The greatest holiday destinations in Spain, from coasts to islands

·7 min read
beach with a few people - iStock Editorial
beach with a few people - iStock Editorial

I have a little list – well actually rather a long list – of beaches I can’t wait to return to, whether on mainland Spain, the Balearics or the Canaries. While I’ll be lucky to make it to a handful at most this summer, it doesn’t matter as some are more appealing in autumn with fewer people – and warm rather than scorching weather suits a lot of us just fine – while others are at their wild best in winter.

With around 5,000 miles of coastline, featuring all permutations from tiny coves to seaside towns and full-on resorts, it is no wonder so many people are dreaming of getting back to their favourite holiday spots in Spain and its islands. In my many idle moments, I’m thinking about all those tempting beach bars – literally thousands of them – where I could be whiling away the afternoon with an endless supply of cold beers without a care in the world.

Spain has been gradually easing itself out of its restrictions, but rules vary from region to region so it is important to check the situation for your destination. Depending on when and where you go, you might find numbers are limited in restaurants or on beaches, for example. While masks are no longer obligatory outdoors, a lot of Spanish people are choosing to keep wearing them, at least where there are crowds. Those long, lazy beach days that we have been yearning for are finally within reach and at this stage observing a few rules and thinking of others seem perfectly reasonable to me.

Costas

The word costas might make you think of package holidays in big resorts – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that – but it’s only one part of the story. While I am always up for a break in Benidorm on the Costa Blanca, which has gone above and beyond to make the destination as low risk as possible since the beginning of this situation, I would drag myself away from the beach to hike in the hills and try some of the excellent restaurants in the surrounding area too.

On the Costa Brava, gorgeous seaside towns such as Cadaques, Llafranc and Palafrugell provide that hit of Mediterranean happiness we have been craving. Lloret de Mar has been really proactive with its anti-Covid measures and is worth considering as a base if you haven’t been there for decades. This enforced break has given a lot of established destinations a chance to reset and relaunch and many of those tired old beach hotels now have a fresh, contemporary look, while exciting new ones are now opening their doors too.

boat overlooking water at sunset - Moment RF /Gerard Puigmal
boat overlooking water at sunset - Moment RF /Gerard Puigmal

This is clearly the case on the Costa del Sol, where the Ikos Andalusia, between Estepona and Marbella, is an all-inclusive hotel that encourages guests to get out and explore Andalucia in the Minis that come as part of the deal. There is finally a boutique hotel in the centre of Estepona too, the Pilar Andalucía, which wouldn’t be a bad idea at all for a long weekend in the autumn.

The Costa de la Luz on the Atlantic, with its superb seafood and never-ending beaches, such as Valdevaqueros, Bolonia and El Palmar, is my idea of heaven. A plate of prawns, a few glistening slices of almadraba tuna, a glass of fino, some fiesta or other going on – that says summer in Spain to me.

white beach with sand dunes and colourful parasols - Universal Images Group Editorial
white beach with sand dunes and colourful parasols - Universal Images Group Editorial

The Balearic Islands

Even if the clubs don’t manage to be fully up and running this summer, the lure of Ibiza is so strong that the island’s many fans are already flocking back to the beach bars and rural hotels hidden away in the interior. New openings include the rather cool Oku Ibiza in Cala Gració just outside San Antonio, and the gorgeous Petunia, near Cala d’Hort, which has a stonking view of the magical Es Vedrà islet and is offering a 25 per cent discount on stays of more than a week. Of course, you have to nip over to Formentera for a bit of bohemian bliss and some of the best beaches in the Balearics. The new Casa Pacha is the place to be seen this summer, by the way, if you’re into that sort of thing.

blue bay - Getty Images
blue bay - Getty Images

In Mallorca, I’m looking this year towards the south east corner around the little town of Santanyí, which is in the spotlight following the opening of Can Ferrereta, a 17th-century mansion that is now a haven of neutral calm with museum-standard artworks.

Closer to Palma, the Sa Torre on a 14th-century estate has just reopened as the Zoëtry Majorca, while in the Mallorcan capital itself, the stylish Concepció by Nobis occupies a former soap factory and has an opening offer of a 15 per cent discount.

market square - iStock Unreleased
market square - iStock Unreleased

With Hauser & Wirth’s art gallery opening in mid July on an island in Mahón harbour, Menorca is upping its game as a cultural as well as a sustainable destination. The new Cristine Bedfor town house hotel in Mahón sums up the quiet elegance of the island, while the Palladium Menorca on the north east coast overlooking Arenal d’en Castell beach is a smart family option.

The Canary Islands

If you can’t face trying to keep up with the ever-changing travel situation this summer – and who can, frankly – just sit back and think about a winter sun holiday in the Canaries instead. The islands are wonderful in July and August too, don’t get me wrong, but are looking particularly attractive to me from October onwards when, with a bit of luck, things will be looking a lot more positive and the dreaded amber list will be a distant memory.

flowers on deserted beach with blue waters - Balate Dorin /iStockphoto
flowers on deserted beach with blue waters - Balate Dorin /iStockphoto

All the islands are great for hiking, whether through volcanic landscapes or subtropical forests. I’m seriously thinking of walking the length of Lanzarote over a week at the end of November, on a trip organised by Lanzarote Retreats, who also still have summer availability in their range of accommodation options from yurts and pods to luxury villas, with no deposit to pay.

The Canary Islands might not immediately spring to mind for a city break, but Santa Cruz and La Laguna in Tenerife and Las Palmas in Gran Canaria both have excellent cultural and gastronomic scenes and you can still spend as much time as you like on the beach – surfing, kayaking, diving or just doing nothing. On tiny La Palma, you can mooch around the pretty capital, which is also called Santa Cruz, by day and go stargazing at night. It is hardly surprising that people who can work anywhere are increasingly choosing one of the Canaries as a base for a couple of months. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

sunkissed streets of La Palma - iStockphoto
sunkissed streets of La Palma - iStockphoto

Tour operators

Oliver’s Travels (0800 133 7999; oliverstravels.com) have some gorgeous villas on the mainland costas as well as in the Balearics and the Canaries, including the three-bedroom Casa Roble right by the beach near Marbella on the Costa del Sol, for £3,567 in late August (book flights separately to Malaga).

Jet2 (0800 4080778; jet2.com) has plenty of availability later in the summer in Spain and the islands, including a week on a half-board basis at the Pierre & Vacances Bahia Calpe on the Costa Blanca from £821 per person in August, including flights from East Midlands.

Winged Boots (0203 816 0985; wingedboots.co.uk) has some good offers for a quick luxury jaunt to the Balearics between now and the end of September, such as three nights B&B at the 7Pines resort hotel in Ibiza from £649 per person, including easyJet flights from a choice of airports, or three nights B&B at the Park Hyatt Mallorca from £659 with British Airways flights from Heathrow.

Mallorca Farmhouses (0800 121 8992; mallorca.co.uk) specialise in characterful villas on the island, such as Cas Mal Ric, a converted farmhouse with five bedrooms and a large pool, with some availability in July, August and September for £5,807 per week (not including flights).