Few areas can compare to the Costa Brava when it comes to idyllic bathing spots close to hand. On the Girona coast, you'll find beaches that are surprisingly untouched and others that delicately balance urbanism and the landscape, along with many that are very popular but never get so crowded you can't even find a place for your towel. Take your pick from our list according to what winds are blowing, if you've got children with you, or how far you want to walk to get there.
If you're looking for a typical Costa Brava beach, then this is one of the most accessible. But we're not just mentioning it in case of emergency, but because Treumal is a true marvel that extends 400 metres along the foot of a protected area, Pinya de Rosa, where there's a surprising botanical garden full of cacti. In the summer, the beach has a newspaper stand, secure car parking and sunbed hire; for the rest of the year it's a peaceful spot where you can hear the birds who inhabit the botanical garden, and yoga meetings take place. And all without being on the other side of the world: it's just five minutes in car from the centre of Blanes and although there are houses nearby, they're luxury builds and the majority are quite pleasant to look at.
This is the first cousin of the Treumal beach: they're separated by a few coves but a world of difference. In Santa Cristina, development projects were on the brink of causing havoc back in the middle of the 20th century. However, in the end, good sense and the love of Lloret people for this spot, where the shrine of the local patron saint stands, triumphed in the form of a fragile balance between tourist facilities and a mass of intensely green pine trees that still endow the southern flank, where there's also an old fisherman's cottage that's looking a little wild these days. Painter Joaquin Sorolla immortalised the light, greens and blues of Santa Cristina in one of his paintings that is most fiercely Mediterranean. It's an ideal spot for wearing oversize sunglasses and a large hat in the style of a decadent film star.
The Cala del Senyor Ramon is the naturist beach par excellence in the Baix Empordà region. A generous length of quality sand gives on to a stretch of sea that is totally open to the east while two bits of rockery enclose it to the north and south, helping to preserve the intimacy of bathers. The Cala del Senyor Ramon is accessible from the sea, by a road (leaving the GI-682 at km 32) that ends up on an esplande just by the beach where they charge €6 to park, or via a footpath that starts in the residential estate of Rosamar. You can also leave the car for free at the top, but the walk back up the hill after a morning of sun is a guarantee for fainting. Connected to the world only via the torture-like road between Tossa and Sant Feliu de Guíxols (it has 365 bends), it's the typical beach that's ideal for taking sandwiches and the cool box, and spending the whole day enjoying swimming, reading and trying to detect spectactors with binoculars hidden in the nearby forest.
This marvellous bay on the outskirts of Sant Feliu de Guïxols is the beach that many locals recall from their childhoods. Invaded by brick in the past 30 years, there is still a lot of beauty: the beachfront houses from the start of the last century built by entrepreneurs who made their fortune in the Americas before returning home, the elegant site of S'Agaró Vell, snd the sumptuous Hostal de la Gavina that gives onto the start of one of the most spectacular parts of the Camí de Ronda coastal path. The result is a comfortable urban beach with a cushioned, very controlled, wild touch particularly on the rocks and coves situated to the extreme south. In the evenings, you can still find the charm of the most elegant side of the Costa Brava, with foreign families heading out to for dinner somewhat curiously dressed. Two things need to be pointed out: first, we're talking about the beach of Sant Pol, not of S'Agaró. S'Agaró is the place whose lands extend inland toward Vall d'Aro and is, above all, a commercial name; secondly, its strategic situation on the outskirts of town but in a civilised setting means that Sant Pol is the ideal beach for swimming at night, especially in the corner sheltered by the wall in the far south.
After the hell that the main beach in Platja d'Aro can become at the height of summer (OK, we're exaggerating slightly: on 2km of beach that's more than 50m wide, you'll always find some habitable spot even in the middle of summer) finding Cala Rovira, by keep on heading along the Camí de Ronda coastal path once you've passed the rock of Cavall Bernat, can feel like a physical slap of beauty. You'll rarely find it empty but it's so pretty, so improbably white, green and blue, that not even some inopportune apartments that peek out between the pine trees, or the numerous families that head there, can mess up your first impression. If, despite the idyllic appearance of the landscape, you can't bear people playing beach tennis, La Rovira is also on the way to the entrance of a number of small coves – Sa Cova, El Pi, Els Canyers, Belladona - rocky and libertine where you can enjoy reading while sitting on a hot rock, like a bibliophile reptile.
A mass effort by locals saved the landscape around this beach from the developers, and in Castell you'll still find virgin spaces and the legend. The two noble houses that flank it to the north and south have hosted celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich and Salvador Dalí. You get there from the Palafrugell dual carriageway via a road that's in pretty good condition although you still need to drive carefully. Pay the parking fee without regret: everything they earn is reinvested in the conservation of the surrounds. Enjoy the reeds of the Aubí stream, and the ducks and amphibians that live there, have a picnic under the pine trees that give full protection from the sun, head up to the Iberian settlement of Punta de la Corbetera, and get lost in the forest as you search for Dalí's cottage, whose door is surrealistically twisted. Visit the nearby coves where there are impressive corners and not a single line of mobile coverage. In the summer, there are toilets, a newspaper kiosk and kayaks to hire, but it's also the ideal beach in winter as it's completely sheltered from the wind.
