One of the things that makes San Sebastian (Donostia) a great city break, particularly in the summer, is the beaches on offer. Donostia is blessed with not one, but three beaches, all within easy reach of the city centre.
Despite being fairly close together, they each have their own character and vibe. In this article we’ll run through each of the different beaches and determine which one is best for you.
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La Concha Beach
The most famous beach in San Sebastian, La Concha beach is also the most central, just a stone’s throw away from the shopping district, and nearby to some of the main bus stops, making it also one of the most popular.
The beach stretches over a kilometer and a half from the Miramar Palace down to the town hall close to the Old Town (Parte Vieja). The name La Cohca, which means “shell” in Spanish comes from the shell shape of the bay itself.
Looking out from the beach you have stunning views of Santa Clara Island framed by Monte Igeldo to the west and Monte Urgull to the east which provides the perfect backdrop for a bit of sunbathing or dip in the sea. So much so that La Concha has been recognised as not only one of the best beaches in Spain, but also one of the best in Europe.
During low tide there’s plenty of space for everyone, although it’s best to get to the beach early as it does get busy very quickly on a nice weekend. During high tide however, the beach can drastically reduce in size meaning everyone can be crammed into a small space. It’s well worth checking out the tides before you commit to a time.
For a beach that sits in the city centre, the sand is particularly nice and the sea is very clean making a swim in the sea very appetising, but even if sunbathing isn’t quite your thing, you can still enjoy La Concha.
The beach has a promenade that runs it’s whole length making for a really pleasant walk (or cycle) with spectacular views. The white railings that border the promenade have even become the unofficial symbol of San Sebastian.
In the evenings, La Concha makes the perfect setting to watch the sunset with some pretty spectacular evenings to be had. You can even enjoy the view with a drink at one of the La Perla terraces.
Ondarreta beach sits to the east of La Concha, at the foot of Monte Igueldo close to the Antiguo area of San Sebastian.
During low tide it’s actually possible to walk between La Concha and Ondarreta beach via. the steps over the Pico del Loro (parrots beak in Spanish), which is a small passage of rocks between the two beaches near the Miramar Palace.
Ondarreta beach is smaller than La Concha at just over 500 meters long, but during high tide it doesn’t lose as much of the beach to sea making it a good option for when the tide is up. Although it’s a little further from the centre, it still can get just as busy. The residents from Antiguo are generally the main occupants of the beach alongside the students from the nearby University.
For that reason there’s usually a spot of volleyball or football being played on the beach by some of the local students.
The waves are a little calmer on Ondarreta as the beach is fairly protected by Monte Igueldo so you generally won’t find many surfers over here unless it’s a particularly stormy day.
La Zurriola Beach
La Zurriola beach sits at the opposite end of San Sebastian to Ondarreta beach, in the Gros neighbourhood (it used to be known as the Gros beach). At 800 meters long, it’s in between the size of La Concha and Ondarreta, but thanks to it’s steeper face it doesn’t lose a lot of beach to the sea during high tide.
It’s famous for being the surfers beach in San Sebastian thanks to the more exposed bay and consistent waves, making it ideal to practice the sport. There are even national and international surfing championships held here in the summer months.
On the main road to the beach (Zurriola Hiribidea) there are a number of surf shops where you can rent a board and a wetsuit for a few hours. Be warned, the sea does get quite a bit of surf traffic, so it’s only really recommended if you know what you’re doing, or are with someone that does. If you’re not a confident surfer then there are also several surf schools which have clases running from spring to late autumn.
The surfers bring a youthful vibe to La Zurriola beach. Donostia, in particular Gros, has a large influx of young people during the summer months who spend the days on Zurriola beach practicing a bit of surf or volleyball.
During the day however, the beach is pretty chilled. To the east, closer to Kursall, you’ll usually find the young families as the sea here is a little calmer. Whereas to the west, the sea can be quite dangerous with larger waves and hidden rocks.
And if you’re not a surfer or beach lover, like La Concha, La Zurriola has a promenade that also makes walking and cycling along the beach very pleasant.
To the far end of the beach you’ll find the Sagüés area where there’s a long wall making it easy to just sit, take in the sun and admire the surfers for a while. On a nice evening you’ll find a lot of local cuadrillas (groups of friends) sitting here with a beer, taking in the sunset.