Our Pick of The Best San Sebastian Beaches
Bountiful beaches bedeck the Basque Bay of Biscay
Adorning a sparkling bay in the north-eastern corner of Spain lies the quaint yet elegant town of San Sebastian, or Donostia for you native speakers. It’s a great place to try and practice your Spanish, only to realise the language here is Basque (although you should get by with the former). The town is known for its famous film festival, elevating it to a status fast approaching that of Cannes in terms of prestige and glamour. But it also has a charming historic district dotted with cobbled lanes and crumbling buildings. So you can mix up a bit of designer shopping and upmarket restaurant hopping with cultural trips to museums to learn about the region, whose highlights include our impressive array of homes, if we do say so ourselves. And just a skip and a jump (do be careful) from these old-world relics (not you, the sights) lie the dazzling San Sebastian beaches that overlook the picturesque Bay of Biscay. All you have to do is read on, because here at Plum Guide, we've done all the hard work for you (you're welcome), and put together this guide to the region's very best beaches so you don't have to lift a finger.
1. La Concha Beach / Playa de la Concha
La Concha may be a rude word in some Spanish-speaking regions, but we assure you that this beach is a perfectly appropriate spot for families. Its name quite literally means ‘The Shell’, and there’s nothing upsetting about that, aside from the fact you’ll be shelling out on non-stop drinks, food and souvenirs for your kids while on holiday. Watch the sunset over this popular bay, as the sky turns crimson above San Sebastian. Note that this beach - which stands beside the iconic Kontxa Pasealekua boardwalk - is only accessible early in the day, before high tides sweep across the sand.
2. Zurriola Beach / Playa de la Zurriola
But what if you’re looking for something of a trendier crowd? Cross the bridge to the eastern side of the city for the hip and youthful Zurriola Beach. It typically attracts a younger vacationer, so pick out your most fashionable and youth-appropriate swimwear and get on down here. Watch (or join if you’re brave enough) the surfers, and tackle a game of football or volleyball with these youngsters, forever trying to hide the panting that would give away your real age.
3. Santa Clara Island Beach / Playa de la Isla Santa Clara
So, you’ve been watching it closely from the comfort of those aforementioned beaches for hours or even days. Stillness personified, the island (on the left of the above image) sits there beguiling you and willing you on to visit its scenic shores in La Concha Bay. What’s more, it’s exclusive: only opening its shores to holidaymakers in the summer. The island only has a lighthouse and a small dock, making for a secluded hotspot, despite such close proximity to the city centre. Take affordable boat rides from the mainland to spend some time on the island’s sandy circumference.
4. Ondaretta Beach / Playa de Ondaretta
Back on the mainland, the Ondaretta Beach lies at the western end of the city centre. It can be seen at the bottom right of the above image, right next to both la Concha Beach and Santa Clara Island. Here’s the thing about this setting: it’s the primary family hub of all San Sebastian beaches. So, yes, that does mean it’s bound to be a little less quiet, and a little more active. But it also means you can bring your little ones without too much shame. Enjoy the views of the mountains and the boats in the bay in between the tearful fights and gleeful misconduct of your cherubs.
5. Cala Tximistarri / Cala Tximistarri
The eagle-eyed amongst you will realise that this one doesn't have "beach" (or "playa") in the name, but we are still counting it on this list. Lying right at the foot of Mount Igeldo, Cala Tximistarri is a small, rocky beach, also recognised as a cove, and is popular with scuba divers thanks to the array of fascinating things to see under the surface of the water. It may not look as appealing for those of you wanting to leave with a tan, but for those of you looking to leave with a fulfilled sense of adventure, make your way here for a seriously memorable trip.
6. Zarautz Beach / Playa de Zarautz
For something a little different, drive west along the coast to the village of Zauratz. It offers something a little more secluded than the San Sebastian Beaches, while also being a popular surfing hub. And it’s long…really long, so you can spend an afternoon walking along it without really bumping into anyone.