Everything You Need to Know About Costa Brava Spain Coastal Hikes

August 16, 2016   11 Comments »

Ever since I walked into the plaza at the cathedral in Santiago Spain completing the Camino de Santiago Saint James Way, I’ve been looking for something. In a weird way – the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage didn’t end in Santiago for me, my pilgrimage actually just began there. I wanted more, I didn’t want it to end; so I’ve been on a quest for similar long distance hiking experiences around the world.

Even though many people are happy to walk the Camino de Santiago again and again, I’m not that type of person. I don’t do re-do’s – I want to keep exploring new things and places.

I’ve found similar experiences to the Camino such as Turkey’s Lycian Way Hike, but it was more of an involved long distance hike with camping, hauling food, and roughing it. Even though it was great, it wasn’t quite like the long distance walk of the Camino de Santiago where you sleep in a different village every night and also are able to enjoy the urban life and perks civilization brings.

This summer I completed 100 miles of the 135 mile Camino de Ronda and Coastal Paths of Costa Brava Spain; experiencing that same type of long distance walking satisfaction and excitement that I had in Santiago. So if you are like me and are looking for the next Santiago or a new long distance village to village hike, Costa Brava offers an excellent alternative; less crowded, intense culture, and beautiful coastal views the whole way.

cami de ronda hiking book

History of the Costa Brava Coastal Paths

What started as small footpaths along the cliffs to connect fishing villages in the 19th century, evolved into police surveillance and border patrol routes to stop smuggling along the Catalan coast in the 20th Century. This is essentially how the name Camino de Ronda came to be. ‘Ronda’ means beat or patrol. However, after the 1950’s the paths started to disappear in lieu of urban development and lack of use. Now there’s an effort to reinstate the Camino Ronda footpaths that connect the modern day villages and run along the Mediterranean coast of Catalonia Spain.

Some sections of the Camino Ronda are well maintained and refurbished, but others are still overgrown or too treacherous to hike along the coastal cliffs. Other major hiking paths have been created though to connect the various sections of the old Camino de Ronda and essentially create a complete coastal hiking system along the Costa Brava stretching 135 miles from Blanes to Portbou at the border of France.

One such path is the GR-92, part of the Grand Randonee European long distance path system. It’s a well-marked and maintained path running the entire Catalan coast. Where the Camino de Ronda is not walkable or not well connected, the GR-92 snakes inland into the Costa Brava farmlands providing a fun variety of coast and inland hiking.

Of course you have a lot of questions about how a hike like this can work and what to expect along the Costa Brava Coastal paths, here are the most frequent questions I get when it comes to long distance hiking. Hopefully this will help you make your decision on if this hike is for you!

Camino de Ronda Hike Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Hiking Terrain Like?

Camino de ronda terrain

A look at all the different kids of trail you'll be hiking along!

This is a coastal hike, so first and foremost, you can expect a lot of up and down. The coastal trails are normally described as moderate. However depending on the trail and the day, it can range from easy to difficult. Most of the coastal paths run along the coast traversing peninsulas and coves that jut out like fingers. This means you will rarely be hiking in a straight line from point A to point B. Instead, you will be going in and out each little peninsula and cape as if you were traversing in and out fingers on a hand. In addition, along the coastal paths you tend to continuously go up and down from the rugged cliffs to the secluded beaches. Often times there are stairs (sometimes rather steep) around the more developed areas and communities, which makes the footing easier, but it’s still up and down. However, on other parts it is simply dirt trail and can be quite steep at times.

The Costa Brava trails go through two distinct terrains. The southern part of the hike (from Blanes to Pals) is full of magnificent cliffs, coves and lush forests and farms. The abundance of pine, holm-oak, and cork trees gives you a nice canopy of shade while hiking. The northern part of the hike (from l’Estartit to Portbou), is much more rugged and varied. You’ll move through wetlands to the rocky, barren region of Cap de Creus, the easternmost point of Spain. This is the rough and tumble foothills of the Pyrenees rising out of the Mediterranean. There are few trees and shade in this region.

However, this isn’t mountain hiking, you aren’t dealing with altitude or scrambling up and down rocks or boulders – it’s just good, solid hiking. If you are a frequent and strong hiker, it will be fairly easy for you, but it you don’t do a lot of hiking or aren’t as sure-footed on trails, then it may prove a nice challenge. The real challenge of the hike is the long distance. If you do the entire Costa Brava Coast, then you’ll be hiking approximately 7 to 12 miles a day for 2 weeks straight, so endurance is a factor.

