Sand, surf, sun and fun: Euro beach destinations
Humans have always had a connection to the ocean. Whether for work, food, leisure or adventure, many of us are drawn to its magic. Duty in Europe provides an opportunity to experience a variety of beaches no matter what atmosphere you’re seeking. Bargain airline companies and trains offer reasonable rates to nearby locations such as Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal—and many destinations are no more than a couple of hours away.
Beaches of Greece are often featured in magazines, but the beach near Souda Bay in Crete is amazing at night. Looking up into the clear sky, the stars look like diamonds on black velvet and the hypnotic sound of the waves lapping the shore soothes the soul—these beaches offer a romantic escape for a nighttime walk.
Elia Beach on the Greek island of Mykonos is beautiful and clean and offers a nice family atmosphere. The beach has umbrellas and lounge chairs to provide relaxation and shade when you want it. If you’re up for some exercise, this hilly landscape can help you get a bit of cardio. There is a nudist section to the right of the beach, but families gravitate toward the middle.
Sorrento, Italy is a cliff-side gem. Follow the twisted, mountainous road from the Capodichino area of Naples and experience breathtaking views of blue ocean contrasted by white village structures and stunning colorful flowers. The artisan shops of Sorrento boast exclusive “Made in Italy” items. Famous for its exquisitely inlaid wood music boxes, some local shops even allow customers to watch the wood inlay work in progress. If you enjoy restaurants, shopping, beachfront and cliff-side views, Sorrento is amazing—camera required!
If you’re looking for the party scene, Ibiza, Spain is the spot. Just three hours from mainland Spain, this tiny island of more than 88,000 inhabitants boasts seven major clubs in addition to a plethora of smaller clubs and bars. Club Amnesia is located in the center of the island near San Rafael and is host to popular parties such as Cocoon, Cream, Matinee and Foam. The parties typically cost from 40 to 50 euro, and regular club entry fees run between 25 and 40 euro. Drinks will cost you from 10 to 15 euro each, with the cost of water at 8 euro. Forget the hot sweaty club atmosphere—Club Amnesia features two massive “ice cannons” that blast cool air at regular intervals. If you want to stay near the airport, club DC10 is for you. With the symbol of a crazy clown, this rave scene club is relatively cheap. During their Circo Loco and Pandemonium parties, the club charges 30 euro, but the regular price is 20 euro with drinks from 5 to 10 euro. Although Es Pardis has been around for more than 40 years, it is still a very attractive night spot; as its name suggests the atmosphere is glamorous. The club is famous for its Water Parties, pyramid roof and fancy decoration. Entry costs between 20 and 25 euro, with drinks ranging from 7 to 10 euro. While these clubs are just a sampling of the party scene at Ibiza, you won’t want to miss the beaches and local beach bars.
Tarifa, Spain is for surfers, offering traditional, wind and kite surfing. In fact, Tarifa has a reputation as the wind surfing capital of the world. The beach features beautiful wide, white sand and lots of sun. After all the sun and fun, there are plenty of restaurants and shops to enjoy.
Both Rota and Cadiz, Spain offer very nice stretches of beach to enjoy. The local areas have plenty of restaurants and bars as well as opportunities to shop.
If you’re new to Spanish beaches be aware that Spanish women are not as modest as Americans, and women of all ages go topless at the beach. Spanish stores close for dinner, so don’t expect to get any shopping done during dinner hours. While you’re visiting the beaches (as always), it is wise to keep valuables at a minimum and either leave them at home or lock them in the trunk and out of sight.
For the naturists seeking an “all-over tan,” Côte d’Argent, France is well suited. The beach at Euronat provides beach cafés, supervised swimming and a nice, wide stretch of sand to enjoy. Camping spots are available from just 20 euro.
France also offers its own windsurfing mecca. Nestled just 4 kilometers from Hyères, near the town of Giens, kite-surfers, windsurfers and boogie boarders can enjoy an area set aside for their respective sports, with calmer waters available for paddleboards and kayaks. Hotels here cost more than 120 euro per night.
For a laidback atmosphere that families can enjoy, head to Argelès Plage, France. Smooth, golden sand and clear blue waters along with a kids’ beach club and marina make this a great family destination. Camping is available starting at 30 euro per night. Another kid-friendly beach in France is Beaulieu-sur-Mer. This beach offers a shallow stretch of water as well as a floating trampoline for those able to swim out to it. Double-occupancy hotels start at 80 euro per night.
If you visit Portugal you will want to have your camera on hand. The beaches are stunning and the colorful boats and island atmosphere beg to be photographed. Praia da Dona Ana just south of Lagos is best visited during the tourist off-season. During the summer, the beach is so popular it is difficult to fully enjoy its beauty.
Surfers and other water sport enthusiasts will be able to make the most of their sport at Praia da Ilha de Tavira, Portugal (or Praia das Cascas, as locals call it). Just a few minutes from Tavira by boat (departing from Quatro Aguas at the old market) visitors can enjoy the freedom of a nude beach. Another popular surfing beach in Portugal is Praia do Amado of Algarve. This beach also boasts an internationally renowned surfing school.
Photographers flock to Praia dos Barcos in Albufeira where colorful fishing boats lace the rocky edge of the beach. A tunnel near the tourism office leads to this beach. Families will enjoy Praia da Sao Rafael; its shallow blue waters and sandy beaches make it an ideal spot for snorkelling and exploring local caves.
Whatever draws you to the beautiful beaches of Europe, you won’t leave disappointed if you know where to find what you want.