The best beaches in (and nearby) San Sebastian


The best beaches in (and nearby) San Sebastian that you need to visit

Written by Esther Vallejo Castro

San Sebastian is located in a natural environment filled with great beauty, surrounded by mountains and valleys. One of the main features of the northern of Spain are its large green landscapes and its endless beaches of white thin sand, right in front of the Cantabrian sea. The city of San Sebastian, with approximately 189.000 inhabitants, is located in the bay of San Sebastian, where you can also find La Concha beach. The city has a past very much connected to the sea and maritime life, with an iconic port of fishermen.

When it comes to relaxing around the coast, there is much more than that: the city has four beaches in total. La Concha beach is one of the most popular beaches in all Spain and even Europe, but there are many other sandy areas to be discovered, and throughout the following lines we are going to talk about the beaches that are within the city as well as around San Sebastian, which are very well known by the inhabitants of the region. Besides, you can have a nice walk around the beach and admire the incredible views that is has to offer.



1. LA CONCHA BEACH

La Concha beach is the most famous and iconic beach of the Basque Country, and even of all Spain. Its name "Concha" means shell, and it was given this name because the bay has the shape of a shell. This beach started being extremely popular around the year 1845 when Isabel II, Queen of Spain, was recommended by her doctors to have frequent baths in sea water in order to treat her skin issues. After her, and with the new trend of going to the beach, many aristocrats and members of the high society who followed her steps, made San Sebastian the place to be and the most popular spot for the European upper class. Over time, it became truly famous and it went on to be known as the "Pearl of the Cantabrian sea".

La Concha beach - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de la Concha - Kontxa hondartza

Nowadays, La Concha beach is recognised as one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the entire world, and it is the main touristic landmark and icon of San Sebastian. By La Concha beach there is the main promenade of the city, known as La Concha walk, which was designed by the Spanish architect Juan Rafael Alday (1879-1950). He also designed the iconic light posts of La Concha walk. The iconic and centenary fence that goes along La Concha walk (barandilla de La Concha) goes through the entire walk and you can find it also on the lookout areas from which you can see the entire beach. The fence was inaugurated officially on 1916 by the King of Spain Alfonso XIII and over time it has become in one of the most iconic and characteristic features of the city, due to its innovative design.

Throughout the entire La Concha walk you can find benches where you can sit and admire the breathtaking views. La Concha beach is very popular during summertime. From the beach yo can see Santa Clara island, which is located right in front of the city and beach. You can access the island by a boat service during summertime only.

As you can see, La Concha beach is a historical place and surrounded by landmarks and interesting spots. On the right end of the beach we can find the El Club Náutico (the nautical club) which is one of the most prominent buildings of the city and it's considered an icon and crown of the architectural rationalism, even older than the villa from Le Corbusier. We can also find the City Hall of San Sebastian by the side of La Concha beach, this building is the former casino of the city, and was build in 1887 with a style strongly influenced by the French architecture design. This building is right next to the nautical club. From La Concha beach you can contemplate the mountains that are on each side of San Sebastian, the Urgull mountain and Igueldo mountain.



2. ONDARRETA BEACH

We continue our journey through San Sebastian towards the west part, and here we will encounter another magnificent beach, Ondarreta beach, which is 600 metres long and 100 metres wide. It is located under Igueldo mountain and in the bay of La Concha. During the summer months if offers a wide range of sporty activities and you can also find swimming and volleyball courses on offer. It is also possible to practice a wide range of water activities and there is a sport centre and public premises for the practice of several water sports. The beach also has a playground for kids in the sand area, which makes it ideal to go with children.

Ondarreta beach is a white thin sand beach and it is perfect to spend the day with your family or friends, playing or practicing sports. This is one of the least known beaches in the city of San Sebastian, and therefore with less people and tourists on it during summer, and thanks to this you will be able to enjoy more calmness and tranquility, as well as more space.

