Many people consider the coastal resort regions of Spain to be largely interchangeable. But, while these areas usually all boast sun, sea and sand, there are some key differences you should consider before taking the plunge and booking your next getaway.
To help you come to your decision, we weighed up the USPs of two of the country’s most popular regions – the Costa Blanca vs Costa del Sol.
Where are these destinations?
The Costa Blanca (or White Coast) is situated in southeast Spain. Popular towns here include Javea, in the province of Alicante, Moraira, part of the Teulada municipality, and Calpe, a small town two hours’ drive south of here.
The Costa del Sol (or Sun Coast) is in southern Spain, centralising around the city of Malaga. People visit here for thriving hubs like Benalmadena and Marbella, and more relaxed sunspots like Mijas and Nerja.
Are they good for a beach holiday?
Good news for all you sun-worshippers – the weather in both destinations is similarly sunny all year-round. Temperatures in the summer reach the high 20s and early 30s, whereas in the winter they rarely dip below 13 degrees.
So, you’ve got the weather, now all you need is a few succulent strips of sand to enjoy it from. If you’re hiring a property near the beach, you can easily pack up a picnic and head out to one of these idyllic spots for a dreamy day trip.
On the Costa Blanca, you’ll find gorgeous stretches of sand like Playa del Portet in Moraira. This small inlet is shaped like a sea shell and has safe waters great for a leisurely afternoon spent swimming.
For a more secluded experience, try Cala del Moraig, a tranquil cove just north of Moraira. This is a pebbly beach, which might appeal to visitors who’d rather forgo messing up the rental car with sandy shoes.
You may be after a more adventurous holiday, in which case Costa Blanca’s westerly winds make spots like Santa Pola, south of Alicante, perfect for surfing, sailing and kayaking. Snorkelling, meanwhile, is best done with a guided tour, many of which depart from near Calpe.
Popular beaches along the Costa del Sol include the Playa de Burriana in Nerja, which is known for its golden sand and beach bars. Head here if you’re in search of a livelier holiday, either with a group of friends or as part of a couples’ getaway.
Playa de Maro in Nerja is also very popular, renowned for its picturesque surroundings and abundance of marine life. This makes it appeal both to older holidaymakers and young families looking to see the local ecosystems.
What’s there to do in both?
At the heart of both these regions is two lively, history-rich cities. Costa Blanca’s Alicante is famed for its nightlife, but its real charms lie in the striking 16th century castle at its centre. Culture-vultures can easily spend a few hours here exploring the museum and enjoying viewpoints of the city.
Malaga, on the Costa del Sol, is notable for its art galleries and buildings of grandiose like the Chapel of Santa Barbara and the grand Moorish Gibralfaro Castle. Otherwise, the Picasso museum appeals to art aficionados and open-minded enthusiasts in equal measures.
…and what’s there to eat?
Whether you’re into history or art, there’s one main attraction that unites all Spanish costa holidaymakers – the food. Indulge yourself with local specialities such as paella, in the Costa Blanca, and fried fish, in the Costa del Sol.
Pick up some ingredients from a nearby market, then whip up your own take on regional delicacies from your holiday rental’s kitchen. The Costa del Sol’s surrounding shorelines are populated with lots of anchovies, which can be made into the perfect starter to any fish-fiend’s meal. Otherwise, buy a selection of the Costa Blanca’s locally sourced chorizo – a delicious addition to any meat-craver’s sandwich.
Where should I stay?
To really make the most of your holiday, look into staying in a self-catered villa. It’ll give you the freedom to explore the region at your own pace, collecting ingredients as you go along. Kids might prefer to stay somewhere near the coast, whereas older couples might want somewhere a little quieter and in the countryside.
…and where should I fly to?
To reach the Costa Blanca you can fly directly into Alicante Airport, which serves UK destinations throughout the year. It takes around two and a half hours to fly here from London.
For the Costa del Sol, it’s best to fly into Malaga Airport. You can catch a flight here from the UK run throughout the year, although it’ll take slightly longer, with journey times from London taking roughly two hours and 45 minutes.
Whether you’re one for the Costa del Sol’s lavish harbours or the Costa Blanca’s bustling nightlife, holidays to a Spanish Costa really do make for one of the best type of getaways.
Want to step things up a game with your villa? Look at luxury properties in both regions.
By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.