When it comes to road cycling, the Costa Daurada is a little known gem. We think it’s one of the best cycling destinations in Europe - but no one has heard of it!
It’s been a well kept secret - but for how much longer?
Where is the Costa Daurada?
The Costa Daurada’s 216km of coastline is in southern Catalonia, within the province of Tarragona. About an hour’s drive to the north is Barcelona (and above that Girona and the Costa Brava). To the south is Valencia (and below that, Calpe and the Costa Blanca).
What’s cycling Costa Daurada like?
As you leave Barcelona airport, heading south towards Tarragona, the appeal of cycling the Costa Daurada is not immediately apparent. You appear to be stuck in a spiral of motorways, slip roads and urban sprawl.
But don’t let this put you off. There’s a reason pro cycling teams train on the Costa Daurada (in 2018, both UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain-Merida trained here) and the whisperings of “Costa Daurada” and “cycling paradise” are growing louder.
As soon as you turn your handlebars inland, away from the busy coastline, a network of finely crafted Spanish roads opens up. You can’t help but be wowed by the rolling countryside, the long climbs of the Prades mountains, hills covered in almond and olive groves, the Priorat vineyards, Montsant National Park, UNESCO protected 12th Century monasteries and dramatic, deserted villages.
Did we mention the climate? Reports of 330 days of sunshine a year are music to the ears of those battling northern Europe’s winter and looking for a winter training camp destination. Costa Daurada lies south of Girona and the Costa Brava, allowing it a fantastic climate that makes cycling in shorts possible for all but a few months of the year.
Cycling holidays on Costa Daurada - bring the family!
The main bases for cyclists exploring the Costa Daurada are Cambrils and Salou (more on these towns below). In both you’ll find plenty of hotels catering to cyclists, bike shops, bars and restaurants. If you’re with family, the vast glittering, golden sand beaches of Cambrils and Salou (responsible for giving Costa Daurada (the “golden one”) its name) are a big draw. But, from Universal’s PortAventura Theme Park and water parks to Roman amphitheatres and fascinating festivals, it’s not all about the beach. There really is loads to do here. We’ve got lots more info in the Tips section below.
Want to cycle Costa Daurada?
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan an unforgettable Costa Daurada cycling holiday: detailed information on the best cycle routes plus where to stay, when to visit and bike rental/hire in Salou and Cambrils.
Read on and plan your next cycling adventure.
This guide is sponsored by Costa Daurada Tourism Board (as they want cyclists to know about their region)
We have retained editorial control over this article (i.e. they haven't told us what to write!)
Costa Daurada cycle routes
Overview of cycling Costa Daurada
Look at a map and you’ll soon see that the coastal roads that run north and south from Cambrils/Salou are not ideal for cycling: the E-15 motorway runs down the coast and many of the remaining north-south roads are busy and traffic filled, serving the hotel and apartment blocks that line the beaches.
But the good news is that you can easily avoid these by leaving the coastal strip behind you and heading inland. There you’ll find a network of quiet roads that start out wide and relatively flat for about 20-30km until you hit the hills. Then the roads swiftly become narrower and more windy as they start to point upwards. But the good news is that the gradients aren’t aggressively steep - you’ll find more easy going gradual ascents than Pyrenean or Dolomiti style vertical torture!
On the Costa Daurada, climbs between 3 and 10 kilometers long with steady gradients between 3% and 6% are most common. The highest passes sit at around 1,000m above sea level. Pick your roads right and you find long enjoyable climbs with fantastic views over the plains below, past ancient hilltop towns and rolling vineyards. It’s gorgeous.
Accessing the rides
We were based in Cambrils, and from here you get out of the really urban areas within a few kilometres and into the hills a bit after - they’re 30 kilometres or so from the coast.
We visited Costa Daurada with the Tourist Board and they were keen to show us the fantastic riding across the region. Only one of our loops was accessible direct from Cambrils/Salou (assuming you’re not up for a 150km+ type ride - we note where you can amend the route to ride from Cambrils/Salou in the relevant guides). We used a car to get to the start of the rides that were further away.
But just because we drove to the start of most of our rides, don’t assume you’ll need to. The Tourist Board has created lots of routes that start from different parts of the Costa Daurada - we just didn’t do all of them on this trip.
