9 Best Things to Do in Costa Brava, Spain

Catalonia, the north-eastern region of Spain, is well known for Barcelona. But along the coast between Barcelona and France lies Catalonia’s hidden gem: The Costa Brava, a long stretch of sand and rocky cliff is home to gorgeous beaches, historic towns, and authentic Catalan culture.

Beyond its capital Barcelona, Catalonia is also to discover for its hinterland, its culture and its traditions while travelling to Spain. You can make a day trip from Barcelona to Costa Brava. Costa Brava is a portion of the coast (precisely) within the province of Girona, which is within Catalonia and on the border with France.

What essentially characterizes this region is its rugged coastline through the Pyrenees and the pre-Pyrenees. That is, here the mountain foothills meet the Mediterranean Sea, giving rise to rocky landscapes, small coniferous forests, and beaches enclosed and even hidden among all those landscapes. But Costa Brava is not just beaches and mountainous coast.

There are also extensive flat sandy beaches for miles, and above all, charming medieval towns in the interior, or old fishing villages on the coast. It extends through the counties of Alt Empordà, Bajo Ampurdán, and La Selva between the city of Blanes. The most important cities and at the same time most urbanized in every way are Roses, La Escala, L'Estartit, Palamós, Playa de Aro, San Feliu de Guixols, Lloret de Mar.

There is a good collection of charming villages directly on the coast, and many of them surrounded by coves and beautiful beaches that are the postcard pictures of Costa Brava. They are (ordered from the closest to Barcelona to the most distant) Tossa de Mar, Calella de Palafrugell, Llafranc + Tamariu, Begur, Cadaqués, Port de la Selva.

In the old port city that was invaded in the middle ages are several historical sites and buildings.

Best Things to Do in Costa Brava

Here are the best things to do in Costa Brava.

1. Discover hidden coves in Playa Cala Aiguablava

Drive along the coastal road and you’ll want to make lots of stops. Why? Because the rugged rocks along the sea host many tucked-away coves that mainly locals know about. The beaches are often sparsely populated and provide havens from the long busy stretches of sand that dominate the Costa Brava.

Coves like Es Codolar, Sa Sabolla and Aiguablava feature smaller crescents of sand flanked on all sides by tall rocks and trees, providing shelter from harsh sun and wind. The water is crystal clear, so be sure to pack your snorkeling gear!

2. Follow the artist’s path in Dalí Theatre-Museum

Costa Brava often played host to a number of famous artists, including Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, who was based near Cadaques, the northernmost town in Costa Brava. You can even tour his home and marvel at the works of art he owned and made. In Figueres you can visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum, which is another wacky, wonderful look into the mind of one of Spain’s most unique artists.

3. Go on a hike you’ll never forget in Cap de Creus

One of the reasons Costa Brava is so magical is because the mountains hug the coast, providing tons of opportunities for hiking with spectacular views all around. There are many beautiful stretches of coast with trails, but some of the most beautiful can be found along the beaches in Begur, which is a shorter and easier stretch.

Or take the walk beginning in Cadaques and ending in Cap de Creus, which is a bit more difficult but features tons of wild, unspoilt land. Exercise caution as you would on any hike, as trails are fairly well marked but parts of the coast can be quite rocky and rugged.

4. See medieval old towns and castles in Tossa de Mar

You’ll find many of the towns along the Costa Brava charming, but there are a few that will truly take your breath away. Castle-hop in the towns of Tossa de Mar, Blanes, and Lloret de Mar, all of which feature seaside medieval castles you can walk to for incredible views of the Mediterranean. For the full experience, visit Pals, a beautiful little medieval town built around a fortress with cobblestone streets you will happily get lost in.

5. Go wild in local festivals in Jardíns de Cap Roig

Spain is known for its abundance of exciting, unique festivals, and the Costa Brava is no exception. There are several festivals you won’t want to miss, such as Cap Roig Festival, a music festival with artists for every taste, housed in botanical gardens, and the Castell de Perlada festival, which features live music and theater and takes place in an actual castle.

The Girona Flower festival paints the streets of Girona with colorful flowers each May, while the Fireworks Contest in Blanes each July will leave you breathless.

6. Experience the Spanish beach bar culture in L'Estartit

Chiringuitos (the Spanish word for beach bars) are a common feature on the Costa Brava - you’ll be hard pressed finding a beach without one. They are great places to not only grab a drink and some food, but listen to live DJs and bands. The energy is warm and laid-back and, if you stay late enough, you might even get to enjoy an impromptu dance party with the new friends you’re sure to make.

Some of the most beloved are Boia Nit in Cadaques and Xiringuito Canyelles in Lloret de Mar, both of which feature live music and great cocktails. The town of l’Estartit with its long stretch of sand is the best place for the beach bar nightlife overall.

7. Try authentic Catalan cuisine in Calella de Palafrugell

Catalan cuisine contains lots of fish based dishes which gives a coastal area like the Costa Brava time to shine. Delicious fresh seafood can be found all along the Costa Brava, but nowhere does it feel fresher than in the historic fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell. Try Restaurant El Pedro for some of the best seafood on the Mediterranean.

Pals takes the prize for the best paella, while the most committed culinary buffs can marvel at the famous Celler de Can Roca in Girona, which has been named the best restaurant in the world in 2013 and 2015.

Round off with tapas at one of the restaurants along the promenade.

El Golfet is one step away from the city of Calella de Palafrugell. But there are also other coves that are further away and require a walk. For example, this marvel of a cove that looks like a natural pool is inside the path that was born in Palamós. The most famous coastal path of the Costa Brava is the Camí de Ronda.

8. Aiguamolls de l'Empordà

Empúries was originally a Greek city near the Pyrenees in north-east Spain named Emporion. The city is right next to the beach of Sant Martí de l'Empordà, there is a large touristic zone and right nehind it the ruins. It has a Greek part of the city which was the original one, then it has a Roman 'enlargement' and uphill you have the richer Roman houses, the amphitheatre etc.

9. Spend quality time in (or on) the deep blue sea in Medes Islands

The Costa Brava is full of towns where you can practice all kinds of water sports. Head to locations like Cap de Creus and the protected islands Illes Medes for scuba diving in the clear Mediterranean waters and finding eels, colorful fish, hidden coves and even shipwrecks. Cadaqués and the little coves around Begur are popular spots for sailing and yachting, and even has a river running through the town, giving you a Venice-like experience.

Jet skiing, kayaking, parasailing and paddle boarding can also be done at most major towns along the coast.

These ideas should serve as the perfect to-do list for your Costa Brava trip. No matter how you choose to spend your time in Costa Brava, you can rest easy knowing you’re experiencing one of the most special parts of Spain.
Kalyan Panja