Best undiscovered family-friendly beaches, towns and places to visit in Spain

Whether your kids love castles, horses, rock pools or simply paddling next to a smooth sandy beach, we've found the best – and less well-known – Spanish places to visit for a super-smile-packed family holiday

best undiscovered places for families in spain

Spain has long been a favourite destination for families, offering everything from city culture to lazy days by the sea.

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But the mainland and islands – including the Balearics and the Canary Islands – still harbour some delightful secrets, including quieter towns and lesser-known, coastal gems that are perfect for taking your family on a relaxing break without the crowds.

We’ve scoured the country to find some of the lesser-known places with the best paddle-friendly beaches, castles, horse shows, nature reserves, rock pools and top-sandcastle-worthy sand Spain has to offer…

Here are 7 of the best (but less obvious) places in Spain for a brilliant family holiday:

1. Llafranc, Costa Brava

 
Llafranc, Costa Brava

Best for: Paddling

Where it is: In Girona on the Costa Brava, a stretch of coastline in Catalonia, northeastern Spain. Fly into Girona-Costa Brava Airport, about 45 minutes’ drive away, or combine with a trip to Barcelona – the city is less than 2 hours away by car.

What it’s like: Some parts of the Costa Brava can be pretty crowded, so Llafranc – closer to the French border – feels like a delicious secret, with its lovely lighthouse and sandy curl of beach backed by palm trees and a relaxed promenade with hotels and restaurants that have huge terraces. It’s a great base for exploring the nearby area’s beaches, most of which are small and family-friendly and guaranteed to make little (and larger) faces beam with delight. The well-marked coastal trail is also suitable for families, with views along the pine-clad coastline. If little legs tire too quickly, you could drive to the pretty port of Roses and take the express train up to Cap de Creus nature reserve.

Facilities: Llafranc’s beach has 2 areas: one by the harbour, where boats depart for trips around the bay, and the other for swimming, sunbathing and splashing about in the shallows. There are showers, toilets and lifeguards, while the promenade and village offer plenty of family-friendly dining options. You may have pay to use the beach car park if you can’t find a spot in the village.

What other families have said about it:

  • “We just went to the beach every day. It’s a quiet place with lots of lovely beaches and bays. Good restaurants. It’s not resorty – there’s not a karaoke bar or Elvis impersonator for miles!”
  • “The coastal path between Llafranc and Cala de Palafguell is a very easy 10 to 15-minute walk with lovely views.”

2. Cádiz

cadiz spain

Best for: Fishing boats and horse shows

Where it is: Cádiz is a port city in the Andalusia region of southwestern Spain. The closest airport is in Jerez, half an hour’s drive from the city. You might find a better deal by flying into Seville, which is around 90 minutes’ drive away and is served by more airlines.

What it’s like: Cádiz often falls under the radar for UK holidaymakers, but it really shouldn’t. This is an ideal place to escape the crowds and keep the entire family entertained, combining inspiring culture with coastal relaxation. Several beaches are walkable from the centre, including picturesque La Caleta and La Victoria, which is backed by a promenade with hotels, restaurants and bars. Its millennia-old port is perfect for pottering around, watching the fishing boats, visiting 18th-century Cádiz Cathedral and counting the watchtowers – there are more than 100 here. The area is also known for its spectacular horse shows, where the horses put on an elegant dance performance often compared to ballet – be warned that you’ll need to book tickets well in advance.

Facilities: The city has plenty of family-friendly cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside. Parking is free at La Caleta beach, which has shower facilities, toilets, lifeguards and easy access from the road.

What other families have said about it:

  • “The horse show we went to was beautiful. Our 2-year-old was mesmerised.”
  • “La Caleta beach is clean, clean, clean – with wonderful smooth sand – and safe for children. Take the walkway out to the fort for great photos.”

