches is Playa de los Muertos, meaning ‘the beach of the dead’. Don’t let the name put you off; the only dead thing about this beach is the straightness of its formation against the tide. The postcard views had from Los Muertos Mirador (‘los muertos’ refers to the bodies of pirates and sailors that used to be washed up onto the shore) are exceptional. From there you can take a jagged, snaking path to the bottom, where gravel and tiny pebbles form the earth and serve to augment the transparency of the bay’s waters. The beach is easily recognized by a huge, curious rock formation at the far right end.

There is a kiosk by the viewpoint, but due to the economic restrictions that is just about it, so ensure that you take plenty of your own food and water with you. Parking is free, and the beach is signposted from the ALP-712.

best beaches in andalucia, Playa de los Muertos at dusk

Playa de los Muertos at dusk (Source)

I know I’ve skipped numerous other, noteworthy beaches in Andalucía but I’ll leave the rest to you. Please share your favourite locations by leaving a comment below!

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  • Marianne June 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

    We are so lucky living here in Andalucía, aren’t we?

    Thanks for the link, Josh 🙂

    • Josh June 15, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Nada. It was a useful post to link to!

  • Sue Sharpe June 15, 2013 at 11:15 am

    We don’t often head for the beaches on the coast – we have plenty on the lakes here in Extremadura – but if/when we do, we head for La Antilla, Huelva.

    • Josh June 15, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Beach on a lake eh? That must be nice. The only lake beach I’ve ever seen or been to in fact was Copacabana Beach of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia (not the actual Copacabana beach in Brazil!) I’ll bookmark La Antilla. Cheers for sharing!

    • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas June 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      I was just in La Antilla this afternoon! Matalascañas is often called “La Playa de Sevilla” because it’s the closest, but it’s always packed. In Islantilla y La Antilla, there are far less people, plenty of beach space and fresh fish. I’m also partial to Los Caños for the nightlife and Zahara.

      • Josh June 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        Yep, Los Caños is another well worth the visit! Went there once a couple of years ago and loved it!

  • catandtonicnz June 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Ahh beautiful! Bookmarking this page for when I move to Seville ~ I expect it shall be very useful for trip planning


    • Josh June 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Pleased you found it useful Anna! Let me know if you go to any of them 🙂

  • Matthew Hirtes June 17, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Not short of beaches on Gran Canaria, Josh. But these look pretty special indeed. Great round-up.

    • Josh June 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks Matthew. If that’s an invitation to Gran Canaria i’m on the next flight! Pretty sure all the beaches are as good as any on the peninsula down there!

  • robingraham June 17, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Very in depth! I vote for “anything on the Costa de la Luz” but then I would wouldn’t I. Lovely beaches up north as well, don’t forget – great little unspoilt coves in the Ortugueira area in the Rias Altas of Galicia. Bolonia is indeed fantastic. I wasn’t so fond of Caños but then I haven’t experienced the nightlife. By day there were as many cigarette butts on the beach as grains of sand, it seemed.
    Of those new to me here I’d think I’d most like to visit La Playa de los Muertes, for the name alone…

    • Josh June 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Costa de la Luz is almost certainly the best for beaches. Can’t fault any that I’ve been to, except San Lucar where I had to leap over a stream of sewage and my dad trod on a dead rat. Hopefully I’ll get up to the northern beaches some day…

  • Fiona Flores Watson June 17, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Funnily enough (or not, considering the time of year), I’ve just done a similar piece for a website I write for, using recommendations from their Facebooks fans. We have some in common, but I was especially interested in your El Puerto recommendations, as an ex-local. Nerja looks glorious; I personally love beaches you have to take a boat to, where there are no cars, so I’m a traitor to Andalucia and prefer *whispers* the Algarve.

    • Josh June 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Now now we’ll have no such blasphemy on this blog please Fiona 😉 Though I know what you mean about the secluded beaches that can only be reached by boat – there is one called San Pedro close to Las Negras where friends of mine went when we visited recently. ‘Unbelievable’ i’m told!

  • Meghann G @ Hola Matrimony June 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Nice to see my “home beach” made the list! Hope to be spending lots of quality time at Las Redes this summer.

    • Josh June 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      I am jealous. I worked for a company called TECS in el puerto and we had our end of year dinner at the restaurant on that beach. Best calamari ever!

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  • John February 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Great selection Josh!! Some of the ones mentioned were favourites of mine as well – I need to do another one just for Costa de la Luz. Cabo de Gata deserves a separate “Top 10” as well. Didn’t include Playa de los Muertos….its a beautiful beach, one of the best, but it is also home to really nasty currents. Be careful swimming there.

    • Josh February 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      Same to you John! I see we’ve picked a couple of the same ones, and that you included Playa de Cantarriján in yours. Lots of swinging manbits on show there but a glorious beach nonetheless! Know what you mean about Costa de la Luz- there are just too many!

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  • Andalucia January 31, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Nerja and Bolonia are two of my favorite beaches on the coast.

    Andalucia recently posted…Andalucia guide: Marbella / Puerto BanusMy Profile

  • Gary October 4, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Excellent choice of beaches Josh, I have been to them all, my favourite by a whisker would have to be Playa de los Muertos in Almeria. Yes there are better quality sandy beaches elsewhere but being located within a national park that beach is nearly always deserted and the sea is some of the most pristine, warm waters I have ever swam in. Here are some of my top choices around Spain
    Keep up the good work.