If you're from a country with amazing beaches, such as Australia or the United States, you probably won't be impressed with the beaches in Spain. But here's a preview of the best beaches along the Costa del Sol or Costa de la Luz.

  • Playa Victoria, Cádiz: Counted among the best beaches in Spain are the champagne-colored sands in this historic old port city. The beach stretches for 2km (1 1/4 miles), making it one of the finest beachfronts in southern Spain. Watersports galore are found along these sands, and the wide beach is flanked by dozens of restaurants, bars, and chiringuitos (beach bars). Although richly built up, the playa avoids being tacky.
  • Playa de la Caleta, Cádiz: Locals call this beach Baño de la Vina, for the barrio that abuts it. In the old part of town, the beach forms a half-moon of golden sands to the immediate east of Castillo de Santa Catalina. To the immediate west is another fortification, Castillo de San Sebastián, on an islet reached by causeway. Once used by the Phoenicians, this beach and bay are more favored by sporty local sunbathers than the tonier Playa Victoria. For another beach in town, head over to the Playa Santa María del Mar, just 500m (1,640 ft.) east of the cathedral.
  • Playa Isla Canela, Ayamonte: The little town of Ayamonte lies 37km (22 miles) east of the provincial capital of Huelva, where Columbus dared to dream "the impossible dream." One of the best beaches along the Costa de la Luz is Playa Isla Canela, with tranquil waters protected by huge sandbars 50 to 100m (164-328 ft.) offshore. There's not a lot of tourist infrastructure here; but when you tire of basking in the sun, check out the beach kiosks renting watersports equipment or others hawking freshly cooked (or caught) seafood for your lunch.
  • Playa Zahara, near Tarifa: The little city of Tarifa is the southernmost town in continental Europe. Its reliably windy beaches also make it the windsurfing capital of Europe. The little fishing village of Zahara de los Atunes is home to some of the Costa de la Luz's most beautiful white sandy beaches, and Playa Zahara stretches for a total of 8km (5 miles). The landscape is a bit savage here, and the panoramic views include the coast of Africa.
  • Playa de la Carihuela, Torremolinos: Even if the beach is not among the world's greatest, you'll have a roaring good time on the beige sands of this wildly popular Costa del Sol resort. An expat population of Germans, Scandinavians, and Brits play volleyball, sun themselves in skimpy suits, or indulge at the bevy of excellent seafood restaurants that line the waterfront. The beach has facilities for paragliding, windsurfing, water-skiing, and plain old sailing.
  • El Fuerte and La Fontanilla, Marbella: On either side of the Costa del Sol's glossiest resort stretches the sands of these two good beaches, both famous and fashionable since the 1960s. The bathing season extends from May to October because the beaches are protected from the northerly winds by the Sierra Blanca. If they're too crowded, you can try two of Marbella's other beaches, the Playa de la Bajadilla and the Playa de Venus, both of which are between the resort's twin harbors. Popular Marbella watersports include sailing and water-skiing.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.