The Costa Brava, or rugged coast, is a Catalonian region in northeastern Spain. It stretches from the town of Blanes – about an hour northeast of Barcelona – all the way to the southwestern French border.
Let me start by saying that despite the title of this post, I highly recommend spending more than just 24 hours on the Costa Brava. I fell in love instantly with the rocky coastline, teal water, abundant hiking trails, quiet villages, and friendly people. But one short overnight is all that we had, so we did our best to squeeze in as much as we could.
Here are a few ideas for your visit to Catalonia’s Costa Brava.
24 Hours on the Costa Brava
This tiny cove with colorful houses and fishing boats is truly stunning. It was also luxuriously peaceful. Aside from a group of locals sitting on the beach chatting and drinking champagne, we hardly saw anyone.
Platja de Castell
To get to Cala S’Alguer, park here and stop by Platja de Castell first. The wide expanse of sand with waves rushing in felt instantly calming after the buzz of Barcelona.
As you’re facing the water, head to the right to take the waterfront path to Cala S’Alguer. You’ll be there in just a few minutes.
Platja Sa Tuna
To get to Platja Sa Tuna, we drove through Begur, where we stayed for the night. We drove up, up, up into the village and then down, down, down to get back to the coast.
From Platja Sa Tuna we scrambled uphill (this time on foot) to the Mirador de San Josep, then headed back toward Platja Sa Tuna by way of Cala S’Eixugador.
The Costa Brava is full of seaside walks, and there’s a great one here between Platja Sa Tuna and Cala d’Aiguafreda.
Platja Fonda to Fornells and Aiguablava
This is another beautiful coastal walk option. None of the trails I reference in this post are particularly long or steep, but be prepared for a little rocky, uneven terrain.
I don’t think this route is more than two miles total, but we left ourselves a couple of hours so that we’d have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and picnic along the way.
For this walk, we parked here. To find the trail, follow the Carrer Platja Fonda from the parking lot toward the water. Just a minute or two down the path, you’ll see a sign directing you to the left that leads to the staircase down to Platja Fonda. Instead, turn right at the red and white trail blaze and start your walk toward Aiguablava. (But be sure to take the path down to Platja Fonda after your walk – it’s beautiful!)
Aiguablava was another highlight of our time on the Costa Brava. The peaceful bay with bright turquoise water is a popular mooring spot for passing boats.
Platja Del Golfet to Calella de Palafrugell
This is another out-and-back coastal walk option that you can start at either end. We parked at Platja Del Golfet and then walked north toward Calella de Palafrugell. We didn’t do the entire walk because we were losing daylight, but it’s about two miles round trip.
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Far de Sant Sebastià
The viewpoint from this far, or lighthouse, is perfect for sunset. Other nearby options are Sant Sebastià de la Guarda and the Mirador de la Divina Pastora.
After enjoying the view, we drove downhill on the Passeig de Pau Casals, pulling over to see Llafranc’s fishing boats lined up along the village beach below.
This 16th-century structure is perched above Begur, offering panoramic views over the sea and a bird’s eye view of the buildings below.
The remains of the castle are free to visit. On the way there and back, you can enjoy Begur’s beautiful and historic architecture.
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Calella de Palafrugell
Since we hadn’t made it all the way to Calella de Palafrugell the day before, a team member at our hotel suggested we squeeze in a visit. This peaceful village has several small beaches, historic fishing huts, and beautiful whitewashed buildings.
We headed north along the coast to walk toward Llafranc, our sunset spot from the night before, before saying teary goodbyes to the Costa Brava. (I wish this were an exaggeration, but I actually cried when we had to leave. Emotions run high for me while traveling, guys. And also, while at home.)
Notes Before You Go
There is public transportation on the Costa Brava, but in order to make the most of your time and have the flexibility to visit more out-of-the-way spots, I would recommend driving if you can.
We rented a car from the airport in Barcelona and returned it there before flying to Granada. There’s also an airport in Girona, less than an hour from Begur.
A note on car rentals in Spain:
Dan and I have never actually gotten international driving permits to rent cars abroad, but in Barcelona, we were asked for one. They still rented to us without it, but only after a severe warning that if we were pulled over for any reason, the car may be seized and there could be a huge fine. It was not a very fun way to start the day. Luckily we didn’t have any problems, but in the future we’ll likely arrange an IDP in advance just for the peace of mind – it’s worth the $20!
Costa Brava in the Off-Season
The Costa Brava is known for its beautiful beaches, so it’s not surprising that it’s a big summer destination. We were a little hesitant to visit in November, but there were a few major perks:
- Parking was very easy. The lots near the beaches are small and we were told parking in the high season can be close to impossible.
- We had the beaches and hikes largely to ourselves.
- Our accommodations were super nice and super affordable (more on that in a minute).
- Aside from a little bit of rain our second day, the sky was blue and the weather was perfect for hiking.
The Camins de Ronda
The Camins de Ronda, also known as the Camí de Ronda, is a series of seaside hiking paths along the Costa Brava between Portbou on the French border and Blanes further south. All of the walks mentioned here are sections of the Camí de Ronda, and the Camí de Ronda is part of an even longer trail called the GR 92.
The bottom line? The Costa Brava is a great region to consider if you love coastal hikes, with options ranging from short and sweet all the way to multi-day treks.
Our hotel in the lovely village of Begur was my favorite lodging in recent travel memory.
I couldn’t recommend Hotel Aiguaclara more. We were there in the off-season, so in addition to it being a total steal, we were also upgraded to a larger room.
The team was very friendly and there was immense attention to detail throughout the space, complete with multiple homey common areas perfect for reading, listening to records, playing games or having a cup of tea.
Breakfast in the garden was complimentary, full of variety, and delicious.
There’s also a popular restaurant on-site, so even if you don’t stay here, you can enjoy the team’s hospitality and experience the ambiance of the 1860s Cuban-inspired building.
Have More Time?
Cadaqués | An hour south of the French border, Cadaqués has a rich art history. Salvador Dalí visited the town as a child, later buying a home here. Today, you can visit the Salvador Dalí House Museum, where he lived and worked for more than 50 years. Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and René Magritte are among the many other artists who spent time in this beautiful seaside town.
Girona | Inland Girona is a popular add-on to a Costa Brava road trip. It’s also an easy day trip from Barcelona, with express train connections between the two. The city is known for its beautiful Barri Vell, or historic quarter, along with the cases d’Onyar: vibrantly painted homes lining the banks of the Onyar River. Game of Thrones fans may also want to stop here: the Barri Vell was used for scenes of Braavos and King’s Landing, and the cathedral for the Great Sept of Baelor.
Tossa de Mar | Situated between Barcelona and Begur, Tossa de Mar is another option for a home base on the Costa Brava, or even just a detour to see its 12th-century castle, located right on the water. Walk through the Villa Vela, or Old Town, to reach the Platja d’es Codolar, a picturesque beach adjacent to the castle walls.
Peratallada and Pals | These two beautifully preserved medieval villages are a great option for history and architecture buffs. Peratallada’s name comes from pedra tallada, meaning engraved stone.
Have you been to the Costa Brava? If so, what did you think? If not, would you add it to your list? Let me know in the Comments!
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