A winter break on the Costa Brava

By Joan Lewis, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Costa Brava.

Overall rating:4.0 out of 5 (based on 2 votes)
Enjoyable
4
4.0
Useful
4
4.0
Inspirational
3.5
3.5
Recommended for:
Beach, Short Break, Winter Sun, Mid-range

When the nights draw in, the Costa Brava may not seem the obvious place for a break, but believe me it still has an awful lot to offer

Ever since I realised that the Costa Brava is much more than a series of high rise hotels, I have set out to discover its year-round charms. I love to go there in summer to swim in its hidden coves, but a short break out of season can be just as rewarding. The only trouble I have is in choosing which of my two favourite Catalonian hotels to stay in.

Open all year

There's nothing more depressing than a seaside resort that has closed down for the winter. Even if you find a hotel, it is often surrounded by boarded up bars and restaurants. That is why I love to stay at the Parador de Aiguablava (Platja Aiguablava, Begur; 00 34 972622162). This beautiful, modern hotel is not only open year round, but it is a place where you would be happy to spend the whole day, come rain or shine. The interior spaces are so elegant. A large central fireplace in the bar area would cheer the coldest of winter days, and you can get light meals here as an alternative to the main restaurant. Every bedroom is designed with a balcony and sea view. On an earlier visit we could watch the sun rise over the open sea. This time our room faced west towards Fornells Harbour, with the sea washing against the rocks below us. Standard rooms start at 148 euro, plus 17 euro for breakfast. Parador de Aiguablava offer excellent special deals for young and old, but be sure to book early, as they are not always available.

Coastal path

We chose to visit in early November, hoping to catch a last swim in the clear emerald waters.  Alas, although the sun still shone, recent winds had cooled the sea, and we had to resort to the hotel's sauna. There were compensations however. In June we struggled to explore the tiny coves, almost overcome by the heat. Now we could spend hours following the coastal path (cami de ronda) around pine covered cliffs, dropping down into sandy coves, tiny fishing ports, or larger bays like those of Tamariu, Llafranc and Calella di Palafrugell.

Panorama

I recommend a drive to El  Far de San Sebastian,  a lighthouse near Llafranc, for stunning views over the whole area.

Cap Roig

The red cliffs of Cap Roig, famous for their botanical gardens, are an impressive sight. We chose to approach the gardens via the cami de ronda, setting off from Calella. They were first planted in 1927 by a Russian colonel and his English wife and are a labour of love in a glorious coastal setting. Entry costs six euro, but I guarantee you won't begrudge it. In early November we saw bougainvilleas flowering in pinks and reds, contrasting with the tall orange flowers of "lion's tail". I can imagine how splendid the gardens will look in spring and summer, and hope to return. A music festival is held here in summer, and sculptures are on display all year round.

Jardins de Cap Roig, Calella de Palafrugell; 0034972614582; wwwcaproig.cat

Seaside restaurants

In Calella, restaurant staff were setting out tables in the sun. A number of restaurants here offer fresh fish, and a sea view. We particularly like Restaurant Tony's, where you can almost wiggle your toes in the sand, and the food is simple but expertly cooked.

Restaurant Tony's, C. de Les Voltes, 917210 Calella de Palafrugell; 0034 972 614 127.

Inland villages

Not far inland you can discover pretty villages built of reddish golden stone. Monells has an impressive arcade around a cobbled square. At Peratallada there is a medieval castle. We ate very well here at L'Arc Vell (Placa Castell, Peratallada; 0034 972634080). Many restaurants in Spain offer an all inclusive menu. We enjoyed a three course meal, including paella, a fine cava, coffee and mineral water for 25 euro each - excellent value and quality for a tourist location.

The town of  La Bisbal is a cornucopia of bric-a-brac shops and outlets for local, brightly coloured ceramics. If, like me, you fall in love with a giant bowl, it can always be shipped.

An alternative winter choice

My second favourite spot on the Costa Brava is Cadaques. Made famous by the surrealist painter Dali, this town has a year round buzz that I really love.

Hotel Rocamar (Dr Baromeus, Cadaques; 0034 97258150) stands on a headland above the town. It is the kind of family owned hotel that refuses to lose its individual identity, and I love it. It has a truly Spanish feel. Its highly polished terracotta floors reflect  the hotel's antique furniture, leather sofas and ceramics. What's more, even if it is too cold for tennis or the outdoor pool, the heated indoor pool and two saunas are freely available.

Make sure you opt for a sea view room (from 109 Euro, including breakfast). It is magical to sit on the balcony on a mild winter night, and watch the stars coming out over the murmuring ocean.

A large part of the fun of Cadaques comes from enjoying the cafés, bars and restaurants around the bay, and in the small cobbled streets behind.

We always eat at Casa Nun (Placa Port Dixos, Cadaques; 0034972258856) which offers a wide choice and a good set menu at 17 euro including a bottle of excellent house wine. If it is warm, try and get a table outside overlooking the bay.

And of course, no visit would be complete without visiting the home of Dali and his muse Gala just around the headland in Portlligat. This very special museum is open all year round. Entry is 10 euro. Advance booking is essential - we were once turned away. Tel: 0034 972251015

So how do I resolve my hotel dilemma? Obviously next time I shall just have to spend a couple of days at each.

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More information on A winter break on the Costa Brava:

Author:
Joan Lewis
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4
Average: 4 (2 votes)
Total views:
578
First uploaded:
12 November 2009
Last updated:
5 years 5 weeks 4 days 10 hours 53 min 5 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Beach, Short Break, Winter Sun
Budget level:
Mid-range
Free tags / Keywords:
botanical gardens, Coastal path walking

Joan recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Hotel Rocamar
£97
4.6
2. Parador De Aiguablava
£90
4.0

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Community comments (2)

Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

You had happy memories when reading my guide to Soller so I looked to see what you had written. Likewise, I love this part of the Costa Brava so enjoyed reading about all the little towns and villages along this beautiful coastline. We have even been to the same restaurants! Your guide sums it all up perfectly.

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Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Joan, you obviously know and love the Costa Brava and this passion shows in your guide. Touches such as recommending where to sit in a restaurant or which type of room to ask for in a hotel demonstrate this and I think that you could have almost written two guides - one on each of your favourite spots. This would have allowed you to go into more detail in parts of your guide.

Do any other readers visit the Costa Brava as a winter sun destination? Do you agree with Joan's recommendations or can you add any below? Thanks.

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