THERE’S SOMETHING along Catalunya’s coastline for every beach bum. Stretching from Port Bou, on the French border, down to Valencia it offers picturesque fishing villages, package tourist hot spots, quiet coves, city beaches, good water sports and lots of sun. You can make as much or as little effort as you want: the nearest sand is a metro ride away, the furthest a few hours in the car.
The closest to home are the beaches of the Costa Dorada, south of Barcelona, and the Costa del Maresme, which reaches north, up the coast to Blanes. The Costa Dorada beaches are seemingly endless stretches of golden sand (as the name suggests). The Costa del Maresme is also characterised by long flat beaches. The train line from Barcelona stops in all the seaside towns up coast, and leaves you pretty much on the beach itself. Very useful, if not particularly attractive. Most popular by far is the Costa Brava; the rocky stretch of coast from France down to Blanes combining busy tourist spots with quieter towns and small coves.
The paranoid can swim easy. According to the first analysis carried out by the Department de Medi Ambient, the overall quality of Catalunya’s beaches has improved over the last year and over 91 percent of the beaches analysed (192 in all) were considered to be of a high standard according to EU norms. Twenty-eight beaches achieved the maximum five-star rating for excellence. Of these, 25 are situated on the Costa Brava (see map).
MOST OF US are sceptical about city bathing. But, there’s nothing to fear on any of Barcelona’s six beaches. Nova Mar Bella, Bogatell and Nova Icària are rated as four star (good) and Mar Bella, Barceloneta and Sant Sebastià get three stars (acceptable). Only one beach near the city gets the official thumbs down: the stretch in El Prat where the river Llobregat opens into the sea. Not for swimming!
Facilities for sailing and windsurfing are available at La Barceloneta and Sant Sebastià. Kayaks and jet skis can be hired in Bogatell and Nova Icària. As from now on, there is also a stretch of approximately 200 reserved for nudist bathing in La Mar Bella.
The Red Cross is present every day from 10 am until 7 p.m.
A PICK OF THE BEST
There are over 20 official nudist beaches or zones on the Catalan coast. Worth making a detour for are:
Senyor Ramon. Sant Feliu de Guixols. An attractive cove, with over 200 metres of beach. Kiosk and restaurant.
Vallpresona. Sant Feliu de Guixols. Less crowded than many, probably due to the 800m walk from the road. No services, beautiful landscape.
Waikiki. Torredembarra. Almost as exotic as its name. Fine, golden sand, no services and surrounded by trees.
THE MOST ISOLATED
Small coves with no services and beautiful landscape. Less frequented than most places and a short walking distance from the main roads.
Cala Canadell. Roses. A tiny cove, 1km from the main road.
Cala Morisca. Tossa de Mar. Better reached by boat, but you can get there on foot, 500m from the main road.
Tortuga. 1.3km walk from Lloret de Mar.
Cala Trebal. Calafat. 400m from the road.
And if lying in the sun doing nothing makes you restless… Sant Pere Pescador. Catalunya’s windsurf mecca.
Estartit. Excellent diving and windsurf.
Palamós. Sailing, windsurf and jetski.
La Palma. Tossa de Mar. Windsurfing, sailing and jetski.
Llorell. Tossa de Mar. Large selection of water sports.
Canyelles. Lloret de Mar. Sailing, windsurf and jetski.