Costa Brava Holidays: What makes the Costa Brava special?
Stunning rocky coves, sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters, typical medieval villages, and breathtaking mountain landscapes, this is the Costa Brava! The scenic northern Catalan coastline stretches from the north of Barcelona up to the French border, and offers plenty to do and sea from water sports to hiking and cycling, indulge in delicious cuisine and local wines, discovering the local history and culture, and relaxation from sunbathing on the beach to soothing massages at the spa. Lloret de Mar, Blanes, Platja d'Aro, Tossa de Mar, and Roses are just a few of the popular beach resorts on the Costa Brava, but there are also many more hidden gems along or near the coast!
Costa Brava stretches the length of the Province of Girona, from just north of Barcelona, to the French border. The coastline is defined by rocky and fragmented coves, with fine sandy beaches and clear Mediterranean waters. Facing inland, the region of Catalonia boasts a stunning landscape of lush hills and rugged mountains, speckled with over 200 historic sites, from picturesque villages such as Pals, ancient cities such as Girona itself, to castles, churches and monasteries.
If you aren't already sold, then here a few reasons to make the Costa Brava your next holiday destination:
Why visit Platja de Aro?
Located between Lloret de Mar and Begur in the heart of the Costa Brava, is the municipality of Castell-Platja d'Aro, divided into three 3 main towns: Castell d'Aro, S'Agaró and Platja d'Aro. Let's start with the latter, Platja d’Aro is a cosmopolitan town, with a historical city centre and several beautiful beaches nearby, it boasts numerous high-quality attractions, shopping, leisure and dining options and prestigious hotels. Meanwhile, Castell d’Aro is a medieval village that simply exudes charm, and in August, the Castell d'Aro fair is held there. Then S’Agaró is a picturesque seaside town, with great beaches for swimming and diving. In short, each town perfectly complements the other, to make for a fantastic all-around stay on the Costa Brava.
Why visit Cadaqués and Figueres?
The unique and timeless seaside village of Cadaques is surrounded by mountains, perched right on the Cap de Creus peninsula. It is stunningly beautiful with its rocky coast, beautiful beaches and quiet coves together with the incredible landscape of the Cap de Creus Natural Park. The main sights are the Salvador Dalí House-Museum (the town is famously where he spent his summers), the 17th-century church of Saint Mary, the Hermitage of Sant Sebastià, and the natural park. Every Monday there is also a travelling market selling a multitude of products, from food to clothing.
Figueres, further inland to the west of Cadaqués, is most famous for being the town where Salvador Dalí was born. It has a charming centre where the majority of the town’s cultural attractions can be found. The city has a wealth of history and boasts several attractions and museums, including a toy museum and the Castell de Sant Ferran – the most iconic however, is the Dalí Theatre and Museum. Conceived and designed by the artist himself, it offers an immersion into his quirky world, and includes displays of works by other artists such as Antoni Pitxot, Evarist Vallès, Greco, Marià Fortuny, and Marcel Duchamp. The city boasts a mix of architectural styles from Baroque, to Neoclassical, to Modernist and Rationalist, with numeruos distinct squares. The Plaça del Gra for example, has a colourful food market three days a week. More globally, the town provides a fantastic base for a holiday exploring the upper Costa Brava and Catalonia region.
Why visit Blanes?
Blanes, once a small fishing town, is now a bustling seaside resort, though it retains some of its original charm. It has a four-kilometre stretch of coastline including sandy bays and rocky coves, with water sports and other tourist facilities. A stroll through the old town, will transport you back to the time when the place was just a fishing village, and the Catalan bourgeoisie came to spend their holidays here. Visit the renowned and unique Convent of Blanes, built in 1583, fans of Antoni Gaudí can visit the Casa Saladrigas, built by Gaudí disciple Isidre Puig Boada, the 13th-century Castle of Sant Joan, the Casa Tordera, the Gothic Fountain… the list goes on!
Blanes is a very popular city for family holidays, due to its playgrounds, water parks, and numerous cultural activities, there is something for everyone! The town hosts street markets, fiestas and folk dancing fairs throughout the year. Restaurants too provide an excellent variety, with menus adapted for all ages, many Costa Brava hotels offer full board or all inclusive meal plans. Blanes is the first municipality in the region to be awarded the Family Tourism Destination Certificate (DTF). The town is also famous for its two impressive botanical gardens, home to over 11,000 different plant species.
The beaches of course are the main attraction here, Playa de Treumal offers small boats hire, parasols and sun beds for hire, the Cala de San Francesc is one of Blanes’ most famous coves, with green hillsides and gorgeous views, Playa de Sabanell is the largest beach at two kilometres long, here you'll find water sports, small boats and jet-ski hire, restaurants, bars and cafes, sun beds, parasols, and showers.
Why visit Begur?
Begur is a town in the heart of the Empordà region, close to the French border, known for its typical Costa Brava creeks, which are considered to be some of the most beautiful on the entire coast. The municipality is spread over a number of hills, known as the Massís de Begur (Begur Massif), the picturesque medieval town itself, with charming cobbled streets and whitewashed houses, sits atop a hillside, overlooked by the ruins of a stone castle, a kilometre or two from the beach.
