With the unique location on the crossroads of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the mainland of Spain offers underwater photography and wrecks, wall and cave diving. Crustaceans, Giant Groupers, Barracudas, Rays, and such rare species like Sunfish (Mola Mola) and Moonfish (Opahs) will capture your attention from dawn till dusk.
Spain is not to be missed on the map being the 2nd largest country in Europe. It is one of the 3 countries which have access to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
In order to get to one of the diving areas located around the mainland of Spain you can arrive at one of the international airports: Barcelona and Gerona serve as the main air gate of Costa Brava; Valencia and Alicante provide access to Costa Blanca; Malaga and Sevilla can be chosen in order to get to Costa del Sol. Granada is the closest airport in Costa de Tropical.
Being the main air hub in Spain, Madrid can also be used for connections with domestic airlines. Public transport is well developed in Spain; you can travel by buses and trains. If you rent a car, that might give you more freedom in the exploration of the region.
If you are targeting the southern part of Spain and plan to visit Gibraltar it is recommended to check your visa requirements, as this is an overseas territory belonging to Britain.
Circumfluous by the Bay of Biscay, the North Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Balearic Sea, Spain features 2234km (1388mi) of coast on the eastern side and 1670km (1038mi) of coast on the western side.
Waters of the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Sea are rather chilly all the year round. However, they hide unpredictable encounters with such creatures as Moonfish and Blue Shark.
Warmer diving areas are concentrated along southern, south-eastern and north-eastern part of Iberian Peninsula. Even during the warmest months 5mm suit is the best choice. It is common to face thermoclines in deeper areas, so you might also prefer to put on a hood and gloves.
Costa Brava stretches from the border with France to Blanes. Medes Islands next to L’Estartit are located in this area being one of the best diving spots in Spain. This Archipelago is a marine reserve with wealthy and unspoiled Mediterranean flora and fauna. Each person needs to pay a tax of 5EUR (~5.5USD) per dive.
The Islas Hormigas Marine Park is located to the east of Cabo de Palos on Costa Calida in Murcia. Divers are attracted to this area by the amount of Barracudas, Groupers, Morays, and Eagle Rays.
Tarifa together with the nearby Gibraltar offers the unique opportunity to dive in the place where the Mediterranean Sea meets the North Atlantic Ocean. Costa del Sol features interesting wrecks going back to the World War II, caves as well as Marina del Este which is a marine reserve.
Liveaboards are not typical for Spain so diving is usually performed on a daily basis either from the shore or from boats. You can charter a private vessel to travel along the coast, though it is difficult to find the one with diving facilities. In case you prefer to travel by yacht and you have your own equipment, it might be a good idea to check the closest dive clubs on your route and either to join them for diving or agree to fill the tanks at their facilities.
Best Dive Sites Overview
Los Ullastres (Costa Brava)
If you wish to find the best spots to dive along Costa Brava, try to visit the small fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell. Just within 10-minute boat transfer you can find 3 dive spots named Ullastres I, II and III accordingly. These are the most spectacular pinnacles in this area. The depths range between 6-55m (19-180ft.) so there are spots for all levels of divers here. You can enjoy walls covered with Blue, Red, and Yellow Gorgonians and Sponges as well as several small wrecks, and crevices. The most typical inhabitants of these pinnacles are Mackerel, Tuna, Groupers, Barracuda, and Wrasse. On the reefs, you can look for Nudibranchs, Morays, Scorpionfish, and Stonefish. It is common to see Stingrays and Eagle Rays here.
