Spain’s beautiful Costa Dorada (‘Golden Coast’) lives up to its name with heavenly beaches of golden sand. The Costa Dorada (Costa Daurada in Catalan) stretches for more than 200 kilometres, and encompasses some of Spain’s most appealing resorts, from charming Sitges to family favourite Cap de Salou.
There are water parks and theme parks on the Costa Dorada – including PortAventura World, which is in Salou, one of the biggest in Europe – to keep kids happy, and plenty of options for eating, drinking and shopping. Inland you’ll find hills, vineyards, ancient monasteries and olive groves, and, if you want a shot of city life, Barcelona and Tarragona are a short hop away by train.
For a truly "golden" holiday in 2017 or 2018, you can't beat this Spanish coastal destination, the Costa Dorada.
Most popular hotels in Costa Dorada
H.TOP Molinos Park Hotel
Salou, Costa Dorada
Villamarina Club Hotel
Salou, Costa Dorada
Festival Village Aparthotel
Salou, Costa Dorada
Pins Marina Apartments
Cambrils, Costa Dorada
Sunway Playa Golf & Spa
Sitges, Costa Dorada
Sitges, Costa Dorada
Ohtels Villa Dorada Hotel
Salou, Costa Dorada
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Spanish
- Time Zone: GMT +1
- Average flight time: 2h 10m
When to go
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The Costa Dorada has a fantastic array of attractions for a 2017 / 2018 adventure: the gorgeous beaches are its biggest draw, but you’ll also find charming fishing villages, wineries, historic towns and lively resorts offering fantastic entertainment and attractions for all the family.
Salou is the biggest resort, an all-round favourite, while neighbouring Cambrils, a former fishing village, is slightly smaller and more relaxed. If you're an adventurous type, take the Camino de Ronda between Salou and Cambrils for a real taste of the Costa Dorada.
La Pineda is the quietest of the trio, but is within easy reach of the bright lights of Salou. La Pineda is best known for its incredible beaches. The clear waters and shallow sea make it a top family holiday destination.
All these top destinations enjoy easy access to PortAventura World, an enormous theme park and water park which will keep kids of all ages happy. Other water parks besides PortAventura include Aqualandia in La Pineda, and Aqualeon near El Vendrell.
Up the coast towards Barcelona, Sitges is a chic and stylish town with fantastic nightlife. Inland, you can explore some of Spain’s best wine regions, watch the castellers make their amazing human castles in Valls, or gaze at flamingos in the vast Delta de l’Ebre nature reserve.
The cosmopolitan Catalan capital of Barcelona is a short train-ride away, while Tarragona preserves some magnificent ruins that attest to its importance in Roman Hispania.
Wine and Dine
Every imaginable cuisine is available in the popular resorts of the Costa Dorada, while in smaller towns and villages you’re more likely to find restaurants serving Catalan and Mediterranean dishes.
Local specialities include delicious seafood dishes such as suquet, a traditional fish stew, and fideuà, which is similar to paella but is made with small noodles. Your food may be accompanied by the classic Catalan pa amb tomàquet – country bread rubbed with tomato and garlic, and drizzled with olive oil.
There are lots of tapas bars where you can tuck into local charcuterie such as fuet, along with classics like patates braves (chunks of fried potato with a spicy sauce), xipirones (fried baby squid), and truita (tortilla in Spanish, a potato omelette).
Traditional desserts include crema catalana, a local version of crème brûlée, or mel i mató, fresh cheese drizzled with honey. The regional wines are outstanding, with some superb reds, along with fresh and crisp whites, rosés and the Catalan answer to champagne, cava.
The Costa Dorada is a fantastic destination for family holidays. The beautiful beaches, with their fine sand and shallow waters, are clean, child-friendly, and tweens and teens will be thrilled by the endless possibilities for water sports. You can rent pedaloes, banana boats, jet skis or kayaks, or even try your hand at kite surfing.
Salou has an inflatable playground in the sea, and a fountain show which kids will enjoy splashing about in, and Cambrils has a wonderful seafront promenade that is ideal for cycling or roller-blading. There are several water parks, including Aqualandia and Aqualeon, along with an adventure park, Jumpland Aventura Ecológica, which has a fantastically long zip line, one of the longest in Europe.
