Forget any preconceptions you may have of the costas. Away from the tourist haunts, there are plenty of secret places on Spain’s amazing coasts: beaches, coves, islands and sea caves, all wild, exciting and unspoilt – some so hidden they don’t have a name. In our camper van, Federica, we have explored them all, and we’re happy to share them. So immerse yourself in the clear waters of Menorca, the warm shallows of the Costa Cálida or the dune-backed bays of the Costa de la Luz. Walking times are from the nearest car park.
Best for snorkelling: Cala Mitjaneta, Menorca
Menorca’s beaches are varied and impressive. In the south, you will find exquisite Caribbean-style coves and dazzling turquoise water, while in the north, the coast is wilder with natural coves sheltered by rocky headlands and forested hillsides. Hike along King James II’s bridle path to this exquisite beach, where you can dive from rocky platforms. There is fine white sand and don’t forget a face mask and snorkel to explore the caves to the left. Bring food and water, as there are no services here.
Walking time: 30 minutes
Best for jumping and diving: Cala Jovera, Costa Barcelona
Escape the crowds along pine-scented forest trails to arrive at this golden-sanded, double-sided cove. Its calm, warm waters with shallow entry are perfect for families. Castell de Tamarit above is a medieval castle and great for exploring. The most adventurous will discover a huge hollowed rock to jump from. Swim to the right to ascend to the cliff ledge (watch a local first). Lack of nearby parking keeps the beach quiet.
Walking time: 20 minutes
Best for caves and islands: La Cova Tallada, Costa Blanca
Just south of Dénia, on the Montgó coastal trail, the “carved cavern” is at the end of a long, winding cliff path along the Cape San Antonio cliffs. Open on two sides to the sea and sky, this cathedral-like cavern is part naturally eroded sea cave and part quarry. The excavated spaces resemble ancient temples and a Latin inscription proclaims a visit by King Felipe III in 1599. A flat rock outside the cave is perfect for sunbathing. The stones quarried from the cave were used to build Castell de Dénia, constructed in the period of Islamic occupation between the 11th and 12th centuries.
Walking time: 45 minutes
Best for ancient paths: Cala Salitrona, Costa Cálida
Limestone cliffs and double-sided coves line the “warm coast”. This is a wild beach at the end of a beautiful hike through the Cabo Tiñoso y Roldán, with sweeping views over the bay and Sierra de la Muela. A winding path leads down from Castillitos gun battery (free entry). It’s bordered by lavender, yellow sea asters and golden thistles. Bees whirr in the rosemary and the lucky may spot an eagle overhead. Backed by layers of yellow fossilised dunes, this isolated cove has deep, clear blue water. The adventurous can enjoy a swim round to Cala de las Chapas. Bring a picnic.
Walking time: 50 minutes
Best for skinny dipping: Cala Jugadora, Costa Brava
You’ll see a lot of nudity on secluded beaches in Spain, as there is no law against it. ¿Se puede practicar nudismo aquí? (Is nudism permitted here?) is a handy expression. You will encounter an unconcerned and eclectic mix of people. Topless sunbathing is considered an equal right of women and men, but exhibitionism remains illegal. Follow the trend, particularly if children are present. Near Cadaqués, “player cove” is a splendid rock-and-sand nudist spot with views of Cap de Creus lighthouse. Set under red cliffs, at the bottom of a glen, it is protected from the strong Tramontana wind. The cove has crystal-clear waters that are great for swimming and snorkelling – look carefully for red starfish among the seagrass meadows. You’ll find another smaller cove, Racó des Barrilers, to the left.
Walking time: 25 minutes
Best for children and families: Playa el Portillu, Costa Verde
Asturias Leafy, green hillsides surround pristine yellow-sand beaches and cliffs on northern Spain’s “green coast”. Children will love playing in the warm rock pools, and giggle at the nearby coastal town of Poó. Reach the beach along the coastal path west, past waving purple heather and yellow gorse. A vast golden beach opens up below. Low tide reveals a sandy isthmus to the east, a huge rocky islet and a secluded cove to the west. Check tide times as the beach shrinks dramatically at high tide.
Walking time: 20 minutes
Best for film buffs: Playa de Mónsul, Costa Almería
Almería has a wild coastline strewn with magical pools and secret coves. Cactus-strewn paths on the Cabo de Gata coast lead to remote sandy beaches where countless feature films have been shot. Playa de Mónsul is a triple-crowned sandy bay with dramatic volcanic rock formations, known as lava domes – in reality, they look like overfilled muffins. The most dramatic looms out of the Mediterranean like a tremendous sea creature. The beach was one of the filming locations for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – specifically the scene where Henry Jones Snr (Sean Connery) takes an umbrella and flushes a flock of birds into the sky to bring down a German plane. It also featured in the 1984 fantasy film The Never-Ending Story. A colossal sand dune on the left-hand side of the beach provides the perfect place for swashbuckling adventures for children young and old.
