The 20 best beaches in Northern Spain
Which are the best beaches in Northern Spain? There is not a clear answer for this question. To start with, this is probably a question of taste. But besides this, we need to bear in mind that questions such as the weather condition on the day chosen to visit, or how crowded the beach was on a particular day can make a huge difference on people´s opinions. What we show here is a selection with our top 20. We do only follow however a geographical order in the way we list the beaches. Our selection covers beaches from Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. A stop to any of this beaches is a must during a trip to North Spain.
You can also get some ideas for an itinerary in North of Spain in our North Spain highlights post, with many ideas on places to visit and enjoy.
1. Playa América, Nigrán, Pontevedra Province, Galicia
Without a doubt, Playa America is one of the most remarkable beaches of the Rías Baixas. Its location provides warmth, which in the north is no trivial matter. The beach stretches along the central part of a beautiful bay in the form of a letter "C" from which the Monteferro Forest is perfectly visible (if there is no fog). On the right are the Stelae Islands, and the famous Baiona is to the left. If you go with children, this is definitely the ideal beach for them.
2. Playa de Rodas, Cies Islands, Pontevedra Province, Galicia
If you want to go to the Cies Islands, you will not be able to swim there and access is restricted to only a limited number of people. Therefore, reserve a ticket, get up early and head to the port of Vigo, but once on the islands, the small efforts will have been entirely worthwhile. Note that Playa de Rodas, or Rhodes Beach, won the Best Beach in the World Award ((“in 2007”/ o “recently.”)). The first thing you will fall in love with is the fineness of the sand and its very white color. Looking towards Vigo in the distance and being surrounded by wild nature will make you want to teleport to other warmer latitudes – although the Atlantic water will remind you that you are still here.
3. Playas de Montalvo and Major, Sanxenxo, Pontevedra Province, Galicia
The best beaches of Sanxenxo face south-west towards the islands that constitute the Atlantic Islands National Park. Perhaps the most famous is A Lanzada, but we prefer to focus on Montalvo and Major for being both very close to each other and to have a less urbanized environment. The color of the waters passes from the turquoise on the shore to a very dark blue in the deepest waters. The sand is fine and there is no shortage of beach bars and green, wooded areas in the surroundings. They both certainly are what one expects from a magnificent north beach.
4. Playa de Carnota, Carnota, A Coruña Province, Galicia
What a blessing if the Spanish coast were plagued by beaches such as Carnota! With its more than 7 km of white sands, it is considered the longest in Galicia. It spreads over a practically unaltered coastline with native flora and a wide area of dunes that interact with the forest groves, meadows and surrounding cultivated fields.
5. Playa de Doniños, El Ferrol, A Coruña Province, Galicia
Departing westwards from Ferrol, you arrive at a huge sandy area extending north to south that is of great ecological value, and which makes it easy to enjoy magnificent sunsets. On the right side is the small beach do Outeiro which is continuation of Doniños Beach, and to the left is the wild Punta Penencia, or Penance Point. Looking behind, there is a dune complex, and beyond is the Lagoa de Doniños , a lagoon. Next to the lagoon is a Surf Shop, a goal for the many who come to enjoy surfing near this wonderful beach.
6. Playas Area and Covas, Viveiro, Lugo Province, Galicia
For those who do not know, area (ah-RAY-ah), means “sand” in Galician. If the beach is called "sand", it will be. And it is also very beautiful with very few buildings nearby, wooded mountains wherever you look, even as you look at the sea in front of you. The beach extends from north to south inside the Viveiro Estuary and is 4 km north of the town. The other large beach in Viveiro is "a Praia de Covas", which is located just 2 km from Viveiro, but being more urbanized and extending north, in the same direction that the estuary flows towards the sea. The fact that these two beaches are within the estuary influences them a lot in that they are not directly exposed to the effects of the Cantabrian Sea.
7. Playa de las Catedrales, Ribadeo, Lugo Province, Galicia
Cathedral Beach cannot be defined as a typical beach in which a beachgoer plants their umbrella and lays out their towel – but for the record, you can do that if you want to… Cathedral Beach is a monument, a song to the uniqueness of the erosion of a maritime coast they have been facing for millions of years. Of course the rock will always lose the war, but in the meantime, we can enjoy the present beauty of this geological battle. Arches under which to pass, caves in which you can feel like a smuggler, and large eroded boulders from which you can scan the horizon... And of course, walk and take pictures, lots of pictures, because you will have witnessed a spectacular geological moment that will never return. (Reservations are required.)
8. Playa de Penarronda, Castropol, Asturias
Between Asturias and Galicia, the Eo (or Ribadeo) River estuary extends towards the Cantabrian Sea. By continuing east of the estuary for a couple of kilometers while looking north along the Asturian coast, you’ll locate Penarronda Beach, a paradise for surfers and nature lovers. The environment is well cared for, and access is provided on wooden walkways that run between the dunes and pine forests. Without a doubt, it’s a magnificent beach to walk on given its size. We recommend climbing up to the San Lorenzo-Santa Gadea Hermitage from which you will enjoy great views of the beach and beyond. When the circumstances are favorable, the northwards and open orientation to the sea makes no self-respecting surfer refrain from riding the waves.
