There’s a lot to love about a beach vacation—the warm sand, the sunshine, and the gentle sound of the waves. What people love less about hanging out at the beach is the proximity of other beachgoers. Crowds, trash, and someone’s too-close, too-loud game of frisbee are not at the top of most travelers’ list of things they adore about a sun and sand vacation.
If your idea of a dream trip to the beach involves going to Europe, here are some options for secluded beaches to help you plan a peaceful trip. And, while a summer trip to the beach will probably never involve not encountering other humans, these beaches are not on most tourists’ radar and allow you to ditch the heavy crowds.
Northern Portugal’s Off-the-Beaten-Path Beaches
Northern Portugal is a lesser-known beachgoer’s gem. These eight beautiful spots should be on your radar if you’ve chosen Portugal as your beach destination.
Quiet Beaches Perfect for Surfing
Praia de Afife near Viana do Castelo: Known for its wide stretches of sand and dune landscapes, it’s a bit more remote and less crowded than Portugal’s more touristy beaches, offering a peaceful beach experience. The area is also popular for surfing.
Praia de Moledo: Located close to the Spanish border, this beach is a hidden gem known for its unspoiled nature. It’s an excellent spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing due to the strong winds. The views of Monte de Santa Tecla in Spain from the beach are stunning.
Praia da Arda: Another beach near Viana do Castelo, Praia da Arda is famous among surfers for its excellent waves. It’s relatively secluded and maintains a raw, natural charm.
Calm, Family-Friendly Waters
Praia de Ancora: This beach in the small town of Vila Praia de Ancora has calm waters, making it ideal for families. While it’s a bit more known than other secluded beaches, it still offers a peaceful environment.
Miramar Beach: Located south of Porto, Miramar is another beach less traveled, although it is famous for its chapel, Capela do Senhor da Pedra, which sits right on the beach. Miramar Beach is not as secluded as others, but its unique charm lies in the less-crowded surroundings and the picturesque chapel.
Unspoiled Beach Spots
Praia de Alboi: Situated in A Guarda, this small and secluded beach offers a quiet escape. Its unique location near the mouth of the Minho River provides a mix of river and sea experiences.
Praia do Carreço: Located just north of Viana do Castelo, Praia do Carreço offers natural beauty and rocky outcrops. It’s less touristy, offering a serene atmosphere and beautiful sunsets.
Praia de Caminha, located at the northern tip of Portugal, where the Minho River meets the Atlantic Ocean, is another great option. This ultra-quiet spot with stunning natural scenery is ideal for those looking to escape the more crowded southern beaches.
Croatia’s beaches are definitely under the radar. Vis Island has minimal hotel facilities, but it’s an easy and popular day trip from Split. A hidden cove on Vis Island, Stiniva Beach is surrounded by high cliffs, accessible only by a narrow inlet by boat or a steep trail on foot, making it a peaceful sanctuary.
In addition to relaxing on Stiniva Beach, most tour operators offer tours to Croatia’s Blue Cave as an add-on for travelers exploring Vis Island.
Lesser-Known Spanish Beaches
Spain features many beautiful beaches. Here’s where to go if you don’t want to encounter crowds.
Compared to its Balearic siblings, Mallorca and Ibiza, Menorca is less crowded. Cala Macarella Beach, with its soft sands and azure waters, is a perfect spot for those looking to avoid the masses.
Cabo de Gata Nature Park
Located in the southeastern corner of the Iberian peninsula, Cabo de Gata features 39 miles of protected coastline, where rough volcanic cliffs and smooth fossilized sand dunes contrast with the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Patricia Palacios, the co-founder of España Guide, calls these beaches the best secluded in Europe.
“Some of the larger beaches are quite popular, but mainly just among Spanish tourists,” explains Palacios, making Cabo de Gata an ideal place for North American tourists who don’t want to run into other North American tourists.
Palacious lists Playa de Mónsul and Playa de los Muertos as the Cabo de Gata beaches where you’ll see the most people. She recommends those seeking a truly secluded beach be ready to hike a bit to discover one of the park’s tiny, no-name coves where you can be entirely on your own.
Located near Cadiz, a popular European cruise-ship stop, Rota’s 16-kilometer expanse of beaches is popular with Spanish tourists from June through late August. September brings a sharp end to the tourist season, and the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the beach. Therefore, if you can go later in the year, tranquil beaches will be your reward.
You can find almost complete seclusion at Playa de Levante, no matter what time of year you travel. If you have a military ID, Rota Naval Air Station has a very quiet private beach as well.
Italy Less Traveled
Everyone has heard of the Amalfi Coast. Here’s where to go instead in Italy.
Voted as one of the world’s best beaches, Rabbit Beach is renowned for its remote, unspoiled beauty and clear waters. Its isolated location means fewer visitors and more tranquility.
A UNESCO-listed beach, Cala Goloritzé is famous for its striking limestone cliffs and pebble beach. Accessible only by foot or boat, its remote location ensures a peaceful atmosphere.
While the beaches in Mykonos and Santorini are beautiful, here’s where you go if you’re craving those spots that other tourists might not know about.
The small town of Kos is known for its beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. Beach-seeking visitors are rewarded with white sands and crystal-blue waters. If you’re looking for quiet beaches with facilities, Kardamena, Agios Stefanos, Kefalos, and Lambi Beaches may fit the bill. If you’re looking for complete seclusion, Thermes, Tripti, and Karnagio Beaches are probably more to your liking.
Navagio Beach, meaning Shipwreck Beach, is somewhat popular, but the sheer beauty of this secluded cove, accessible only by boat, makes it worth a visit. Early mornings or late afternoons are quieter times to enjoy its famed shipwreck and turquoise waters.
Although Iceland might not exactly scream “beach experience,” Vik Beach’s black sand and dramatic basalt columns offer a stunning and less-frequented seaside retreat. The cooler climate means fewer sunbathers, making this spot an ideal one for those seeking solitude and privacy.
For a truly remote beach spot, this island off the coast of France offers quiet, rustic beauty. Nestled in the heart of a nature reserve, Saleccia Beach is a hidden gem known for its pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters. The beach is accessible by a 4×4 journey or a boat taxi, which helps keep the crowds at bay.
A Secluded European Beach Break Is Within Reach
No matter the reason why you’re looking for a secluded European beach, rest assured, it is within reach—if you know where to look. Some beaches on this list are popular with local residents but less well known to the tourist crowd. Others are more remote and require additional effort to get there. In most cases, the tradeoff for a less-crowded beach is one with fewer facilities and services, so ensure you’re prepared.