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Costa Daurada: sun and sights for the whole family

A picture of dog trainer and behaviourist Philippa Short

Spain’s Costa Daurada (aka. Costa Dorada) is a great choice for a family holiday. It boasts 50 miles of beaches, 300 days of sunshine per year and short flights from the UK to two different airports.

Even better, it’s got sights and activities to make sure children and grown-ups have a great time — because family breaks shouldn’t just be about keeping the kids happy.

View of the town Sitges at sunset, Catalonia, Spain

Getting there and getting around

Reus is the closest airport to the main areas of the Costa Daurada. By taxi, it’s about 15 minutes from Tarragona and 20 minutes from Salou.

Barcelona airport is also an option if you’re staying somewhere in the north of the region, like Sitges or Cunit. Barcelona gives you more options in terms of airlines and where you can fly from, but it’s further from the central and southern parts of the area (about an hour by taxi to Tarragona).

A coastal bus makes it easy to hop between beaches and attractions. For a few euros, you can catch an air-conditioned coach from Miami Platja to Reus, stopping at Cambrils (change here), Salou and Tarragona. It runs all day and into the evening. Grab a timetable from any tourist information office.

View of wooden walkway along Llevant Beach in Spain

Where to stay

The Costa Daurada has loads of great places to stay. Here are three of the most popular:

Salou: Lots of accommodation options and a fantastic beach, but it is touristy. If your idea of a great holiday is fast food, English pubs and tacky gift shops, then Salou is the place for you.

Cambrils: Everything Salou isn’t — an old fishing village with great restaurants, an old town and a weekly market. Cambrils has everything you need for a family break, plus some Spanish culture to go with it.

Tarragona: The regional capital. Plenty of accommodation options and some incredible Roman history. You might pay a little more than other places, but it’s a stunning city with a great beach.

Things to do

Sun, sea and sand

Tarragona Platja La Mora in Costa Dorada of Catalonia

Costa Daurada means ‘golden coast’, so it’s no surprise there are beaches in abundance. Here are some great options:

Platja Cristall (Miami Platja)

This large, blue flag beach fronts the town of Miami Platja. Lifeguards are there in peak season, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars just a flip flop shuffle away.

Coves (Miami Platja)

Just north of Miami Platja, the golden sand is broken by a series of beautiful coves. Search online for Cala Bot, Cala Santa Fe, Cala Misteri, Cala del Solitari, Calazul and Cala dels Vienesos. These little bits of paradise make for a great day of snorkelling and exploring. They’re well known, though, so they can get busy.

Platja Prat d’En Forès y Regueral (Cambrils)

A relaxed beach that serves the town of Cambrils. It’s backed by a promenade and benefits from all the amenities of the town. An inflatable obstacle course pops up in the sea during peak season (Parques Acuáticos Cambrils). You can hire paddleboards, kayaks and more from Los Loros Water Sports on the adjacent beach (Platja del Cavet), which is also known for good snorkelling.

Platja de Ponent and Platja de Llevant (Salou)

These fantastic beaches, either side of Salou’s harbour, make up for the touristy town. The entry into the water is shallow, so this is a great spot for toddlers and preschoolers. There are plenty of free toilets. Plus, there are several play parks on the sand, so you can keep an eye on the kids from your lounger. Older kids and grown-ups will enjoy water sports and beach volleyball.

Ideal for little ones:

The Costa Daurada has lots to offer families with young children, especially if they like vehicles and animals:

Holiday tourist train parked on the side of the road

Cambrils land train: This enjoyable tourist train takes you from the harbour to the old town and back. Catch it over the road from tourist information and pay by card when you’re on the train. It’s a 40-minute round trip, or you can get off at the old town to wander round before catching the train back an hour later. Kids under 4 are free.

