Gibraltar lies almost at the southernmost tip of Spain, at the western end of the Costa del Sol. One of Europe’s most famed and glamorous stretches of golden sands, it’s dotted with whitewashed towns and backed by mountainous interiors.
Gibraltar, though, isn’t Spanish. While you can see Spain from every angle, and even the mountains of Morocco across the narrow straits between Europe and Africa, this is a British Overseas Territory; a speck of Britain in the Mediterranean, but with better weather, and a string of fine beaches of its own.
Less than three square miles in size, the town clings to a towering limestone monolith that’s riddled with caves and ringed by sandy shores. Be sure to take time to relax on one of Gibraltar’s glorious beaches. This is, after all, a corner of Europe that claims more than 300 days of sunshine per year.
Here are seven of the best beaches in Gibraltar for your next journey.
Situated by a sleepy fishing village to the east of the Rock of Gibraltar, Catalan Bay is a particularly dreamy spot and one of the finest Gibraltar beaches.
Curiously, no one seems to be able to agree fully on where the name comes from. Although it seems to imply that the area once belonged to the Catalan people, history doesn’t support that theory.
Some people believe that the name is a corruption of “La Caleta”, the Spanish name for the area for centuries, while others think that the British simply mistook the Genoese fishermen from Italy, who settled here, for Catalans.
Regardless of where its name comes from, Catalan Bay is one of the jewels of Gibraltar. Because only working fishermen and their families were allowed to live here for generations, the area has retained its character.
Today, most of the village residents are still the descendants of those original Genoese fishermen who plied these waters for centuries. For those looking to slow down and soak in the sunshine, this can be a real blessing.
It doesn’t hurt that the bay is almost absurdly photogenic. Picture a pastel rainbow of colorful houses set against sheer cliffs rising dramatically above a sandy crescent. The overall effect is vaguely reminiscent of famous villages around Italy’s Lago di Garda or Cinque Terre, albeit with a flair all of its own.
If you’re looking to stop for a leisurely lunch after a splash in the shallows, the village has ample dining opportunities. Make time to admire the historic Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, then sip on a cocktail at the Cabana Bar.
Playa de Levante
Also known as Eastern Beach, Playa de Levante is both the longest sandy beach in Gibraltar and home to one of the best views of the Rock.
As the name implies, it’s situated on the eastern side, meaning it receives abundant sunlight for most of the day. Unsurprisingly, it’s the first stop for many travelers—if you’re only going to visit one beach, this is an excellent choice.
This beach happens to be one of the few in the world that runs directly up to an airstrip. As you lie on your lounger under an umbrella, you can watch the planes taxi and take off at Gibraltar International Airport.
If you’d prefer to do so with a cold G&T in hand, head to Bella Vita, an open-air restaurant right on the beach. The menu here errs on the Mediterranean side and tends to keep it simple, offering saffron-flavored paella with gambas, garlicky shrimp, and plates of thinly sliced Iberian ham.
Playa de Levante’s prime location means it’s also within easy walking distance to some of Gibraltar’s best dining and drinking options. For a low-key, family-friendly vibe, it’s hard to beat Biancas, which serves comfort classics like pizzas, steaks, and burgers and is a popular spot among locals for Sunday brunch.
For a frosty pint, head to The Star Bar, which claims to be the oldest legal drinking establishment in Gibraltar. The fish and chips, made with Atlantic cod, is among the best in the area and there’s a full English breakfast available daily until noon.
Located to the northwest of the Rock of Gibraltar, Western Beach is quieter than its larger counterpart, Eastern Beach. That suits locals—and everyone else looking for a bit of space on the sand—just fine.
This seafront may be less developed than some Gibraltar beaches, but it has all of the infrastructure one could hope for, including a no-frills eatery serving snacks. The shallow, sandy ocean floor extends reasonably far out, so go ahead and wade out to sea.
If a couple of hours on the sand is enough, occupy the rest of your day with a cable car ride to the top of the Rock; nothing is very far and it’s easy to get to the cable car station. The panoramic views are every bit as heart-stopping as one could hope.
