Where to find adventure in Spain’s Costa Brava

The Mediterranean meets the Iberian Peninsula on the dramatic frontier stretching north from Barcelona. The Costa Brava is defined by its steep cliffsides peppered with hidden caves and coves between long sandy beaches. A holiday hotspot for many, destinations include medieval villages, complete turreted walls and quaint fishing villages that have been fertile grounds of inspiration for artists. You could simply travel here to sunbathe, but you’ll get the most out of a trip to the Costa Brava if you embrace the spirit of adventure.

Whatever level of activity you’re craving, you can find plenty of Costa Brava adventures to get your adrenaline flowing.

The Camí de Ronda is an excellent way to see the coast in high definition ​​​​​​© Julieanne Birch / Getty Images

Also known as the GR-92, the Camí de Ronda is a hiking path that travels over 500km on the Catalan coast between Portbou and Blanes. Some people spend weeks hiking this epic route, completing it in about 10 stages, but many others use the trail for day hikes, setting their sights on the calas, or small rocky coves, where you can (mostly) escape the summer crowds of the main beaches for a swim. The route follows the coast but also veers into the mountains near Begur and continues down a long beach along the Bay of Roses. 

Best section to walk on the Camí de Ronda: If you like a variety of seaside villages, you can hop on the GR-92 at Calella de Palaufrugell, starting at the Cap Roig botanical gardens, and follow the trail past the neighboring village of Llafranc and along the coast, until you reach the village of Tamariu. One-way is about 9km so you will have time to walk back if you start early, or you could get a bus back, transferring through Palaufrugell.

Local tip: You can follow the red and white trail markers to stay on the GR-92, but at times it will veer away from the coast. If you want to see more of the coast, check the map for another trail to continue on, and then you may be able to rejoin the GR-92 further down.

Distant perspective of friends paddling kayak along shore of Mediterranean Sea with sun rising over headland in background.
Grab a paddle and hit the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea © AzmanL / Getty Images

When the summer is in full swing, there is no better way to explore the Costa Brava than hopping in a kayak or on a paddleboard. Glide through the crystal clear waters on your way to examine rock stacks and hidden caves beneath the cliffs. This is the best way to find new calas, where you might be able to tie up and take a swim break. 

Best place to kayak on the Costa Brava: Leaving from Tossa de Mar, you can paddle between interesting rock formations and explore caves on the way to Cala Bona, a charming little cove with a restaurant open in the summer season.

Planning tip: Sea conditions vary depending on where you go on the coast, but there are plenty of tour guides who can lead you on the route if you don’t want to paddle alone.

It’s hard to beat the beauty of the Costa Brava’s seaside, but there is more to this part of Catalonia than just the coastline. Apple orchards, vineyards, castles, monasteries and medieval architecture can be discovered along the sprawling network of bike trails. There are plenty of hills to climb around Begur, or you could follow the old railway line, La Ruta del Tren Petit, near Palamos. One of the most popular areas for cyclists is the Parc Natural de Aigüamolls, a marshy nature reserve with leisurely trails and ample birdwatching opportunities. 

Best place to cycle on the Costa Brava: To go the distance while enjoying gorgeous Mediterranean vistas, complete the popular 40km route from Girona all the way to the coast, finishing in San Feliu de Guíxols. This is actually the second half of an even longer route that extends from Girona into the volcanic region of La Garrotxa. 

Local tip: You can get yourself and your bike around Catalonia easily with public transport services like the Teisa Bici-Bus, which is equipped with a trailer that can hold up to 20 bikes. It connects the city of Olot to Sant Feliu de Guíxols via Girona.

Woman climbing a via ferrata around a copper rock face overlooking the ocean in Costa Brava, Spain
Get your heart pounding with a climb on a via ferrata in Costa Brava © Miguel M.P / Shutterstock

Unlike normal rock climbing, a via ferrata is a fixed route that allows climbers to clip into a metal cable, ensuring safety as they scramble along the rock wall. You usually find them in high mountain areas pushing the limits of vertigo, but if you’re new to the world of via ferratas, the Costa Brava has the perfect one to start with. In Sant Feliu de Guíxols, the Cala del Molí is a cliff-hugging coastal route and the only one in Europe located directly on the sea. As you clip in and scoot along from one gravity-defying moment to another, you’ll get an up-close look at this unique ecosystem filled with birdlife. Part of the route closes during the nesting season. And don’t worry: if you decide halfway that it’s not for you, there is an exit in the middle that will take you back to the top trail.

How to do the via ferrata on the Costa Brava: If you have some experience with via ferratas, you can rent gear from Breakaway, a local outfitter in Sant Feliu de Guíxols. If not, go with a guide like Aventura Experience – one of the founders is the original builder of this via ferrata. 

Planning tip: Go in the evening to avoid getting overheated in direct sunlight. You can make a whole day of it by visiting the beaches near Palamos or Platja d’Aro in the morning.

The Mediterranean is often overlooked as a diving destination since it lacks the colorful sea life that is far more plentiful in tropical oceans. However, this historic sea does have maritime heritage in spades, and when the waters are as clear as they get on the Costa Brava, naturally you’ll find divers and snorkelers getting a peek at the underwater world. Among the Costa Brava’s rock beds and Posidonia meadows, you can see many different types of sea bream, squid and the occasional octopus. Pack a snorkel and take a peek around the beaches or calas like Sa Tuna, a small village where the buildings go right up to the coastal edge, or up in the Cap de Creus, where the park’s strange rock formations continue under the surface forming caves and other interesting shapes. Dive sites are numerous throughout the coast, but some of the biggest hubs are Tossa de Mar and L’Estartit.

Best place to go diving or snorkeling on the Costa Brava: Illes Medes is a cluster of seven islands and a protected nature reserve located just offshore from the L’Estartit. Here you are more likely to find vibrant corals and even more sea life, as well as intriguing caves and tunnels. Snorkelers can get out to the islands with a boat tour.

Local tip: The best snorkeling spots are usually just off rock coves, so pack a pair of water shoes that will protect your feet and give you more traction on slippery rocks.

Keep planning your trip to Spain:

Music up, windows down, and incredible views on these top road trips in Spain
Put these top things to do in Catalonia on your itinerary
Don’t leave anything behind with this Spain packing list

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