Biking Costa Brava - Spain’s Incredible Northern Coastline
Earlier this year, like most people, I was dreaming of taking off and travelling somewhere amazing for the summer. I was looking to get out of the city, be near a beach and do something a little bit crazy. I wasn’t sure what that looked like, but I was literally open to anything that had the combination of those 3 things (not a city, on a beach, some crazy aspect to the trip). After doing a ton of research, I found the Costa Brava region just north of Barcelona. It looked stunning. Rugged cliffs dropping into crystal clear blue water. Perfect picturesque villages right on the water. Colorful fishing boats lining the beaches. You get the picture… I decided biking the coast of Spain making stops in villages along the route would be amazing. Looking through pictures (and google map street view lol), it looked like an incredible ride - small winding roads through the mountains and along the ocean. Dirt roads through cornfields. I was sold. This was what I was doing. I was also going to do it solo!
I flew into Barcelona, and spent 4 days in the city before taking the train to Blanes to start my bike journey. I had a few *small* mishaps in Barcelona - one of which was being pickpocketed at a restaurant the second day I arrived. Thankfully the lady only snatched my phone (definitely still really sucked) - it would have been worse if she grabbed my wallet or passport though! Shit happens and life moves on so I wasn't going to let it ruin my trip. I obviously needed a new phone for my trip so I went to the Apple store and bought a new iPhone. My plan was to use it for the duration of the trip then return it before flying back to the US since I wasn’t sure what insurance I had with my network carrier. Turns out, I was paying an additional $5 dollars a month for insurance and I only had to pay a $250 deductible to get a replacement (way better than $1200!!!).
I’ll get into the exact route, details of each town I went to and the whole bike trip below, but basically, I started my route in Blanes which is technically the closest town from Barcelona in the Costa Brava region. The first day biking, I was on my way to Lloret de Mar (my first stop on the trip) with my HUGE 60lbs backpack on the back of my bike and was thinking “WTF am I doing - can I really do this??”. HAHA! I always say though, if something doesn’t scare you or take you out of your comfort zone, is it really worth doing?? Sometimes I guess, but there’s something so fulfilling doing something that challenges you!!
When I travel, I like to leave as much room for spontaneity as possible - sometimes not even booking hotels until I get to my destination (Hotel Tonight is my best friend haha). I did need to plan out a bit of my route though so I wasn’t stranded - especially since it was high season in Spain. At first I thought I’d just spend 1 day in each city, but after doing some research, I decided to spend 1-3 days in each town and make that home base as I explored around the area before biking to the next destination. The exact route I decided on is below.
Blanes -> Lloret de Mar (2 days) -> Tossa de Mar (2 days) -> Calella de Palafrugell / Llafranc (4 days) -> Pals (1 day) -> Girona (1 day)
1st stop: Blanes
I really didn’t spend any time in Blanes other than to bike to Lloret De Mar. I was told besides nightlife, there wasn’t much to do here and the other stops on my route were so much better - to me, Blanes felt like a less attractive Lloret de Mar.
2nd stop: Lloret De Mar (2 days)
Lloret de Mar was really my first stop on this trip - biking into the town and then riding along the beach was SO EXCITING. It was the first time I really felt like “wow, I’m really doing this!!”. Before checking into my hostel, I went to the beach, grabbed some tapas and just walked around.
Where I stayed: Loft Hotal ($35 a night)
This was basically your typical hostel. Nothing special really. I shared a room with 4 people. The hostel was super clean which was great. It was 3-4 blocks from the beach (very central location). I would definitely recommend if you’re travelling solo and on a budget.
Where I ate
This spot was INCREDIBLE. It’s a hole-in-the wall spot with some of the best paella I had on the trip.
Great local spot with some amazing tapas. The sangria here was fantastic!
Where I swam
Casa sa Boadella
This was my favorite beach near Lloret de Mar (pictured above)! The views were spectacular, the water was crystal clear and there were rocks that you could jump off into the water. Make sure you hike up to the lookout point here (you’ll see a sign that says “Playa de Santa Cristina” which is another beach that you can walk to) NOTE: part of this beach is fully nude. Not just topless.
Sa Caleta Lloret
This beach was all the way on the north side of Lloret de Mar - it’s a super small cove which I found to be incredibly beautiful!
