Costa Brava Holiday Planning Guide
Costa Brava, Catalonia’s famous "rugged coast," boasts a dramatic juxtaposition of rocky cliffs and gorgeous sandy beaches. One of Spain's three major coastline vacation destinations, Costa Brava has an incredibly diverse marine life and draws considerable tourism for some of the finest scuba diving spots in the country. But don't forget to head inland on your Costa Brava holiday, where you can explore the tiny cobblestone streets of its medieval stone villages and towns. Here, see numerous sites associated with the life and work of Salvador Dalí, the country’s renowned surrealist artist.
Places to Visit on Costa BravaLloret de Mar
: Clean, white-sand beaches and an exciting nightlife makes this town one of the most popular holiday resorts in the region with historical ruins dating back to Roman and Iberian civilizations.Tossa de Mar
: Tucked into the rugged coastline, this ancient fisherman's village has all the beaches and entertainment venues you could ask for, plus a rich medieval history.Roses
: Most Costa Brava tours come to Roses for its wide, clean beaches lined with picnic areas, watersport centers, restaurants, and a thrilling nightlife scene.Cadaques
: Popular with both foreigners and Spaniards looking for a summer getaway, this picture-perfect town on a bay features quiet beaches, scenic hiking trails, and charming neighborhoods in a setting beloved by both Picasso and Salvador Dali.L'Estartit
: This small seaside resort draws visitors for its large marina, world-class golf courses, and underwater beauty accessible with any of the numerous local diving schools.Sant Feliu de Guixols
: Costa Brava attractions in this town include an old monastery housing the town's museum as well as beautiful natural scenery found in numerous little bays and lush pine forests.Blanes
: Explore the botanical gardens, mysterious coves, and beaches surrounded by mountains at Blanes, a town known for its fireworks during the Concurs de Focs d'Artifici during the Santa Anna festival.Empuriabrava
: Home to the largest residential marina in Europe, this town is crisscrossed with canals and is popular with thrill seekers looking for air sports like skydiving.L'Escala
: Include the fishing town of L'Escala on your Costa Brava itinerary to see ancient Roman and Phoenician ruins dating to 580 BCE. Seafood lovers can indulge in the town's famous annual festival celebrating its anchovies.Platja d'Aro
: Located on a large beach spotted with seashells, this major resort town boasts hot tourist attractions like a championship golf course and stunning viewpoints overlooking the sea.
Things to Do on Costa Brava
Popular Costa Brava Tourist AttractionsLloret Beach
: This beach tops Costa Brava itineraries for its clean and family-friendly environment as well as historical monuments near the water.Dali Museum-House
: Get to know the life of Salvador Dalí in the painter's very own labyrinthine home and gardens, where original possessions, furniture, and artwork are still displayed.Vila Vella (Old Town)
: Visit the last standing fortified medieval town on the Catalan coast and explore the cobbled streets, old hospital, and church ruins before finishing the tour with a view from the lighthouse.Fenals Beach
: Beachgoers flock to this shoreline for its calm waters and quiet atmosphere, interrupted only by kayaks, waterskis, and glass-bottomed boats.Jardines de Santa Clotilde
: Drink in the sea views from this cliffside botanical garden blooming with sculpted greenery and exotic flowers, and decorated with marble statues and benches where tourists can rest their feet.Water World
: This water park is a fun way to make a splash with attractions for all ages, from thrilling chute drops and six-lane speed slides to relaxing lazy rivers.
Castillo de Tossa de Mar: During your Costa Brava holiday, storm this 12th-century medieval walled castle that once defended the locals from pirates and now overlooks the town and blue sea below.Jardí Botànic Marimurtra
: Learn about plants of the world on the slopes of Mount Sant Joan de Blanes, where this extensive garden features some 3,000 species including Chilean palms, African and Mexican trees, and various bamboo plants.Platja Gran
: This sunny beach, complete with a promenade with bars and restaurants, makes the perfect location to swim in fairly deep water, soak up the sun, and snorkel along the shoreline to spot fish in the clear water.Jardi Botanic de Cap Roig
: Add more color to your Costa Brava holiday at this botanical garden, which hosts a large collection of tropical flowers, plants, and birds along pathways leading to a stunning overlook.
