Costa Brava Holidays
Costa Brava Holidays - Fun in the sun on the 'Wild Coast' of northeast Spain
Two points about the Costa Brava to clarify:
- It isn’t the whole the coast line of Cataluña as some people seem to think it is, it’s the hundred mile stretch of golden sands from Blanes, north-west of Barcelona, to Port Bou on the French Border, and
- Barcelona isn’t on the Costa Brava.
Has clarifying those two points made the slightest bit of difference? I suspect not, but what you can be sure of is that the Costa Brava is a magic-box full of curvaceous coves, photographic pueblos, sandy shores, a sublime gastronomy, wines worthy of Bacchus (but be aware that as well as being the god of wine and winemaking he was also the god of ritual madness), and enough superlatives to fill a dilettante’s dictionary.
If you have ever thought of holidaying on France’s Cote d’Azur, move a few kilometres south to the Costa Brava, because the coastline is the same, the food is equally splendid, and you will shave enough off your holiday spends to splash out on one of Directline Holiday’s excellent weekend breaks.
Something for everyone
The rugged coast is an extraordinary landscape of mountainous terrain and beautiful sandy beaches, so whatever type of holiday you are looking for, whether it be the family-fun centres of Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar - the Costa Brava’s two most popular resorts with the Brits for decades for their comfortably-priced hotels, self-catering apartments and all inclusive holidays - or the tiny coves and spectacular bays girded by tumbling green hills, such as Tamariu or Llafranc, where nary a neon light glows in the dark, no mind-numbing music disturbs the night, nor jet ski drone curls your toes while you are lying on the beach.
And on the subject of beaches, you have probably the biggest variety in Spain, from the child-friendly, where kids can splash around to their heart’s content, to coves almost designed by nature for skinny-dipping.
Daliance with Dalí
There can be few people indeed that don’t know that Salvador Dalí figures heavily in the folklore of Figueres, but he wasn’t the only famous artist attracted by the sublime light of the Costa Brava.
Picasso and Chagall were also drawn to the area to capture its luminosity, and Cadaqués has been an artist’s colony for generations, and remains so to this day. You can explore the Dalí triangle - the home he built for his wife and muse, Gala, in Port Lligat; Castell Gala at Púbol, now a museum; and the Dalí Museum at Figueres.
A heaven for history buffs
The towns, villages and countryside of the Costa Brava are layered with the history of millennia; the Greco-Roman ruins of Empuries, the most famous archaeological site in Spain; the sixth-century Iberian settlement of Sant Sebastià de la Guarda; the narrow streets of El Call in Girona, Western Europe’s best preserved Jewish Quarter, where the last synagogue in the city is now a Jewish History Museum; the dozens of villages, such as Begur, that still follow the medieval layout of narrow, winding streets, and the charming city of Girona, with its magnificent 12th-century monastery and 14th-century Cathedral.
Communing with nature
If you ever tire – momentarily – from skipping from one delightful beach to another, you can get back to nature at one of the many national parks in the area. Cadi Moixero, Cap de Creus, Montseny, the Emporda Marshes, and Garrotxa Volcanic Area, all have their own unique charm.
If all you want is a casual stroll, coastal walks along winding paths show you the ruggedness of the coastline and the drama of sea and shore, but if you really want to stride out, the Cami de Ronda is a coastal path that meanders the whole of the region. And if you are wintering on the Costa Brava, you aren’t too far from the Catalonia Pyrenees Ski resorts.
Taking care of the inner man – and woman
You can eat well in Spain, very well, but there are few places you will eat better than in the Costa Brava. Even if you are a confirmed meat-and-two-veg sort of person you should still try the superb fish, fresh from the Mediterranean on your doorstep and grilled to perfection. Then you can try the traditional dishes of Cataluña, wonderful roasts that set you dribbling even at just the sight of them, and rich stews so thick the ladle stands upright.
Airport and transport need to know
There are three main airports servicing the Costa Brava - Gerona, Reus and Barcelona. Gerona is nearest but Barcelona has a much larger selection of destinations. Gerona is a more provincial airport, 12km from the city, with only a small selection of shops and places to eat. Unfortunately, many of the low-cost airlines are only operating summer schedules so you will need to check flights carefully if you intend to visit the Costa Brava from the end of October until March.
Car hire is still reasonably priced in Spain and can often prove more economical, especially for a family, than using a combination of buses and trains to get to your holiday destination. (Estimate around 50€ either way for transfer to the resort by taxi for four people.) And, of course, it gives you the flexibility for touring.
