5 days on a luxury stay on the Costa Brava/Spain

4 things to do on a luxury stay on the Costa Brava

The Costa Brava - "rugged coast" -  is a coastal region of northeastern Spain. It begins 60 km northeast of Barcelona and stretches to the French Boarder. From the 1960s, this area was developed as a destination for package vacations and got soon a rather bad reputation for its mass tourism with all the associated excesses. But this is just one side of the Costa Brava that besides I very rarely came across

when traveling in the area. There is another, much more beautiful side showing when visiting the Costa Brava.

There are a favorable summer climate and an absolutely wonderful coastal area with a stunning scenery of cliffs and views of the Mediterranean Sea. There are also gorgeous fishing and/or medieval villages and - last but not least - many places to enjoy fine cuisine and at least one great hotel that also pleases demanding travelers.

Here is my list of where to stay and where to eat as well as what to do on a luxury stay on the Costa Brava.

One amazing hotel for luxury travel (Maybe there are more?)

Why did my husband and I chose the Costa Brava as a vacation destination? Mid July, we had one week to spare for a vacation between our house renovation and a longer stay in Singapur/Bali. We booked at short term because we wanted to be in a nearby place where the weather was good. When it became apparent - due to the bad weather forecasts - that we had to go further away, we extended our search for a suitable luxury hotel.

We checked all the possibilities in the south of France, in central Italy and in Spain and finally found the Hostal de la Gavina in S'Agaro, an upmarket resort located about 1 1/4 hours by car north of Barcelona. All the biases we had in connection with the Costa Brava run high, but - when looking at the pictures provided by the hotel - we quickly fell in love with the area. And believe it or not, it is even more beautiful in reality than on fotos!

Hostal de la Gavina, S'Agaro

The Hostal de la Gavina in S'Agaro is the only five-star Grand Luxe hotel on the Costa Brava and belongs to the group of Leading Hotels of the World. It is located on a small peninsula between 2 secluded bays that each have a sandy beach. The hotel is part of an upscale community including about 60 exclusive houses that has been designed by a famous Catalan architect in the 1920s. This in order to make sure that the buildings form  a visual unity and this in sympathy with the landscape, the rugged coast and the vegetation.

As you may have guessed, the Hostal de la Gavina is a historic hotel - opened in 1932 - and that shows. You cannot expect huge rooms with all the modern amenities. Of course they do make maintenance works (there are e.g. an efficient air conditioning and modern bathrooms), but you cannot say that the hotel is totally renovated.

We had a Suite Deluxe that is equipped with antique furniture and has a comfortable, albeit small bathroom. We loved the superb view of the garden and the sea. There are several restaurants - also the renovated restaurant Candlelight of a Michelin-starred chef - a lovely pool area, a tennis club with many courts and all the facilities of a typical five-star hotel. The staff is friendly and helpful, we felt very much at ease there.

Hostal de la Gavina, S'Agaro

6 outstanding restaurants for food lovers

As usual I did not leave anything to chance when it comes to good food! Despite the fact that we booked our stay at short term, I checked as many restaurants as possible beforehand (Michelin and TripAdvisor) and identified 4 addresses where we made reservations from home. One restaurant we discovered onsite when walking around in the bay of Sant Pol and checking it afterwards against TripAdvisor.

Here you will find my list of recommended restaurants.

1. Candlelight by Romain Fornell, S'Agaro

This restaurant, located in the Hostal de la Gavina, is under the aegis of Romain Fornell, a Michelin starred chef. This means, if I understand this correctly, that he is responsible for the cuisine, but does not stand at the stove himself. As the weather was favorable, we could sit outside in the lovely patio savoring a delicious meal (small menu), although it was a bit too much loaded with seafood for my taste.

Patio of Candlelight

2. La Menta, Palamos

We had a tasty dinner in this small restaurant in the heart of the lively town of Palamos. We dined in a quiet alley while tourists were strolling through the nearby main street. All the dishes we had were well prepared, to our liking and served by friendly staff.

3. Can Roquet, Santa Cristina d'Aro

To reach this restaurant you have to drive to a hilltop hamlet with fine views over the mountains and the valley, very nice. There, a wide selection of well-prepared and sometimes adventurous dishes are served in the beautiful garden. Be advised, it can be rather windy and chilly also in summertime, but the staff provides blankets for this cases.

Restaurant Can Roquet

4. Godard, S'Agaro

We discovered this place serving tapas by chance because my husband thought that it looked good when we were passing. We checked the restaurant out and found out that it recently had moved from Palamos - where it had received rave reviews - to S'Agaro. And it was the highlight of our stay on the Costa Brava! We usually are not great fans of the tapas concept, but there it is perfectly executed.