3. Sant Lluís, Menorca

Binibeca, Menorca

Best for: Sandy seclusion

Where it is: Sant Lluís is a coastal area on the southeastern tip of Menorca. It’s a 10-minute drive from Menorca Airport, so it’s easy to hire a car or take a taxi.

What it’s like: Tiny Menorca tends to be far less crowded than parts of its fellow Balearic Islands, Ibiza and Majorca, which is surprising when it has such dreamy places to explore. Sant Lluís is a lovely example, with shallow waters perfect for paddling and splashing about. The area’s coastline is laced with sandy coves, backed by cliffs and fishermen’s houses. The water that laps beaches like Binibeca (pictured above) is calm enough for little ones to enjoy safely and maybe even try water sports like sea kayaking. You can take a boat trip passing Illa de l’Aire, where kids will love the stripy lighthouse, or seek seclusion at Cala Biniancolla, a small cove where you can sunbathe and watch the fishing boats.

Facilities: Facilities vary, with some coves and inlets being pretty basic (but beautiful). Binibeca has lifeguards, a bar with toilets, sun loungers to hire and spaces for volleyball and football, plus some picnic tables tucked among pine trees.

What other families have said about it:

  • “Binibeca beach is lovely – white sand and clear water. Family- friendly and generally a quiet area.”
  • “We liked Taula de Trepuco, a really interesting prehistoric site nearby, with ruins you can explore.”

4. Costa de la Luz

islantilla spain

Best for: Building sandcastles

Where it is: The Costa de la Luz is a 200km stretch of coastline in Andalusia in the southwest. It stretches from the Portuguese border to Tarifa, right at the southern belly of Spain, and includes the province of Huelva and Cádiz. The best airport to fly into is Seville, within easy distance of the coast – though driving times will depend on where you’re staying.

What it’s like: This area’s name translates as ‘coast of light’ and you’ll understand why when you see little faces beaming with delight. Big faces too, for that matter. It’s just lovely: a stretch of beaches and coves with sand in shades from shortbread to burnt caramel, backed by dunes and pine forest. In between are picturesque towns, nature reserves and adventure parks. Best of all, it’s dreamily quiet compared to Spain’s other coastal resorts. Areas include Chiclana de la Frontera, which combines old-town charm with a gloriously golden sweep of sand, and Islantilla, with a 27-hole golf course and yet another beautiful beach (pictured, above). Wherever you choose to stay, make time for Doñana National Park, whose coastal wetlands and pine forests are home to lynx and rare birds (you’ll need to book a guided tour), and the Zoo de Castellar in Castellar de la Frontera. Temperatures tend to be warmer in this far south region, so it’s ideal for a break outside of peak season or for some winter sun.

Facilities: Facilities vary as the region has a mix of stripped-back ‘hidden’ coves and bigger Blue Flag beaches with toilets, showers, sun loungers and lots of cafes and restaurants. It tends to be far quieter than other parts of Spain’s coast, though, so parking is rarely an issue and it’s easy to find your own space.

What other families have said about it:

  • “Playa de la Fontanilla [in the town of Conil de la Frontera] is the best beach I’ve ever been to. It is very long, so it’s easy to get away from people. The water is shallow for about 30m and the waves are small – great for our young girls.”
  • “Doñana is absolutely stunning. The guides are lovely and extremely knowledgeable. We saw loads of animals and some unforgettable landscapes.”

5. Granada

alhambra palace granada

Best for: Castles

Where it is: Granada is a city in the region of Andalusia, southern Spain.You can fly into Granada Airport, about 20 minutes’ drive from the centre, or Malaga, which is around an hour and a half away.

What it’s like: Granada is a real charmer with narrow streets and large, tree-dotted squares lined with tapas restaurants, cafes, and Moroccan-style bazaars selling castanets, spices and embroidered slippers. The city lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, with the gardens, walking trails and winter ski-runs of Sierra Nevada National Park a short drive away. Don’t miss Alhambra (the ‘Red Castle’, pictured above), a hilltop complex dominated by 13th-century Moorish palaces (you’ll need to book tickets well in advance, and take your passports with you when you go). The ornate towers, mosaics and courtyards create a beautiful sculpture that tells stories of the region’s Roman, Arabic and Christian ruling periods – kids and adults will be fascinated.

