More Than Beaches to a Spanish Costas Holiday

Spectacular scenery with soaring mountains and hill-top villages, plus historic cities and towns with some of the most outstanding buildings in the world. This is probably not what the term Spanish Costas brings to mind.

View from Gibraltar peak
View from Gibraltar Peak

Yes, of course, the Spanish Costas have great beaches with plenty of reasonably priced accommodation, particularly outside the busy summer months. But travel just a little way inland and new and fascinating places are around almost every corner.

I highlight here some of my favourite locations within easy reach of the Spanish Costa beach resorts. I start with Costa de la Luz and Costa del Sol in the south of Spain and finish with Costa Brava in the north-east next to the French border.

Costa de la Luz

This Atlantic facing Costa has long been popular with Spanish tourists but has only recently been finding favour with UK visitors. It has long, golden, sandy beaches and a rather more Spanish feel than the Mediterranean Costas.

Spanish Costas: Hillside Village of Atajate
Charming hillside village of Atajate

But when you’ve had your fill of lounging on the beaches, why not visit the Doñana National Park, a massive nature reserve and wetland ecosystem. I also recommend spending a day in the historic city of Cádiz, with its fine cathedral capped with a dome of golden tiles, and maybe check out the Tavira Tower with its camera obscura show.

And if you’ve never visited Gibraltar, then now is your chance to take in its unique ‘British’ atmosphere. Take the cable car up the peak to enjoy the views and meet its most famous residents, the Barbary macaques.

Cost del Sol

Gibraltar is again a good place to visit if you can tear yourself away from Costa del Sol’s well-known beach resorts like Marbella and Estapona. I’d also recommend travelling the 40 miles or so inland to visit the extraordinary city of Ronda, dramatically perched above a steep gorge, passing charming hillside villages like Atajate along the way.

Málaga from Gibralfaro Castle
Málaga from Gibralfaro Castle

But save some time to explore the city of Málaga with its panoramic views from the Gibralfaro Castle. Then down in the old town, visit the Alcazaba fortress and Picasso Museum, a fitting tribute in the city where the great artist was born.

Costa de Almeria

The fine beach resorts of this Costa, like Roquetas de Mar, Mojacar and Aguadulce, are good stepping off points for taking a tour to the magnificent city of Granada with its iconic Alhambra Palace. This is best visited outside the busy summer tourist season, but whenever you visit, make certain you get your Alhambra entrance tickets in advance and don’t forget to claim your senior discount!

I recommend a circular tour taking in Guadix along the way, with its unusual troglodyte houses, and the 50 miles or so along the scenic Almeria coastline.

Costa Calida

Alhambra Palace in Granada
Alhambra Palace in Granada

Top beach resorts include Cartagena, with its many Roman ruins including a theatre and a villa with murals and mosaics, and La Manga on the shores of the Mar Menor, a saltwater lagoon ringed with historic towns and famed for its water sports.

For something completely different, I recommend visiting the Huerto del Cura palm gardens in Elche, about 40 miles north of the Mare Menor. It is a beautiful and very well-tended oasis of tranquillity. On the return journey, maybe take in the city of Murcia with its intriguing cathedral, a strange mixture of many styles from Gothic to Baroque, and the nearby colourful bishop’s palace.

Costa Blanca

El Huerta del Cura Elche
Huerta del Cura palm gardens in Elche

The home of the best known of all Spanish beach resorts, Benidorm. And yes it is very busy in the summer, so why not visit out of season for a completely different experience? Nearby are the much smaller, quieter resorts of Altea and Albir.

The mountainous area towering above the coastal resorts is well worth exploring. Just 15 miles from the coast up in the mountains is the fascinating village of Guadalest, perched perilously on a rocky pinnacle. It is often referred to as the Eagle’s Nest. And the palm gardens at Elche are also in easy reach from the southern parts of this Costa.

Costa Dorada

Guadalest – The Eagle’s Nest

There is much to enjoy in the beach resorts around Salou on the Costa Dorada, but it would be a pity not to find time to visit Tarragona with its well preserved Roman Amphitheatre close by the seashore.

And Barcelona is definitely a must-see, where you can saunter down Las Ramblas, the tree-lined street in the centre, before visiting the cathedral Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, and the idiosyncratic Park Güell with its fine views over the city.

But my top recommendation when in Costa Dorada is to travel inland from the coast up in to the strange jagged peaks of Montserrat. Having enjoyed the breath-taking views back down to the coast, you can then visit the Benedictine Monastery and the magnificent basilica with its unusual ‘black’ Virgin Mary statue.

Costa Brava

From the many Costa Brava beach resorts, like Lloret de Mar, Pineda de Mar and Tossa de Mar, you are still in easy striking distance of Barcelona. However much nearer is the historical city of Girona with its mediaeval architecture and old walled quarter.

Montserrat Monastery
Benedictine Monastery in Montserrat

For something a bit different, I suggest visiting the Salvador Dalí Theatre-Museum in his home town of Figueres.

Travel and Accommodation

An easy and inexpensive way to visit whichever Costa you choose is to book through Jet2Holidays. They will look after flights and hotels and even your car hire.

And if you wish to escape from your grandchildren (and other children) for a while, then check out their Adult holidays at over 70 different destinations on the Spanish Costas stretching from one end to the other.

Posted 10th JANUARY 2019 by BARBARA HANSON.