Planning a Costa Brava Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Costa Brava with Kids
Creating a child-friendly Costa Brava itinerary is a snap, especially with the region's countless beaches. Look for some of the best, most family-friendly spots at Lloret de Mar
. Several of the area's beaches have also earned a Blue Flag, an international standard for cleanliness, safety, and environmental responsibility. S'Agaro
is also known for its calm waters, perfect for kids wanting to swim. When your young travelers are ready for more action, head to Sant Feliu de Guixols
and tour the rugged coastline. Kids will love exploring ancient pirate caves where treasure was once hidden. Finally, discover the underwater world of Costa Brava with dive tours offered at Calella de Palafrugell
. The waters here are especially clear and rich with marine life.
Things to Do on Costa Brava with Kids
Start off your kids' Costa Brava vacation with some high-flying thrills at Arbre Aventura Park
, an outdoor adventure park. The park offers multiple courses for varying ages and skill levels, and visitors can navigate across wooden platforms, ziplines, suspension bridges, logs of balance, and complicated steps. If your family would rather go below the surface than above it, check out Poseidon Calella
. This professional diving center and its experienced divers offer a wide range of services and trips, from beginners to advanced, for all ages.
The coastline, a highlight of Costa Brava, is best experienced from the sea, and kids are not likely to forget the sights seen with Kayak Center Guixols
. Paddle double or individual kayaks through coves and ancient pirate caves while stopping along the way for snorkeling. Spend a more relaxing afternoon enjoying a game of minigolf at Minigolf Greens
. The course, nestled in a garden with a snack bar, houses some tricky holes yet is still enjoyable for small children.
When all else fails, head to the beach. There are endless choices along the shoreline, whether you are looking for bays surrounded by forests or white sand and clear waters. Check out San Pol Beach
for calm, swimmable waters and convenient facilities like showers and restaurants on site.
Tips for a Family Vacation on Costa Brava
Overall, a trip to Costa Brava with children is relatively easy. If you think your kids might get bored of sitting on the beach every day, do try to mix up your itinerary to keep things interesting. Teen travelers will enjoy the free Instagram days organized at different locations around the region. The day involves tourists and locals meeting for breakfast, then spending the day sightseeing and snapping photos--the best photo is recognized and awarded by the Costa Brava tourist board. Finally, when the kids get hungry, paella, tortilla, and Catalan speciality bread with tomato are found in every nearly every restaurant and are simple enough for even the pickiest eaters.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Costa Brava
Cuisine of Costa Brava
Costa Brava cuisine is characterized by fresh seafood brought in by locals. Menus are full of dishes featuring shellfish, sea cucumbers, and delicious seafood casseroles. Blanes
is famous for its prawns and sea urchins, and also hosts a seafood casserole festival each year. Gourmands on holiday on Costa Brava should consider a trip to the region's vineyards, too, to get a taste of Costa Brava's wine. Mas Oller
offers several wines as well as homemade olive oil, and visits include a tasting and guided tour.
Shopping on Costa Brava
Ceramics are a popular ware in the region and make great mementos of your Costa Brava holiday. Look for earthenware terracotta dishes, hand-painted crockery, and decorative wall tiles in Calella de Palafrugell
, a town with numerous hip ceramic and jewelry boutiques. At Nou Nou - CLOSED, browse through a large variety of handmade leather goods like bags and computer cases.
