12 Top-Rated Beaches in the South of Spain

Written by Michael Law
Apr 26, 2024
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The beaches of Southern Spain are some of the most popular beaches in Europe. With beautiful stretches of sand spread out all along the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic coast, deciding where to go to enjoy the sun and surf can be a tough decision.

Beautiful beach in Spain
Playa del Bajondillo | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Looking for a fun vibe but not too crazy? Consider the beaches near Malaga. Perhaps a more natural beach, wide open and backed by sand dunes? Look at Playa de Valdevaqueros north of Tarifa. Got a big budget and looking for glitz and glamour? Marbella is your choice. On a budget, head to Playa Granada near Motril and set up camp across from the waves. These are just a few of the many options.

No matter where you choose you'll be assured of sunny days and sandy shores with our list of the best beaches in Southern Spain below.

1. Playa Real de Zaragoza, Marbella

Playa Real de Zaragoza | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Marbella has been drawing legions of sunseekers for years and it's no surprise why. A long string of beaches and a whiff of exclusivity are the main draw. One of the best beaches near Marbella is the spectacular Playa Real de Zaragoza.

This beach has a bit of everything; a buzzy vibe around the famous Nikki Beach Club, natural areas backed by dunes for those looking for less of a scene, and areas in between with fine beach restaurants like Chiringuito Los Tony's serving up fresh seafood.

The beach itself has soft golden sand and, unlike other beaches nearby, is fairly wide allowing for tide pools to develop in behind the shoreline. These pools heat up in the sun and are perfect for small children to play in.

Read More: Top Attractions & Things to Do in Marbella

2. Playa Casablanca, Marbella

Playa Casablanca
Playa Casablanca | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

For the crowd that likes to see and be seen, Playa Casablanca is the place to be. This narrow stretch of sand in Marbella is backed by exclusive estates of the rich and famous. Some of the best beach restaurants in the area are located here and the fashion scene at their tables is something to behold. You never know, you might even see a movie star if you are lucky.

The beach is stunning, with soft sand and distant mountains providing an incredibly scenic backdrop. Break the bank and splurge on a high-end sun bed or save some money by bringing your own gear and setting up nearby.

One must-do is a stroll along the lovely walkway behind the beach that runs all the way to Puerto Banus. Along the way, walk out on the pier and soak up the views up and down the coast.

3. Playa de la Malagueta, Malaga

Playa de La Malagueta
Playa de La Malagueta | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Many of Spain's best southern beaches are in urban settings and one that stands above the rest is Playa de la Malagueta. This long and very wide beach is the place to go for those visiting or living in downtown Malaga. If you are arriving on a cruise and want to hit the beach within minutes of arriving, this is your beach.

Playa de la Malagueta is backed by condo towers so it's always busy. This gives it an active and fun feel with people sunbathing, swimming, and walking, either on the beach or on the walkway behind.

The sand is golden brown and the views out to the Alboran Sea are expansive. A favorite pastime of beachgoers is watching the cruise ships and other maritime traffic come and go from the nearby port.

Malaga's wonderful Old Town is an easy 15-minute walk away, where you'll also find an extensive selection of restaurants located along Paseo de la Farola.

Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in Malaga

4. Playa de Calahonda, Neerja

Playa Calahonda
Playa de Calahonda | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Spilling down the mountainside is the town of Neerja and at its heart is one of the most scenic beaches in southern Spain. This tiny beach sandwiched between two towering headlands is picture-perfect. Azure water laps up on soft golden sands while those lucky enough to secure a sunbed or find a patch of sand soak up the sun and frolic in the surf.

The beach is extremely well protected from the wind and waves making it a warm little oasis you want to leave. Take a pause from your beach activities and grab a bite from the waterside restaurant or wander up the stairs and settle in at one of the restaurants perched precariously on the cliffs above.

5. Playa de Valdevaqueros, Tarifa

Kiteboarders on Playa Valdevaqueros
Kiteboarders on Playa Valdevaqueros | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

A massive sand dune, colorful kites, and cobalt-colored waters await you at Valdevaqueros, about ten minutes from Tarifa. This long "J" shaped beach is wide and deep with soft blonde sand. You won't find any condos or big hotels here, in their place are small hotels, beach restaurants, and campgrounds.

The activities here range from lazing on the beach right through to adrenaline-packed water sports like kiteboarding, windsurfing, and winging. Feeling a bit energetic? Climb the massive sand dune at the far end of the beach for incredible views out over the ocean. Alternatively, drive up the A2325 road to the top, park, and walk out on top of the dune to appreciate the view over the beach.

Playa de Valdevaqueros is one of the most popular kiteboarding beaches in Europe. The strong and gusty winds funnel down along the coast making the conditions ideal for racing across the water under sail. If you've always wanted to try the sport, multiple kite, wing, and windsurf schools are set up along the shoreline and are more than happy to get you up and flying.

After all your exploring, settle in on a bean bag chair or picnic table for a tasty snack at Chiringuito Tangana.

Read More: Best Beaches near Tarifa

6. Playa Victoria, Cadiz

Playa Victoria, Cadiz
Playa Victoria, Cadiz | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Cadiz has a beach for every day of the week ranging from a mix of condo-backed promenades, small arcs of sand backed by historical old town buildings, and wide open natural areas where the only manmade structures are the boardwalks. The best of them all is Playa Victoria.