We know that this is one of the beaches on the Costa Brava with the greatest number of towels per square metre at the height of summer, but throughout the winter and up to Sant Joan (Jun 23), it's a real delight. This old fishing village that's been converted into a kind of summer meca for wealthier Catalans hasn't lost its charm along the way, and seeing the people (everybody there is beautiful) coming out of their houses with their swimsuits already on and throwing themselves into the water has a certain fun, even if we can only experience their joy vicariously. The range of restaurants and bars is almost infinite, but invariably expensive: Calella is one of the most upmarket destinations on the Costa Brava.
This miraculously preserved cove has lived a lot of lives. It's been a safe port sheltered from the strong Tramuntana and Llevant winds that blow in those parts, and also the dream (or nightmare for those who opposed them) of property speculators who wanted to convert it into a marina. In few places on the Costa Brava is the footprint of history so visible as on this small shingle beach that stretches for 80 metres, and squeezed between one of the watchtowers from the medieval old town of Tossa de Mar and the slopes of a cliff that plummets some 50 metres down. In the summer it's worth arriving early and leaving at midday when the sun is at its highest point. As to get there you have to walk through the walled old town and climb down a good number of steps, families often don't bother going, while on August mornings it's popular with teens both local and visiting. The fishing boats, which are a nice touch, aren't actually props even if they seem like it, but belong to some old sea dogs who still go out in the early hours to practise their art.
Yes, Begur has a lot of amazing beaches, so why choose this one in particular, which doesn't have any services? Apart from the fact that it's not saturated with beautiful people like Sa Tuna or Aiguafreda, we like it because it's the only nudist beach in the central part of the Costa Brava, because the intense red colours of the rocks that emerge from the bay transforms it into a strange and living place and because its semicircular shape creats a very inviting beach. It'll also be appealing for some because it remains relatively unvisited by groups or children, as it's necessary to walk quite far to get there from the Camí de Ronda coastal path. And, of course, in reality the coolest beaches are the ones without ice cream stands and let you believe for a while that the rest of your life doesn't exist. The only problem is that the high walls of the cliffs that surround it create shade from the mid-afternoon, so make the most of the morning.
Platja de Pals and La Gola del Ter
This is one of the beaches on the Girona coast that most look like it's lapped by the Atlantic. For a couple of kilometres, the rocks and cliffs have created a beach with fine white sand and high dunes that are interrupted by the estuary of the river Ter, and which extends to the foot of the massif of Montgrí and the Illes Medes. From north to south – the only way to appreciate the beach like this is by walking – you'll first find the beach of Racó, at the end of the cliffs of Begur; then the beach of Pals, deep, with an open horizon, and perfect for wind sports; the beach of Mas Pinell, comfortable and urbanised; La Gola del Ter, a corner that changes according to the seasons where there's a beach for dogs; and, close to L'Estartit, the beach of Riells, which borders on the Aiguamolls (wetlands) of the Empordà. This river plain is perfect for bike outings from Torroella de Mongrí, which is lucky because in the summer traffic and parking can be a mission impossible.
There are many reasons to visit Sa Sabolla: for starters, the Camí de Ronda coastal path, from which you get to the beach, is an authentic joy for all the senses. It's true that it's not the easiest place to get to (you can only reach it on foot or by boat) but it's absolutely worth it. The cove ('cala' in Catalan), which has crystal-clear waters and a shingle surface, is completely surrounded by sheer rocks and is, by far, one of the most secluded beaches on the Costa Brava.
Even if you just go there for a Sunday sandwich and the chance to read the paper, it's impossible not to get at least a little emotional about everything that this beach signifies. In the past Phonecians, Greeks and Romans disembarked there and each created their cities; later there was the medieval village of Sant Martí d'Empúries, built in a Romanic style; while in the 21st century more pragmatic but necessary features have arrived such as kiosks and belle époque hotel with its own vegetable garden. Stretching for hundreds of metres, it's a fantastic option for resting after visiting the Greek and Roman remains, and eating a savoury rice dish in L'Escala.
Another immense beach, this time one that is more than 6km long, where you can find a peaceful corner among the dunes even in the middle of summer. Close to the Empordà wetlands, extending across a plain that's formed by the estuary of the Fluvià river, it's part of the Bay of Roses, but the fact that it's a long way from the most densely populated urban centres makes this into one of the least crowded beaches in this part of the Costa Brava. It's one of the few places on the Costa Brava where the practice of kitesurf is expressly authorised and regulated. It's also a perfect spot for other sports such as sailing and windsurfing, as it's extraordinarily open to the wind. However, this paradise for those who like to fly on the waves can, on occasion, be a more dangerous place for those who want to swim, as there are strong currents - always be prudent. Bear in mind, though, that it does have a good number of lifeguards, so that should help put your mind at rest.
We've traversed white sand and red stones and finally arrive at the black rocks of Cap de Creus. They mark the most eastern point of the Iberian Peninsula, and also the wildest part of the Costa Brava, an authentic Finisterre that's as spectacular as it is treacherous, covered in thousand-year-old remains, and still jealously guarding some of its best-kept secrets. One of them, which we're generously sharing with you here, is Cala Tavallera, located about 2km from Port de la Selva, but only accessible from the GR11, the hiking route that connects Mediterranean with the Atlantic. In some blogs and guides they insist that the beach can be reached by 4WD but the safest way to get there has always been by a two-hour walk that ends with a well-deserved prize: a cove that's practically desserted in summer and winter, which has a shelter for spending the night and witnesses dawns that feel as though a new world has been born. The seabed is spectacular and has a wide range of creatures living on it. At the height of summer many small boats anchor there, but at the start and end of the season, it's very rare to find anybody else there. If you do want to spend the night, it's a good idea to call the local council to make sure it's in usable condition and available.