Our Costa Daurada cycling routes
Here's a map showing the route we rode. We've written guides to each route, which you'll find below the map.
Here are the in-depth guides we've written to each of the routes - hover on the photo to get some basic statistics for the ride and click through to get to the guide itself. Each guide contains a GPX route, photos and lots more.
Mont Blanc and the Prades Mountains
- Distance: 65km
- Elevation: 1,120m
- Epic rating:
El Vendrell and Santes Creus Monastery
- Distance: 74km
- Elevation: 1,100m
- Epic rating:
Priorat and Montsant regions
- Distance: 88km
- Elevation: 1,640m
- Epic rating:
Siurna and the Mussara Mountains
- Distance: 110km
- Elevation: 1,580m
- Epic rating:
And finally - we've put together a list of our best tips for riding the Costa Daurada. Read them before you go!
Family cycle routes on the Costa Daurada
The Cambrils-Salou bike path along the front between runs for around 18km and is perfect for pootling along with young kids. It’s probably do-able on a road bike but be aware that in places it’s pretty narrow and it can get busy, so don’t expect to be able to ride fast.
Cambrils-Salou Tourist Board has also developed four family friendly rides. They range from 18 to 58 km long and the shorter ones are mainly on bike paths. You can pick up a map from a Tourist Information board or look on costadaurada.bike on your mobile and you’ll find all four routes (the site doesn’t work on desktop).
Cycling events on the Costa Daurada
The Volta Catalunya often goes through the Costa Daurada - there are also a number of amateur cycling events in the area that you might like to take part in:
Granfondo la Mussara: www.polargranfondolamussara.com - offers three different routes: 95km, 135km, 188km.
Granfondo Cambrils Park: granfondocambrilspark.com/en/ - in 2019 2,500 riders had a choice of two different routes:
Challenge Salou: challenge-salou.com/en/ - a middle distance triathlon which will be held at the end of March 2020.
Clàssica Penedès: classicapenedes.com/ a sportive held in Vilafranca del Penedès in June. In 2019 it will be held on 9 June 2019.
Gran Fondo Tarragona: granfondotarraco.com/es/ a gran fondo held in September 2019 with a choice of two distances: 128 or 148km.
Triathlon facilities on the Costa Daurada
About the Costa Daurada's resorts
Cambrils and Salou are two (technically) adjacent towns a few kilometres south of Tarragona (when you’re there, at times it’s difficult to know whether you’re in Cambrils or Salou since they’ve grown together). Both towns have Sports Tourism and Family Tourism certification which highlights that they both have facilities and services for cyclists and families.
Cambrils and Salou are a good choice for anyone wanting a wide choice of accommodation and a seaside base from which to explore the hills of the Costa Daurada by bike.
Salou is known for its beaches - there are nine that make up the resort’s coastline and they vary from long, wide, sandy beaches (like Platja de Llevant) to small coves (like Cala Llenguadets). It’s also got lively nightlife and lots of bars and restaurants along the seafront. The fountains on Passeig Jaume 1 are also a highlight.
If you’re with family and they’re keen to visit PortAventura and the water parks, these are closer to Salou than Cambrils.
Cambrils is a town for foodies: it is considered the gastronomic capital of the Costa Daurada, and has around 200 restaurants, two with Michelin stars. The meal we had at Cal Tendre restaurant was divine.
The town has an impressive marina, full of white yachts, power boats and traditional fishing boats too. Every afternoon from 4:30/5pm (other than in May and June), you can see the boats come in with their catch, followed by hundreds of seagulls.
The town boasts the beautiful, recently renovated Sama Park, a site of Cultural Interest, just five kilometres outside Cambrils. There’s also the Pescardor Park and Pinaret Park in the town itself.
Cambrils’ beaches are also very good. There are nine kilometres of blue flag beaches - and you’ll find showers, playgrounds and toilets.
3. Activity heaven
If you’re with family that like activities, the Cambrils-Salou coastline has a huge amount to offer. For example, water based sports including catamaran trips, sailing courses, diving, paddleboarding and fishing. There’s also a heated public swimming pool, high ropes courses, paintballing, tennis, horse riding, golf and children’s park activities such as trampolining, mini golf and carousel.
