Beach and Sea Safety in Spain

Information on the beaches of Spain, including water quality, beach safety, access for people with disabilities and the risks related to swimming...

Supervised beaches in Spain have a system of coloured flags to let the public know about the swimming conditions. The code is:

Safety in the Water
Green Safe to swim
Yellow Caution

Red

Swimming Forbidden

Beaches in Spain

Spain has over 8000 Km of coastline

There are no private beaches in Spain and recent laws prohibit construction too close to the sea. This means that the entire coastline is accessible to everybody. The sign "Acceso público a la playa", means "public access to the beach", and directs people when private land needs to be crossed to access the beach.

The Atlantic Coast

710 Km of coast, beaches with natural sand dunes, big waves and water that is slightly colder than at the Mediterranean Coast. In Costa del Luz, in the south of Spain, the beaches are long and sandy, backed by dunes and pine woods. Many beaches are quiet and "undiscovered".

The Mediterranean Coast

Spain's Mediterranean coast stretches over 1660 Km. It has sunshine all year around, and beaches with calm, warm water. The beaches of the Costa Brava are often long and golden. Costa Blanca has endless sandy beaches and rocky coves. Beaches in Valencia are wide and open, with golden sand. In Almeria, there is everything from rocky coves to isolated beaches. Costa del Sol offers gray, coarse-grained sand, warm and safe water.

The Bay of Biscay

The coast of the Bay of Biscay (Golfo de Vizcaya) along the northern coastline of Spain is irregular and has cliffs as well as sandy coves. It’s known for its sudden, severe storms. The water has strong currents.

The Balearic Islands

The four main islands of the Balearics lie off the east coast of Spain in the Mediterranean sea:

  • Majorca popular beaches with fine sand and pinewoods, beach restaurants
  • Menorca beaches have white sand, crystal clear water, and many hidden coves. They are small, idyllic and can provide peace and quiet
  • Ibiza beaches tend to be busy, with clubbing, water sports and nudist beaches. It also has hidden coves and unspoilt beaches
  • Formentera beaches are white and sandy, unspoilt by development, with turquoise waters

The Canary Islands

The seven main Canary Islands lie off the north west coast of Africa. The archipelago is volcanic rock and the terrain varies greatly from island to island with some beaches of black volcanic sand.

  • Lanzarote beaches are perfect for all kind of watersports. All the main resorts on the island offer a choice of immaculate sandy beaches, with sunbeds and facilities
  • Gran Canaria's beaches have golden sands, with clear, clean waters combined with warm sea water temperatures all year around
  • Fuerteventura beaches have white sand and are the most popular of the Canary Islands. Many of them have blue flag status
  • Tenerife’s beaches are diverse, with black sand on the north side of the island, and golden in the south
  • West Canary Islands has black sandy beaches and many rock pools

Beaches with Access for People with Difficult Mobility

Spain has a number of beaches dedicated to people with disabilities and impaired mobility or wheelchair bound.

It is worth noticing that the facilities and services for disabled varies from beach to beach. Here are a few examples:

  • In Fuengirola, all public beaches are accessible to the disabled, with adapted showers, improved access ramps and wooden platforms around the sun bed areas.
  • In Tenerife, the beaches Las Vistas and Los Cristianos offers barrier-free services, calm waters, and a daily all year around service for disabled people. Bookings necessary. For more information: Click here
  • Levante Beach and Gran Playa in Santa Pola have received awards for their disability access; parts of the beaches are set aside for wheelchair access, with a wooden ramp leading to an area with changing rooms and sun beds. The water is shallow and calm. There are Accessible Points for people of limited mobility, with reserved parking space, open during summer and Easter.

Rules and Regulations on the Beaches

As of 2009, some beaches and holiday resorts across Spain have restrictions on what is allowed on the beach. This includes rules regarding listening to music without headphones, smoking, drinking, bringing pets, playing ball games, urinating in the water, building sandcastles, the allowed time to put up a sunshade, and barbequing without police approval. It is advisable to check if these rules might affect a visit to a specific beach.

Blue Flag Beaches

The Blue Flag is an eco label award for beaches with good practices in terms of water quality, environmental management, safety & services and environmental education. It was introduced in France in 1985 under the name "Pavillon Bleu" and is now used in 41 countries across the world.

Safety in the Sun and Sea

Being aware of the dangers related to swimming in the sea can help to avoid accidents. Children must be supervised at all times. Most frequent dangers include:

  • Water current can be really strong
  • Wind movements causing big waves. Waves normally move from sea to land during the day and from land to sea during the night
  • Choose to swim where other people are swimming

Hypothermia

In some cases - when the temperature difference between the water and the air is great - jumping quickly into the sea can cause hypothermia. The symptoms include shivering, dizziness and sight problems, a sensation of ringing ears, a sudden sensation of fever, itching, cramp, and head ache.

If this happens, get out of the water quickly, dry off, wrap up in clothes or dry towels and rest in the shade until the symptoms pass.

Sunstroke

Sunstroke can occur if exposed to the sun and the heat for too long. Children are particularly sensitive. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, stiff neck, fever. In a severe case, vomiting and unconsciousness can occur. Treatment involves rehydration with water and salts, and cooling the body gently. Lie down in a well ventilated place in the shade, ideally covered by a damp sheet, drink water without ice and take an aspirin.

Wearing a hat and drinking water regularly can prevent sunstroke.

Jellyfish

If stung by a jellyfish (Medusa), rinse the sting with sea water, not fresh water. Vinegar, wine, alcohol or human male urine deactivates the nematocysts (stinging units). Tentacles should be removed, preferably lifted off the skin with for example a credit card. If stung in the face, rinse the eyes immediately and contact a doctor.

Sea-urchin

The spines of a sea-urchin (Erizo de mar) can puncture the skin and go into the foot. This can cause swelling and infection. The spines break easily and are difficult to remove. To relieve pain, soak in very hot water, then visit a doctor to have the needles removed.

Rays, weaver fish and scorpionfish

Shallow sandy sea beds can hide rays and weaver fish. If distressed, a ray(Raya) can lash out with its sting-laden tail and the strike of a ray on flesh cause skin irritation or infection.

The weaver fish (Trachinidae)  has poisonous spines on its dorsal fin. It rests buried in the sand, with the dorsal sticking up which, if stepped on, causes intense pain. Soak the foot in hot water.

The scorpionfish (Scorpaenidae) often lies concealed in rocky places. It also has poisonous spines which can give painful stings.

  • For more information from Iberian Nature: Click here

Further Information

  • European Environment Agency on State of Bathing Water: Click here
  • Spanish Blue Flag beaches accessible for disabled people: Click here