Fantastic things to do on Spain’s Costa Cálida in the fall
Costa Cálida means “warm coast” and refers to an approximately 250 km long coastal strip in the south-eastern part of Spain. It stretches from the provinces of Alicante in the north to Almeria in the south with Murcia and Cartagena as the most important cities in between.
The coastline is characterized by splendid sandy beaches as well as rocky coves. With over 320 sunny days a year, it’s no surprise that this part of Spain gets its sunny name. But it is not only the warm weather that makes it an ideal destination to visit in the fall, it is also the warm water temperatures, caused by the protective Gulf of Mazarrón. And “warm” also applies to friendly and welcoming locals. All types of water sports can be practiced here until late in the winter months. Golf lovers, be careful! La Manga Golf Resort is one of the best in Spain, with three 18-hole courses.
In the fall, when the summer tourist crowds, both local and foreign, have returned home, it is the best time to visit the plethora of historical monuments that you will find on the Costa Cálida. Spain likes a good Festival and some take place in the province of Murcia in the fall. With the heat of summer (it was particularly hot this year), we love to enjoy a good meal again and there is no shortage of specialties on the Costa Cálida, such as rice dishes and suckling pig. Fear not, vegetarians and vegans won’t go hungry either.
The nearest international airport to any location on the Costa Cálida is Murcia. From there, you can either rent a car or take several bus lines to your destination.
It cannot be repeated enough: one of the main reasons the Costa Cálida is such a great destination to visit in autumn is the good weather. Stifling summer heat, average fall temperatures are in the 70s, warm enough for swimming and beach life and not too hot for trips to the surrounding countryside and natural parks, or for exploring beautiful towns historic sites of Murcia and Cartagena. Rainfall is scarce but there may be occasional (or sometimes heavy) showers in October / November. The Spanish summer holidays are over so there are fewer people to deal with and prices are starting to drop as well.
From wild to family, you will find a beach for all tastes on the Costa Cálida. First a word on Mar Menor: it is the largest coastal saltwater lagoon in Europe, located south-east of Murcia and not far from Cartagena. It is separated from the Mediterranean by a strip of land, called La Manga (the sleeve). Some of the best beaches are there, so Mar Menor should be mentioned here. Don’t be put off by reports of recently beached dead fish at Mar Menor. By the time you can visit, everything should be cleaned up. If you are still worried, go elsewhere as the coast is very long and there is enough choice.
If you fancy a wild beach, visit Calblanque Beach. Located in the natural park of the same name, this long stretch of ocher sand and rocky coves is pleasing to the eye and you can even swim in the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Bring a picnic, towels and everything else as this rarely visited beach offers no amenities.
Located in the middle of La Manga, Mistral Beach is the opposite. The fine, white sand and shallow warm water make it an ideal beach for the whole family. All possible amenities are available here. It is also a non-smoking beach.
If slow motion sunbathing isn’t your thing, try surfing, canoeing, kite surfing, and any other type of water sports on the mile-long silvery sands. Las Salinas Beach, overlooking the Mar Menor. Water sports schools are available to show you the ropes and after your activities you can relax in one of the many beach bars.
The most developed of all the beaches is La Colonia Beach in Aguilas. Not only is the sandy beach great for swimming and sunbathing, it is also fully equipped to accommodate visitors with special needs, including wheelchair accessibility.
Follow the fascinating story
From the Romans and Carthaginians to the wonders of Art Deco, Murcia and Cartagena are calling you when you are done with beach life. Autumn means fewer people and pleasant temperatures which make visiting the local towns a pleasure.
Wherever you go in Cartagena, you step into ancient history. The most famous Roman monument is probably one of the largest amphitheatres on the Iberian Peninsula. But there is also a museum, a Roman village, the fabulous Casa de la Fortuna, a Roman villa full of mosaics and vivid paintings, and much more. The main street is lined with imposing Art Deco buildings, the most notable of which is the casino. Another pleasure is to take a boat trip around the bustling harbor. It only scratches the surface. Plan a full day for a trip to Cartagena.
Murcia, the provincial capital, is located about 25 miles inland. It’s smaller than Cartagena but just as full of history and beautiful sites. Visit of the cathedral and the adjacent episcopal palace. Cross the river to see the Floridablanca Gardens containing old fig trees and many flowers. Murcia is a university city which creates a lively atmosphere. A must is a coffee or a drink in one of the cafes in Cathedral Square and a visit to the Casino’s Art Deco masterpiece.
Join the fall festivals
The biggest and most incredibly colorful fall festival is Moros y Cristianos, a recreation of the battles between Christians and Arabs that form such an important part of Cartagena’s history. The whole city participates, the streets come alive with parades and “Roman soldiers”, as well as “Arabs” dressed in gold and white. The main events take place within the grounds of the Feria with tents for drinks, food and dancing. This year it is celebrated from September 7 to 14, so if the notice is too short, sign it up for next year.
From November 1 to 23, Cartagena is the place of a great, international jazz festival.
An autumn festival of a different kind is Caldero in Alcazares. What could be better than a festival on the beach where thousands of people come to enjoy a day and taste a typical dish of rice and fish, prepared in giant calderos (pots). The main events take place on the Playa de la Pescaderia but there are others as well, celebrated in the town hall square. This festival takes place from October 7 to 14. A Spanish festival that lasts only one day is a very rare occasion. Once the Spaniards get in the mood for the festival, they continue and you should join in.
Autumn in the countryside
It’s not just the beaches and historic towns that make Costa Cálida so appealing in the fall, it’s the nature inland that begs to be explored in cooler weather.
Combine another historic town with some of Alhama de Murcia’s best-preserved Roman thermal baths with a hike around the surrounding area Sierra espuna, one of the first regional natural parks in the province of Murcia. This is a day trip.
If you want to stay closer to the coast, a great trip is to the salt marshes and sand dunes of San Pedro del Pinatar. There are also natural mud and reed beds as well as artificial salt fields where salt is mined to this day. Numerous trails run through the park with viewing points for birds and other wildlife.
South of Cartagena is one of my favorite places, Mazarrón. The charming little town is inland, while the port of Mazarrón is adjacent to the sea and has a wide beach with plenty of facilities. I particularly liked the boat trips available in Puerto de Mazarrón. I took all three. Admire the sandstone and rock formations including the arch of Elephant Rock, watch the fish through the glass bottom of the boats, and also enjoy the lovely evening excursion.
We have already mentioned the caldero, an autumn / winter dish typical of the region, not to be confused with paella because it is much more liquid. Fall is the time for hearty pork meals. No part of the pig is wasted, and along with spicy sausages like morcon, longaniza, and morcilla (Spanish black pudding), there’s the roast suckling pig.
Lobsters and other seafood come from the Mar Menor and vegetables as well as red, white and rosé wines are grown in different regions of the Costa Cálida.
All along the Spanish coast and inland there are small towns and villages that offer travelers a variety of experiences: