The best towns in Costa Brava include sunny seaside villages and hilltop medieval marvels.
The Costa Brava in the Catalonia region of Spain runs roughly from the town of Blanes right up to the French border.
Translating into English as the “wild” or “rough” coast, this seaside strip is celebrated for its rugged beaches and sea caves. In fact, the beaches in Costa Brava might be some of the prettiest in the whole of Spain.
But which places in Costa Brava deserve to go at the top of your list? This post will highlight the best towns in Costa Brava for beaches, history, and culture.
Map of the Best Beach Towns in Costa Brava
Best Towns in Costa Brava
Located in the Catalonia region of northeast Spain, a selection of the towns and beaches in Costa Brava are easily reachable as a day trip from Barcelona. This guide explains how to get there via public transport and includes recommended tours where relevant.
However, if you want to make the most of the Costa Brava coastline, you’ll benefit from renting a car. This way, you can spend a couple of days exploring the area and overnighting in multiple places.
If you want to explore the towns in Costa Brava slowly, there is a stunning coastal trail that you can hike. It takes you through the different towns and out along the rugged cliffs to show you the real reason this coast got its name. You can read more about this coastal hiking trail called Cami de Ronda here.
1. Tossa de Mar
Only a 90-minute drive from Barcelona, postcard-ready Tossa de Mar is one of the Costa Brava towns closest to the Catalonia capital.
Furthermore, Tossa de Mar is the ideal mix of beaches, history, and outdoorsy pursuits. The Old Town (Villa Vella) isn’t huge but the medieval buildings are well-maintained with tons of details to pore over. There is also a seaside fort, lighthouse, and museum to explore which supplies lovely views over the bay.
As this is a popular summer escape for Barcelonians, Tossa de Mar caters well to foodies and those seeking laid-back nightlife. There’s a stellar selection of tapas bars specializing in seafood and Catalan cooking.
If you fancy getting out on the water, you can choose between scuba diving, kayaking, and cruising. Newbies can book a discovery dive prior to seeking PADI certification and swim alongside fish, seahorses, and octopuses.
Otherwise, you could explore the coastal caves unique to this part of Spain on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard tour.
Note that if you want to stay overnight in Tossa de Mar, booking accommodation in advance is essential in the peak summer months.
How to get to Tossa de Mar from Barcelona
Another option is to book a tour from Barcelona. This full-day Costa Brava day trip includes hiking and sea kayaking in Tossa de Mar with the option to add lunch.
2. Calella de Palafrugell (plus Llafranc and Tamariu)
Calella de Palafrugell is one of a trio of seaside resorts that fall within the municipality of Palafrugell. This town is extremely popular with Catalonia residents and attracts a mix of families, groups, and couples.
Overall, this town provides an equal spread of swimmable beaches, medieval ruins, and amenities. The beaches are sandy and there are also several tidal pools dotted along the seafront where you can swim or snorkel in the caves.
Calella de Palafrugell is one of the best towns in Costa Brava for food. Naturally, this is the domain of seafood and Mediterranean-style veggies. Ice cream parlors and chic bars are plentiful.
The other two towns that belong to Palafrugell are Llafranc and Tamariu. While it’s a tad smaller, Tamariu is similar in style to Calella. The town has a nice mix of places to stay and a first-class beach with summer watersports.
Llafranc is often referred to as one of the most idyllic Costa Brava towns. This former fishing village features a protected sandy beach ideal for summer sunbathing and swimming.
The headland north of the town center supplies jaw-dropping sea views. Scenic walking paths lead you to the Far de Sant Sebastià lighthouse where you can reward yourself with a drink or bite to eat while drinking up the landscape.
How to get to Calella de Palafrugell from Barcelona
Calella de Palafrugell is accessible via a direct bus from Estació del Nord. These take 2 hours each way. Buses also connect Estació del Nord with Llafranc in 2 hours and 10 minutes. You can check the departure times on Omio.
Tamariu proves more challenging to reach without a car. You’ll need to take a taxi from Palafrugell or the other beach towns if you fancy visiting.
Girona differs from its neighboring Costa Brava towns as it’s not technically on the coast. However, it’s still highly worthy of a visit as it easily ranks as one of the most beautiful towns in Spain. There are so many amazing things to do in Girona as well as fantastic restaurants to enjoy.
The town is located on the banks of the River Onyar and features beautifully preserved medieval architecture in its Old Quarter. The Barri Vell is where you’ll find the cathedral and what remains of a 12th-century public bath house. Naturally, the best views of Girona are afforded from the walkways on the old city walls that cocoon the Barri Vell.
As a riverside city, a series of bridges crisscross the waterway and provide fetching views of the pastel-colored buildings. The views are always gorgeous but are at their best closer to golden hour.
The great news is that Girona is only a 30-minute drive from some of the best beaches in Costa Brava. Therefore, the medieval city slots in perfectly with a road trip along the Catalan coastline. In addition, there are scores of tours from Barcelona that include Girona as a stop.
How to get to Girona from Barcelona
Fast trains connect Barcelona-Sants Station with Girona in as little as 40 minutes. Check schedules and book tickets on Omio. You can also book tickets at the station in Barcelona on the day of your journey for roughly the same price.