There’s more information on things to do with kids around Cambrils/Salou, below.
Our choice: Estival Eldorado Resort, Cambrils
The Estival Eldorado resort is a 346 bedroom hotel just a few kilometres from the centre of Cambrils (there’s even a bike path so you don’t need to get in a car to get there!).
For a large hotel, it’s been sympathetically designed: no high rise monstrosities here. Rather, a collection of two storey, whitewashed buildings set around well cared for green lawns. The best rooms have balconies overlooking the sea and unrestricted views along the coast.
What we loved
Things to be aware of
The Estival Eldorado is well-placed for getting out into the best bike rides of the region. It’s a particularly nice touch that you can join an Ertzinger group ride for just a day or two, even if you’re not on one of their tours. Overall we think the hotel is a good bet for anyone wanting a resort style holiday that combines cycling with time away with their other half or kids. There’s lots to do within the hotel itself, and if you get itchy feet, the beach activities of Cambrils are close at hand as well as the plethora of water and theme parks at Salou.
Other Costa Daurada sports/cycling hotels
The Tourist boards have a list of hotels in Cambrils and Salou that they’ve designated as meeting certain bike hotel requirements. Their requirements are:
We should give a special mention to Cambrils Park Resort, which often plays hosts to professional teams and is where Nibali and the Bahrain-Merida team trained for the 2019 cycling season. The resort has three themed areas of accommodation, four swimming pools, two restaurants, a fully gym and spa area, supermarket, bakery and laundry. It also has renowned football facilities and holds training camps throughout the year.
Bike hire: Costa Daurada
This information is offered as an indicative guide only: we periodically update it but prices, services and bike brands may change. Please let us know if you find anything that is incorrect.
Road bike hire in Cambrils and Salou should be straightforward as there are a number of bike hire outlets on this stretch of coast. We haven’t visited the places listed below, but hope the information is useful. The listings concentrate on establishments that offer road bike hire. There are additional outlets (not listed here) that offer leisure bikes and kids bikes.
Bike hire: Salou and Cambrils
Bike rental Cambrils and Salou
Camí del Mas de Clariana, S / N
Argon bikes with carbon frames with Shimano Ultegra compact 50-34.
They offer delivery and collection of bikes to where you’re staying, daily guided tours starting at Cambrils Park Resort and loan of helmets, shoes and pedals
1 day: 46 euros
2-5 days: 36 euros/day
6+ days: 26 euros/day
Carrer Pau Casals
59 local 3
Specialized road bikes.
Includes helmet, pedals and lock
Guide € 120 / day, maximum groups of 15 people
Support van € 140 / day
They have a workshop and can carry out repairs.
Discounts available for multiple day hire.
Insurance payable on top of these prices.
Pg. Sant Joan Baptista la Salle, 15
43850 Cambrils (Tarragona)
Carbon frame with Shimano Ultegra 11s DISK group and Shimano 105 11s
Includes repair kit, pump and speedometer.
Bring your own helmet and pedals.
Discounts available for multiple day hire.
In addition to this there is:
50 euro deposit
10 euro insurance in case of accident (optional)
Carrer Ganssen, 43850 Cambril
You can rent anything from a high quality road bike to a kids bike here. You can also join their guided rides on a daily basis. The cost is 30 euros per ride.
From 10 euros/day or 50 euros/week.
Avenida Diputación 185 in Cambrils
Offer road bike hire with a range of models.
Please contact them for more information.
Carbon fibre road bikes, delivery only (free of charge).
Bikes are provided with bike computer, pump, inner tube and tyre levers.
You can also hire helmets, cycling shoes, pedals, GPS, cycling guides and support vehicle.
2 days: 85 euros
3-5 days: 35 euros/day
6-12 days: 32 euros/day
13+ days: 30 euros/day
2 days minimum rental within Tarragona (more if outside this region).
Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.
Best time to visit Costa Daurada
The Costa Daurada has a typical Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters with little rain. Average temperatures range from around 12℃ in winter to between 23℃ and 29℃ in summer. However, it is worth noting the contrast between the coastal and mountain areas, where the average temperatures are generally 2℃ to 4℃ lower than on the coast.