The largely pedestrianised town centre has a number of enchanting bars and restaurants, specialising in Catalan cuisine and fresh seafood, complemented by excellent wines from the region. The service is friendly and children are more than welcome. The local vineyards are worth a visit, as is the medieval castle with its breathtaking views of the entire region, and the gothic Church of St. Peter. Then there's the Casino Cultural, a cultural, leisure and entertainment centre, which hosts dance festivals, amateur theatre performances and the like. Meanwhile, the town’s park is an excellent place for kids with face painting, puppet shows and other regular activities taking place. Meanwhile, of course, there's the nearby coves and beaches. Start at the emblematic Sa Riera Beach in the north, then swim off the Cala Sa Tuna, one of Begur's most beautiful spots. Finish with a dive in the coves of Fornells or Aguafreda.
Why visit Tossa de Mar?
Located a little over an hour north of Barcelona and a little under an hour south of Girona, Tossa de Mar pretty fortified medieval seaside village with a rich history. Considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain, it was nicknamed the Blue Paradise by the painter Marc Chagall. Its cobbled streets wind around the magnificent ancient castle, and the spectacular surrounding mountains provide backdrop of lush green valleys, gorges and natural springs.
The town boasts 2 Blue Flag beaches, start with a visit to the Playa Gran, the town’s main beach. It is a large horseshoe bay with golden sands and warm blue waters. It is equipped with all the usual seaside amenities, including watersports, parasols and sun beds for hire, then there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from on the beach promenade. Then head to one of the beautiful coves for endless snorkelling possibilities and hiking trails through green pine forests. Make a gourmet stop to taste the famous Simitomba, a regional specialty based on fish and potatoes. Explore the three watchtowers, including the Torre d'en Jonàs which overlooks the bay, then there's the Far de Tossa, a lighthouse located at the highest point of the wall. Actress Ava Gardner, was once entranced by the beauty of this town and the locals erected a statue in her honour. You can pay tribute to the actress by watching Pandora and the Fantastic Ship, during the filming of which, in 1950, actress visited Tossa de Mar.
What other activities are popular in the Province of Girona?
Aquatic or terrestrial? Two activities in particular stand out: the Aquabrava water park and the Butterfly Park Empuriabrava garden, both located in the Province of Girona. They each have a unique offering.
Aquabrava is a water park on the Costa Brava offering fantastic experiences for both families and groups of friends. Located in the Bay of Roses, it is considered by some to be the best amusement park in the Costa Brava. Its attractions are suitable for all ages.
However, if you are looking to move away from the water for a bit, and wondering where to got for a real nature break, then the Butterfly Park Empuriabrava is the place to go. In this extraordinary tropical garden, you will see tropical butterflies in a natural environment, along with other fascinating species such as a barking deer, a green iguana, a red ibis or a Bennet's wallaby. It is a fantastic opportunity, also for all ages!
Why visit the Costa Brava for the Easter Break?
Discovering the Costa Brava during the Easter Break, or as its known locally, Semana Santa, is a special treat. The Easter holidays are in fact one of the most important celebrations in Spain, if not the most important. As in all the other Spanish provinces with its deep Catholic roots, large processions and celebrations are organised and are very family orientated. It offers a great opportunity to learn about the local culture, mingle with the locals, and join in waving your olive tree branches.
In the province of Girona, important celebrations are held in Girona city centre, Verges, Besalú, Sant Hilari Sacalm and Bellcaire. In Girona in particular, on Good Friday, you can watch a formation of 120 Roman soldiers parading through the town, headed by riders on horseback, there's a band playing fife and drums as the soldiers bang their spears on the ground.
Costa Brava: the famous beaches and coves
Known for the legendary beauty of its breathtaking landscapes and extraordinary coves, Catalonia is a destination that attracts many tourists from around the globe. The water is incredibly clear and comes in all shades of blue and turquoise. Palm trees line surounding hills and mountains, and cacti and succulents grow on the cliff edges. We've selected what we think are the three most beautiful coves on the Costa Brava:
- Cala Culip: near Cap de Creus: if you walk around the Cap de Creus, you will be able to walk along the surroundings of Tuleda, one of the most impressive landscapes in the area.
- Cala Montgo: a cove which is well sheltered from the wind by Montgo hill, it is the most accessible of the Montgri Massif and you can enjoy a swim surrounded by the hills.
- Sa Tuna: located in Begur, this enchanting cove is home to many colourful houses. Its pebbled beach is lined with a few restaurants and bars and bobbing fishing boats.
Where to stay on the Costa Brava?
There are too many luxury hotels to count along the Costa Brava and spread across Catalonia, from intimate boutique hotels, to wellness & spa hotels, to all inclusive resorts. Whether on the seafront or inland, each accommodation has its own unique character and features, designed to meet your different criteria.
Here are some of our suggestions for a luxury hotel in this spectacular holiday destination:
- Quite possibly our favourite hotel is the Park Hotel San Jorge Costa Brava which is perfectly situated on the edge of a private cove in Platja d'Aro. It is an idyllic beachfront location with fantastic sea views. Surrounded by pine trees and facing the crystal-clear waters, the hotel has direct access to Belladona and Cap Roig coves.
- A close second is the charming Hôtel Eden Roc Costa Brava, located along the Camí de Ronda hiking trail, on a peninsula just outside of charming Sant Feliu de Guixols south of Platja d'Aro. Surrounded by pines, it offers an exceptional view of the Mediterranean Sea, high above two coves filled with clear blue waters.
- Alternatively, the larger La Costa Beach & Golf Resort offers excellent and stylish four-star facilities, services and modern comforts. It enjoys direct access to the lovely sandy Platja del Grau beach at Pals on one side, and spills out onto a pristine golf course on the other, the oldest on the Costa Brava. It is a large, family-friendly with something for almost everyone, including two pools, tennis and padel courts, two football pitches, a gym, a hair and beauty salon, children’s play areas, three restaurants and two bars.