Here’s a list of reasons I plan on taking my seventeen-month-old daughter on vacation to the Spanish Mediterranean this summer.
Not commercialized – Beach towns, by definition, are commercialized. But in comparison, I found the beaches near Castellón de la Plana, a mid-sized city on the Spanish Mediterranean where I lived for one year, not as crowded as others. No snobby resorts, tacky restaurants, or pricey souvenir shops.
Not busy – I’m always on the lookout for what I call “beach front property,” which means I’m looking for a spot on the beach where there’s no one between us and the water. Even in July and August, the busiest months of the year, I never had a problem finding a place at the water’s edge.
Safe – In my experience, the beaches in Castellón are safe. I often leave my backpack on the beach (with my keys, money, phone, etc.) and go for a swim. Families seem comfortable letting their kids run up and down the beach and play by themselves in the water. Kids are accustomed to sharing their toys with whoever is around.
Shallow water and small waves – At the beaches in Castellón de la Plana, the water is below the knees. The waves are rarely high. Lots of four-year-olds splash around in the water like it’s a kiddy pool.
Excellent sand for making castles – Not all sand is created equal. I was surprised to discover in Nice, France that the beach was actually made of tiny little pebbles. The sand along the beaches from Castellón to Valencia are perfect for making sand castles, sand sculptures, and my latest obsession, shaping reclining lawn chairs out of sand.
Warm as bathwater – The Mediterranean really warms up by the end of the summer, so much so that it literally feels like a heated swimming pool. It’s refreshing enough to cool off after an hour of lying in the sun, but not cold enough to give you the shivers.
Things to do (when you’re not at the beach):
Castles – I can think of three excellent castles within driving distance of Castellón. Visit Peñiscola, Morella or Sagunt.
Trains – Most kids love trains, so why not travel by train. Plus, trains keep traveling simple. No road maps, no potty breaks, and no grabbing at your kids in the back seat while you’re trying to keep your eyes on the road.
Amusement Parks – For rollercoasters, check out PortAventura (www.portaventura.co.uk), or for something more educational, plan a day in Valencia at the City of Arts and Science (www.cac.es).
Things to keep in mind:
– in non-touristy areas, English isn’t spoken
– in case of emergency, call 112
– booster chairs and cribs are not generally provided
– topless sunbathing is common, although your kids probably won’t notice
– smoking is still allowed in most restaurants
– meals times are later, so restaurants often open for lunch around two, and in the evenings around eight
– when in doubt, find a tourist information center. Most cities (even villages) have one.
Kelly Crull blogs at Spain Dad, a baby blog (http://spaindad.blogspot.com).
Article image by: Kelly Crull