I’ve decided to post some info I send to friends or people who email me about Cabo de Gata. I love this nature reserve and there is just so much to say about it and so much I haven’t even explored yet. In this post I’m listing some beaches I like(in no particular order) but of course there is so much more to say about all these spots. If you have more questions or want me to help with directions just email me. I hope that if people do visit these beautiful stretches of mostly undeveloped coastal Spain , to of course be respectful, take in and out garbage, try not to disturb the dunes or wildlife, hydrate, follow the flag warnings, be cautious and aware, and drive responsibly.
1. Playa de los Muertos: [Near Carboneras] Summer roadside paid parking is 2-10 euros. I’m not sure if there is a bus stop; it’s a small hike down to the beach (bring sneakers). Rocky beach but the rocks are sooo smooth and tiny that it feels like sand but you stay clean! Best to walk all the way down the beach toward the rocks and the turquoise water.
Tip: If you continue past the first parking lot you will eventually see a gravel road on the right that leads to another beach parking by the cement plant. Although this side beach is near the cement plant it is still great for snorkeling and an even better beach for little kids as it has mini wading pools near the shore.
2. El Playazo: [Near Rodalquilar] An easily missed small sign indicates the turn off to this beach, no bus. It’s a sandy beach and has shallow calm waters that are great for snorkeling and get deeper the farther you go out. If you walk towards the fortress “San Ramon” (where some of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed) you will end up at a little cove beach (the more nudey part) where there are beautiful rocks formed from lava ash and fossils, super cool. And a guy in a little boat serves margaritas in the shallow areas (during the summer occasionally). There are trails you can pick up here that lead to other coves.
3. Monsul Beach: [Near San Jose ] Black sand beach where lava meets the ocean. Some of Indiana Jones was filmed here. Fairly calm waters and great for bouldering practice. Parking is 5-10 euros but covers both beaches in that area. Los Genoveses Beach is the first you will come to and it is another chill beach, more goats than people, also in Lawrence of Arabia. It can get super windy at Monsul. The bus does stop here.
4. Cala de Enmedio: [Near Cala de Polmo]
When you get there you will be following trails off the beaten path. The entrance to the trails that lead to this beach are right before you reach Cala de Polmo and there are usually cars lined up nearby the entrance. When you find the trail it is marked blue and white but there is one point where it kind of forks and you break from the path and follow an unmarked trail veering right, this path widens and it is only a minute til you arrive at the breathtaking beach. This link also gives some info about the beach: http://www.cabogataspain.com/Gata-Nature-Reserve/beach/Enmedio-Cala-Cove-Spain.html
These are just some spots we love. If you go to Cabo de Gata then go off the beaten path and explore. Stop at all the lookouts, visit all the villages, talk to people you cross paths with- (coming from NY) this part of the world is super friendly. Rent a car; there is no need for all terrain vehicles; all the roads are pretty much paved. There are hidden coves and much more to explore. No matter where you stay in Cabo de Gata you will love it.
In the comments below please share any advice or places you love within Cabo de Gata and the surrounding areas.
Not far from Cartagena nor La Manga in Murcia you will find the Parque Regional de Calblanque. There are a couple of beaches in this area but we took the path to the left which led us to a sandy calm beach that would be great for kids but also nice for bathing. There are short hikes you can do around the rocky parts but avoid the dunes as they are protected. The water was fairly warm, tranquil and beautiful aquamarine in some areas. Whichever path you take you probably won’t be disappointed.
Once you arrive in this former fishing village, now British invasion of fish and chip shops and dime stores that carry shortbread bikkies, canned herring, Vienna sausages, and marmite, (not complaining) go past the main beach and continue up the hill. To your left you will see a drop to a nice somewhat secluded cove; the lack of parking makes this spot all the more enjoyable. Walk down the super steep hill toward the ocean. You will find yourself in paradise; this cove is calm, warm and wonderful with few people mostly whom arrived by boat. After a good swim we headed back into town for some damn good fish and chips (for the parents) and a good vegetarian pasta for ourselves at a wonderful restaurant called Elenas. If I am in the area again I will definitely stop in for the good food and great service.
A continuation of our end of the season northern beach tour; if we had more time our beach list would be endless.
Zarautz where the city meets the sea. We would have loved to rent surfboards if we had time because this was the perfect beach for beginner wave ragers.
Either way we had a great time on the beach. During low tide and high tide it was just as swimmable and the water temperature was so warm for the northern Atlantic during the end of September (we were amazed!). We ended up spending most of the day here because we fell in love.
Next stop was San Sebastian because I heard too many good things about this city. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear that it is almost impossible to venture into with a car. If only I had known it was a bike centric city I would have planned our trip better. I wouldn’t recommend visiting this city with a car unless you travel during the low traffic hours; Bike and bus seem to be the way to go. But we found our way into a parking garage that wasn’t too expensive near the coral beach. We pintxo-ed our way around the city seeking out only the vegetarian pintxos (a vegan would not survive this city) and then found ourselves at the end of the night wading in the ocean towards the island that seems so reachable yet so far away. The water was so warm and refreshing, really the best end to a hot night in the city. Explore the city by night, it’s enchanting.
A rough draft of our end of the season northern beach tour.