Walking time: 10 minutes
Best for kayaks and paddleboards: Punta Prima, Formentera
The Romans used the tiny island of Formentera to grow wheat, the Moors introduced irrigation and farming and, for a while prior to the 18th century, it was besieged by pirates, which rendered it uninhabitable. Now the warm, brilliantly turquoise-blue sea and soft white sand – just a short ferry ride from Ibiza – attracts kayakers as well as sun-worshippers, as the perfect way to explore its sea caves and islets. A three-hour kayak trip east across the bay of Platja d’es Pujols heads out to Punta Prima (“Bounty Point”) to an array of coastal caverns beneath a watchtower. Inside the larger caves, the echoing silence has a mesmerising effect. Along the way, there are various places to moor up against the cliff ledges and enjoy some climbing and jumping. There are also providers on the beach who offer yoga on paddle boards – a great way to improve your balance.
Kayak round trip: three hours
Best for surfing: Praia da Coviña, Costa Galicia
North Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world. The northern coast of Spain attracts surfers of many nationalities, who come for the tubular waves and energy of the sea. This huge, golden-sand beach is overlooked by swaying fields of maize and wild flowers. Walk in either direction for more seclusion. Many species of homo surfus erectus are in evidence, covered with shiny black rubber plumage – welcoming and sociable, happy to share food, drink and life experiences. You might even be invited to one of their impromptu wild camping soirées.
Walking time: three minutes
Best for accessibility: Cala Argilaga, Costa del Azahar
Spain is becoming increasingly accessible. More and more beaches provide parking for people with disabilities and include wheelchair-friendly wooden boardwalks. The Parc Natural de la Serra d’Irta is a nature park and marine reserve with a succession of beautiful beaches and fascinating coves. “Pepper beach” is well hidden, but has exclusive parking for the disabled next to the beach. It’s set among protected dunes where wild flowers and sea holly flourish. You’ll see birds of prey and water birds including Bonelli’s eagle, kestrels, buzzards and great cormorants.
Walking time: one minute
Best for wild camping: Playa Mangueta, Costa de la Luz
Long beaches of soft, golden sand give way to white Moorish villages hosting Andalucían spring carnival parades. Playa Mangueta is a long, isolated beach backed by low, grassy dunes located at the mouth of the Arroyo de San Ambrosio. At low tide, walk left to find rock pools teeming with marine life. You’ll also spot the famous Faro de Trafalgar lighthouse, where the famous battle took place in 1805. There’s plenty of room for parking up a camper van, and plenty of space to find a discreet spot for your tent. Alternatively, Camping Pinar San José (campingpinarsanjose.com) is a clean and friendly nearby campsite with a good food shop. Is wild camping legal in Spain? The best advice is to use your discretion. If you decide to wild camp, remember the golden rule: leave no trace. Arrive late and leave early, taking nothing but photographs. Never light a barbecue or a campfire between May and October.
Walking time: 10 minutes
Best for horse riding: Platja de Son Real, Mallorca
Mallorca is an island of breathtaking variety and endless possibilities. Sinuous trails lead through forests of pine and oak to heavenly turquoise coves. Horses are a common sight on the island and one adventurous option is to explore the coast on horseback and wild camp in the woods. Wild Platja de Son Real provides an ideal place to ride and is the starting point to explore three miles of unspoilt coastline towards C’an Picafort. If you didn’t bring your horse, join Lizzie from naturacavall.com. Meet early, as the sun rises over the mountains and the horses enjoy a bareback romp in the sea. Great breakfasts at Bar Es Mollet de Son Serra de Marina.
Walking time: 10 minutes
Best for sunsets: Praia do Pozo, Costa Verde West
The far-western Atlantic coast is perfect for watching the sun sink into the vast ocean. Tucked away and out of sight, the twin coves of Praia do Pozo are great for a golden-hour swim surrounded by gorse-covered hills and towering cliffs. Bring your guitar and play out the final fiery chords of the day as the sky squeezes out the last drops of sunset orange. Watch out, though, as high tide can cut you off from the beach, so time your visit for an evening low tide.
Walking time: 10 minutes
Lola Culsán and John Weller are authors of Hidden Beaches Spain, from Wild Things Publishing (RRP £18.99). Telegraph readers receive 20 per cent off and free P &P with discount code “Telegraph21” at wildthingspublishing.com
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