Rainfall is mainly in autumn and spring, although short and heavy showers are common in summer.
High season in terms of cycling, doesn’t completely fit in with the best time to visit in terms of weather. High season for cycling the Costa Daurada runs from April to the end of May, to tie in with pre-season training, and then the end of September to end of October, for those looking to finish their season in style! It’s worth noting that October rainfall statistics (below) are not ideal, so you’d want to pack a rain jacket if you visited then.
Costa Daurada events
As a side note, it’s worth knowing that this is a region that loves a reason to celebrate, and if you enjoy seeing and taking part in local festivals, you could consider timing your visit accordingly. We’d love to time another visit to see the Castells, or human towers, which can reach up to a maximum of ten storeys! Peak season starts in April and runs until the beginning of October.
Another interesting event, (and one which you might be able to use to persuade your family to allow you to visit this region?!) is the Setmana Medieval de Montblanc. For fifteen days allows travelling in time and knowing how the people from Montblanc lived in the Middle Ages, when the Ducal village was the country’s seventh most important town. We chanced upon a festival in Montblanc, with adults and children in Medieval costume and a market in the town centre. It was very atmospheric, so we assume the fifteen day festival is a sight to behold!
A mild winter with average monthly temperatures hovering around 10℃. Rainfall in March is statistically quite a lot higher than January and February (42mm compared with 22mm for January and 12mm for February)
Spring bursts in with largely warm, sunny skies and minimal rainfall. This is a great time to ride on the Costa Daurada.
July and August can get a bit hot for cycling. There’s often a breeze on the coast, but inland can be a bit oppressive. However, head out early and you’ll escape the worst of it!
Often a beautiful month on the Costa Daurada, with great temperatures though there’s an increasing chance of rain.
Average temperatures start to cool off a bit, and October is statistically the wettest month of the year, but with an average of over 300 sunny days each year, odds are it’s probably more sunny here than many places.
(Weather information taken from Cambrils tourist information guide)
Tips and Articles
There aren’t many guidebooks to the Costa Daurada. We bought the Hispa-Guide to Costa Azahar and Costa Daurada but weren’t overly impressed.
Good to know
For those arriving by plane, Barcelona is the most commonly used airport. It’s around 100km to the north. Reus Airport is even closer, at just 12km from Cambrils, and offers direct flights from a few destinations in the UK at certain times of the year.
If you are wondering about train connections, there’s a railway station at Cambrils which connects to the Valencia-Barcelona line. The high speed train in Tarragona is only 32km from Cambrils.
Barcelona airport is located only one hundred away kilometres from the Costa Daurada.
Things to do around Cambrils-Salou with kids
If you’re looking to entertain the kids, look no further than PortAventura World near Salou. In 2017 it added Ferrari Land and next door to it is PortAventura Caribe Aquatic Park, reputedly one of the best water parks in Europe. There are also waterparks at Platja de la Pineda and Vila-seca.
On top of these, other big days out include Electric Karting Salou, Karting Salou (meant to be one of the best karting complexes in Europe), Bosc Aventura in Salou (with more than 8,000 square metres of green area including zip wires and paintball) and Parc Sama in Cambrils, an architect designed zoo.
For those looking for more educational fun, check out the Roman amphitheatre and Part Alta (high part) of Tarragona, the cave paintings at Capcanes, Poblet monastery (which is the largest Cistercian monastery in Europe), the medieval village of Montblanc and the caves of l’Espluga de Francoli.
One of the areas main draws for families are the beaches. There are apparently sixty beaches along 92 kilometres of coastline, from long beaches with fine, golden sand to small coves surrounded by cliffs. Most of the beaches are good for swimming - the sand slopes gently into the calm Mediterranean sea. They’re also clean with many sporting the Blue Flag designation.
When you’re out riding, you may notice that at most villages there are yellow ribbons wrapped around everything from trees to balconies. The ribbons are there to show solidarity and support for the Catalan politicians who, in 2017, were charged, and some imprisoned, following the referendum they held on the region’s political independence from Spain (which led to a unilateral declaration of independence).
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