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Cala—meaning creek, cove or small bay—is a delightful word, bursting with summer sun and turquoise waters, paradise bays and smuggler’s secrets. It personifies the unique, picture-perfect coves of the Costa Brava, concealed within the intricate contortion of rugged coastline that stretches from Blanes to the French border.
In the first of a two-part series, we present our recommendations for exploring some super calas of the Costa Brava—big, small, known and lesser-known.
Starting from the south...
Cala de Sant Francesc - Blanes.
2km north of Blanes lies Cala Sant Francesc, the finest beach in the area. Within an hour’s drive of Barcelona and easily reached by public transport, it may also be one of the most accessible. Although the surrounding hillsides are built-up, this tranquil, family-friendly cove is largely unspoilt and boasts crystalline waters, ideal for swimming.
Cala del Senyor Ramon (also known as Corcollada) - Santa Cristina d’Aro
Dramatic rugged cliffs set a stunning backdrop for Cala del Senyor Ramon, whose namesake remains a mystery. This is the largest cala between Tossa de Mar and Sant Feliu de Guíxols, yet it is relatively unknown to tourists and subsequently quite sparsely populated, possibly due to the lengthy winding path that leads down from the car park.
Cala de Roques Planes - Sant Antoni de Calonge
You may find yourself stuck, quite literally, between a rock and a hard place here, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. Eroded by the elements over thousands of years, the smooth, rounded granite formations of this unique cala create a warm, sun-soaked solarium and perfect rock pools for swimming and snorkelling. Add a handful of islets dotted just off the rocky headland and this makes for one of the most unforgettable calas along the Costa Brava.
Calas of Begur
All within a 3km radius of the historic hilltop town, the headland of Begur is home to some of the finest calas along the coast, each with a distinct character and all bursting with natural beauty. Starting from the south, the eight calas include picture-perfect Aiguablava, the tiny coves of Fornells, the hidden beauty of Platja Fonda, followed by the fishing village and stony beach of Sa Tuna. Continuing north, the pier of Aiguafreda is a popular stop for boats, whilst Sa Riera is one of the largest beaches in the area. Finally, the nudist beach of Illa Roja and the adjacent Cala Moreta represent the emblematic image of the Costa Brava, dominated by a rocky islet just offshore.
Cala Taballera - Port de la Selva
For those looking to leave the beaten track behind, Cala Taballera offers solitude on the rugged headland of Cap de Creus. This untouched, pebbly beach boasts shallow, crystal-clear waters surrounded by a rocky wilderness, typical of the area. Unless you’re in a four-wheel drive, it is best to arrive by boat or on foot, following the GR 11 footpath from Port de la Selva for around two hours.
A WEEKEND IN BEGUR
Located in the Baix Empordá area of the Costa Brava, the charming village of Begur makes for a fine weekend getaway, ideally located for exploring some of the most beautiful calas; perfect turquoise bays that represent the very essence of the Costa Brava. Despite being a hot spot for tourism, the enchanting village centre retains its historic character. A labyrinth of quaint narrow streets buzz with holiday spirit around the Plaça de la Vila, the church of Sant Pere de Begur, and the town hall, whilst the 11th-century hilltop castle casts a watchful eye over the town and offers superb vistas over the surrounding countryside.
This is the chic face of the Costa Brava, where world-class cuisine and cool cocktails replace expat pubs and all-day breakfasts. In the summer months, the area’s population can swell by up to ten times, catering for nearly 40,000 visitors in accommodation ranging from 19th century mansions built by rich merchants, to fishermen’s houses and sleek contemporary hideaways.
Getting there: Begur is 136km from Barcelona, best reached by car (approximately 1.5 hours). Sarfa runs three bus services per day between Barcelona’s Estació Nord (or El Prat Airport) and Begur, which take 2.5 hours (€19.50 one way). Once there, private transport enables greater flexibility for discovering the local area, although it is possible to traverse the nearby calas on foot via the Camí de Ronda, or by catching a local hourly bus to the beach.
Sleeping: Although this is the higher end of the tourist trail, there’s still something to suit all budgets in Begur and the surrounding areas. For penny pinchers or family fun, try the well-equipped and naturally shaded Camping El Maset, located moments from the sandy cove of Sa Riera. At the other end of the scale, find beachfront boutiques and tasty Catalan cuisine at Sa Rascassa, set in the fishermen’s cala of Sa Tuna, revel in nature at the 17th-century El Convent, or sample village life in the Aiguaclara Hotel, housed within a colonial-style mansion dating from 1866.
Eating and drinking: Feast on incredible fresh fish at the tiny, traditional Casa Juanita, hearty Catalan classics at Fonda Caner, or popular pizzas at La Pizzeta. Continue the party Cuban-style with live music and mojitos at La Bodeguita Del Medio, some chilled-out al fresco cocktails beneath the hanging lanterns at Croak or in the hidden gardens of La Lluna.