Playa Del Silencio
This beach is accessible by bus or car but either way it is a bit of a walk from both stops. At this time of year it was almost deserted except for a couple snorkelers and local couples and others on El Camino. Explore the beach because further away from the stairway is an amazing mescla of rock formations; slate, marble, limestone etc. It is absolutely beautiful and like nothing I have ever seen before.
The water temperature was still swimmable if you’re not sensitive. It was like a crisp dip in a cool spring, healing and refreshing.
Playa Cuevas Del Mar
An incredible beach. We arrived with almost 2 hours til high tide and the waters were tranquil and low. It was one of the warmer beaches at this time of year and so beautiful. If you need to work your way up to a dip in the cool ocean then take a 30 min-1hr walk above the beach and along the cliffs towards the hermitage. Follow the cow paths to the right of the water archway. There seems to be no entrance but search and you will find a path. Some hotels provide a map but you can follow any trail around there and have a great time. The best path to take is to follow the path leading toward the hermitage (you can see a church-like building in the distance but not from the beach) it is on a hill. Sneak past the bull and his entourage of ladies and their clanging/chiming alpine cow bells. Make your way along the rocky cliffs above the ocean drop and look for a path leading to another hidden nude beach toward your right. This beach is more secluded and maybe less accessible during high tide but worth the investigation. Then head back toward cuevas del mar for a cool dip after the sunny hike, you may really need it if you get lost and have to hike down from a no path zone. I suggest heading back in the same general direction but there are other ways.
Playa de Gulpiyuri
Unfortunately, it was our biggest disappointment. From all the areal pictures it looks like a beautiful cove to bathe in but it is impossible to swim in unless you want to be knocked out by boulders. The cove is filled with jagged rocks and the tide is always pulling you out toward the rocks. It is mostly just a spot where people pose for photo shoots and other sun bathe on the neighboring farmer’s lawn with the smell of fertilizer wafting along with the breeze. If you climb above the cove there are some nice views but a scary drop to the ocean below.
Playa San Antolín
Further along the coast is the Playa San Antolín where the river Bedón meets the ocean. It is a rocky beach toward the river but has a sandy side toward the left of the river. This was by far the coldest part of our ocean trip.
If you explore further on there are many more coves to explore. We stopped off at one near Barro. It was a not so claustrophobic cove, there was enough space for everyone at least during the low season. The waters were calm and not so freezing but there was limited parking available which often is the case when you are searching for secluded beaches. Every beach was beautiful and some reminded me of the Oregon Coast; I wish I had more time to explore every bit of this coast because it is absolutely incredible.
If you are planning a trip to the beaches of Cabo de Gata my tips are as follows:
1. Rent a car. Although buses do bring you to some of the beaches, the hours aren’t frequent and you will see more with a car.
2. Stay in Almeria. This city was a great “home base” because the hostels are affordable and at most it is a 45 minute drive from the furthest beach in Cabo de Gata.
3. Make your own food. Stock up at supermarkets, our hotel even had a fridge. This way you will save money and can treat yourself to a nice dinner one or 2 of the nights you’re in town.
4. Don’t forget that parking in a parking garage could cost you a pretty penny so look for hostels that offer complimentary parking. Sometimes staying on the outskirts of a city is worth it for the price.
5. Go snorkeling! But don’t forget to coat your legs and back with sunscreen, it’s easy to forget how long your backside is exposed to the sun when you’re seeing all kinds of cool things underwater.
6. Relax and enjoy yourself. Soak in the beauty and the tranquility of this preserved coastline.
Nerja is a side note that many vacationing brits have found. So many retired brits come here, that many of the hotels provide complimentary tea kettles and english breakfast/earl grey teas as a norm. I really love this local. It is all whitewashed houses on the top of a hill that leads down to a fairly tranquil beach. We were there in the off season so there weren’t many people around but restaurants were still open. I am not sure how crowded it gets during the summer months but this was a great escape from Madrid during April and the water, although quite cold was still tolerable for a quick dip in April. We stopped here because hotel deals were affordable here during this time of the off season. And it was totally worth it. Sometime i will make it back to Nerja.
We got off in Montañita and stayed the night there at Hostal Las Palmeras. It was $15 per person per night, we probably could have found something cheaper but this hotel was away from the party sounds of the street and right by the water. I think we were the only people staying at the hotel. It was the beginning of the off season but the weather was great and the waters were still warm.
Montañita reminded me a little of the Jersey Shore, so we only stayed the one night. We did happen to find a nice little indian/asian fusion food joint with vegetarian food. It was called Sakura and manned by young English speakers. I don’t know if they owned it but if they did they are living the dream.
The Guayaquil bus station is easy enough to navigate, they also have a great website you can check out before you head out. There is even a supermarket within the station if you need any last minute travel stuff. We bought tickets to Montañita/Olon from LIBERTAD PENINSULAR C.L.P. (or just CLP) because we wanted to get close to the Machalilla National Park area. CLP offers a direct bus to Montañita/Olon but they have lots of buses with different routes so make sure you get a direct route because it was super fast and comfortable (with A/C and a movie). Also, before you get on the bus make sure it is the right one; CLP has lots of buses that leave from the same parking spot. Match the number on your receipt (its not on the ticket) to the number on the front of the bus. I got on the wrong bus a couple of times thinking my bus was maybe a few minutes early until someone pointed it out to me. Our tickets cost $5.50 each one way.