10 Best Beaches in Northern Spain

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Holidays in Spain are synonymous with Sea and Sun for thousands of tourists who flock there every year. Beat the crowds and head to the lovely beaches of Northern Spain!

Northern Spain is a region that is becoming world famous for its spectacular beaches that are far less crowded compared to those beaches you’ll find in the south of Spain. More authenticity, the rugged charm of the Atlantic Ocean and its waves that are a surfer’s delight, proximity to the rich culture and food of the Basque Country and of the Southwest of France, there are plenty of reasons to favor the North of Spain compared to the Mediterranean South… And beaches are high up on that list! From wild and authentic beaches near small villages to well thought-out and clean beach resorts where all your needs will be catered to, Northern Spain has got it all! So if you do find yourself in Northern Spain and would like to check out the most incredible beaches on offer, be sure to pay a visit to the following 10 :

1. Playa el Sardinero, Santander

Santander is a short flight from the UK or an increasingly popular choice is to journey by car ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth direct to Santander with Brittany Ferries – especially convenient for family holidays in Spain. Santander is home to what is widely considered to be the single most beautiful beach in all of Spain.

The long curving arc of the Playa el Sardinero is a truly captivating and inspirational sight in its own right – the fact that it is situated so conveniently close to the city center serving as an added bonus. The city of Santander itself is worth a stay in, its Palacio de la Magdalena is a testament to the wealth and elegance of the Spanish aristocracy and its classic and timeless facade are a stark contrast with the newly built Centro Botin and its bold and unapologetically modern design by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, which houses troves of daring artworks by contemporary artists, all under the patronage of the locally influential Banco Santander and built as a rival to the Guggenheim museum of nearby Bilbao.

2. La Franca Beach, Asturias

Many of the very best beaches in Northern Spain can be found around Asturias and Cantabria. For families in particular, La Franca is absolutely superb, with calm and sheltered waters that are safe to swim in and beautiful green wooded hills surrounding the glorious white sands of the beach. The amenities are also first-rate as you will have a nice selection of cafes, bars and tapas places nearby once you’ve finished taking it the sun.

3. San Vicente De La Barquera Beach, Cantabria

One of the best things about San Vicente De La Barquera Beach is that if you time your visit right with a particularly clear day, you’ll be blessed with truly breathtaking views of the Picos de Europa.

This beautiful, long and well-patrolled beach is just as much of a hit among surfers as it is with those looking for total escapism and relaxation. San Vicente de la Barquera is just a few minutes away on foot when those hunger pangs kick in but you could plan to picnic here and bask in the sun and in the glorious views.

4. Buelna Beach, Asturias

Small in size but enormous in appeal, La Playa de Buelna is something of a hidden secret that tends to escape the attention of most tourists, even more so than the other beaches we have highlighted here.

A wonderfully secluded beach that’s perfect for family days out and watching the locals do what they do best, there aren’t many amenities within easy reach so be sure to take refreshments along for the ride.

5. Pechon Beach, Cantabria

Pechon Beach, Best beaches in Northern Spain

Photo credit : Clavivs / Shutterstock.com

Back in Cantabria once again, the challenging descent on the way down to Pechon beach makes your arrival even more rewarding. A beautiful setting, natural protection from the mountains that break up the waves and a delightful little beach await at the bottom of a nice hike. Of course, you will need to go back in the same direction you make sure to bring ample supplies of water and food as there are no shops in this little well preserved paradise.

The village of Péchon in itself is also nothing short of stunning and has some charming cafes and restaurants – none of which charge the kind of tourist rates you might expect elsewhere.

6. Gaztelugatxe, Bay of Biscay

Though not specifically a beach in the traditional sense, the small peninsula island of Gaztelugatxe is nonetheless home to an incredible array of stunning coves and of a dramatic coastline.

Suitable for more adventurous types, one of the biggest bonuses here is the way in which you can crawl into a quiet corner when the tides are on your side and have the entire place to yourself! No noise but of the waves crashing against the rocks. Plan ahead and bring food and water as amenities are a but far, and make sure to use the bins as this region of Spain is strict when it comes to waste disposal.

