Looking for a travel destination that combines crystal-clear beaches and breathtaking mountain landscapes? Then, the Costa Brava is a great option!
The Costa Brava is a scenic stretch of Catalan coastline that runs from the north of Barcelona to the French border. Picture secluded rocky coves, cute medieval villages, and stunning rugged landscapes… But also delicious food and vibrant culture.
It’s a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, hiking and cycling lovers, and travellers looking to indulge in outstanding cuisine and culture. So, whether you’re looking for an action-packed adventure or a more relaxed trip, the Costa Brava has something for you!
Read on to find out more about this region, from local tips to explore it to how to plan an authentic trip to it!
Essentials to know before you go
Summers are hot!
Long story short, it gets really hot in summer, and winters are pleasant.
Summer offers plenty of sunshine, with temperatures reaching 30°C (86°F). It’s perfect for water sports, but in our opinion, too hot for hiking or cycling. If you want to enjoy those activities, you better start early and avoid doing them in the middle of the day.
In winter, temperatures rarely drop below 10°C (50°F), making it pleasant for cycling and hiking. The sea is a bit too cold for swimming or water sports without a wetsuit.
Rainfall is not usual in the Costa Brava region, and it rains less every time. So, your chances of getting wet during your time there aren’t high. We always recommend checking Accuweather in advance to know the weather forecast. It’s good to know if you need to add a last-minute rain jacket to your luggage!
Catalan is the main language you’ll hear
The Costa Brava is part of Catalonia, so you’ll find that locals mostly speak Catalan rather than Spanish. Don’t get surprised if you see most things written in a language that looks alien to you!
All Catalans also speak Spanish, so if you speak some, just go for it!
Also, you’ll be fine in most restaurants, which have menus in both languages (sometimes even in English).
It’s incredibly popular in summer
The Costa Brava is very popular in summer, with many locals holidaying there. The coves get crowded, and the accommodations are booked months in advance. So, if you plan to visit at that time, prepare for your trip early.
If possible, we would advise avoiding July and August for your trip. It’s scorching hot, prices are higher, and crowds are usual. If you decide going on those months, try to go mid-week instead of the weekend.
To us, the best months to enjoy this region are June and September, especially if you want to enjoy water activities.
Spring, fall, and winter are also great times, with pleasant temperatures and no crowds around. We definitely recommend spring or autumn if you’re planning on hiking or cycling!
Favourite things to do in the Costa Brava
Go on adventures in (or nearby!) the sea
The crystal clear waters and the sunny weather of the Costa Brava make it an ideal spot for exploring and experiencing all kinds of water sports. Snorkelling, diving, kayaking, SUP, swimming, you name it!
Some of our preferred adventures on the coast are:
🤿 Freediving in the Cap de Creus natural park
🧗🏻♀️ Climbing the via ferrata Cala del Molí
🛶 Kayaking, snorkelling, and foraging while learning about Mediterranean algae and plants
Hike the Camí de Ronda
This amazing trail takes you along the Mediterranean coastline, offering stunning views of the Mediterranean sea and surrounding mountains. You’ll also get to explore some of the area’s most beautiful villages and towns as you make your way along this incredible hiking route.
The Camí de Ronda trail starts in Portbou, a small village bordering France. It follows the Catalan coast, finishing in Ulldecona, a town bordering Valencia. Of its 31 stages, 12 take place in the Costa Brava, connecting all the coastal villages. We’ve written about one of the stages, the one from Calella to Palamós, and more guides about the other sections will follow soon!
We can’t recommend enough to hike at least one section of this trail. It’s an excellent way to discover hidden coves and beautiful corners and marvel at the contrast of the green of the pines with the blue of the sea.
During July and August, we recommend starting early in the morning if you plan a hike. Although you can find some pine shadow to rest under, some long stretches without a single shadow can be intense under the hot summer sun. This is why spring, autumn, and winter are excellent months to enjoy this hike! Anyway, don’t forget to bring plenty of water and sunscreen!
Explore picturesque villages
Besides the idyllic coves and the endless adventure opportunities it offers, another highlight of the Costa Brava are its charming villages. You can hop from one to another following the Camí de Ronda, and stop to enjoy a dip at one or two beaches along the way.
Some suggestions include Tossa de Mar, famous for its medieval old town; Port de la Selva, with its white houses; Cadaqués, the village where Dalí lived; Calella de Palafrugell, with its narrow streets; Pals, a medieval village with a lot of history; and Begur, home to an impressive castle.
Discover the Costa Brava’s capital: Girona
Girona is worth at least some hours of your time to discover its rich history and culture. The city became popular some years ago as it was one of the filming locations of Game of Thrones. But whether you’re a fan of this show or not, we’re sure you’ll love the city’s architecture, vibe, and exquisite food!
Check out what to do there, where to eat, and when it’s the best time to go in our Girona guide.
Watch the sunrise over the Mediterranean sea
We know we’re asking you to wake up early… but for a good reason! On the Catalan coast, the sun rises over the sea, creating a natural show you shouldn’t miss. Check the sunrise time, put the alarm, and start your day with an absolute blast!