Restaurant Godard: Aged Beef Ribeye

5. Els Tinars, Llagostera

That was the only Michelin starred restaurant we visited on the Costa Brava. Be aware that this place is not only big, but also very busy. While we liked the food, we were a bit ambivalent about the restaurant's atmosphere. It made on us the impression of being rather clinical. But I have to admit that I am more fond of smaller, more intimate places.

3 superb walks along the coast

There is an extensive hiking trail stretching all the way from the beginning of the Costa Brava in the south (Blanes) to its end near the border of France. There are 220 km that can be hiked! That - in the whole extent - certainly is not my cup of tea, but it is a tremendous activity to do in sections. The trail mainly leads along the coast passing spectacular cliffs and countless coves and goes by different names: Camino de Ronda, GR-92 (Grand Randonee), or Costa Brava Way.

We did 3 sections that I will introduce in the following (from south to north).

1. Section from Platja Sant Pol to Platja d'Aro

This easy walk leads from the bay near the Hostal de la Gavina along the spectacular coastline to another one where you can find a beautiful beach. You need about 30 minutes for it and in my view it is one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done on a coast. There is a variety of coves and beauty spots, you can experience coastal nature at its best! And all this perfectly blends in with the architectural set of S'Agaro, created by the architect Rafael Maso. You also have countless possibilities to descend to the sea and cool off in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.

Camino de Ronda S'Agaro

2. Section from Sant Antoni de Calonge to Platja d'Aro

This is the least easy and longest coastal path of the 3 ones. It takes you past some of the most stunning scenery along the Costa Brava. You pass pine groves, flowering shrubs, secluded coves and pristine beaches. It goes up and down, you climb stairs, go over bridges and walk through a tunnel. Several times you have to cross beaches. Before reaching the town of Platja d'Aro we stopped and returned after crossing the 7th beach - I do not like walking on the beach in sneakers! We needed 40 minutes for one way, I guess you need about 50 minutes to do the whole route.

3. Section from Llafranc to Capella de Palafrugell

This easy walk lasts only 15 minutes, but it is a rewarding thing to do. The coastal path is mainly flat and relatively wide and offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean Sea. You walk above the water, partly also in the shade and can experience the exceptional maritime landscape.

View of Llafranc

6 magnificent medieval and/or fishing villages

There are many picturesque villages in the area. Of all the places visited I especially recommend the following ones (from south to north).

1. Tossa de Mar

This small town lies directly on the sea. Its charming character could be preserved although its growth due to tourism. When going there, you have to go to the walled-in old town. It is the only example of a fortified medieval town still standing on the Costa Brava. Having said this, you have to be aware that you will have to share this experience with a lot of other tourists!
If you want to have lunch there, give Restaurant La Cuina de Can Simon a try, it is a Michelin starred cuisine. I myself was not hungry enough to do this, but I gave it a closer look and I liked what I saw ...

Tossa de Mar

2. Castell d'Aro

This is an ancient village built around a medieval castle and a fortified church, about 3 km inland. It is a small and quiet place, you do not need more than 20 minutes to take in the place's character. But it is does you good to linger for a while there in the calm, historical streets.

3. Tamariu

The little whitewashed resort of Tamariu has an attractive beach, framed by pine-covered hills, a real feast for the eyes! Originally being a fishing village it has developed as a consequence of tourism, but fortunately it was able to retain its charm.


4. Peratallada

I liked this cute medieval village most! It is known for its beautiful old stone buildings and streets. Walking around in the maze of narrow streets that regularly open out into sunny squares makes you feel good. And best of all, there are not that many tourists there - at least when we were in Peratallada.
If you like ice cream - as I do - do not leave this village without tasting the amazing ice cream of Gelat Artesa de Peratallada, what a treat!


5. Pals

Pals is a medieval village, set on a small hill, overlooking the rice fields in its surroundings. It is one of the best preserved historical places on the Costa Brava and because of this also one of the most visited. There are beautiful stone houses to look at and sometimes you can get a glimpse of a flowered courtyard garden behind gates.

6. Cadaques

Nestled between two capes and flanked by mountains the white village is an especially nice sight. With its labyrinth of cobblestoned streets and its white chalked houses Cadaques is not called for nothing the "Pearl of the Costa Brava". Do not content yourself with strolling along the seaside promenade, but thrust yourself into the maze of steep, narrow streets paved with stones and look for a quiet corner. If you are lucky, you will find one because the beautiful fishing village is overrun by tourists, also because Salvador Dali's house - now converted into a museum - can be found in the nearby village of Portlligat.


Date of stay: July 2016

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