Facilities: Some of the streets can be a little steep, so you might need to stroll slowly with little ones. But there are so many places to stop – for coffee, lunch or an ice cream – that it hardly matters.

What other families have said about it:

  • “The Alhambra is a really amazing place to visit: both the garden and palace are breathtaking. We took my 3 year-old son with us, and it was totally no problem – although it’s a bit of a hike up the hill to get there.”
  • “A visit to the Science Park is worth it for the BioDomo alone. Although fairly small, it packed a punch, and the kids loved it. It’s no in the centre, but within walking distance – even with young children.”

6. Alicante

Les Fonts De L’Algar Nature Reserve Alicante

Best for: Nature reserves

Where it is: Alicante is a port city on the southeastern coast of Spain, part of the Costa Blanca (which includes popular Benidorm). Fly into Alicante Airport, about 15 minutes’ drive from the centre.

What it’s like: The Costa Blanca can be (understandably) busy but Alicante – dubbed the ‘city by the sea’– offers a little more space to explore with your family, from outdoor dining along the marina and promenade to spreading out at one of the many beaches and coves in the area. It’s also close to some amazingly beautiful places to visit beyond the beach.  You could drive past the properly pink salt waters of the Torrevieja salt lagoon or stroll through the Palm Groves (Palmeral) of Eche. Or take the kids to Les Fonts de l’Algar Nature Reserve (pictured, above), where you can swim in natural pools fed by waterfalls and surrounded by fragrant flowers and shrubs.

Facilities: The city and surroundings are well-equipped for families, with cafes, toilets and baby-changing facilities never far away. Apart from the most secluded coves, beaches tend to have decent facilities. Most restaurants and cafes have generous outdoor areas, many with sea views, so it’s pretty easy to enjoy a socially distanced meal.

What other families have said about it:

  • “Don’t misss Santa Bárbara Castle, perched on a hillside. Take lots of water and wear a hat. There is an air-conditioned lift to the top and the view at the top is spectacular!”
  • “The Palmeral is a shady, quiet, green space, with interesting plants and plenty of places for kids to play.”

7. Caletón Blanco, Lanzarote

Caletón Blanco, Lanzarote

Best for: Rock pools

Where it is: This stretch of beaches is on the eastern coast of Canary Island Lanzarote and close to the fishing village of Órzola. It’s about half an hour’s drive from Lanzarote’s airport.

What it’s like: Caletón Blanco is actually a chain of beautifully quiet coves rather than a single beach. The honey-coloured sandy curls are laced around emerald lagoons and scattered with chunks of black volcanic rock – perfect for a bit of shelter and for drying soggy swimwear. The rock-strewn coastline also makes this an ideal spot for rock-pooling. Potter about and peer into tidal pools to spot tiny crabs and starfish. It’s close to Órzola, a charming fishing village where you can dine on seafood fresh from the boats. Kids will love watching fishing crews untangle their nets; grown-ups will love feasting on the catch at one of the restaurants, perhaps with a glass of something cold and white.

Facilities: There’s plenty of free parking nearby and it’s an easy walk down to the sand. There are no toilets or places to eat but you can find these in nearby Órzola.

What other families have said about it:

  • “It’s a beautiful beach with a shallow lagoon. We had a lovely time there.”
  • “It’s ideal for small children: plenty of shallow water to splash about in. Lovely soft sand, too – makes good castles!”
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Pics: Getty Images

About our author Helen Wright

Helen Wright is a travel journalist and blogger at passportstamps.uk. With 15 years’ experience writing for national newspaper and magazines, she now travels around the world with her partner Simon and their children Finn, 3, and Isobel, 1.

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