You’ll hike in and out of the towns along the coast, so do keep in mind that the routes leading in and out of the towns are quite urban and the trail often turns to a sidewalk or stone path. You’ll also find yourself hiking in sand on beaches quite often.

Can you Hike it Independently?

bookThe trail is well marked enough to easily hike it on your own if that’s your style. If you want to arrange all of your logistics, it’s easy to do so since it’s mainly hotel stays.

If you do go independently, the best book out there in English with proper maps, elevation, and time frames is  The Camins de Ronda Costa Brava way.  It breaks the entire trek into 12 stages and was a great resource for day hikes and more.

A great local company option is Cami De Ronda. They offer both self-guided hikes and guided hikes. For self-guided you sign up online, they provide a detailed map and English guidebook, gps maps for your phone, and they can help you organize your hotels and move your luggage day to day.

Is Guided Hiking Available?

If you prefer to go with a group and want everything organized for you, there are plenty of local and international touring options for that too. However most of the guided hiking groups don’t do the entire length of the coastal paths, but instead do 5 to 7 days of the trail. In addition, the group companies arrange hotels and meals for you and many of them also move your luggage from stop to stop.

As mentioned above, you can use a local company like Cami de Ronda to guide you along the Coastal Path. They also do group guided hikes if you want more local knowledge of food and culture of the area this is a great option. They also do a unique circular route (self guided or guided) that starts in Girona, goes out to the coastal towns and walks the Camino de Ronda for 4 days and then back inland to Girona.

There are also larger, international companies operating in the Costa Brava with the coastal paths as a part of their itinerary. Small group travel companies specializing in hiking and biking, like Exodus Travels (a great company I’ve traveled/hiked with before) offers itineraries in the region that goes beyond just the hiking trail and covers other areas and Catalan culture in the itinerary. Check out their Coastal Trails of Catalonia Walking Trip – it includes a couple of the best coastal trail routes, free time, and also takes you though Barcelona sights.

How do you Find Your Way?

 

Camino de ronda trail markers

Trail markings come in many shapes, sizes, and colors along the coastal paths

The trails are marked really well in 85% of the areas, but you may come across some regions that are a little confusing. You will mainly be following either he Camino de Ronda trail markings or the GR92 trail markings.

Camino de Ronda trail markings are marked in various ways in the different regions, but most of the time you’ll see a green marked signs that actually say Cami de Ronda. The GR92 marking are pretty abundant since it’s an international trail system and it’s always marked in red and white.

The signs vary; sometimes there will be nice signs and maps in the urban areas, but while on the more remote, natural trail you simply look for markings on trees, light posts, rocks, other signs…basically anywhere and everywhere. This may seem worrisome at first, but as you hike the trail, your eyes and brain get used to searching for the markings and soon it becomes second nature. When you find yourself at a crossroads, look for the markings or look for an ‘X’ marking which indicates that this is NOT the right way.

The markings in the South region were very good probably because it’s the more traversed routes. However, I found that the further north I hiked (Roses and beyond), the markings got a bit less frequent and they started to intermix with other trail markings. This is where my GPS map from the Cami de Ronda company ( I had loaded on my smartphone came in very useful. if you do get lost, you won’t be lost for long as you are generally always close to civilization and there are normally people you encounter on the trail who you can also ask. In the entire 2 weeks of hiking, I only made a wrong turn a couple of times and quickly found my way again.

What is the Best Time of Year to Hike?

You can hike the coastal trails at any time of the year, including winter, because the temperatures are mild year around.

Summer (July/August): This is the most popular time to hike the coastal paths because tourism is at its height; however, so is the temperature. The good news is that coastal hiking normally always has a nice coastal breeze that helps keep you cool, not to mention the tree cover in the southern part of Costa Brava. However, once you reach Cadaques and beyond, in the northern part of Costa Brava, the heat really takes hold since there is practically no trees and shady spots in this region. The big advantage to going in during the busy summer months is that the Mediterranean water is warm, perfect for swimming or just cooling off in the middle of a hike.

Spring & Fall (April/May/September/October): If you are looking for cooler hiking temperatures, and fewer people – then consider going in the off season. The temperatures are cooler (perfect for hiking), however you may run into a bit more rain.

camino de ronda weather

A large storm forms on the horizon as I’m hiking in May!

In the North starting around Roses to Portbou, be prepared to contend with the powerful north wind called tramontana (beyond mountains) which has caused many naval disasters. The wind can happen year around and has the ability to really slow you down.

costa brava weather

You can refer to this chart for weather averages in the Costa Brava region

Or check here for more information on weather averages of the Costa Brava Region

Can you Transport Your Luggage?

