Spring is in the air, restrictions are falling away like autumn leaves and we could all do with getting a damn-good beach holiday in the diary. Spain will be first choice for many of us and with good reason — the country not only does beach hotels superlatively well, it does them with Maria Callas-style range.
In the Balearics and on the Costa del Sol you’ll find the sort of assured barefoot luxury the best kaftans are designed for. On the lesser-known Costas — de la Luz, Brava, even de la Muerte in Galicia — you’ll find crowd-free places with oodles of character. And then there’s Spain’s real trump card, its beach cities, Barcelona and Valencia among them, which offer a best-of-both-worlds combination of culture, restaurants and the swoosh of the waves.
The pool at the W in Barcelona
1. W, Barcelona
With its sail-shaped glass structure that glitters in the sunlight, W is not only one of the most distinctive buildings on the Barcelona skyline, it is (shockingly) the only hotel in the city with direct beach access. According to law, all Spain’s beaches are public, and the strip of sand in front of the W is no exception, however, since non-hotel guests seldom venture here, it has a semi-private feel. Add three swimming pools, five bars and restaurants and rooms with the best views in the city and you’ll be in no doubt as to why W Barcelona keeps the tourists coming back for more.
Santa Cristina beach, Costa Brava
2. Hotel Santa Marta, Costa Brava
If drifting off to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach below your window sounds like a Mediterranean holiday dream come true, then Hotel Santa Marta is the place for you. Central Barcelona is just an hour away, but this tiny cove feels like another world, with its crystal-clear waters and golden sands. Hotel facilities include two restaurants, a generously sized outdoor pool, a spa and direct access to the beach. A sea-facing room is well worth the few extra euros a night.
Hostal Spa Empúries, Costa Brava
3. Hostal Spa Empúries, Costa Brava
This small, sustainable hotel is set right on the beach in charming El Portitxol cove, with its distinctive rock formations and aquamarine water. Affordable, unpretentious accommodation can be hard to come by in these parts, but unlike some of its more ostentatious neighbours, the Hostal Spa Empúries, part of the Sustainable Tourism scheme, encourages you to embrace a slower pace of life. Enjoy a massage at the intimate spa, a dish of fresh grilled fish overlooking the sea at Villa Teresita restaurant, or an afternoon spent playing chess in the cosy library.
A room at Hotel Nomad Xabia, Costa Blanca
4. Hotel Nomad Xabia, Costa Blanca
About halfway between Valencia and Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanca lies the town of Xabia (or Javea). With its palm tree-lined promenade, beach and picturesque old quarter, it has everything you would expect of a Mediterranean seaside town — including this charming boutique hotel. Hotel Nomad has a tasteful Middle Eastern-inspired design and only 14 rooms, six with two adjoining bedrooms intended for families or groups of friends, and all facing the sea. Watch the waves from your balcony or find a spot to catch some rays on the golden sand below.
The lobby at Le Meridien Ra, Costa Dorada
5. Le Meridien Ra, Costa Dorada
Costa Dorada means golden coast, and Le Meridien Ra is right on its blonde sands southwest of Barcelona. The building was constructed in 1929 as a sanatorium because the mineral-rich waters along this stretch of Mediterranean coastline were believed to have restorative powers. Whether or not you believe the healthy hype, a few restful days of sipping cocktails on a beach lounger, enjoying delicious local food and wine, and being perfectly pampered at Le Meridien Ra’s high-end spa will have you feeling like a new you.
Puente Romano, Marbella
6. Puente Romano, Marbella
Marbella has long been the Spanish holiday destination of choice for the international jet set, many of whom like to live it up at the ultra-luxe Puente Romano. With its jaw-dropping views, snug sunbeds and two beachfront restaurants, this is the place for a lavish beach holiday on Andalusia’s ritzy Golden Mile. If your idea of the perfect holiday is more about winding down, Puente Romano has you covered too — it has partnered with the Spanish sleep specialist Hogo to offer sleep-coach services and access to its regenerating resting systems. Sweet dreams!
A room at Barcelo Cabo de Gata, Almeria
7. Barcelo Cabo de Gata, Almeria
A favourite with divers, birdwatchers and photographers, the Cabo de Gata natural park is home to some of Europe’s most pristine beaches. It’s a designated Unesco Biosphere Reserve, so accommodation options within the park are few and far between. While those with an outdoorsy disposition may pitch up at one of the campsites, less intrepid travellers might opt for the modern conveniences of the nearby Barcelo Cabo de Gata resort, with its four bars and restaurants, three pools, kids’ club and beach. And it’s just a 20-minute walk to Cabo de Gata’s virgin sands.