We know that waking up when it is dark can be tricky, but for this reason, we can assure you that you won’t regret it.
Typical food to eat in the Costa Brava
Spoiler: Forget about paella.
The Costa Brava is a paradise for foodies and we’re sure it will please even the pickiest of eaters! Here are some of the most mouth-watering dishes that this region has to offer:
- Gambes de Palamós: The prawns from the city of Palamós are famous for their strong yet succulent flavour. Their colour is intensely red, and they are renowned worldwide for their tasty meat.
- Anxoves de l’Escala: The anchovy fillets from the village named l’Escala have a reputation for being exquisite. The anchovies are salted and kept in olive oil. We usually eat them with pa amb tomàquet (bread rubbed in tomato), which is probably the most uncomplicated yet delicious tapa in the world!
- Esqueixada: A traditional Catalan dish made with shredded salt cod, onion, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and olives. It’s served cold, like a salad.
- Mar i muntanya: This is a typical dish that combines ingredients from the sea (mar in Catalan) with the mountain (muntanya). It usually has prawns, lobster, other seafood, chicken, rabbit, and other meat, and it’s similar to a stew. In some places, they serve it with rice.
- Arròs negre: This dish translates as “black rice”. It’s similar to paella, but instead of cooking the rice with broth and tomato, the rice is cooked with squid or cuttlefish ink, hence the black colour. The rice is served with mussels, cuttlefish, squid, prawns, or other seafood.
- Garoines: Sea urchins. In the past, the fisherman in the area caught them on the rocks and ate them straight, together with a piece of bread. Nowadays, this is an exquisite dish, sometimes cooked with various sauces.
- Recuit de drap: This cheese is made with sheep or goat’s milk. It’s soft and creamy, and it has a sweet taste. Its name comes from the elaboration process because the cheese is covered with a cloth (drap in Catalan) to ferment. Catalans eat this cheese as a dessert, together with honey, and it’s delicious!
- Fideuà: This is like paella but made with pasta instead of rice. The pasta used is named fideus, and it’s like spaghetti but thinner and shorter. The pasta is cooked with fish fumet, vegetables, and seafood.
Where to stay in the Costa Brava
There are plenty of options to choose from in the Costa Brava, from luxurious hotels with sea views to apartments ideal for family holidays. You can check for accommodation here.
Keep in mind that the high season usually starts in June and ends in September, and this is when accommodation prices are higher.
Also, if you’re looking for a campsite instead of a hotel, consider that almost all campings close for the winter.
The idea of camping you have in mind can be quite different depending on where you are coming from. Campings in the Costa Brava are not the same as campings in Australia’s national parks, where you only hear the sound of nature and the amenities are rather scarce. Campsites in the Costa Brava are synonyms for children running around and tight parcels. Also, they tend to have all the amenities you can think of: a swimming pool, cafeteria, entertainment for children, etc.
If you’re going there in summer, make sure to book your accommodation way in advance. We can’t stress this enough!
How to get to the Costa Brava
From Barcelona and Girona, several buses a day reach the various villages of the region. You can check Google Maps to see the company that operates the buses and then find the schedules and prices on its website.
Keep in mind that no train connects Girona or Barcelona with the Costa Brava villages.
Finally, if your trip starts or finishes on the Costa Brava, it’s worth checking if there are flights from your place to Girona’s airport. This one is closer to the Costa Brava than Barcelona and can save you some hours of travelling.
How to move around the Costa Brava
One of the first things you need to know is that the Costa Brava is a large area. Which are the options to explore it properly then?
🥾 On foot
As we mentioned, one of the best ways to move around is on foot. This is a wonderful option if you choose to stay in a place and want to visit the neighbour villages.
If you love hiking or backpacking, you can also use your foot as your primary form of transportation! Check the Camí de Ronda sections, choose which ones you want to do during your trip, and you’re ready to soak up the Costa Brava’s beauty while travelling at your own pace.
🚲 By bike
A superb alternative to renting a car and still getting the most out of the Costa Brava is bikepacking. There is a 530 km loop out of Girona, which allows you to see all the coastal villages and highlights of the Costa Brava, including natural parks, medieval towns, and beautiful beaches. This route is best made with an MTB or a gravel bike. Souds appealing to you? Then, find more info here!
🚗 By car
Hiring a car is a great decision if you’re considering visiting several spots and don’t have much time. It’s definitely the fastest way to move around. Still, you should keep in mind that the traffic in summer can be crazy, especially on Friday and Sunday evenings.
Also, if you’re thinking about going to Cadaqués in the summer, do so early in the morning (and be patient!). There is only one mountain road to the village, leading to big queues. Finding a spot to park can also be tricky.
🚎 By public transport
Although we love using public transport and don’t have to rely on a car, we strongly disadvise you to do so in the Costa Brava. You can get to some places by bus, but the journeys are long, and you often need to change from one bus to another. And the train? Well, it doesn’t go to the coastal parts of the Costa Brava region, so forget about this option.
Also, some coves and smallest villages can’t even be reached by public transport at all.
And that’s a wrap! We hope this guide helps you better plan your visit to the Costa Brava. Let us know your favourite coves, villages, and adventures if you go there!