Crazy Traction vehicle hire: Perfect for car-mad kids. Crazy Traction, Cambrils, rents out ride-on vehicles for ages 1 to 8. Don’t worry — parents get a remote control…

Cambrils to Salou ferry: Skip the bus on this family-friendly catamaran ride from Cambrils to Salou. The captain often lets kids do the driving, which makes for a great holiday memory. It takes about 30 minutes, with return ferries later in the day.

Reus farm park: If animals are your kid’s thing, take a look at La Mascota i el Jardi. Children can see and feed the animals, and there’s a good soft play area — perfect for a wet day.

Parc Samà, Cambrils: Escape the heat with a wander round these picturesque gardens. Kids will enjoy feeding the deer, chatting to the parrots and exploring the dens and caves of this large greenspace. Children under 7 are free. On Thursdays and Fridays, you can get there on the Cambrils land train. Book your train tickets in the tourist information office. At time of writing (Summer 2023), the train leaves from opposite tourist information at 10:30am.

Teenager approved (and great for grown-ups):

View of a roller coaster in Port Aventura

Keep the teenagers happy with some adventurous activities:

PortAventura World: PortAventura is one of the Costa Daurada’s main attractions. It combines two theme parks and a waterpark on one huge site. It’s not cheap, but it can give you multiple days of entertainment. Check the website for frequent offers. You can also get park and hotel packages if you really want to make the most of it.

Go karting: A great option if the kids are restless on the beach. Check out Tarraco Karting and Karting Salou for some wheel-to-wheel action. Karting Salou has karts for kids from age 4, so it’s also a good choice for little ones.

Catamaran day trips: Two different operators run catamaran excursions from Cambrils. The booking offices for Cataventure and Creuers Costa Daurada are by the harbour. The staff speak English, and you can choose from tours of various lengths. The longer trips stop for snorkelling and include food and drink.

If you can make it work with the kids:

The Costa Daurada is teeming with history, scenery and culture. With enough snacks and ice cream stops, it should be possible to take in the best of the region with the kids in tow:

Wide-angle view of the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre in Tarragona, with the Mediterranean Sea in the background.

Tarragona: Tarragona’s Roman ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standout spots include the amphitheatre, circus, forum and walls. The city also has great local shopping and fantastic tapas. Pause for a drink in Plaça de la Font and meander down Rambla Nova to immerse yourself in this slice of Mediterranean heaven.

Ermita Mare de Déu de la Roca: This hilltop walking area is a great choice if you want to get a feel for the Costa Daurada inland. You can park close to the top, so it doesn’t have to be an epic trek for little legs. Simply follow the steps from the car park up to panoramic views and a historic church perched on a rock formation. If the kids are willing, take the time to explore the other look-out points and caves dotted around the hill — a great option for an active day away from the beach.

The Gaudi Centre, Reus: A fantastic museum dedicated to the life and work of Gaudi. Each floor focusses on a different aspect of his life and work. Several hands-on exhibits and digital experiences make his work accessible to children and adults alike.

Castell de Miravet: Parts of Miravet castle date back over 1,000 years to the Moors and Knights Templar. Explore the walls, courtyards, gatehouse, bailey and more. You can park by the castle or in the charming village at its base. If you choose the latter, be prepared for an uphill slog. The ground inside is uneven, and you reach some parts by spiral staircase, so a sling is a better choice than a pushchair if you have a young child. Otherwise, it’s a great couple of hours for castle-mad kids and adults who like big views and a bit of history.

Spain’s Costa Daurada has plenty to offer the whole family. With a bit of planning, you can have a holiday that works for children and adults alike.

And don’t forget your travel insurance. Wapp’s easy-to-use app gives you flexible cover at your fingertips — perfect for taking the hassle out of your holiday.

Remember to check what you are and aren’t covered for if you’re planning to take part in sports and activities, as some limits and exclusions may apply.

A picture of dog trainer and behaviourist Philippa Short

Ben Telford is a freelance content writer based in Leicestershire. He blogs about family-friendly and budget travel in the UK, Europe and beyond.

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