The pool at Hotel Madreselva, Costa de la Luz
8. Hotel Madreselva, Costa de la Luz
Between dense pine forests and the wild Atlantic coastline, Hotel Madreselva is the very definition of an Andalusian holiday fantasy. Stylish but pretension-free, and surprisingly affordable, the 18 rooms of this hacienda-style hotel surround a verdant courtyard filled with palms. The magnificent white-sand beach at Caños de Meca stretches as far as the eye can see. Popular with surfers, hippies and sun chasers, most of the beaches in this part of Spain are so big and unspoilt they never get busy, even in peak season.
The dining room at Gran Talaso Hotel Sanxenxo, Galicia
9. Gran Talaso Hotel Sanxenxo, Galicia
This modern spa hotel is just five minutes’ walk from the beautiful Sanxenxo Bay, and between the sandy stretches of Silgar and Baltar. The white powder sand beaches and bracing but calm waters of the Atlantic-facing region of Galicia draw in sun seekers in their droves. Overlooking the bay and the beach, Gran Talaso Hotel Sanxenxo is a wellness-focused hotel with a huge saltwater spa, outdoor swimming pool, superb food, fabulous sea views and plenty of fresh air.
Hostal La Cigüeña, Ibiza
10. Hostal La Cigüeña, Ibiza
One of few affordable, family-run hotels remaining on the white-hot clubbers’ isle, the beachfront Hostal La Cigüeña is like something from times gone by. We know what you’re thinking — the words “affordable” and “Ibiza” are seldom used in the same sentence, but that is what makes this place so special. On S’Arenal Petit beach in Portinatx, on Ibiza’s north coast, Hostal La Cigüeña’s no-frills, casual rooms are smallish but spotlessly clean. A few extra euros a night gets you postcard views of the Mediterranean. Open from May to September.
Gecko Hotel & Beach Club, Formentera
11. Gecko Hotel & Beach Club, Formentera
A short ferry ride from Ibiza, Formentera has a chilled-out bohemian feel that’s more reminiscent of southeast Asia than the Med. This is where the Ibiza party crowd go to recharge after an arduous season in Playa d’en Bossa, and it’s easy to see why. Set on Playa Migjorn, an 8km stretch of Caribbean-like white powder sand, Gecko Hotel is one of the dreamiest places to stay in Formentera — the comfy sunbeds by the pool and on the beach are perfect for unwinding, cocktail in hand.
Can I travel to Spain? The entry requirements explained
19 of Spain’s most beautiful beaches
Cap Rocat, Mallorca
12. Cap Rocat, Mallorca
Since opening in 2010, Cap Rocat has become the epitome of barefoot Balearic luxury. A 19th-century military fortress converted into an exclusive Mediterranean hideaway, the hotel has 30 rooms and suites, 30 hectares of grounds and 2km of private coastline. Despite the absence of a sandy strip, Cap Rocat offers the most authentic of Mallorcan experiences, namely, the opportunity to jump into the clear, aquamarine sea from a cliff or the hotel’s rocky beach. After your swim, kick back by the impressive seawater pool, take an open-air yoga class or get pampered at the spa.
White Sands Beach Club, Menorca
13. White Sands Beach Club, Menorca
Set on the sunny shores of Menorca’s north coast, White Sands Beach Club is the ideal seaside escape for travellers on a budget. This island takes itself less seriously than its Balearic neighbours, and it shows at this reasonably priced resort consisting of studios and one and two-bedroom condos — all of which have either a private balcony or a garden terrace overlooking the pristine sea. Soft, golden sand is just 200m away at Arenal d’en Castell beach, where watersports including sailing, canoeing, diving and snorkelling are available.
Details Room-only studios from £40 (diamondresortsandhotels.com). Fly to Menorca
Hotel Gran Meliá Sancti Petri, Andalusia
14. Hotel Gran Meliá Sancti Petri, Andalusia
The name Costa de la Luz, or coast of light, barely does this part of Andalusia justice, with its wild, windswept beaches and fiery sunsets. Just 30 minutes’ drive from the ancient port city of Cadiz, Gran Meliá Sancti Petri is one of only a few luxury hotels on this unspoilt stretch of coast. Kick back on a sunbed on La Barrosa beach, or go for a stroll along five miles of pristine white sand. The hotel has five bars and restaurants; you’ll want to try the superb Alevante, directed by the celebrated chef Ángel León.