Platja de Lloret de Mar
This is the beach right on the town. I came here my first day. I’d recommend going to the beaches above if you’re looking for less crowds and clearer water. If you just want to jump in the ocean before dinner and want somewhere closer, this is your spot.
Playa de Santa Cristina
Watchman’s path - Not a beach, but it’s a hike with a few beautiful coves you can swim in!
3rd stop: Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar was truly stunning! Like most towns in Costa Brava, it’s lined right on the beach. One thing that makes Tossa so remarkable is Villa Vella, the medieval old town that sits at the end of the city that you can see from almost every part of the city. Walking through Villa Vella is like being transported to the 14th century when it was built. It’s the last fortified medieval town still standing on the Catalan coast!
Where I stayed: Hotel Florida ($90 a night)
I absolutely loved my stay at Hotel Florida - the location was perfect (just a block away from the beach). The staff was incredibly friendly, the room had a cute balcony overlooking Tossa and they provided free breakfast every morning. They even had a rooftop with 2 jacuzzis. It reminded me of a retro-y 80’s hotel. Would 100% recommend!
Where I ate
Lounge Bar Veramar
I stumbled upon this place walking from my hotel to the beach. The exterior looked super cute and they had a huge sign that said “Happy Hour” so naturally I had to stop in and grab a drink. The outdoor seating area here had a stunning view of Villa Vella (pictured above) and was relaxing. All around good vibes at this spot!
I visited Portal Restaurant for dinner the first day I got to Tossa. This spot was easily my favorite meal I had in Tossa de Mar!! They took traditional Mediterranean cuisine and gave it a fun twist: think lamp tacos, cod croquettes and swordfish tataki. If you could only go to one restaurant in Tossa, I’d make it this one!
Dinner at La Lluna
Okay, I know I said Portal Restaurant was my favorite restaurant in Tossa de Mar… But La Lluna wins for all around vibe and ambience! The food is amazing too. This spot is an all around fairytale at golden hour too (see photo above). UGH - I’m still dreaming about this place.
Banys Claudi bar
Bar Don Juan
Where I swam
Playa Es Codolar
Playa Es Codolar is a small, sandy, secluded cove beneath the old town (the castle walls pretty much line this beach). I preferred this beach MUCH more than the main beach in Tossa. Not to say the main beach isn’t beautiful, I just found this spot incredible.
Cala Pola (pictured above) is a 30 minute ride (13 minutes by car) from downtown Tossa. Once you get to the entrance of the beach, you have to hike down a steep path about 10 minutes before you reach this stunning cove. Truly one of the most beautiful beaches I visited on this trip. Definitely harder to get to than the others, but so worth it.
Cala del Senyor Ramon
I visited Cala del Senyor Ramon (pictured above) as I was biking to Llafranc as it was on the way from Tossa. The bike ride through this section was incredibly difficult so I made it a stop to rest my legs for a few hours and relax on the beach.
4th Stop: Llafranc & Calella de Palafrugell
Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell were probably the highlight of my trip - both these towns are active fishing villages and are incredibly beautiful!! I actually extended my trip an additional 2 days here because I was enjoying myself so much and felt like I needed more time to explore and eat at all the places I had saved on my map. Calella and Llafranc sit next to each other right on the ocean. There’s a walking path that takes about 15 minutes and connects both the towns. Calella and Llafranc both had incredible beaches, but I found the small hidden coves along the rocky coastline to be where I spent most of my time!
Where I stayed: Terralet Llafranc ($100 a night)
Terralet Llafranc is is in between a hostel and a hotel. I had my own room which was super cosy, clean and everything I needed. The hostel/hotel had a super modern and minimalist look. They offered breakfast every morning and yoga on the roof 3 times a week. I really loved my stay here and would definitely book again!
Where I ate
This was one of my favorite restaurants on my trip! I went back twice!! The restaurant is right on the water and is SO stunning - honestly such a vibe. The food was incredible too - my favorite was their tomato gazpacho and the octopus. They also had the best house white wine! I honestly should have just ordered the whole bottle!
Chez Tomas is a bit more inland (and by inland, I mean 3 or 4 blocks from the beach). They offered ½ sized tapas which was perfect for me since I was just 1 person and wanted to try as many things as possible.
