Spain has a diversity of coastlines that is unmatched in Europe, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, the temperate north to the sub-tropical south.
And when you pair this with warm summers you’ve got the recipe for some of the best beaches in the world.
All of the beaches listed here are great, but for different reasons: Some are paradisaical bays with perfect, crystalline waters for bathing, while others are windswept Atlantic beaches that aren’t for swimming at all.
But you can be sure that they’re all jaw-droppingly beautiful in their own ways.
1. Praia da Rodas, Galicia
It’s no mystery why this gleaming white bay tops many polls of the best beaches in the world.
Rodas belongs to the Cíes Islands, a small archipelago in the Atlantic just opposite the city of Vigo.
There are regular ferries to the islands, but as they’re a national park there’s a limit of 2,200 visitors a day, so it pays to book ahead.
Their geography gives them only half the annual rainfall of the adjacent Galician coast, which is one of the many things, along with its landward aspect that makes Rodas so sublime.
Hugging the beach are small, rugged hills wooded with pines, and before you are shimmering emerald waters that you won’t be able to resist.
2. Platja de Ses Illetes, Formetera
The southernmost Balearic island is famed for its tropical-style beaches that also don’t look like they belong in Europe, and Platja de Ses Illetes is the pick of them.
It’s on the island’s far northern tip, on the west side of a narrow finger of land that pushes out to sea for several kilometres.
The sands at Ses Illetes are sugar-white, giving the water a seductive turquoise hue.
Several little islands next to the beach help make the sea almost pool-like on clear days.
Walk up a little further and the coast is a bit more exposed, and ideal for wind-surfing.
3. Lekeitio, Basque Country
This coastal town in Biscay seems to have everything in a picturesque little bundle.
First there’s the beach, which is golden and broad, and shelves gently out towards the small island of San Nicolás, sitting in the bay.
At low tide you can walk out to San Nicolás, a large rock with a light coating of pine trees and grass.
In every direction there’s something to catch the eye, whether it’s the green forested hills east and south of the town, or Lekeitio’s fishing harbour enclosed by old townhouses.
And just by the entrance to the beach is Lekeitio’s basilica, a preserved gothic church with flying buttresses.
4. El Cofete, Fuerteventura
There isn’t a more exposed and windswept beach on this list, but few will be as cinematically glorious either.
El Cofete is on Fuerteventura’s west and windward coast and bears the full brunt of the Atlantic.
But this is one of the many great things about it.
To get there you have to drive along a precarious gravel road for 20 kilometres, next to sheer drops.
You’ll know why you made such an onerous journey when you step onto this three-kilometre-long sandy beach.
Behind are the Jandia mountains, with their 800-metre-high peaks cloaked in cloud and in front is the untameable ocean in all its fury.
5. Praia as Catedrais, Galicia
Pictures don’t really do justice to this amazing section of coast that is both a beach and a natural monument.
At high tide it’s an impressive beach with rocky outcrops offshore, but at low tide the seascape is completely transformed as the full scale of these rocks is revealed.
When the tide’s out you can get down and walk through the natural arches and caves, and look up at the monoliths of rock 30 metres in height.
At spring tides, before and after full moons, the water recedes more than usual revealing more of this majestic scene.
6. Playa de la Concha, San Sebastián
The first urban beach on the list has been wowing holidaymakers for hundreds of years.
If there’s one image that people associate with San Sebastián, it’s this pleasing horseshoe bay traced with golden sand.
At the entrance to the bay is the Island of Sant Clara, which means the waves that lap the shore are no more than ankle height.
A few things come together to make La Concha a Spanish icon, from the elegant railings and lampposts on the promenade to the Pico de Loro headland and the royal Miramar Palace that mark the beach’s western boundary.
7. Playa de los Genoveses, Almería
It can be hard to find any sign of human civilisation at this beach on Almería’s Cabo de Gata, save for the occasional whitewashed house in the distance.
Almería’s countryside was where many Spaghetti Westerns were filmed, and you’ll see why at this beach: There’s a stark and barren landscape of mountains with nothing more than tufts of scrub.
The beach is often voted as the best in Andalusia and its strip of fine golden sand curves gently for more than a kilometre and is bathed by moderate waves.