A room at Ikos, Andalusia
15. Ikos, Andalusia
Glitzy Marbella has more chic hotels than you can shake a beach towel at, but that didn’t stop Ikos Andalusia from making a splash when it opened last year. With 411 rooms, 4,000 sq m of pools and lush gardens, this all-inclusive beachfront resort invites you to discover the local area with complimentary use of a Mini for the day, as well as free tickets to Malaga’s best museums or green passes at the Los Naranjos Golf Club. Alternatively, catch that all-important vitamin D on a plush sunbed by the pool or on the beach.
The pool at Finca Cortesin, Andalusia
16. Finca Cortesin, Andalusia
OK, Finca Cortesin, hidden deep in the Andalusian countryside, isn’t really a beach hotel. But this Spanish estate offers the best of both worlds, inviting guests to relax in a Moorish-inspired, bougainvillea-lined courtyard, play 18 holes at its golf club or hop on board the complimentary shuttle service to the beach. Just ten minutes from the hotel, the Finca Cortesin beach club is where you can kick back on a Balinese bed and go for a dip before returning to your stylish rural retreat in time to watch the sun set over the mountains.
La Enramada beach, Tenerife
17. Royal Hideaway Corales Beach, Tenerife
Closer to Africa than Spain, the southern part of Tenerife can always be counted on to have glorious sunshine, even when winter is at its grimmest across Europe. The outstanding Royal Hideaway Corales Beach is an upscale, adults-only resort located alongside La Enramada beach. With its distinctive black volcanic sand and rock formations and a buzzing beach bar with sunloungers and parasols for hire, this is a great spot to marvel at the local paragliders soaring in from the nearby mountaintops while the sun sets over the Atlantic and La Gomera island.
Hotel Fariones, Lanzarote
18. Hotel Fariones, Lanzarote
The stark, volcanic island of Lanzarote is the most easterly of the main Canary Islands, and therefore the closest to Africa. No surprise, then, that this is where you’ll find some of Europe’s best year-round weather. Reopened in 2020, the Hotel Fariones lies on Playa Grande in the centre of Puerto del Carmen on the southeast coast. Surrounded by palm trees, it has direct access to a yellow-sand cove, as opposed to Lanzarote’s characteristic black-sand beaches, as well as an Instagram-worthy infinity pool gazing out over the Atlantic.
Jandia beach, Fuerteventura
19. Iberostar Selection Fuerteventura Palace, Fuerteventura
The Canary island of Fuerteventura is best known for its year-round sunshine and beaches that are so powdery that the sand almost feels like flour between your toes — not to mention being home to some of Europe’s best surf spots. The smart Iberostar Selection Fuerteventura Palace is situated near the southern tip of the island. A volcanic mountain range looms dramatically behind the hotel, contrasting with the sparkling white sands of Jandia beach lying to the front. The hotel is outstandingly well equipped, with its four outdoor swimming pools as well as a spa. And it is also surprisingly affordable, despite its five-star rating.
Playa de Santa Marina, Asturias
20. Hotel Villa Rosario, Asturias
The rain in Spain falls mainly in the northern region of Asturias — but while the weather here may be far from perfect, the beaches are no less than stunning. Add a string of charming fishing villages, delicious cider and cheese and some of the best fresh seafood money can buy, and a beach holiday makes perfect sense. Stay at Hotel Villa Rosario, a beautifully preserved century-old palacete on the boardwalk of Playa de Santa Marina, one of the region’s finest sand beaches.
The City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
21. Las Arena Balneario Resort, Valencia
Valencia’s poshest beachfront resort opened its doors in 1898 as a high society spa but fell into disrepair after the Spanish Civil War. Today, it is back to its glamorous best, catering to discerning Spanish and international guests looking for the very best of what Valencia has to offer. With one indoor and two outdoor pools, a superb spa and the beach right on its doorstep, it is a delight for water-lovers, while for those seeking more highbrow pursuits, the City of Arts and Sciences cultural complex is just a ten-minute taxi ride away.
22. Sa Rascassa, Costa Brava
Hidden in the pines on the shore of a secluded inlet on the ragged coast of Catalonia’s Baix Emporda, Sa Rascassa is less hotel and more restaurant with rooms: five of them, simply, even sparsely, furnished, in a modernista beach house with a self-service bar called La Drogueria and dining on a shady terrace with a menu featuring the fish that the Catalans cook so well. Our hosts Merche and Oscar Bonhorra seem as happy to be here as their guests, often inviting local musicians down to get the party started. Flat rocks for sunbathing and gorgeously blue water for sea bathing are steps from your door, but if you prefer a sandy beach the Cala de Sa Tuna is a 15-minute walk along the coast path to the south.