Sparkling sapphire blue waters, soft goldens sands, superb hotels and restaurants and a warm, laid-back vibe- it’s small wonder that Andalucia is such an enduringly popular choice of destination for family holidays in Spain. But of all the glorious sands, which are the most family-friendly beaches in Andalucia? It’s a good question.
Holidays in Andalucia offer everything under the sun, whether you’re hankering for quality family time in a relaxed setting or a great adventure packed with sightseeing and a wealth of active pursuits from sailing to kite surfing and coastal hikes and bike rides. But when it comes to summer holidays, finding the right place in the sun for you and your brood can be a daunting experience – the sheer choice of resorts for those not familiar with the region rather overwhelming.
From Costa to Costa
Situated in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, Andalucia is divided into eight provinces: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and its capital, Seville. It’s is the only European region with both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines – and this epic coastline stretches more than 600 miles…
Let’s get our bearings: Starting in the east, you’ll find the Costa de Almería and the Costa Tropical and moving down, the Costa del Sol in the middle. Then heading westwards, around Gibralter (which shares a land border with the province of Cádiz), the Costa de la Luz, which curves upwards from Tarifa to the town of Cádiz, then on to the Doñana National Park and Huelva province – with an infinite choice of beaches along the way.
Whether you’re looking for high-octane watersports in the crashing waves of the Atlantic, theme parks and aquaparks, lively restaurants and bars on the sands, or tranquil hideaways in pretty little coves on the Mediterranean lapped sands, there is a beach for everyone.
Costa de Almería
Many of the finest beaches in the Almeria Province that are prefect for families are located in the protected Natural Park of Cabo de Gata, a natural jewel that covers 2.000 hectares of seafront that’s home to no less than seven EU Blue Flag Beaches.
If you’re little ones are animal mad, booking a hotel in Cabo de Gata will be your gateway to paradise. They’ll love exploring this wonderland that’s teeming with wildlife as it’s also a protected habitat for numerous species of birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. All the park’s beaches offer superb scuba-diving conditions – excellent visibility and an abundance of sea life to be seen.
Among our favourites is Playa El Playazo, located on the north-eastern side of the natural park, just 3.5kms from Rodalquilar. Here, you’ll discover fine golden sands on a gently shelving cove-like beach. The waters are shallow and calm – given the natural windbreakers of the mountains on one side and San Ramon’s Castle on the other, which young pirates will also love exploring.
For gentle ‘bucket-and-spade’ style family holidays, The Costa Tropical, named for the fact that the region is a major producer of tropical fruits, is a sheer delight. Situated just after the Costa del Sol, it nonetheless offers numerous quieter stretches of sands in pretty hidden coves and an altogether more ‘low rise’ and authentically Spanish experience. Here, you’ll find a string of tiny villages and towns along the coast, dotted with light houses and watchtowers. If you’re looking for a little peach of beach to call your own, come and build sandcastles on La Mamola. This soft sand beach has clean and shallow waters making it ideal for little ones, along with rock pools for fishing in and designated play areas. And when you get peckish, you’ll find a great selection of bars and restaurants huddled along the promenade, all within easy reach.
Costa del Sol
Boasting more than 300 days of sunshine a year – and a whopping 125 beaches lapped by the Mediterranean Sea, the famous ‘Coast of the Sun’ offers appealing holiday havens for families at any time of the year.
If you’re holidaying with babies, then you’ll want to be able to take time out in the shade – without having to head back to your hotel. Whilst Playa Malaspequera (also called Playa Torrebermeja) is one of the most popular beaches in the resort of Benalmadena (aka busy), it’s a big hit with families on numerous counts. In addition to its ‘clean beach’ Blue Flag award credentials, it also has plenty of accessible green spaces with shaded spots where you need to take a break from the heat and hide from the sun.
Costa de la Luz
Ready to take a dip in the Atlantic? Gorgeous fine sands and unspoilt dunes beckon you to ‘The Coast of Light’. Windsurf if you want to – when the Levante winds gather, conditions are tailormade for all adventures on the water, but a tempting array of more tranquil spots are also waiting to be explored by young families. The best family-friendly beaches with all the must-have facilities you could need on tap, are dotted around the resort towns of Cádiz and Huelva.
The top choice – and a big favourite with Spanish families – is Playa de Bolonia. Bolonia beach is situated 20km north of Tarifa, next to a little fishing village. Here, the vibe is sweet and easy and despite its fraternity of surfers, its very much a family-orientated stretch of sand.
If you’ve got older kids or teenagers prone to boredom if there’s not a plentiful supply of activities on tap – and you enjoy urban delights – then the more ‘grown up’ city beach scene of Malaga could be the sweet spot for your family.
Malaga city has 15 beaches, most of which are mostly frequented by the locals, which adds to their appeal. And, of course, you’ve got the very best of the city’s restaurants, museums and galleries and retail therapy within easy reach.
The large beach of Playa de la Caleta, situated between Playa de la Malagueta and Baños del Carmen on the Pablo Picasso promenade, is one of the most popular and the cleanest. It’s a sandy playground where you can enjoy fun and games under the sun from hiring electric bikes to roller-blading and beach volleyball and squeeze in a work out at one of the mini outdoor gyms.
Alternatively, if watersports action is the name of the game, take them to Tarifa, one of Europe’s leading destinations for windsurfing and kitesurfing with plenty of facilities for beginners to play on the waves.
And then, of course, there are the infamous theme parks of the Costa del Sol, including Aqualand, Aventura Amazonia and Tivoli World, around the resorts of Torremolinos and Benalmádena. If you can’t bear to stay in the thick of the actual resorts, you can make it a day trip.
Far from being of case of ‘seen but not heard’, children in Andalucia, as well as in the rest of Spain are warmly welcomed – Spanish culture is by definition family friendly! Local kids generally stay up late and families dine out – even at high end restaurants – with babies and toddlers, and enjoy evening outs in bars with their kids of all ages. In addition to dedicated kids’ clubs, the leading hotels in Andalucia offer a wealth of facilities and experiences to ensure families have a comfortable and fun-packed stay.
Take a road trip
Why limit yourself to just one stretch of sand when you can hire a car and explore the best of the region, tailoring the hotspots to suit your personal needs and tastes? Andalucia has an excellent road network, and the good news is that drives between the main towns and resort centres are mostly 1-3 hours maximum, making it a fabulous region for road trip with kids. And if you want to see a more authentic side of Spain’s tourist favourite, you can easily steer off the beaten track and discover hidden olive groves, farms and ancient villages – and enjoy delicious meals in local cafes ands restaurants at a fraction of the cost of the big resorts.
Best times to visit
It won’t come as a surprise to learn that in July and August, Andalucia’s beaches and restaurants are heaving with both international tourists and also Spanish families who flock here during school holidays. If you prefer to get maximum pleasure minus the madding crowds, June is the perfect month if you have a baby or kids who are pre-schoolers. The shoulder months of May and September (and the season extends into October) can also be wonderful – the sea temperatures are warm enough for kids to paddle in and you’ll also get cheaper deals.