Costa Brava - the Region, travel, accommodation and food

Some background to our special report on waterbased activities along the Costa Brava coast - links to more sections are at the foot of this page.

If one word can describe what Catalonia has to offer the tourist, the word is diversity, for this is a country of multiple landscapes and a vast and varied range of facilities and resources. As proof, we only need remember that it is possible to drive from the sea to the snow in just 90 minutes.

Catalonia’s main tourist resources are: sun and sand; food and drink; art, culture and museums; sport and skiing; theatre and music; spas. The people are open and hardworking and also enjoy a good sense of humour. During our trip to look at the watersports that are available we saw a wonderful landscape of fields full of sunflowers or cereal crops and hundreds of acres of orchards growing delicious apples. The small inland towns are mainly gatherings of old houses surrounding ancient churches. The feeling is often that of being in the familiar countryside of Devon rather than the green sweep of Catalunia.

Castles dot the hilltops and the coast has its watchtowers built to signal the raids of pirates who made the seas dangerous for all travellers. Today the region is free of pirates and is very crime free when compared to the more southerly regions of Spain.

The Costa Brava proper runs through Selva, Baix Empordà and Alt Empordà counties. Situated at the point where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean Sea, this holiday region satisfies all the requisites of modern tourism within a radius of under 120 kilometres.
The coast is characterised by its small, secluded coves, where pinewoods often grow right down to the shore. There are several protected areas in the Costa Brava zone, including Cape Creus, the Medes Islands and the Empordà wetlands, as well as important culinary and cultural heritage sites (Empúries).

We travelled from Heathrow to Barcelona but there are many other low cost air travel options. Flights from the UK also go to Girona and offer a shorter transfer to the northern parts of the Costa Brava. The roads in June are quiet once you get away from the rush of cars around Barcelona. The motorways are well built and are all toll roads, many Catalunians object to them because the tolls that are paid go to the central government and not to the regional administration. As such the locals try to avoid the toll roads thereby reducing the volume of traffic. Cheap car hire is widely available especially in low season.

We had the chance to try a Catalunian campsite for the first time on this trip and found it to be a very relaxing few days. The object was to spend two days with the PWA World Windsurfing Championship who were based at La Ballena Alegre 2. The tour was using the campsite as a base and the competition was run on the beautiful beach less than a few metres from the nearest tent or bungalow.
Facilities are very good and the site offers everything you need to keep yourself occupied and fed. The PWA Wind surfers loved the place because it had so much to do away from the events themselves. Sadly the day that was selected for a full on session watching and photographing the heats we had no wind! On a coast where you can almost set your watch to the rise of the thermic winds we managed to pick a day when nothing blew. The manager at the Club Mistral windsurfing centre was very sure that we would not see a windsurfer so we decided to just relax and enjoy the chance to catch up on food and sleep.

Food! We had arrived in the middle of the regional gastronomic festival and I think that I ate the four best meals I have ever had in Spain.
The first was in L’Escala at Restaurant La Gruta, I won’t dwell on a detailed description but in traditional Catalunian style we enjoyed a Pica Pica made up of 6 different courses with local bread and wine followed by Rack of Lamb or a choice of Fish - fantastic quality and stunning tastes.
The other meals were at La Dalfo in L’Estartit, a fantastic meal made up entirely of seafood, the next meal was at Santa Susanna in the new Village Mercury Restaurant, great food and still more diverse in style and taste. The final meal of note was in one of the Santa Susanna beachfront hotels where we had a mix of seafood Pica’s followed by a paella.
The range of food on offer to the visitor stretches from Burger King to local family run restaurants of all descriptions and price levels. Where possible I recommend that you use the local places and try to eat what is caught and cooked fresh, it tastes wonderful!

When to go - The best time to go is late May through to the end of June and then from earley September until the end of October. The late season sea temperatures are still good and the crowds have gone home leaving you to enjoy a peaceful and relaxed time along the rugged Costa Brava.

Follow the links below for more information about the region and the watersport activities that are available -

L’Estartit and the Ille de Medes - Roses -Santa Susanna

Links to organisations and activity centres

Estacio Nautica L'estartit
Catalonia Tourist Board
Club Mistral
La Ballena Campsite

Etacio Nautica Santa Susanna -Email -