Llevant is a restaurant inside of the Llevant Hotel in Llafranc. The restaurant looks out to the water and is a great spot to kick back and relax. I had breakfast and dinner here. The breakfast was super simple and fresh (best fresh squeezed OJ I had in Spain). The dinner was one of the more “fancy” places I visited on my trip. I had stuffed squid, foie gras and and other amazing gastronomical dishes the restaurant prepared. The foie gras was hands down my favorite dish here!!
Sol I mar Calella
Right on the beach - literally steps from the sand! Sol I Mar Calella serves up your traditional tapas (offers 1/2 sized tapas). I ordered the octopus and razor clams which were both incredible. The service here was also amazing!!
5th Stop: Pals
Pals is a small medieval village up on a hill inland on the way to Girona from Llafranc. You can actually get to Girona a bit quicker without visiting Pals via a different route, but if you have a hybrid bike, I 100% recommend going to Pals from Llafranc as the route is through cornfields and smaller medieval villages - truly a magical ride!!
6th Stop: Girona
Girona was my last stop before heading back to Barcelona. Unlike the other towns I visited on this trip, Girona was inland. It’s known for its medieval architecture, stunning churches, and narrow winding stone streets. Something that I didn’t realize until I got here was that a ton of the 6th season of Game of Thrones was actually filmed in the city!! I definitely recognized a few spots from the show which was super fun!!
Where I ate
La Fabrica is a little bike cafe (lots of cyclists stop in before taking of on their bike trips - I fit right it) located in the old town of Girona. It’s your classic Australian brunch spot that serves up amazing avocado toast and other tasty brunch items. The coffee was amazing here too considering there was really no good coffee in the other towns I visited.
Probably the most picturesque restaurant I’ve ever been too!! La Bistro is lcoated right below the steps of Sant Martí Sacosta (featured in Game of Thrones). Such a memorable meal!!!
Another really cute coffeeshop in Girona that roasts their own beans! I loved the cortado I had here - very cute outdoor seating too!
The Details for planning your bike trip!
I rented my bike from Bike Breaks in Girona: https://www.gironacyclecentre.com/.
I rented the Cannondale Quick Hybrid which cost me 125 euros for 11 days.
If you’re a serious cyclist, you may prefer a road bike, but I found much more freedom and flexibility with a bike that could do both pavement and dirt roads. Some of the roads (specifically between Calella de Palafrugell and Girona) are dirt and gravel so just make sure you’re careful with the route you take if you decide to go with a road bike.
Bike Breaks offered delivery to my starting destination (Blanes) which cost me 90 euros. My final destination was Girona so I dropped the bike off in person a the bike shop. If your final destination is elsewhere, Bike Breaks does offer pickup.
Make sure you have a bike rack for your bike (and bungee cords to secure it on the rack!! I picked these up in Lloret de Mar). You definitely don't want anything on your back while biking.
I definitely wasn’t frugal when it came to my meals, but I didn’t pay more than 25 euros anywhere for dinner (that included wine and multiple tapas). I’d average about 15-20 euros for dinner each night. You could definitely spend less if you wanted to.
Make sure you carry a bit of cash with you on the train from Barcelona to Blanes. The train drops you off outside the town and there’s a bus transfer that costs 2 euros. I didn’t have cash and there were no ATM’s at the train station. The bus driver graciously let me on for free (THANK YOU SIR)!
This ride is definitely no walk in the park, but not being an avid cyclist shouldn’t deter you from giving it a go. If you’re decently in shape, and give yourself a few weeks to train (3-4), you’ll definitely be able to do the trip. Will it be easy? No… But what’s something worth doing that’s easy? Amiright?? I prepped for the trip by doing 20-30 minute HIIT training + 10-15 minute incline training on a stationary bike 3 times a week for 4ish weeks.
There are plenty of places to take rests and stop if you need a break - I definitely took a few swimming breaks in between stops.
The hardest section was between Tossa De Mar and Sant Feliu de Guíxols. The views were incredible, but those inclines were ROUGH!
If you have any other questions, shoot me an email!! More than happy to help / give some more recommendations: firstname.lastname@example.org!!
Here to your next adventure!!