9. Playa de Barayo, Valdés, Asturias
This beautiful beach has the category of a Nature Reserve, which includes an L-shaped beach, a dune zone and marshes. The pedestrian accesses begin at the parking lots that are located on top of the two hills that surround the reserve. Before reaching the sandy beach, we can enjoy the views that are presented to us in its open orientation towards the Cantabrian Sea. Its presence alongside the rugged cliffs has made it a perfect beach for surfers and naturalists alike.
10. Playa del Silencio, Cudillero, Asturias
This beautiful beach also goes by the names ‘Gavieiru’ and ‘Gavieiro’ and is located at the foot of an impressive cliff wall, and at first glance we may recall images of the Irish northwestern coast. The presence of the cliff has made the beach primarily of rounded, small stones. For those who don’t want to be saved from a fall, this is not a beach recommended to go down with umbrella, beach chair, and cooler.
11. Playon of Bayas, Bayas, Asturias
Along with the nearby island of Deva, this impressive beach, the longest in Asturias, was declared a Natural Monument. Extending along the coast from southwest to northeast, it gathers the fine sand that the Nalón River carries towards the sea. Given its fantastic state of conservation, we are convinced that it presents the same aspect as in times of Caesar Augustus. Some may demur over the proximity of the Asturian airport, but, please, it’s not Heathrow.
12. Playa de Rodiles, Villaviciosa, Asturias
Rodiles Beach is very popular among the locals. It is a large and long beach protected by a eucalyptus forest. It is an ideal beach to walk from the cliffs at one end to the east, to the other end where the Villaviciosa River empties into the sea. If anyone thinks of combining a beach with the local favorite, cider, we're talking about the perfect place.
13. Playa de Gulpiyuri, Naves, Llanes, Asturias
No doubt more than a beach, Gulpiyuri Beach is a phenomenon of nature – and hence it is classified as a Natural Monument. It is not possible to arrive by car; you have to walk a short distance along an unpaved road between meadows to where a beach appears unexpectedly! But, but – where is the sea? It’s behind the rocks through which the water and tides have created such a unique inland beach. We recommend that you go out of season so that you can enjoy it in its true splendor, as it is quite small.
14. Playa de Torimbia, Llanes, Asturias
Torimbia Beach is easily accessible and with strong nudist presence. But without a doubt, its principle attraction is the beauty of the surrounding nature that reminds one of a film in which a ship of the Royal Navy is moored in a beautiful, curved bay surrounded by lush vegetation. The surrounding waters create a palette of colors in which it’s not clear whether the greens or blues are in command.
15. Playas de Gerra and Oyambre, San Vicente de la Barquera, Cantabria
San Vicente de la Barquera has good beaches, even if they are not in the town itself. You’ll need to drive east cross the N-634 bridge to get there, but they are only two and five kilometers away. Gerra and Oyambre beaches, separated by 3km of forest, are composed of fine sand and close to Peñaentera, a small town. Both are easy to access, have good services, and if that’s not enough, Oyambre curves inward towards the Arroyo del Capitan, or Captain’s Brook, which makes it an ideal place for kids to play.
16. Playas de Valdearenas, Liencres, Cantabria
The coast of Liencres, not far from Santander, is a true spectacle with a series of beaches, each and all magnificent. The queen of them is Valdearenas Beach because of its proximity to Liencres Dunes Natural Park, well-known for its natural beauty and its conservation. Skilled surfers ply the waves and the Mogro River mouth, to the west of the beach, turns south towards the interior. By following this beach east, you’ll encounter Canallave Beach which has a similar shape, but somewhat smaller. In the Piélagos area and only about 5 km to the east are the two beaches, Arnía and Somocuevas, both of great beauty and much wilder being along the Costa Quebrada, or ‘Broken Coast’. If you are into nude sunbathing and swimming, you can go to the nearby Portío Beach.
17. Playa de Somo, Somo, Cantabria
Somo Beach is located on the other side of Santander Bay and is accessible by any of the boat-taxis that leave the port every 30 minutes. It is a huge beach whose western side is touched by the city of Santander and where the famous Palace of the Magdalena can be seen across the bay. Another advantage is that although there is an urban environment with some restaurants and hotels nearby, they are almost completely unnoticed from the beach because of a sand dune that separates beach from town. This allows beachgoers to enjoy the magnificent and extensive beach without losing touch with civilization.
18. Playa de Noja, Noja, Cantabria
Noja Beach extends from Noja to Punta del Brusco to the east. It is the perfect reference of what a north-facing Cantabrian beach is like: it is extensive, accessible, and not very urbanized, but with many services easily available and with lots of forests and natural attractions nearby.
19. Playa de Laga, Ibarrangelu, Vizcaya Province, Euskadi
This beach is located between the beautiful Urdabai Biosphere Reserve and the no less beautiful seaside villa of Elantxobe, one of the most attractive in Euskadi. Both points (the Reserve and Elantxobe) are locations that you should not miss when travelling to Euskadi, especially if you like natural spaces and outdoor activities such as hiking, adventure sports, and bird watching. As for Laga Beach, you have an excellent reasons to stop by: it’s wide, ideal for surfing, with ample services, and surrounded with a dreamy mountain environment.
20. Playa de la Concha, San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa Province, Euskadi
Is there really anybody who hasn’t heard about (at least) the Playa de la Concha in San Sebastián? Undoubtedly it is the capital city’s most famous beach and offers both a romantic and wild side with its shell shape. Tucked in between the Urgull and Igeldo mountains, it’s dotted with noble villas overlooking the beach with the small island of Santa Clara resting in the bay, directly in front.