A regular bus service runs from Girona airport into the city, from where you can pick up trains and buses to the resorts. If you fly into Barcelona, the bus or taxi ride into the city will take around half-an-hour to the Estacion de Nord, or forty minutes to the Estacion de Franca, although the trains from here to Girona are faster. There’s also the ‘Barcelona Bus’ that operates between Barcelona Estacion de Nord and Girona airport or town. You can buy a 12€ one-way ticket on the bus.
When to go
Each season has its own charms. Spring is delightful, just the time for bike rides into the mountains and national parks or forays along country paths. Remember, though that Easter in Spain lasts the whole of the week, Semana Santa, so flights will be more expensive and hotel occupancy higher than for other dates either side of the celebrations.
July and August are, inevitably, busier, with more crowded beaches, fuller hotels, longer queues at restaurants, and tickets for flights getting snapped up earlier. If you are limited by school holidays, or for whatever other reason, make sure you book well in advance. But if you can take your holiday during the ‘shoulder’ months of June and September, you will be rewarded with only moderately cooler weather but with savings and easier access to flights, hotels and services.
While the UK is settling in for winter in October, the Costa Brava is still warm enough for occasional sunbathing and nice long walks. A warm jumper is all you need for evenings during the first couple of weeks of the month. From early November the Spanish will begin to wrap up warmly, although north Europeans can still be seen strolling around in shorts and T-shirts, lulled, perhaps, into a false sense of summer by the startlingly blue skies that rarely turn to grey, even during the winter months.
The weather on the Costa Brava
The northern Costa Brava is an ideal choice if you're looking for a cooler alternative to the intense heat of the southern resorts. The best time to visit is between May and October, when the average summer temperatures hover between 22C - 28C, and there's plenty of sunshine, between 6-9 hours each day.
Daytime temperatures reach 22C-24C in May and June, and rise to 28C during the hottest months of July and August, before dropping down to 24C in September, and night-time temperatures are comfortable, ranging from 13C - 19C throughout the summer months. The region's mild climate and sunny weather also make Costa Brava a popular winter sun for British holiday-makers.
Getting the best deal
Not only will you avoid the crowds if you holiday out of peak season, you will also get much better deals. Don’t overlook the all-inclusive options, because hotels need to keep their rooms full and you can get some exceptional deals if you aren’t tied to school holidays. But even during the higher season, an all-inclusive holiday could mean the difference between a summer-sun holiday or a weekend in a caravan in grey UK. Check the offers below and keep an eye on our late deals page.
About the author
Derek Workman has lived in Spain for twelve years, and has written about it extensively. Author of Inland Trips from the Costa Blanca and Small Hotels and Inns of Eastern Spain, the definitive books in English on the Valencian Region, he writes for various in-flight magazines and for the Costa Blanca News.
The best beaches in Costa Brava
The 160km stretch of dramatic coastline is filled with delightful beaches that line the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean, from award-winning sandy bays to tiny hidden coves. There are a huge number of fantastic Costa Brava beaches to choose from, but here are three of the best in the area.
Best beach for sunbathing - Playa de Pals
The golden sands at Playa de Pals extend for over 3.5km, and boast a backdrop of lush pine forests and picturesque coves at each end. The beach is 40m wide, so there's plenty of room for relaxed sun-worshipping on your lounger or a long uninterrupted nap under the umbrella, with a choice of convenient beach bars for much-needed refreshments just a few steps away. If you do have a burst of energy, Playa de Pals has lots of space for beach games and activities, and offers a variety of water sports. Do be advised, a section of Playa de Pals is 'clothing optional'.
Best beach for activities - Playa de Lloret
Lloret de Mar is the place to be for non-stop activities, entertainment and facilities in Costa Brava, and the youthful vibe of the resort continues along the beach. There's a host of things to do on the fully developed town beach, Playa de Lloret, from soccer and volleyball, to banana boat rides, windsurfing, kite surfing, water skiing, ski rafting, parasailing, scuba-diving, snorkelling and boat trips.
Best beach for isolation - Playa de Tamariu
For a little peace and quiet, head just a few kilometres north of Llafranc to the beach at Tamariu, and enjoy relaxed seclusion on this isolated stretch, which has so far managed to escape the development of other areas. The sheltered south-facing bay offers a wonderfully picturesque setting, with clean sands and sparkling water, and presents a welcome change from the crowded beaches of the livelier resorts.