If your idea of the perfect getaway is a self-contained world of attractions and beaches, or if you prefer to do get out and travel on your own steam, there’s a catalogue of destinations that will suit you perfectly in Spain.
So in this list you’ll find a great variety of places, from the highly-developed resorts on the “costas”, where skyscrapers overlook the seafront and the party never stops, to cosy fishing villages and coastal communities that seem to be from another time.
Here’s a breeze through some of the best holiday resorts in Spain.
1. La Manga, Murcia
If your favourite kind of holiday is a breathless whirl of activity you won’t do much better than La Manga in Murcia.
It’s a sandbar that runs north to south for 21 kilometres and less than 100 metres wide in places.
All along La Manga are hotels and apartment blocks – to the east they have the open Mediterranean, and to the west there’s the Mar Menor a large, shallow lagoon favoured for windsurfing, kayaking, kite-surfing and pretty much any other water sport you can think of.
In summer water sports centres are open up and down La Manga, and are usually connected to beach bars.
If you need a breather at any time then you’ll never be more than a few steps from a beach, while a couple of Europe’s top golf courses are also minutes away.
2. San Sebastián, Basque Country
On the northern Atlantic coast, not far from the border with France, San Sebastián has been an upmarket holiday favourite since the late-19th century.
When it comes to dining it’s hard to think of a better destination in Spain: Of the seven Spanish restaurants with three Michelin stars, three are right here in this resort.
And then there are pintxos, bite-size dishes that can come with the most imaginative flavour combinations.
The beaches could hardly be better either, and the obvious marquee-topper is La Concha.
It’s a half-ring of golden sand where the ocean has been calmed by twin headlands and the offshore Santa Clara island.
3. Marbella, Costa del Sol
You’ll often see Marbella and its close neighbour Puerto Banus described as Spain’s answer to the French Riviera, and with some justification.
It’s a playground by the sea for the wealthy, where luxury cars and boats glint in the warm sun.
All these celebrities, aristocrats and tycoons need to pamper themselves of course, and Marbella obliges with Michelin-starred restaurants, spa hotels, world-class golf, galleries and luxury boutiques.
For the rest of us there’s still much to love: The old-town is all florid plazas between webs of cobblestone streets and there’s a long chain of beaches along the coast, six of which hold the Blue Flag.
4. Conil de la Frontera, Cádiz
This little whitewashed beach-town on Andalusia’s Atlantic Coast is adored for its fun-loving atmosphere.
Except in Conil it’s not Brits and Northern Europeans, but Spanish young people from Seville and Madrid who create this ambience.
On warm summer nights you can go from bar to bar in the car-free old centre nursing cold Cruzcampo beers and tasting seafood tapas favourites like chipirones (fried baby squid) and gambas al ajillo.
The beaches close by are out of this world, and many are remote enough for naturism.
The vast sandy bay at Playa de la Fontanilla is right in front of the resort, while Cala del Aceite is a 270-metre-long cove near the port with lifeguards and a red cross post in summer.
5. Ribadesella, Asturias
Asturias is a region of raw, widescreen beauty, where the Picos de Europa mountains are dusted with snow for much of the year, and the coast is tall green hills that roll down to massive, bowl-like beaches.
Ribadesella, at the mouth of the River Sella, is just such a place, with a beach that is a little withdrawn from the oceanfront and so gets low, rolling waves.
Asturias was a part of the country settled by many Spanish businessmen that made their fortune in the Americas.
In the 1800s some of these “Indianos” built sumptuous mansions just behind Ribadesella’s main beach.
And if you love ocean walks the grassy cliffs and hundreds of coves along the local coast will be calling to you.
6. Port de Pollença, Majorca
There might not be a more captivating sight in Majorca than the view from the beach at Pollença.
The resort is where the powerful mountains of the Tramuntana descend to the Mediterranean.
To the north is the Cap Formentor, the rocky headland at the northernmost point of the island, and east is the rugged Cap des Pinar, the lower of the two peninsulas that protect the bay from sea winds and currents.
So all around there’s an epic bowl of mountains, best appreciated from the Pine Walk promenade that hugs the bay.
Lounge under a palm parasol on the perfect white sandy beach or navigate the smooth waters of the bay with a kayak or pedalo.
If you’re travelling with kids to Majorca be sure to check out this post on BalearicHomes: Things to do for Kids in Marjorca
7. Benalmádena, Costa del Sol
When Málaga’s residents need a proper day at the beach they go south to this family-friendly resort.
Back in the 1950s this was one of the first destinations on this coast to receive large numbers of tourists, and what appealed to them is still relevant today: It’s all about the thirteen clean, well-appointed sandy beaches along 10 kilometres of coastline.
Four of these (Carvajal, Torrevigía, Torrebermeja-Santa Ana and Fuente de la Salud) currently hold the Blue Flag.