The Medes Islands (Costa Brava)
The village of L’Estartit is the closest location from which you can set off to the Medes Islands, the most famous diving area of Costa Brava. This is a protected marine reserve which features the widest range of Mediterranean flora and fauna species. Visibility is usually very good here. These small Islands offer more than 10 dive sites. Most of them are great for photography. Depending on the experience you can explore the shallow areas where depth ranges between 7-15m (22-49ft.) and deeper spots going down to 35m (114ft.). There are many beautiful soft corals including Red, Purple, Violet, and Yellow Sea Fans. The area features a large number of caves and tunnels. Dofí Sud is the best dive site for cave diving with a 70m (229ft.) long tunnel and a statue of the Dolphin under the water. Fish is widely represented by schools of Barracuda, Giant Groupers, Crayfish, and Scorpionfish. On the rock formations, it is common to find Shrimps, Lobsters, Nudibranchs, Eels, and Morays. Local dive clubs recommend looking into the deep regularly as Eagle Rays are often passing by and if you are lucky, you might come across an occasional Mola Mola. Though the latter is quite shy and hardly can be seen during the most popular months of July and August.
El Furió de Fitó (Costa Brava)
Not far from the town of Begur there is another beautiful rock formation which can be dived differently depending on the level of experience. The top of the pinnacle starts at 14m (45ft.) and it goes down to 50m (164ft.). There is the second smaller pinnacle with the top at 26m (85ft.). The northern wall features cracks and colorful reef formations covered with Gorgonians. Here you can expect to see big schools of Barracuda and Snappers as well as Grouper, Octopus, and Stingrays.
The Islas Hormigas Marine Park (Costa Cálida)
This marine park can be found near Cabo de Palos. It features not only an abundance of marine life but many wrecks as well. It is common to see Octopus, Morays, Scorpionfish, Nudibranch, Lobster, Crabs, Shrimps, Damselfish, Cuttlefish, and Squid here. The pelagic is represented by Sardines, Mackerel, Jacks, Tuna, Barracuda, Grouper, Eagle Ray, Torpedo Electric Ray, and Butterfly Ray. From time to time Sunfish is spotted around the Islands. Dive site Bajo de Fuera features 4 wrecks: Casenga; an Italian long freighter Nord America which sank in 1883; Minerva which sank in 1899 after hitting the rock due to bad weather; and an Italian passenger liner Sirio where immigrants were illegally traveling to the USA and which sank in 1906. All these wrecks are located between 48-61m (157-200ft.) and they can be enjoyed only by deep and technical divers.
La Cueva del Agua (Murcia)
This is the only fully explored cave on the mainland of Spain which can be found in the area of Cartagena-Murcia. Only divers with special cave and technical skills are allowed here. The total length of this cave is 2010m (6595ft.) with the maximum depth of 21m (68ft.). The water temperature at the surface is 19ºC (66ºF) but due to the thermal streams, it reaches 31ºC (87ºF) as soon as you go below 6m (19ft.). The Cave is subdivided into 4 sections and it is recommended to go along the mainline. Otherwise, the crystal clear visibility can be easily spoiled by the sediment and you can break the fragments of the Cave. There are areas where you can enjoy fantastic stalactites, stalagmites, and underwater galleries.
Fraggle Rock (Costa Tropical)
If you are targeting Costa Tropical and the area of La Herradura and Nerja, it is highly recommended to try Fraggle Rock dive site. This underwater rock can be found on the western side of Marina del Este Bay. This dive combines rich marine fauna and wrecks of fishing boats. The average depth is 16-27m (52-88ft.). The Rock is covered with beautiful Anemones and soft corals. Besides regular residents of this area like Nudibranchs, Cleaner Shrimps, Conger Eels, Morays, Octopus, Stonefish, Scorpionfish, Lobsters, Groupers, Damselfish, and Wrasse you might also spot juvenile Mola Mola. The latter visits the area due to the cleaning services offered by Wrasse and Bream.
Camp Bay Conservation Site (Costa del Sol)
Located near Gibraltar, this is one of the most famous dive sites in this area. On the one hand, you have an opportunity to get acquainted with the unique underwater environment where Atlantic species meet with the Mediterranean ones. On the other hand, this site represents an artificial reef of 11 wrecks which were deliberately sunk. The entry to the Camp Bay dive site is made from the shore with the maximum depth of 19m (62ft.). Local dive clubs usually make 2 dives with a surface interval during 1 daily trip. You can find several barges, boats, a wooden vessel “True Joy”, a bulk carrier New Flame, and Royal Navy Ship M482. Some of the wrecks can be penetrated.