7. Niembru Beach, Asturias

Niembru, Best beaches in Northern Spain

Photo credit : David Acosta Allely / Shutterstock.com

Another highlight of Asturias is Niembro – an absolutely stunning beach accessed by first driving through the quaint and pretty village of Niembruitself.

The sands and waters alike are perfect for families, the views from the top of the hill are spectacular and as it is in a relatively secluded location, the beach never gets particularly busy – even at the height of the season.

8. Bilbao’s Beaches

Ereaga, Bilbao, Best beaches in Northern Spain

Photo credit: Flickr – Roman San

There’s really no sense in narrowing down the beaches of Bilbao to a single frontrunner – every single one of them has its own unique charms and appeal, just like the streets of the city of Bilbao itself.

Also within easy reach of the UK again thanks to Brittany Ferries running ferries from Portsmouth to Bilbao, this glorious coastal city is home to Las Arenas, Ereaga, Arrigunaga and Gorrondatze-Aizkorri (Getxo), Barinatxe-La Salvaje and Arrietara-Atxabiribil (Sopela) and Plentzia and Gorliz beaches.

While in Bilbao, be sure to visit the Guggenheim museum, one of the most ambitious modern art museums in Spain!

9. Poo Beach, Asturias

Poo Beach, Best beaches in Northern Spain

Photo credit : CarmonaGuerrero / Shutterstock.com

Quite possibly the most misleading of all Spanish beaches by way of its name, Poo Beach does not give visitors an accurate idea of what to expect.

Instead, this glorious little beach is situated close to Llanes features perfect waters for swimming, beautiful white sands and two simply fantastic restaurants situated right next to the beach! Parking can be a little limited however, so we would suggest walking to the beach, especially if you are staying in Poo already, like so many do because of its large selection of accommodation options that suit every budget.

10. Torimbia Beach, Asturias

Last but not least, we thought it’s important to include a beach that may appeal to those who prefer to hit the sand and sea wearing absolutely nothing whatsoever!

Torimbia is by far one of the most beautiful beaches in Astorias and while it does attract a large contingency of nudists, there are no rules as such and you are perfectly welcome to visit wearing as much (or as little) clothing as you like! Pictures are of course prohibited and make sure to read up at least a little bit about nudism if you are unfamiliar with this world and its written and unwritten rules.

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  1. Hello! I have a group of 4 women from the US who want to travel to Rioja for wine tasting and perhaps another stop (beach?) for about a week after the summer season in 2021 – late summer early fall? We are celebrating a 50th birthday. We are looking for walkable places with shops, restaurants and bars. Not afraid of street food or yummy tapas or a Michelin star restaurant. On a previous trip, the car was an issue, so we are inclined to arrange for transfers and use taxis. Perhaps two hotels, though we may need one for a night in Madrid when we leave. We will stay together so price is not a really significant issue for hotels. Any recommendations?

    • Julius

      Hi Laura,

      I think the city of Logroño should suit you well, it’s very walkable, filled with tapas and has a decent selection of hotels to pick from. We’ve recently published an article on our favorite places to visit in Spain and it featured in it if you want more details. From there you can also visit the surrounding region though a car would be helpful as some of the nicest areas are a little bit remote. As far as beaches nearby go, you’re in luck! The easiest would probably be Bilbao as it has a fairly big airport that will only be one stop away when flying from most US airports and it has beautiful beaches as well. And of course the city itself is worth visiting for a few days and will be quite different than the Rioja region. Traveling in early fall as you’ve mentioned can really cut down your costs, especially for your flight so I think that would be worth looking into, and you would also have some more clement temperatures (though Spain remains warm and pleasant) with the added bonus of having less crowds on the beach. Plus, if you’re lucky, the ocean will have heated nicely so it will be more enjoyable than if you had gone in June or early July.

      I hope that helps and I hope you enjoy your trip!

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