If you have little ones with you then the largest water park in the region, Aqualand is just next door in Torremolinos.
8. Llafranc, Catalonia
Not to denigrate Spain’s biggest tourist centres, but many of the resorts on northern Catalonia’s Costa Brava tend to be more sophisticated than what you’ll find elsewhere.
This is definitely the case for Llafranc, which has an upscale, bijou feel to it.
It might have something to do with the walkway that runs behind the resort’s 300-metre Blue Flag beach.
Instead of palms there are aromatic palm trees here, and beneath these are the awnings and parasols of high-quality seafood restaurants; not tourist traps, but the kind of authentic places that locals will frequent.
9. Benidorm, Alicante
There’s a good reason why Benidorm continues to thrive: If you want family attractions, perfect sandy beaches, a wealth of places to eat and loads of nightlife, everything you could wish for is effortlessly close.
The skyline in Benidorm, with its colonnade of skyscrapers along two beachfronts, also elicits an undeniable thrill, as does the mountainous scenery behind and up from the resort.
The two beaches, Levante and Poniente are big enough for people to find room even at the height of summer.
And within the resort are water parks, go-karting tracks, mini-golf courses, paintballing, a high-profile theme park and a cornucopia of bars and nightclubs.
10. Santander, Cantabria
If you’re overwhelmed by the summer heat on the Mediterranean then you could choose more temperate climes like this port city on the northern coast.
That’s just what the Spanish royal family did in the early-20th century, picking Santander as their summer escape.
The palace built for King Alfonso XIII, Palacio de la Magdalena, is still here and you can visit the handsome grounds at the end of a peninsula on the ocean’s edge.
On warm days get down to El Sardinero, a broad golden sandy bay traced by a promenade, up there with El Concha as one of the best urban beaches in the country.
11. Torrevieja, Alicante
If you love the beaches and convenience of the Costa Blanca, but are put off by Benidorm’s skyscrapers and rowdy nightlife, Torrevieja is a calmer, family-oriented option.
First off, nature is at the forefront at this resort as it is bordered by two large salt lagoons.
These are an important part of the area’s human heritage, as salt mining has powered the local economy for hundreds of years.
You can even bathe in these buoyant, saline waters and slake yourself with the mineral-rich mud.
On the Mediterranean there’s a marina and a chain of sandy beaches.
The best local one is La Mata, to the north of the resort, which just seems to go on forever.
12. Port d’Andratx, Majorca
This resort in southwest Majorca puts the traditional and ultra-modern side by side.
It’s been a fishing port for a long time and you can still see this industry in action, when the fishermen bring their daily catch out in the evenings for you to buy right next to the water.
But Andratx is now also a serene playground for the very rich; the hillsides are dappled with sleek villas, the town has more than its share of posh boutiques and the marina with its rows of luxury yachts is a real sight to behold.
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to sail, try it in Andratx or retire to one of the local rocky coves for an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming.
13. Portinatx, Ibiza
When you’re lounging on a white pine-traced beach here, looking out at the tranquil aquamarine waters, Ibiza’s superclubs will feel a long way away.
Portinatx is a resort on a recess in Ibiza’s craggy north shore, with three beaches, all compact but all equipped with sunbeds and enough facilities to stop you having to move too far for anything you need.
The walls of the local coves, Playa Porto Beach, S’Arenal Gros and S’Arenal Petit are long enough to provide perfect shelter from the elements.
The water is crystal clear so divers and snorkellers love it here.
Despite Portinatx’s small-town feel the tourist infrastructure is very modern, with a surprisingly large selection of upmarket all-inclusive hotels and apartments.
14. A Coruña, Galicia
This is Galicia’s second-largest city but it still has six Blue Flag beaches on its doorstep.
Two of these, Riazor and Orzán, are right in the city, with a panoramic promenade behind.
The latter is also popular with surfers, so if you’re tempted to learn then the moderate swells make this a pretty safe place to take your first steps on a board.
Surfing is just the tip of the iceberg of course, because there’s the UNESCO-listed Roman lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules, the refined arcades of the Avenida de la Marina and some of the freshest seafood you will ever eat, right out of the Atlantic.
Order a mariscada, a kind of Galician seafood smorgasbord.
15. Los Cristianos-Playa de las Americas, Canary Islands
If you’re a young and want a holiday with beach-time by day and clubs at night you’ll never have to leave this resort.
There are two large, curving sandy beaches here, both shielded from the Atlantic’s tides and breezes.
Unlike anywhere on the mainland it will be warm enough in the Canary Islands to visit the beach at any time of year.
Boats depart from the port between the two beaches for whale and dolphin-watching cruises, you can rent a jet-ski and there’s a golf course right in the resort.
And at night in summer you’ve got Verónicas, a neon-lit kilometre of bars and nightclubs where the party never ends.