Last Updated on 01/14/2024
When we first moved to Spain, we had a dream to road trip to Italy. We’d make the initial long haul from Andalusia up to Costa Brava. Then, meander our way through Provence before continuing south. After a few detours in Italy, we’d eventually end up where we used to live in Naples.
We had already driven to Southwest France from Andalusia, so the plan was to go the other direction. After having a baby, suddenly strapping an infant into a carseat for the 1650 mile journey seemed less appealing than originally designed. So, the grand plan morphed into a three day trip to Costa Brava only — sigh.
I was willing to table revisiting the other destinations on the grand road trip itinerary (for now!), but not Costa Brava. I had never been before and it has been high on my list for years. Plus, the flight options are pretty convenient.
Costa Brava is just a short drive from Barcelona, but feels like a world away from the city. At times, this stretch of coastline reminded of Cinque Terre with its tiny seaside villages and hiking trail that spans between them called the Camí de Ronda. While this area is known for its beaches and swimming coves, it is also rugged and mountainous like Mallorca.
In this three day itinerary, I’ll show you how you can see the best of Costa Brava and maximize your days to visit the most beautiful towns on the coast. I’ll also highlight some amazing restaurants and places to stay along the way.
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Where to Stay in Costa Brava
I have a whole separate post on my to do list of all the amazing places to stay in Costa Brava. This region offers cozy countryside stays, luxury resorts and plenty of hotels with ocean views across its expansive coastline. These options would be best if you want to stick with the towns on this itinerary.
La Bionda – Upscale, adult only hotel in the middle of Begur. I briefly met with the owner Carla and she made a good point that other hotels might have the sea, but she has the village. Stay in one of the hotel’s 8 unique rooms in a restored 17th century building and enjoy the village life.
Hotel Aiguaclara – Boho, spacious rooms with a hotel restaurant.
Mediterrani Hotel – We stopped here for a drink and I think it would be a solid moderately priced option in Calella de Palafrugell. You’d have access to more shops and restaurants and a larger beach than other smaller towns.
Hotel Sa Tuna – We had a coffee here because it was the only place open and realized later that it was actually a hotel. Definitely the best (possibly only?) hotel in the small seaside town of Sa Tuna.
Mas Valentí 1511 – Excellent value in the countryside that is reminiscent of a Tuscan villa.
Arkhé Hotel Boutique Pals– Adult only, family run boutique hotel with only 6 rooms in Pals that offers a healthy breakfast.
I rolled the dice on a brand new hotel and booked three nights at Isabella’s in Llafranc. With a baby in tow, suddenly a hotel restaurant is very important to me and I could bet the food was pretty good since it is owned by a restaurant group.
I wanted to love it, but a few things were off. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that being a new hotel they just have some kinks to work out. I would still recommend it for people looking for a hotel in a great location with ocean views, unique design and a nice restaurant.
Day 1: Calella de Palafrugell & Llafranc
Calella de Palafrugell
I don’t know if it was the light, the retro color palette of the doors or the whole vibe, but I felt a bit like stepping into the 70s when I came around the corner and laid eyes on Calella de Palafrugell.
The ancient fishing village has several beach areas and coves perfect for a day of swimming and lounging on the beach. Along the beach, you’ll find many restaurants and viewpoints. Restaurant La Blava for paella in an old fisherman’s village. Margarita for Italian.
Take a leisurely stroll on the Camí de Ronda over to Llafranc. This trail has lots of stairs and uneven parts, but I wouldn’t say it was very strenuous.
Llafranc is a smaller neighboring village with a handful of nice shops like Takalú for clothing and jewelry, and Castañer for espadrilles. The main street also has tapas restaurants perfect for people watching by the beach and a gelato shop.
Day 2: Sa Tuna, Begur & Tamariu
I visited all three of these villages in a day, but I did not spend an excessive amount of time swimming or lounging at the beach. If you didn’t get enough beach time the day before, I would consider cutting one of the towns to have more of a leisure day.
Sa Tuna is one of the smaller towns along the Costa Brava, but certainly one of the most charming and picturesque. Between the small beach, the tower, and trail along the water front, Sa Tuna was really giving me Vernazza vibes in Cinque Terre. There’s only a handful of cafes and each one spills out onto the sidewalk, almost blending into the sand.
Walk along the Camí de Ronda trail to discover stairs that lead to a swimming spot and lovely vacation homes. After the stroll, we chose to have a coffee at the Sa Tuna Hotel.