This expansive beach is lively and fun with lots of things to see and do. This is also a great place for a beach with golden sands running for miles in either direction. A multitude of restaurants line the shoreline and serve up traditional fare. You'll see barbequed sardines cooking over a wood fire at many places, along with other beach treats.

Sand volleyball courts and fenced soccer pitches are available if you're looking for some sports and activity. Extensive sun beds and umbrellas are available if you prefer a more sloth-like beach experience.

Unique among beaches in Spain, Playa Victoria like all the beaches along the Costa de Luz, faces west ensuring spectacular sunsets.

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7. Playa de Cabopino, Marbella

Playa de Cabopino | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

As you drive along the heart of Spain's Costa del Sol with its highly developed beachfront you may wonder if you'll be able to find a beach that isn't backed by condos and hotels. Fortunately, a couple exist and one of the best is just outside Marbella. Playa de Cabopino is a wonderful stretch of pure natural beach backed by sand dunes and trees, an oasis in a coastline of condos and hotels.

The beach is long and fairly wide with golden sand and shallow water and no development around. Not only is the beach one of the best along this coast but it is also home to a centuries-old historical watch tower.

Another bonus about this beach - extensive and free parking, a rarity along the coast.

Read More: Top Attractions & Things to Do in Marbella

8. Playa de Maro, Maro

Playa de Maro
Playa de Maro | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

An easy detour off the main A7 highway on the Costa del Sol near Neerja is the delightful Play de Maro. As you make your way down the steep and curvy access road to the beach you'll come around a corner and be greeted by a glorious long arc of sand washed by crystal clear waters.

This natural beach is set between two huge headlands and backed by natural green space. The beautiful vista will undoubtedly make you want to head right down to the water's edge where you can feel the warm, soft sand between your toes.

The beach is roughly 500 meters long and, unless it's the height of peak season, you should be able to find a patch of sand to your liking. Offshore reefs are good destinations for those who enjoy snorkeling. Kayaking is also popular as the coast has many interesting caves and a couple of waterfalls worth visiting.

9. Playa del Bajondillo, Malaga

Playa del Bajondillo
Playa del Bajondillo | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Playa del Bajondillo is one of the liveliest beaches south of Malaga complete with a busy scene without being too over the top in the "look at me" vibe like nearby Marbella. You'll see a good mix of singles, couples, and families here.

The beach is easy to navigate, if you want more action, fun, and music head towards the headland at the southern end, but if you prefer things a bit less busy try the mid-beach area. For peace and quiet but still amazing soft sand between your toes, head to the north end of the beach.

No matter where you end up, you'll always be able to find good food and drinks at any one of the many beach restaurants lining the walkway and roadway at the back of the beach.

10. Playas del Palo, Malaga

Playas del Palo
Playas del Palo | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Another good beach option if you're heading to the historical city of Malaga is Playas del Palo. This beach area is comprised of four curved man-made bays, and is a perfect mix of fun and relaxation.

Soft tawny-colored sand is lapped by the Alboran Sea and, although the water is not particularly warm even at the height of summer, it is clear, clean, and calm. Back from the water are lively beach restaurants and street-side eateries with delightful patios under bushy trees.

The walking trail at the back of the beach is popular with tourists and locals alike and sees a steady stream of walkers, joggers, and cyclists all day long. Downtown Malaga is about four kilometers away, and the trail behind the beach will take you right to the Old Town.

11. Playa Bolonia, Tarifa

Playa Bolonia
Playa Bolonia | Photo Copyright: Michael Law

Over the headland and around the corner from Playa de Valdevaqueros, about 30 minutes from Tarifa, is the remote but easily accessible Playa Bolonia. This spectacular beach with a massive sand dune at one end, is in its natural state, looking much like it would have when the Romans lived here in their nearby town, Baelo Claudia. The ruins, some of the best in Andalucía, can be visited after you've explored the wild and wonderful seashore.

The one-kilometer-long Playa Bolonia sees relatively few beachgoers owing to its tendency to be quite windy. Don't be discouraged by the wind, come here with an adventurous spirit and climb the dune at the end. The walk along the wide, flat golden-brown sands is spectacular with the ocean rolling in on one side and a huge dune drawing you forward, challenging you to get to the top. If the winds are quiet, some would argue that there is no more beautiful beach in Spain.

After your beach excursion, stop in at one of the restaurants like El Albero or La Marisma for the freshest seafood and local specialties in the area.

12. Playa Granada, Motril

Sunset over Playa Granada
Sunset over Playa Granada | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

A bit off the radar of most people (except the locals who know a good thing!) this huge beach is rarely busy. This wide stretch of greyish sand offers plenty of room to roam. The beach is located near the lovely inland city of Motril and is a straight shot down from Madrid on the E-5 and E-902.

This beach area is great for those who want a beach vacation without spending a lot of money. Hotel accommodation here is cheap. A great all-inclusive place with a waterfront location and amazing pools is the Impressive Playa Granada. Really watching your dollars? Set up camp at the large Camping Playa de Poniente across from the beach where you'll find bungalows, plots, a large pool, and tennis courts.

The beach itself has a few large chiringuitos serving up decent beach fare, and they'll also rent you a sunbed and umbrella if you need them. Stay late in the day to enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

Playa Granada has a wonderful walking area at the back of the beach with towering palm trees with benches and tables. The best part of the beach is located at the western end.