Ondarreta beach - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de Ondarreta - Ondarretako hondartza

You can reach this beach by foot from the city, it also has a long walk by the beach side, which is an extension of La Concha walk. If you follow the entire walk until the edge of the city at the end of Ondarreta beach, you will reach the infamous sculpture El Peine del Viento (meaning "the comb of the winds"), the master piece of the Basque sculptor artist Eduardo Chillida. By Ondarreta beach you will find the Miramar Palace, which is a palace that was built on the 19th century, with the purpose of being the summer residence for the Spanish Royalty. Its architecture and gardens make it one of the most visited spots in San Sebastian and the perfect place to take some photos with stunning views. Right in front of Ondarreta beach you can also find the Ondarreta Gardens, you can walk through these gardens and relax and enjoy of the marvellous views that the coast of San Sebastian has to offer. The walk by the beach goes on towards Igueldo mountain after crossing Ondarreta Gardens, and at the end you will find the Club Tenis de Ondarreta (Ondarreta Tennis Club).



3. ZURRIOLA BEACH

We continue our journey through San Sebastian towards the east part, and on this popular part of the city we will find Zurriola beach. It is located on the neighbourhood of Gros. This beach is very very known and famous, it is located right next to the Congress Palace and Auditorium Kursaal, which is one of the most famous buildings in San Sebastian because of the San Sebastian International Film Festival, which is celebrated every year in the city. The beach is right next to the point where the river Urumea and the sea merge together. Zurriola beach is 800 metres long and it is extremely popular among surfers and young people in general. Towards the east side of Zurriola beach we can find Ulía mountain.

Zurriola beach - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de Zurriola - Zurriola hondartza

Zurriola beach is very popular and has an amazing atmosphere and good vibes, which makes it one of the top places to visit in San Sebastian. It is well-known for its large waves, surf and young people, since you can enjoy great waves all year round. It is also a special place because for most of the year this is one of the only places in San Sebastian where you can see the sun sinking into the water, and it is definitely a highly recommendable experience. Besides, the neighbourhood of Gros is very popular and trendy in San Sebastian nowadays, it is well-known for its iconic bars, restaurants and shops. We need to highlight the gorgeous views that this beach has to offer. In the modern days of San Sebastian this is the place to be, you cannot miss it!



4. THE BEACH ON SANTA CLARA ISLAND

This island is located in the bay of San Sebastian, it was declared a National Historical Centre more than 40 years ago. It has a small beach that you can visit during the summer months. The Santa Clara island is one of the most beautiful islands in the Basque Country, it is very popular and well-known among the inhabitants of San Sebastian and the entire Basque Country. Santa Clara island is known in the Basque language as "Santa Klara Uhartea" and it is one of the most iconic spots of the city. It is tradition in the Basque Country that when the children of a family are very young, they travel to the island with their parents to discover the nature and paradisiac landscapes that the island has to offer.

Santa Clara island beach - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de la isla Santa Clara - Klara uharteko hondartza

The particularly beautiful areas of the island are its beach, its natural swimming area, the routes towards the lighthouse on top of the island, and the breathtaking routes by boat around the island and to the shore, which have turn Santa Clara island in one of the most attractive plans to do in San Sebastian. You can access the island in a few minutes very easily, with boats that you can take at the port. It is perfectly possible to spend the entire day at the island, for there are many places where you can carry out different activities such as picnics or enjoy stunning views and the local flora and fauna.



5. ZARAUTZ BEACH

This is one of the most spectacular beaches of the surroundings of San Sebastian. It is located on the coast of Gipuzkoa, the region where San Sebastian is capital city, approximately 24 minutes by car to San Sebastian. This is a very large beach and has 2.500 metres of extension, it offers a marvellous golden and thin white sand to its visitors. It is usually visited by all kinds of people, also very popular among young people and surfers. It is located in a gorgeous natural post, surrounded by mountains and nature. It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire Basque Country.

The beach in Zarautz is very popular over the summer months and many people come to this area when it's hot to enjoy the beach. Surfers from around the world visit this beach too to enjoy the waves that this beach has to offer, in fact there are several surf competitions that take place in this beach throughout the year, the most famous competition being the World Surf Championship WQS, which happens in September.