4. Platja d’Aro and S’Agaró
Platja d’Aro and S’Agaró are a duo of seaside Costa Brava towns that sit alongside each other. Despite their proximity, they are pretty different but it makes sense to visit them together.
Essentially, Platja d’Aro is the larger of the two resorts. Boasting some of the longest beaches in Costa Brava, a plethora of water sports and aquatic parks make Platja d’Aro a top contender for family vacations in Catalonia. Things get a little wilder north of town, with isolated lagoons proving popular with local cliff divers.
On the other hand, S’Agaró is likened to Beverly Hills. This upscale resort features striking cliffs, crystal clear water, and wonderful access to coastal hiking routes.
You can follow some segments of the historic Roads of Ronda in this region. A 4-mile (6.5 km) trail links Platja d’Aro and S’Agaró while Platja d’Aro to Sant Antoni de Calonge is a 5.2-mile (8.5 km) venture.
How to get to Platja d’Aro and S’Agaró from Barcelona
In order to reach S’Agaró, you’ll need to take a train to Girona as above and then take a bus from across the street. These stop at Platja d’Aro from where you’ll need to hop on a different bus to reach S’Agaró. It’s preferable to visit these towns in Costa Brava via rental car.
Figueres is another inland town in the Costa Brava region. As the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, it’s one of the best towns in Costa Brava if you’re curious about the life of the visionary artist.
The Dalí Theater and Museum is the number one attraction for fans. As well as exhibiting a selection of his work, the museum itself was designed by Dalí. But there’s much more to see, including the former prison, Castell de Sant Ferran, and potter around the green pockets and shops.
Due to its location and supply of conveniences, Figueres is another handy base for a wider itinerary of hopping around the coastal and historic places in Costa Brava.
How to get to Figueres from Barcelona
Frequent trains take an hour to travel from Barcelona-Sants to Figueres. Review schedules and book tickets on Omio.
It’s also straightforward to visit Figueres and the Dalí Museum as part of an organized tour from Barcelona.
Roses sits at the northern end of the Gulf of Roses and harbors some of the sandiest and longest beaches in Costa Brava.
The water is shallow and gentle, making this a popular pick during the Mediterranean summer. If you stay in town, you can also venture further afield to the likes of Platja Palangres, Platja de Canyelles Petites, and Platja de La Rubina.
As Roses is quite large, this is actually one of the best towns in Costa Brava to make your base. There is a wider selection of hotels, amenities, and restaurants in Roses. In addition, you’ll find a generous supply of water activities and boat tours that give you the best perspective of the Costa Brava coastline.
Just south of the Gulf of Roses, you can explore the Natural Park of the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà. This nature reserve and wetland marshes provide habitat to birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals including badgers and deer.
How to get to Roses from Barcelona
As Roses does not have a train station, you would need to travel to Figueres and catch a bus from there. The number 12 departs from outside the station and takes 30 minutes on top of the 1-hour train ride from Barcelona-Sants. Check schedules and book tickets for the train segment on Omio.
Cadaqués is a whitewashed town in a deep inlet on the Costa Brava coast. The beaches are pebble ones but don’t let that deter you. This is a gorgeous town to wander around and it also has a fine selection of restaurants and bars.
While in Cadaqués you can venture a touch north to Port Lligat where Salvador Dalí dwelled from 1930 until 1982. His former residence (and studio) is now the Salvador Dalí House Museum. In fact, this hillside home was his only permanent address and he shared it with his wife. Therefore, visiting the attraction is one of the most unique places in Costa Brava.
The Cap de Creus Natural Park is another spot to check out near Cadaqués. This is one of the most rugged stretches of the wild coast with a lighthouse hike and curious sea caves best explored by boat.
How to get to Cadaqués from Barcelona
As Cadaqués also lacks a train station, you’ll again need to connect via Figueres by the number 12 bus. It takes 1 hour to reach Cadaqués. Check schedules and book train tickets on Omio.
Alternatively, you can visit Cadaqués and Cap de Creus by boat from Roses as part of a tour.
Rounding off the best towns in Costa Brava with one more inland destination, Pals is a tiny village northwest of the Mountains of Begur.
This is one of the prettiest places in Costa Brava for medieval architecture. Although compact, the Old Town of Pals is a vision of honey-colored sandstone towers, residences, and churches. In particular, the Tower of the Hours supplies incredible views of the mountains and sea. As you explore, you’ll note plants and flowers climbing up these ancient buildings. In fact, it’s thought that Pals was built on top of a former marshland.
Seeing as Pals is a tiny village, you can coincide your visit with a trip to the various beaches in Costa Brava near Aiguafreda and Fornells. Additionally, the Castle of Begur is only a 10-minute drive en route to the seaside. Rising high above the town of Begur, this fortress supplies some of the most dramatic views of the Mediterranean coast.
How to get to Pals from Barcelona
Pals is a little trickier to reach from Barcelona and is best visited with a rental car in tandem with other little villages. In fact, Girona is the nearest large town. From there, you can take a public bus but you’ll need to change buses at Platja d’Aro and allow at least 2 hours for this journey.
This full-day Costa Brava tour from Barcelona includes stops at Girona and Pals.