Most companies that offer tours will offer luggage transport. However if you want to hike independently and go pack free, or simply day pack weight, then you can hire the services of a company like Cami de Ronda who will move your luggage from hotel to hotel through their self guided package they offer.

lowepro photo sport

I carried a daypack only

I had my luggage moved daily and carried a Lowepro Photo Sport day pack that allowed me to carry rain gear, snacks, first aide, and also my cameras and lenses with easy access.

Are There Bathrooms Facilities On the Trail?

You’ll find public and private bathrooms all along the way in the little towns and beach communities you traverse through. If you stop in a bar, restaurant or shop, try to purchase something is you are using the bathroom. You’ll often find public restrooms at any larger beach area so keep on the lookout and use them when you see them. If you find yourself on a remote part of the trail and have to ‘go’, be kind and leave no trace.

Where Do You Stay Along the Trail?

Towns and lodging are spaced out along the trail so that it’s easy to find lodging each night in any of the coastal towns along the path. You can stay in high-end premium hotels are remain basic and choose hostels, or even do Airbnb in the towns. If you book with a tour company, they will help you arrange hotels each night based on your route. If you hike independently you can book your own hotels. During the busy summer months of June, July, and August and on weekends you’ll want to reserve in advance. However if you are hiking in the off-seasons of Spring and Fall and weekdays, you can likely get a hotel room the day you arrive.

What do you Eat Along the Trail?

Food is a highlight in Costa Brava! If you are into gastronomy, then make sure you plan ahead and reserve your spot at some of the great Costa Brava Michelin star restaurants on the coast. However all of the towns you’ll pass through have great food and especially great seafood. Each region of the coast specializes in different seafood depending on season, be sure to ask the locals what to order. Since this is a mix of urban and nature hiking, you’ll always have food close by.

Costa Brava food

Some of the best dining in the world is available along the trail!

Do note that in Costa Brava people don’t eat lunch until 1PM typically so it is most busy at that time. Lunches are large and time consuming, but oh so delicious! Dinner is normally served late at 9PM. A typical hiking day for me was eating a big breakfast at the hotel, bringing fruit or snacks for midday and hiking through lunch. Then I’d treat myself to a big dinner at the end of the night.

Try the Menu-del-dia’s (3 or 4 course menu of the day) that includes wine (normally a whole bottle!) as they are the most economical choice and provide a lot of great fuel for hiking the next day.

Can You Do Laundry Along the Trail?

If you are packing light and need to do laundry, then you’ll likely have to rely on you hotel laundry services. There are few laundromats in towns. You’ll also have to plan ahead and ensure you’ll have a free day to wait for the laundry.

Is There Internet Connectivity?

All hotels have free wifi in the area. However if you want connectivity along the trail for online maps and resources, then you’ll need to either purchase a local sim card, ensure you have an international data plan on your personal phone, or rent a mifi device that will give you data connectivity for up to 5 devices. I rented a Spain mifi device from Telecom Square for my hike and was connected via 4G for the majority of the time which was critical for my GPS maps to work!

Is There Medical Help Close By?

Since the coastal trails are never far from urban towns, medical help is never far away. Pharmacies are plenty and you can always find someone there who speaks English. Each town also has a medical center and you simply need to ask a local or stop in at the pharmacy to get directions. Note – for emergencies on the trail, dial 112.

How Do You Access Money on the Trail?

ATM’s and access to banks is simply along the coastal paths since you stay in a town every night. Don’t carry too much cash on you at once and simply get what you need via ATM. All hotels take credit cards.

Have I swayed you now at how easy this is to organize and do?! Read my other articles about the Costa Brava Hiking Paths to learn more about the ins and outs of the route and my specific route.

Can You Hike it Solo?

I actually hiked the trail with my father, so I don’t know that I have a good answer for this question. Of course you can hike it solo, it’s a well traveled, maintained path that is always pretty close to civilization.  However, I didn’t do it alone so I can really say.  But my personal feeling is that you can do anything solo…and you should! I wouldn’t have given it a second thought to hike that trail myself for 2 weeks if my dad decided not to join me.   In fact a couple of days I did hike alone when my dad transferred to town, and I felt completely fine about it.  I ran into some people on the trail, however most of the time I was on my own and felt safe.

Follow my Travels.


Download the Costa Brava Coastal Paths Ebook and plan your hike!

Dowload Ebook

View all of my Camino de Ronda Coastal Path Photography here to see what the trail is like

Camino de Ronda Photos

Disclosure:

I was supported on this trip by Visit Costa Brava tourism and Cami de Ronda. And this post was also supported by Exodus Travels, however all opinions here are my own.



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