From way up above, you’ll be able to see Spain’s Costa del Sol stretching away to the north, the Sierra Nevada in the distance, and the misty Rif Mountains of Morocco across the narrow Straits of Gibraltar.
Mons Calpe Suite, the restaurant at the top of the cable car, is a lovely reward for making the journey. The menu here focuses on fresh, seafood-forward Mediterranean dishes. If you happen to visit on a Thursday, be sure to try their afternoon tea, which comes with buttery, tender-crumbed scones and all sorts of pastries.
While you’re on top of the Rock, you’ll encounter Gibraltar’s free-ranging colony of some 300 Barbary apes, which have been a presence here for hundreds of years. Legend has it that if the apes leave the Rock, then so will the British.
As such, Winston Churchill made sure to bring reinforcement monkeys from Africa during World War II, when the colony diminished in size.
Today, you can photograph the monkeys; some will even pose for a selfie. But you can’t touch them—and keep any food secured and hidden, as they are inclined to steal from unsuspecting visitors.
Playa de Santa Bárbara
Expect to see planes soaring overhead at this relaxed beach, which lies a stone’s throw from the Gibraltar International Airport.
In addition to unimpeded views of the Rock of Gibraltar, Playa de Santa Bárbara boasts soft sands and a wooden promenade that’s ideal for people-watching. Wear your sandals or go barefoot—preferably with an ice cream in hand—and take in the sights.
It may lack the extended stretch of powdery sand found on Playa de Levante, but Camp Bay lures travelers with its other considerable charms.
Situated overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this rocky beach is framed by cliffs and a view of Parson’s Lodge Battery, a historic British fort. There’s even a cascade towards the southern end of the bay.
This man-made waterfall is actually the leftover water from a desalination plant returning to the ocean, but the effect is nonetheless striking.
Although small in size, Camp Bay is particularly popular for a couple of reasons. Divers and snorkelers are fond of the area thanks to its man-made reef—one of the first construction projects of its kind in Europe.
Originally started in 1973, the Gibraltar Artificial Reef—often simply called the Gibraltar Reef—uses a combination of sunken boats, barges, and concrete blocks to create a haven for local marine life. If you get a chance to dive here, you could spot octopus, cuttlefish, boxfish, damselfish, and Atlantic torpedo rays.
Little Bay Beach
Families with children in tow will want to make a beeline for this sheltered cove by Camp Bay. Since these two beaches are directly next to one another, most visitors take the opportunity to wander between the two.
Thanks to its shallow waters free from dangerous rip tides or currents, Little Bay Beach is great for less confident swimmers looking to dip their toes in the water.
The best part of all is that these beaches are the location of two salt-water swimming pools overlooking the ocean. For parents looking for peace of mind, these are an absolute gift. It helps that there’s a ring of lounge chairs encircling the pool—which means that moms and dads can sip a cool drink in the shade while the kids splash around.
To the unsuspecting eye, Sandy Bay just looks like another stretch of honey-hued sand set against the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. While the beach was originally a natural formation, the sand here nowadays isn’t from Gibraltar at all.
After crashing waves and violent winds decimated the natural beach, officials in Gibraltar spent years trying to restore it to its former luster. In order to rebuild what was lost, they imported more than 50,000 tons of sand all the way from the Western Sahara Desert.
Of course, getting the sand here was only half of the challenge; the other half was finding a way to keep it. As part of the project, they installed a frontal breakwater and two groynes, as well as a submerged breakwater.
Since the completion of the restoration in 2014, Sandy Bay has once again reclaimed its status as one of the best beaches in Gibraltar. All that added protection has the bonus of shielding sunbathers and swimmers from strong tides and high waves.
Discover beautiful beaches and so much more when you visit this unique place. Gibraltar’s approachable size makes it perfect for a day trip on a longer voyage through Spain, Portugal, France, and other nearby destinations. Browse Celebrity’s luxury cruises to Gibraltar and book your next adventure.