Visitors interested in experiencing an authentic Costa Brava shopping trip should explore any of the public markets. Shop alongside the locals for fruit, vegetables, poultry, flowers, and pastries. Some stalls usually offer household goods and clothing.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Costa Brava
History of Costa Brava
As part of Catalonia, Costa Brava was colonized by the ancient Greeks and Carthaginians before becoming part of the Roman Empire. Evidence of these distant cultures can be seen at Ruins of Empuries
, an ancient Greek port with large stone walls, mosaic-tiled streets, and a necropolis with educational displays.
Later the Iberian peninsula became the domain of the Visigoths. In the 8th century the region was conquered by the Moors and later came under the rule of the Frankish Empire. Eventually the area became attached to the Crown of Aragon, which lasted into the 18th century; during this time it served as the main base for the crown's naval power. However, the region's maritime activities were not all to the betterment of the crown. In the 13th and 14th centuries pirates from Catalonia were a constant threat to merchants who traded by sea. On your tour of Costa Brava you can still see the 15th-century Moorish Tower
, which often defended its city from marauders at sea.
The region remained quiet until after the Spanish Civil War--a dark time in the country's history that Costa Brava was fortunately too remote to be affected directly by. In the 1950s tourism in Catalonia started to boom; the area was developed as a holiday destination and saw extreme success. Tourists from Northern Europe, especially Britain, flocked to the area to relax on the wonderful beaches. For more insight into the region on your Costa Brava trip visit Museu Del Mar
, a history museum with an emphasis on the area's maritime past.
Landscape of Costa Brava
Located on the edge of the Mediterranean, Costa Brava is filled with beaches, marshlands, bays, and rugged cliffs. The warm climate creates the perfect environment for eotic, tropical flowers like the ones found at Jardí Botànic Marimurtra
, a cliffside garden with beautiful sea views. See a fine example of the region's marshlands at Empuriabrava
, home of one of the largest residential marinas in the world.
A Costa Brava tour would not be complete without visiting its beaches. Platja Fonda
boasts blue water and a secluded, peaceful atmosphere--note, however, that visitors must navigate steep steps to reach the beach. If you're traveling with small children or want easier access, head to Santa Cristina Hermitage
: the clear water and green surroundings are beautiful examples of a Costa Brava beach.
Holidays & Festivals on Costa Brava
Festivals make a great way to get involved in the culture during your Costa Brava vacation. Everything from religious days to food is celebrated with feasts, fireworks, music, and dancing. Most towns and villages celebrate the Parade of the Three Kings each January. Look for costumed locals on horseback pulling carts of presents, surrounded by bands of drummers and flute players as they throw candy into the crowd. The Habanera festival in Calella de Palafrugell
is another very popular celebration involving singing sea shanties and drinking cremate (burnt rum). Finally, the harbor of L'Estartit
hosts the Festival of Pirates every September. During the celebration, stalls line the streets selling food, jewelry, clothes, and arts and crafts. Local children's theater groups perform dances, and boat trips are offered around Medes Islands
Costa Brava Travel Tips
Climate of Costa Brava
Costa Brava's Mediterranean climate features hot summers and chilly winters with low temperatures. The high season in summertime lasts from June to early September, when the region experiences more than nine hours of sunshine a day. Average high temperatures then are in the upper 20s C (low to mid-80s F), and lows between 17-20 C (62.6-68 F). While most plan their Costa Brava holiday in summer, if you're traveling here in the winter you can expect temperatures to range between 12 C (53.6 F) and 6 C (42.8 F).
Transportation on Costa Brava
Enjoy the freedom of traveling where and when you want on your Costa Brava holiday by renting a car, which can be done upon arrival at airports and train stations. Hop on a charter boat to visit the islands around Costa Brava, including fishing villages, empty beaches, and old pirate coves. When touring other Costa Brava attractions, the bus makes a budget-friendly, comfortable method. In addition to providing routes to cities, towns, and villages, the bus lines also travel between airports.
Language of Costa Brava
Costa Brava has two official languages, Spanish and Catalan. All locals can speak and understand Spanish, but many of them also speak Catalan among themselves.