Between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, you'll find lots of places to get wet off Spain. For the best, head to the dramatic Costa Brava and explore the marine park-protected Medes Islands. Here, explosive red and vivid yellow gorgonians light up the reef they share with a wonderful line-up of marine life, including curious octopus, cocky groupers (they're protected and know it), rays, and conger eels. Discover the Dolphin Cave, where light beams gather to dance with lack of inhibition. Thrill seekers should head to the Straits of Gibraltar, where strong currents bring in big pelagics and mobs of tuna, or the famous waters off the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands, which sit off the coast of Morocco, offer tropical, year-round dive conditions, and cinematic underwater seascapes, including caves and caverns, intact shipwrecks and reefs that abound with fish. Between dives, indulge in a European culture known for siestas, music, dance, fiestas, art, cuisine and fine Spanish wine.
When to go:
When to Get the Best Deals:
September to December
What to Pack:
5 mm wetsuit with hood in summer; 7 mm wetsuit (or dry suit) in winter with hood and gloves, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, comfortable shoes that can get wet for hiking, DAN card, long sleeved lightweight shirts, long trousers for cool nights, a light jacket for cool evenings, attire for heading out for the night, especially in hot tourist areas, small medical kit.
Seasonal averages: 13°C/55°F in winter and 24°C/75°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 21°C/69°F in winter and 30°C/86°F in summer.
Euro; Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
What to Eat:
With the diving spread between the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, there's a lot of cuisine options, in Valencia alone there more than 1,500 restaurants. The best idea is to look for restaurants with local fare, such as paella, tapas, or fresh seafood in the Canary Islands. Note that dinners start and run late in Spain.
What to Drink:
Like the restaurant scene, the bar scene is even more lively as the Spanish like to stay up all night. You'll find wonderful wines throughout the country from the reds in the north to the sparkling wines (cava) in Catalonia. And, of course, sangria - a mixture of wine, juice, brandy and fruit pieces typifies Spain. There are several well-established national Spanish beer brands, but also some great regional beers.
First, you've got to plan your day around the siesta, the world's best custom. After that, music, art, ancient cities and fortresses, bullfighting, running from bulls, tomato fights, wine country, mountain biking, road biking, horseback rides in the country, there's a long list of things to keep you busy.
Customs and Culture:
The Spaniards eat dinner late, stay up late, enjoy socializing and love sports. What's not to like.
La Tomatina, Bunol, August, an annual tomato fight that takes over the city; San Fermin, the famed Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, July; Tamborrada de San Sebastian, San Sebastian drum festival, January 1; La Endiablada, Cuenca, festival of people disguised as devils, February; Festival of Moors and Christians, countrywide, April; La Rioja Wine Festival, Longrono, September.
Electricity and Internet:
230V/50HZ; Internet is common throughout country.
Drink the water?
Water is safe to drink.
Spanish, but English is widely spoken.
Amazing Marine Life
These flat sharks inhabit the sand around the reefs off the Canary Islands.
Found throughout the Mediterranean, these schooling fish can be seen on most dives in the region.
Most often found in holes and caves, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.
These brilliantly colored fish do, indeed, possess remarkably parrot-like beaks that they use to grind coral structures so they can eat the soft coral animals inside.
Wily and secretive, the octopus is often found in holes and crannies of reefs.
Found in the Canary Island during autumn months.
These predatory fish are often seen on the reefs.
Sardine Bait Balls:
Formed off the Canary Islands, these thick aggregations of sardines bring in predators from near and far for a spectacular feeding frenzy.
Mottled in scaly patterns of reds and browns, the scorpionfish can blend easily with polyp-encrusted rocks, but its venomous dorsal spines render this beauty a danger.
These cephalopods can entertain you for hours with their color and shape shifting displays.
Top Dive Spots
Cala Fria, La Manga:
Located just south of the lighthouse, the sloping bottom of this sandy bay features several beds of sea grass, which shelter small fish and crustaceans. Look for damselfish, long-snouted wrasse, rainbow wrasse, painted comber, red mullet (goatfish), cow bream, two-banded bream and white bream.
Cala Correo, La Manga:
Enter the water from a small gravel beach at the foot of a staircase cut into a low cliff. The bay itself is large and is sheltered by a line of large rocks that stand clear of the water. Look for octopus, cardinal fish, damselfish, green wrasse, tube worms, sea cucumber, and brill, in addition to the sponges and sea urchins. A bed of sea grass at the mouth of the bay hosts barracuda, moray eels, and dentex (large bream).
Cala Reona, La Manga:
This bay alternates between sandy patches and rocky reef covered with sea grass. Follow a gently sloping canyon out to a sandy plain at the mouth of the bay, watching for white bream, two banded bream, cow bream, red mullet, rainbow wrasse, long-snouted wrasse and damselfish.
This location offers multiple dives, including reefs, walls, caves, and wrecks. Look for barracuda, octopus, moray eels, jacks, grouper, wrasse, goatfish, cardinal fish, damsel fish, blennies, gobies, starfish, sea urchins, sponges, and hard and soft corals.
El Cabrón Marine Reserve, Canary Islands:
In addition to the prolific marine life, this site is renowned for its underwater topography of natural arches, caves, tunnels, swim-throughs, and cliffs. Look for huge shoals of roncadores (grunts), damselfish, sardines, barracuda, bream, wrasse, and parrotfish, as well as rays, seahorse, glass-eye squirrelfish and gorgonians.
Arguineguin Reef, Canary Islands:
This long reef features a rock garden with crevices sheltering octopus, cuttlefish, trumpetfish, glass-eye squirrelfish, cardinalfish, scorpionfish, moray eels, brittle stars, sea urchins and nudibranchs.
Sardina del Norte, Canary Islands:
This rocky shore hosts sea urchins, wrasse, damselfish, mullet, octopus, cuttlefish, small rays and angel sharks. In autumn small mobula rays feed here beside the small caves and overhangs.
Playa Amadores Bay, Canary Islands:
This unique site is largely man-made, with a beach built from imported Saharan sand and a man-made barrier of natural rock to keep the beach from washing away. Marine life has moved in, so divers may see arrowhead crabs, razorfish, gold-line bream, parrotfish, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, urchins, lizardfish, and (outside the barrier) hundreds of sardines forming bait balls.
Cathedral, Canary Islands:
This rocky ridge offers an immense cavern and a dramatic landscape of volcanic formations that host parrotfish, rainbow wrasse, Turkish wrasse, moray eels, glass-eye squirrelfish, arrow crabs, white bream, almaco jacks, guelly jacks, wide-eyed flounders, stingrays, and a colony of red sea ferns.
Mar de las Calmas, Canary Islands:
Sites at this location include Baja Ribera (a steep needle of rock housing dragonhead scorpionfish, moray eels, and lobsters), Bajon (a vertical drop-off where strong oceanic currents bring pelagic visitors), and Caleta (a ridge full of caves, crevices, and large arch).