Zarautz beach - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de Zarauz - Zarautzeko hondartza

This is a huge beach and this is why it has a wide range of facilities such as a space for skateboard as well as a space for rollerblading. Plus, you can enjoy an amazing meal on one of the many restaurants that you can find along the shore. Generally, it is better to visit this beach when the sea tide is low, since when the tide is high there won't be much space on the sand to walk. Over the summer months, you will see this beach full of blue and white beach shades or canopies, which are the symbol of the town of Zarautz. It also has a spacious parking in case you are planning to visit the town and beach by car.



6. ITZURUN BEACH

Over time, this beach has become one of the most famous baches of all the Basque Country, since here they filmed several scenes of the TV series Game Of Thrones, the popular TV show based on the books from George R. R. Martin. This beach is located in the town of Zumaia, and it is part of one of the most spectacular natural landscapes of the coast on the entire Basque Country. This area is characteristic for its huge and impressive vertical cliffs, which are formed by walls of limestone that can go as high as 150 metres of altitude. These astonishing cliffs are a geological phenomenon known as the “flysch”, and are the result of thousands of years of natural erosion as a consequence of the sea.

This beach is located between these astounding cliffs, it has a beautiful golden thin sand, and it is located very close to the Old Town and urban area of Zumaia. It is 270 metres long and it usually is an area with large waves, and because of this it is the perfect place to practice aquatic sports, such as surf or canoeing.

Itzurun beach Zumaia - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de Itzurun en Zumaya - Itzurun Zumaiako hondartza

Zumaia is in the province of Gipuzkoa, where San Sebastian is the capital city. You can reach this beach through a walk by the woods of Itzurun, which you can access through the central part of the town of Zumaia. This beautiful walk ends on the beach of Itzurun. This is also a very well-known spot by geologists. On the shore of the beach there is the chapel of San Telmo, which is located on top of the cliffs.

You can easily walk along this beach to have a nice walk, but it is advisable to do so when the sea tide is low. This is also a famous beach for fans of surfing. It is 30 kilometres away from San Sebastián. It has been awarded the Blue Flag distinctive since the year 2006 and it is cataloged as one of the best beaches in Europe by the European Union. Worth mentioning that there is an adapted access to provide easy access for wheelchairs.



7. SATURRARÁN BEACH

The beach of Saturrarán is located in the town of Mutriku, in the bay of Ondarroa. Is right next to the limit with the province of Bizkaia. This is a small beach, it is 300 metres long and 90 metres wide. It is located in a place full of nature, you can access it either by car by foot. It also has a parking area in case you visit it by car, and you can also reach it by public transport with a bus.

Saturraran beach Ondarroa - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de Saturrarán en Ondarroa - Saturraran Ondarroako hondartza

This is a cosy, small beach, in the middle of a very natural environment. It projects tranquility and peacefulness and it is perfect to spend a summer day with your family. This is one of the least known beaches in the province by tourists, so you will certainly enjoy some quiet, relaxing time. We also recommend that when visiting this beach, you also visit the surrounding coastal area. You can even keep walking from this beach to the neighbouring beach of Ondarroa.



8. LA ANTILLA BEACH

The beach of La Antilla is located in Orio, in a very beautiful natural scenery. It is right next to the Oria river mouth, and by the Kukuarri mountain, which is next to the sea.

This beach was renovated and adapted in the year 1997, and it has 3.500m². It has a playground area for kids by the beach, and also a camping and a maritime walk. This is the perfect place for those who like fishing and rowing, and it also has a canoeing club. It is well-known for its golden sand. This is a unique place where mountains, rivers and sea merge together. Therefore it is the ideal spot for those who want to spend some relaxing time in the nature.

La Antilla beach Orio - Sea in San Sebastian Donostia ocean water beach - Playa de La Antilla en Orio - La Antilla Orioko hondartza

We have gone through some of the best beaches in the province of Gipuzkoa, that are close to the city of San Sebastian. Most of these beaches are just a few minutes away by car from the city.

If you are looking to spend some days in front of the sea with views to La Concha beach, consider renting a breathtaking apartment in San Sebastian by the ocean, it will be perfect for your adventure.

The author of this article is Esther Vallejo Castro. She studiesa degree in English language with focus on culture, language, literature y linguistics with the University of Santiago de Compostela. Esther has also studied a master MBA in Tourism with the Eneb of Barcelona. Esther loves languages, volunteering and teaching.