The marine life here is usually represented by Octopuses, Cuttlefish, Pipefish, Damselfish, Boxfish, Anthias, and Atlantic Torpedo Rays.
Best Dive Season
July and August are usually the best months to dive around the mainland of Spain. However, you should take into consideration that most of the local people have holidays in August as well as many other Europeans. So some coastal areas can be very crowded and it is recommended to book an accommodation and diving in advance for this period.
If you do not mind chilly water and semi-dry suit or 5-7mm wetsuit, then you can dive in Spain all the year round. It is also recommended to check whether the shop you are planning to dive with stops operations during the cold winter months.
The Mediterranean Sea is usually warmer than the Atlantic coast. It features 13ºC (55ºF) as the coldest temperature between December-February and it can get as warm as 26ºC (78ºF) at Costa Brava and 29-30ºC (84-86ºF) at Costa del Sol in August. The maximum temperature at the Cantabrian Sea hardly gets warmer than 21ºC (69ºF).
Waters around Spain feature visibility between 10-40m (32-131ft.) depending on the area. Currents are usually gentle, though there are some exposed areas with strong currents. It is highly recommended to dive with the local guides who usually have good knowledge of the currents and tides.
Due to the water temperature which stays warm only for a short period of time, rocks and reefs in Spain are usually covered with soft corals and Seagrass. You can see various Anemones, Sponges, and Gorgonians.
Crustaceans and Sea Slugs are widely present around the coastline. There are many species of Crabs, Lobsters, and Shrimps hiding in crevices, caves, and rock formations. Among Nudibranchs, you can find the spectacular Spanish Dancer which gained its name due to the unusual dancing technique used for swimming. If you take a closer look at the rocks or reefs, you might see some red ribbons in the shape of a rose. This is eggs chain laid by this magnificent Nudibranch which can get as long as 40cm (16 inches).
Squids, Cuttlefish, Morays, and Octopus inhabit the area around Spain. Among fish, it is common to see Scorpionfish and Damselfish. Pelagic is very diverse in this area. Giant Groupers, Barracudas, Tuna, Jacks, Mackerel, Sardines, and Snappers are often spotted around.
Gibraltar Strait offers a rare biosphere with the mixture of different species. Here you can see both: species from the Atlantic Ocean and from the Mediterranean Sea. Dolphins are usually seen all the year round while you can come across Orcas in July-August. However, both species are usually noticed from the boats and not during the dive.
Even though there are about 25 species of rays, sharks and chimera registered around Spain, you will hardly come across most of them. The shark population was hugely reduced due to fishing and accidental catches. Even Great White Shark used to be visiting the Mediterranean Sea from time to time in the middle of the 20th century. However, there was no evidence of such encounters as of the late 1990’s. Rays are more common and you can enjoy Eagle Ray, Torpedo Electric Ray, and Stingrays.
Other rare guests in the waters around Spain are Moonfish (Opahs) and Sunfish (Mola Mola). These 2 species are often mixed being referred to under the same name. The first one is eatable species while the second one is not. Mola Mola is more often to be spotted during diving while they come from the deep to the cleaning stations.
Being one of the main holiday destinations in Europe, Spain has a great experience in offering different types of accommodation along the coastline to suit any request. Here you can find luxury villas, holiday homes, hotels, resorts, apartments, camping areas, and hostels. Dive clubs are not integrated with the resorts, so you can stay where you wish and either arrive at the dive club by car or ask for a pick-up service.