The biggest attraction on the Costa Dorada is PortAventura World in Salou (which includes the recently inaugurated Ferrari World), making PortAventura one of Europe’s largest theme parks.
Action and Adventure
Hiking, mountain biking, swimming, kayaking, kite-surfing, canyoning, wind-surfing, jet-skiing and paragliding are just some of the activities that you can enjoy on the Costa Dorada.
Salou, the largest resort, is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of facilities for adventure sports and water sports, but most of the seaside towns are well equipped with activities for visitors. Plus, Salou is the best resort if you want to visit PortAventura World.
There are a string of nature reserves where you can escape the crowds: the Garraf massif, near Sitges, is a great option for hiking and mountain biking, while the Delta de l’Ebre nature reserve at the southern end of the Costa Dorada is a magnificent, empty wilderness, and a fantastic place to go hiking and bird-watching.
Life's a Beach
The beaches of the Costa Dorada are stunning stretches of golden sand fringed with palm trees. Almost 90 of them have been awarded Blue Flag status, reflecting their excellent services and exceptional water quality.
The main resorts – such as Salou, Cambrils, La Pineda and Sitges – all boast fantastic sandy beaches, but there are plenty of others along the coast that are worth seeking out.
Salou's two beaches, Llevant Beach and Ponent Beach may remind you of somewhere else (top tip: it's Playa Levante and Playa Poniente in Benidorm we're thinking about), and these two peaceful beaches are perfect for families.
Cambrils, the second largest town in the Costa Dorada, is home to a whopping 7km of coastline, most of which is made up of a choice of 9 sandy beaches. Cambrils' beaches slope gently into the sea, also making this an ideal spot for children.
La Pineda is a top beach destination in Costa Dorada, as all of its 3 beaches have been awarded the Blue Flag and have soft sand and gently inclining shores. With an additional water sports centre, La Pineda is perfect!
For remote and unspoilt beaches, head to the Delta de l’Ebre nature reserve in the south of the Costa Brava.
The two main hubs for nightlife on the Costa Dorada are Sitges, which has long been a favourite with the LGBTQ community, and Salou. Both have a huge choice of bars, clubs, cocktail bars, and beach bars. Whether you want to dance all night long at one of the massive super clubs or simply enjoy a sunset cocktail at a beachfront bar, you’ll find something for all tastes.
In Sitges, there are summer-only beach bars in the small coves just south of the town, where you can listen to sound of the waves as you sip your drink. The nightlife peaks in July and August, but a lot of places, particularly the bigger nightclubs, close down for most of the winter.
The Costa Dorada is a wonderful destination for romantic holiday with your partner. If you simply want to relax, you can spend all day soaking up the sun on gorgeous beaches, cooling off with a dip in the sea, and end the day at a beach club, sipping a cocktail with your toes in the sand.
In Salou, you could take a romantic stroll along the Camí de Ronda coastal path, which offers wonderful views over the coastline. Or you hike along the coast to find one of the smaller, less busy coves for some seclusion. If you like a little more adventure, you could spend the day visiting the local wineries, perhaps taking a picnic and enjoying it under some olive trees.
And if you feel like the bright lights of the big city, head into the glamorous Catalan capital of Barcelona, or the second heart of the Costa Brava, Tarragona. There’s plenty of nightlife to be found in Sitges and Salou, particularly in July and August, when the clubs keep going all night.
The Costa Dorada is full of fascinating cultural attractions. Foremost among them are the superb Roman ruins in Tarragona, which was once the capital of an important Roman province. There’s also a beautiful Roman villa in Altafulla, and you’ll find extraordinary aqueducts and arches scattered across the region. Sitges has several fine museums, notably Cau Ferrat, a charming seafront mansion which has an eclectic collection of paintings and objects gathered by the Catalan artist Santiago Rusiñol. There are lots of colourful festivals held year-round, including Tarragona’s Santa Tecla festival in September, the Nits Daurades (‘Golden Nights’) in Salou in August, and the fabulous Carnival celebrations in Sitges.