Sitting at the cafe, I was curious about the tower that sits on top of the incline. When I googled it, I discovered it is a private residence complete with 8 bedrooms and an indoor/outdoor pool at the base of the tower. See the old real estate listing here if you love a unique property as much as I do!
I parked at this parking lot located here, and it was almost full on a morning in late May. Next, we took our journey inland to Begur.
This village in the hills is worth a stop for short stroll around the shops and cafes. If you’re ambitious and feeling up for a fitness challenge (I declined), you could also climb to the castle. I bet the views are incredible from the top!
Back in town, visit the church Sant Pere de Beugr. While there has been a church on the site since 1279, it has been rebuilt several times over the centuries. Most recently, it suffered damage from a fire during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
We passed by Hostalet dels Indians B&B and saw a bunch of people enjoying a drink on their nice back patio. So we joined them (frequent stops to feed a baby!), but saved your appetite for Mooma.
Lunch at Mooma
Find a parking space as you drive through the apple orchard and walk up the restaurant with plenty of indoor/outdoor patio space. When we ordered the prix fixe menu and selected the starter, our server clarified, “You get all of the starters to share. You don’t have to choose one.” I was perplexed at first, then thrilled I wasn’t faced with such decisions. All of the courses were fresh, apple themed and delicious. Don’t forget to take some cider to go from the store.
Check out the menu and be sure to make a reservation.
If you have time, stop by this pretty town in the late afternoon. Tamariu offers more options for dining and shopping than some of its neighbors. Follow the picturesque trail from the beach to the opposite facing rocky coves. Get in the queue for the diving board if you want to go for a swim.
Day 3: Cadaqués
Although Costa Brava is also a popular weekend getaway for people from Barcelona, Cadaqués has long been a hot vacation spot for the French since it is so close to the border. The city was one of my favorite stops, so I can see why. It offers beautiful beaches, quaint boutiques, endless restaurants, viewpoints and a nice promenade along the water front.
It had the feeling of a different decade too like Calella de Palafrugell, but this time more in the 90s or early aughts. The emphasis felt like it was centered around a family vacation and not lining up to take a photo at some iconic IG spot.
Meander along the path that runs parallel to the water. You’ll pass lots of restaurants, shops, smaller beaches and swimming spots. I hope you have room in your luggage because Cadaqués was full of nice shops with treasures you’ll want to bring home. Start at Colmado for baskets and homewares.
There are two bars right on the beach and we were lucky to get a table at Maritim for a drink. They were slammed and understaffed (welcome to summer in the Mediterranean) so the service wasn’t anything to write home about. We weren’t in a rush though (again with the frequent baby feedings) so I wasn’t bothered.
For a full meal, I’ve heard good things about Restaurant Es Baluard, Talla and Restaurant CasaNun. Compartir is also a well-known elevated tapas restaurant with a modern tasting menu designed for sharing.
If you’re coming for the day, I would recommend getting there early as the main parking lot does fill up. And, when we left it was full, leaving a long line of cars backed up and blocking the main thoroughfare.
Recommendations for Salvador Dalí Fans
Costa Brava is also known as the home of the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. You can visit his residence in Port Lligat (now known as the Salvador Dalí House Museum), his wife’s home of Púbol Castle, and the Dalí Theatre & Museum in Figueres.
What started as a small fisherman’s hut in Port Lligat eventually sprawled to a series of rooms and studios over the decades. With the exception of his time in the United States (starting with the outbreak of Spanish Civil War to 1948), Dalí worked and lived in his Port Lligat residence until 1982. After his wife’s death, he moved to Púbol Castle. Dalí bought the medieval castle for his wife in 1969.
The Dalí Theatre & Museum is consider to be the last great work of Dalí. Over 1500 works of paining, sculptures, photographs and pieces of art are on display.
How to get to Costa Brava
The largest airport that serves the most airlines is Barcelona El Prat, but also don’t overlook the Girona airport. High speed trains within in Spain and the TGV from France arrive at the Girona and Figueres train stations.
Like a road trip in Tuscany, you really need a car to visit most of the towns. I rented a car from Barcelona. I like to use Rentalcars.com to compare the best prices, and have had good experiences with Centauro rental cars.
How long do I need in Costa Brava?
Keep in mind this area is huge and you could easily spend 2 weeks leisurely spending days at the beach and hiking from town to town. Alternatively, you could also just book a day trip from Barcelona. So, this really depends on your style of travel, budget and vacation days.
I found three nights to be perfect. I would have liked to visit Tossa de Mar, spent a day in Girona, and taken some of the longer hikes in between towns though. I will have to tackle those next time, sans baby when I can fully execute the grand road trip plan.