Its summer in Spain. The town feels abandoned. Shops are closed. Windows are covered. Spaniards are hunkered down most of the day waiting for the cool of night. Well, the Spaniards left in town. Most of them are at the beach. So, we go too!
The nearest to us is in Alicante, but there are others worth the extra half hour drive. Moraira is our current favorite; has been all year. It’s a cute town with a big expat community from England that seems to thrive year round. The beach is small and manageable, has a green space and park along it, and some rocky outcrops to explore. There are also fun cala’s – natural rocky coastlines that are fun for exploring tidepools and snorkeling. It’s’ a walkable town where we park once and forget the car exsists. We discovered it with Bethany last summer, and has remained our top choice to take family and visitors…for us its a mental break from the Spanish side of things – restaurants in Moraira open at 6pm, and most shops are open on Sundays unlike our town. The beach also has a small creek that rolls out to the sea so our kids love to splash around in there, gather the weird ‘magic sand’ that turns milky white, and build castles along the edge. We can easily spend a whole day at the Moraira beach, and usually go for a long weekend to some rental apartments.
Nearby Moraira is the pebble beach – Granadella. It’s such a nice break after days of sand in the pants. The draw here is the swimming. The water is cold and its nearly instantly deep. A fun swim out to the floating dock is the big adventure for some sunbaking and diving. There are also lots of little rocky inlets and interesting things to see from a snorkel, which Zoe especially will spend hours doing. No sand castles, but a good place to truly cool off.
Then there is Alicante beach. It’s a big city beach with the crowds to match, but the sand is nice, the stretch is long, and the beach isn’t too wide. I’m not a fan of wide beaches; I suppose I’m the only one, but I just like to be near the water and wide beaches mean a lot of walking over the baking hot backlot sand to the actual cool wet comfort of a water front stake out. In Alicante its tough to find a water front spot, but so worth it. The water is the right temp (now it’s July) and the people watching is great. There is also a beautiful historical city just behind it to explore and enjoy the port side promenade. This is the same feel we can get at most any city beach along the Costa Blanca – the area around Alicante. Big beach, nice sand, lots of people, plenty of stuff to do. It’s fine, but I prefer a bit less hustle and more nature.
South of Cartagena is another patch of enjoyable and completely different beaches. This area, just west of Bolnuevo and Mazarron, is natural and cliffy. There is a dirt road that hugs the cliff line and periodic pull offs with small walking trails down to inlets with playas (sandy beaches) or calas (rocky coastline). It’s fun to choose, and we seem to end up at the last one where there is a sandy beach but also rocky cost and some cliff areas to shade under. These, like most any areas left natural in Spain, are for naturists to enjoy, but also for the rest of us who can be respectful…or for those who may want to give it a go sans the suit, which is easily done in the hot summer sun. Rarely are there more than 4 other people on the beach. Solitude is nice!
Lastly is Valencia. It’s not my favorite for some reason. Perhaps its the drive and not the beach. This is near where we gather our American mail, so the 2 hour drive feels more like a chore than a joy, but adding a few hours at the beach turns it into a good time. Perhaps its the industrial container ships off the coast. Perhaps its the jellyfish we encountered on our first visit (haven’t seen since). We don’t actually go to Valencia beach; instead we head south of the city to the natural beaches in Saler. The first ones at the north end do have a bit of restaurant and lifeguarding and a long walk over a dune from the car park. The sand is nice, but there are odd gravelly strips that run the length along the beach and underwater…the stretches a few km south are much more comfy with easy rambles from the parking. These are way less popular, likely as they are billed as natural – all naturale, the beach, the sand, the (mostly old) people in their natural form. Its a good time. The lack of crowds is the big draw for me, but so it the lack of rocks in the sand, and the softness underfoot and shallowness that stretches farther out than the ones just up the road.
Summer in Spain means being at the beach at some point. It’s so ingrained in the culture that when I was speaking with Zoe’s teacher about some new challenges, she told me “Tranquila, es verano. Ir a la playa, y la preocupación de mañana”, or “Calm down, it’s summer. Go to the beach, and tomorrow you worry.” Good advice, Pepa. Unlike the locals, we don’t pack up and move house for two months at the shore, but we certainly get in our due time!