8. Playa del Silencio, Asturias
Quite a way from any town or village on the Asturian coast is a pebble beach of heart-stopping beauty.
Few people make it to the Playa del Silencio, even on sunny summer days.
It’s a cove that cuts deep inland and is surrounded by an arena of cliffs.
On the north side the cliff becomes sheer, and the narrow ridges in the rock create the appearance of towering columns.
As the beach is so sheltered the waters are usually tranquil, and between refreshing dips in the Atlantic you can spend your time gazing in awe at this wild and rocky piece of paradise.
9. Playa de Bolonia, Cádiz
Down from Cádiz on the Costa de la Luz is a remote fishing village, miles from a major town or resort.
It’s the setting for an astounding beach, almost four kilometres in length.
In the background there’ s little more than low hills covered with pines, mastic bushes and juniper, a dune system and the remnants of a Roman port, Baelo Claudia.
Here you can see the ruins of a basilica and a factory where the Roman staple, garum was made.
After that feel free to unwind on golden sands in a scene of unblemished widescreen beauty.
10. Playa de Cué, Asturias
A beach where you sunbathe on the grass? That’s Cué Beach a few minutes east of Llanes in Asturias.
The beach is totally protected from the Atlantic winds and currents by three small islands and an assortment of smaller rocks.
When the tide is out you can easily walk to these islands or sit on the exposed arc of sand at the foot of the grass-topped cliffs by the shore.
The rest of the time, when the tide is in, this little beach will be underwater and you can swim in the clear, lagoon-like waters before walking up to the grassy spur above the bay to dry off in the sun.
11. Playa Comillas, Cantabria
Another of those epic Atlantic beaches, this bay is next to a gorgeous little fishing port, with charming squares surrounded by old stone houses with square timber window bays.
Playa Comillas is almost a kilometre in length, washed by moderate waves and occasionally swept by strong breezes.
If you come between October and April and the weather allows, walk along the beach and look back to the snow-capped summits of the mountains in the distance.
And in summer you can just chill out on the golden sand and watch the waves roll in.
12. Cala Sa Calobra, Mallorca
This little beach on the island’s north coast is stunning, but definitely not easy to get to! The simplest way is to catch one of the boats from Port de Sóller to the tiny hamlet of Sa Calobra, hidden between the wall of rock that makes up much of western and northern Malloca’s coast.
After landing there’s a waterfront walkway that tunnels through the cliffs and brings you out behind this cove.
The shingle beach is guarded by two massive rocks that resemble two huge sentinels.
13. Cala Conta, Ibiza
This quirks of the coastline with rocky outcrops and offshore islands give this cove an almost haphazard quality.
Visitors park themselves where ever they can find an empty patch, whether that’s atop a sandy shelf or right by the water’s edge with the sea at their toes.
It’s the irregularity of the shore that creates Cala Conta’s large, shallow and crystal clear pools.
You can wade out a long way without being deeper than your waist, and on windless days the water is practically transparent.
In the evening watch one of the Spain’s best sunsets from this west-facing beach.
14. Platja de Sant Sebastià, Catalonia
In the resort of Sitges, not far south of Barcelona, this little urban beach has the soft sand and moderate waves you want for an easy summer afternoon by the Mediterranean.
But what’s so gorgeous about it is the way it integrates with the older part of this former fishing village.
From your towel or sun-lounger you can look across to the cupola of the parish church and roof of the town hall on a small rise next to the water protected by an historic seawall.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the view is over a flute of cava from the table of the upscale restaurants along the elevated promenade.
15. Playa de Zarautz, Basque Country
For scenery the longest beach in the Basque Country more than holds its own.
At both ends of this 2.5-kilometre-long bay are the green, grassy hills that make northern Spain’s Atlantic coast so dreamy.
At the back is a raised promenade with shops and bars and at low tide there’s a vast field of pale sand.
The big draw though is the surf, which breaks at six feet and rolls in steady as clockwork.
No surprise then that this is one of Spain’s top surfing beaches, with five surf schools in the town.
The middle part of the beach is reserved for this sport, while families have the east side closer to the older part of the resort.