Our favorite affordable beach escapes in Spain


Escape to the charming village of Calella de Palafrugell along the Costa Brava. Photo: horrabin

Hoping to escape the heat, hustle, and bustle of Madrid, Barcelona and other big cities in Spain this summer? Spain is literally lined with seaside options, and as temperatures rise these sandy retreats fill up.

However, not all of these summer destinations are recommended for travelers trying to keep their costs under control. Many are absolutely crammed with tourists, while others have become blighted with commercial development and sub-par restaurants. Meanwhile, many of those peaceful spots that retain their charm come with a high price tag.

But fear not: We’ve got several affordable Spanish seaside options for you, along with some tips on keeping it cheap at the beach. Who’s ready for a swim?

Related: Soak in the sun at these 6 budget beaches in Europe


Have the beach to yourself in Formentera. Photo: fnogues

Have the beach to yourself in Formentera. Photo: fnogues

Formentera

My favorite shorelines in all of Spain are found on the island of Formentera. The water surrounding the tiniest of the Balearic Island undulates between clear and turquoise, and come summer, it is warm and calm like a heated swimming pool.

Because there are no direct flights to the island, it has remained unspoiled and less popular and expensive than neighboring Ibiza and Mallorca. To get to Formentera and its idyllic beaches, fly first to Ibiza and then hop on a ferry which will get you to the island in about 25 minutes (about €20/each way on the Trasmapi ferry).

Accommodations in Formentera

When booking a room, note that inland options away from the beach will be a lot less expensive. Browse 240+ hotels and vacation rentals in Formentera.

Cadaqués is one of the Costa Brava's prettiest villages and remains relatively unspoiled. Photo: pedja84

Cadaqués is one of the Costa Brava’s prettiest villages and remains relatively unspoiled. Photo: pedja84

Cadaqués, Costa Brava

Beautiful coves and beaches are also tucked along Catalonia’s Costa Brava. But warning: Certain areas of the Costa Brava are touristy and abound in Irish bars, fish and chip eateries, shops selling cheap plastic junk, and booze tours.

My advice is to skip these worn destinations and seek out the Costa Brava’s smaller villages. Cadaqués, a whitewashed fishing village in the north of Catalonia, is one of the regions prettiest and remains relatively unspoiled, thanks to a snaking two-lane road that is the only access to the hamlet. In August Cadaqués (and all beach towns in Spain) buzzes, but the rest of the year it’s sleepy and affordable.

Accommodations in Cadaqués

Staying in Cadaqués will put you near the Dalí Museum in Portlligat where the artist lived for 40 years. Search through this list of hotels to find affordable options.

Calella de Palafrugell is another (usually) affordable option along the Costa Brava. Photo: franganillo

Calella de Palafrugell is another (usually) affordable option along the Costa Brava. Photo: franganillo

Calella de Palafrugell, Costa Brava

Also along the Costa Brava is the bustling village of Calella de Palafrugell. As is the norm in this region, Calella’s shoreline is made up of several intimate coves instead of one long beach. From Calella trails cut through Mediterranean pine forest to connect to hidden inlets and other fishing villages.

Accommodations in Calella de Palafrugell

You should have no trouble finding an affordable place to stay in Calella most of the year, except in August when hotels fill up. (Check this list for available hotels.)

Islas Cies offers pristine beaches to travelers who don't mind roughing it a bit. Photo: darkhornet

Islas Cies offers pristine beaches to travelers who don’t mind roughing it a bit. Photo: darkhornet

Islas Cies

On the other side of Spain in Galicia, one of the country’s most pristine coastlines welcomes travelers who don’t mind roughing it a bit. There are no hotels on the Islas Cies, and cars are not allowed. To stay right on the island’s beachfront, visitors must bring their own tent or rent a large canvas tent from the campground (neither of which is expensive). There are a couple of restaurants on the island, but not much else.

The Islas Cies offer up powdery beaches that look more like something you’d find in the Caribbean than in Northern Spain and are not crowded most of the year. The crisp, clear Atlantic is surprisingly calm along the best of the island’s beaches, which teem with sea critters.

Like Formentera, the Cies have remained immaculate partially because they take some work to get to. Visitors must fly to Vigo (there are several affordable hotels in Vigo) and then take a ferry to the islands; from the ferry, it’s a 10-minute walk to the campground and the island’s top beach.

Because the islands are in the North of Spain where the weather is rainier and colder, the summer months are the best time to drop by.

Hitting the beach in Cadaques. Photo: eugeniocanevari

Hitting the beach in Cadaques. Photo: eugeniocanevari

Tips for seaside savings

Finally, if you find yourself at a crowded and touristy beach such as Playa d’en Bossa on Ibiza, Lloret de Mar in Catalonia, or Benidorm in Valencia, there are a few things you can do to make your money last.

• If you’re traveling in a group, you might want to opt for a vacation apartment to save on meal costs. Search for accommodations in Ibiza.

• Stock up on food and wine at the supermarket and make dinner at your apartment before a night out on the town.

• As with all of coastal Spain, the summer months are high-season and prices rise steeply from June to September. Visit outside these months if at all possible.

Beachfront eating tips

Another tip is to ask Spanish locals where they like to eat; chances are that they will be more than happy to point you in the direction of an authentic paella or tapas joint. Be careful when considering restaurants. If locals are eating and drinking at an eatery the prices will probably be lower than at spots filled with tourists.

In general, sidestep “the strip”. I’m thinking specifically of Playa d’en Bossa which boasts an overrated strip of restaurants and bars both on the shoreline and a few blocks in from the beach. No matter which beachy town you visit, search out eateries and shops along the less touristed side streets.

Your favorite beaches?

Have another budget-friendly seaside escape to add to our list? Have you been to any of these listed above? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

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