Hotel Sant Roc (Costa Brava)
If you are diving along Costa Brava, Hotel Sant Roc located in a small fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell might be the best choice. This modern Hotel can be found on the cliffs with the breathtaking views over the bay and the village. It offers 25 Rooms which are designed in romantic, rustic, avant-garde, modern, and classic style. Each Room features a private bathroom, A/C, and a free mini-bar. Guests can enjoy a restaurant, café, and Spa on site. Poseidon Calella Dive Club is located in walking distance.
Apartamentos Las Brisas (Costa Brava)
The town of L’Estartit is the main location for those who wish to dive at Medes Islands. Apartamentos Las Brisas are situated in the center of the town next to the beach. Up to 6 guests can be accommodated in these 2-bedroom apartments. There are a separate living room, fully-equipped kitchen with a washing machine and a dishwasher, a terrace, and a private bathroom in the apartment. The Resort offers an outdoor pool and a free guest parking. There are more than 5 dive shops located nearby who offer diving around Medes Islands.
Casa Atalaya (Costa Brava)
If you are looking for more privacy for a group up to 12 persons you can choose Casa Atalaya located on the eastern side of the town of L’Estartit next to Playa del Puerto. This is a 5-bedroom Holiday Home. A terrace features a dining area and hammocks with the magnificent views over the bay. There is a fully-equipped kitchen; a living room with a fireplace and TV; BBQ facilities; and a private outdoor pool. Dive clubs are located within the walking distance.
Apartment La Manga del Mar Menor 30 (Costa Cálida)
This beachfront Holiday Home is located in the town of La Manga del Mar Menor in Murcia which can be a comfortable accommodation for those who plan to dive at Islas Hormigas. This is a 1-bedroom apartment which can accommodate 2 persons. It features a private bathroom, a kitchen, and a terrace. The nearest dive shop is located within 5-minutes drive at Cape Palos.
Apartamento Almuñecar LII (Costa Tropical)
When choosing Costa Tropical for diving, you can stay in the nearby town of La Herradura. This Holiday Home welcomes up to 6 guests. It features 3 bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen with a washing machine and a dishwasher, and a terrace with the beach views. Free parking is available on site. Several dive clubs can be found within the walking distance from the property.
Alcaidesa Village (Costa del Sol)
This is a 3-bedroom modern apartment located in the town of Alcaidesa not far from the Gibraltar Straight. Up to 7 guests can be accommodated here. This property features a fully-equipped kitchen, a terrace, A/C, and free WiFi. The guests can use an outdoor pool, mini golf, and a free parking on the territory of the property. You can set up your daily diving trips with Dive Charter, the only PADI dive club located in Gibraltar.
AC Hotel Algeciras (Costa del Sol)
This Hotel belongs to Marriott Group. Located in Algeciras, it offers modern and spacious rooms with A/C, a private bathroom, and a balcony. There is a gym, a restaurant, a bar, and free parking on site. Caetaria Actividades Subacuáticas Dive Club is located within a walking distance from the Hotel.
Other Activities For Non-Divers
Medes Islands at Costa Brava is the best snorkeling location in Spain. In order to get there, you need to join one of the boat operators as there are daily restrictions to the number of visitors at this marine park. This area features almost all main species which can be found in Mediterranean. Another great snorkeling area is located at Costa del Sol within Maro Natural Park next to the town of Nerja.
Tours and Activities
The mainland of Spain offers historic and sightseeing tours, ancient churches and medieval towns, all types of water activities, aqua parks, and animal parks. There are many good golf courses. The amateurs of art can enjoy masterpieces by Dalí, Gaudí, Picasso, Goya, Velázquez, and many other Spanish artists.
If you are travelling in the southern part of Spain you can taste some wine and brandy in Jerez; visit an amazing blue village of Juzcar also referred to as Smurf Village; or call to the Rock of Gibraltar to see Morocco on the other side of the Gibraltar Strait and make pictures among the Barbary Macaques inhabiting this area.
Furthermore, you can relax in countless cafés, restaurants, bodegas and tapas bars offering a great variety of typical Spanish tapas and meals in any town or village of the country.