For people who are looking to relocate to Spain, or simply looking for their ideal holiday home, there is a bevy of enticing areas and towns: the Costa del Sol, Costa de Almeria, Costa Cálida, Costa Brava, Costa Dorada, The Balearics, Canaries, and Costa de la Luz, to name just a few. So how does one sift through all the information online? A lot of the info is written by holiday websites, with little insight into what it’s actually like to live in these popular areas.
Most people that buy a property in Spain will usually buy in or near the first or second place they visit. While this is not the most insightful decision it’s perfectly understandable all things considered.

In this article, we will try to make sense of why people choose to settle in certain areas. We will discuss what areas are perhaps better suited for Retirees, Working Couples, Singles, Families, Real Estate Investors, or holiday home buyers.

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hrough the years we have often been asked which is a better place to live: the Costa del Sol or the Costa Blanca, the Balearics or the Canary Islands, Costa Dorada or Costa Brava, Madrid or Barcelona?
Having lived and worked in Almeria province, Cadiz province, Cataluña, and the Costa Blanca, and traveled extensively throughout Spain for the last 20 years we will try to use the little knowledge we have gained to hopefully provide some useful information that can help shape your decision on where to live in Spain.
It should be noted that this article is based on personal experience and therefore a lot of what is written here is opinion. In certain instances, and in order to provide some perspective, we have to generalize. I am sure others will have different experiences and opinions, and you should definitely regard theirs as well.

What are the important factors to consider when choosing an area of Spain?
There are various socioeconomic, lifestyle, and convenience factors that will impact your decision.
Some you may already be aware of, however, there are many that you will not be aware of until you actually live in the various areas of Spain or until you are made aware of them.

Cost of living

The cost of living in Spain varies from the coast to the cities, from the coast to slightly inland, and from South to North.
Housing costs, services, food, and recreational costs can vary quite considerably in price and quality.
Generally speaking, the most affordable places to live in Spain are in the South and the Canary Islands, however, the quality of services will generally improve the further North you go.
Of course, there are pockets of areas in the South of Spain where the quality of services improves, however, it will usually be more expensive to live in these areas.
To sum up, you get what you pay for. If the areas are expensive to live it’s usually because there is a greater demand to live there and usually this is related to a better-perceived lifestyle.

Inland living vs coastal living

The cost of living inland (and sometimes you only need to venture 10 or 20 kilometers inland) can be substantially less than living on the coast. In addition, the quality of food is invariably better, and eating and drinking out will be a lot more economical. Your budget will also usually afford you a substantially larger home.
There will be less variety of entertainment and recreation, and the added distance from the coast means you will most likely have to drive everywhere. You will also need to consider that should it come time to sell your property it will most likely spend a lot more time on the market than if you had bought near the coast.
In addition, real estate further from the coast is impacted more greatly by any downward fluctuations in the Spanish property market. And unless you are near a city, your work options will be reduced, and your children will also have fewer education options.

Quality of Education

Some areas along the coast of Spain, for example, Marbella and the Costa Blanca, have a good selection of International schools. Of course, the cost of sending 2 or even 3 kids to private schools can be exorbitant. Also, if Spain is to be your permanent home you may want to consider the integration of your children into Spanish society. In some cases, private schooling may be a better option and in other cases, public schooling may be as good, or even better for your children in the long run.

To generalize, and because foreigners mostly choose areas outside of the cities and urban hubs, the quality of public schooling may improve the further north you go. The exceptions are in and around the cities of the south.
Now does this have to do with a ‘lesser’ society, absolutely 100% not. You will find that the local economy dictates greatly what workforce is required. In areas where agriculture and property development are the main economic drivers then a workforce that can help that sector is paramount.

It should be noted that the South is experiencing an economic uplift with a lot of investment going into Internet start-ups, e-fuels, renewal energy facilities, aerospace, food and nutrition, logistics and transport, ICT (Information and Communications Technology), and biotechnology.
And this is exciting, as many of the areas in the South don’t have the advantage of being situated on major economic corridors like their counterparts in the North.
An additional consideration: In certain areas of Spain (for example Cataluña and Valencia) your children will be required to learn both Castellano and the regional language.

Quality of food

The quality of food on the coast is often hit-and-miss. Many foreigners and Spanish have the dream of starting a restaurant on the coast, however, they often lack the cooking skills that are needed to accompany their dream.
In many situations ‘restaurants’ don’t rely on a regular clientele (as businesses in the cities would), but instead rely on the location and the continuous turnover of foot traffic.
Their Google reviews may be abysmal but that doesn’t stop them from serving thousands of terrible meals before eventually throwing in the towel. Do your research about the best places to eat, and use the local Facebook groups for suggestions.
As you venture further from the coast or towards the cities and urban areas where tourism is not the primary economic driver you can expect a profoundly better dining experience.

The quality of vegetables and fruit in Spain is really high, the exception to this is the produce from the plastic greenhouses (often referred to as ‘the sea of plastic’) in the south. I find the vegetables and fruit produced in these greenhouses to be quite watery and lacking in taste.

As a vegetarian I don’t have much insight into the quality of meat, however, I do know that in the North the animals eat better and many graze freely. In the south, due to a more arid climate, the grazing can be sparse and there tend to be more concrete floor farms where food is brought in and fed to the animals.
I am told that this affects the taste of the meat and people feel the meat from the north tastes better. The quality of seafood throughout Spain (I am told) is ridiculously good and it’s quite affordable.

ImmoSage offers a free introduction service for buyers & sellers looking to work with the top local real estate agents throughout the Costa Blanca.

Safety and crime

Safety has never been an issue in any of the regions we have stayed in. Spain, for us, is the country where we have felt the safest.
I believe a lot has to do with the very healthy inclusive social culture that prevails in Spain. The vast majority of Spanish people we find to be lovely sociable people.
Like everywhere else the Spanish have their share of problems however they have a really healthy way of not overreacting to social situations that may escalate and cause problems in other cultures. They manage to easily diffuse problematic situations and contentious issues. They have a wonderful attitude of not being phased by the little things.

Of course, one still needs to exercise caution in cities and larger urban areas by understanding your surroundings and protecting your possessions.
We found cities in the south like Granada, Cordoba, and Sevilla to be very safe. We also feel completely safe when we walk through the centre of Madrid during the day or night. In fact, we have never had an issue in any of the cities throughout Spain, the only time we felt a little unsafe in a city in Spain was in the Raval area of Barcelona.

Economy, Work, and Entrepreneurship Opportunities

If you’re relocating to Spain and need to work to support yourself and your family then you will want to settle in a) the cities, b) near the cities, or c) coastal areas that have a strong economy.
Because it takes time to achieve a proficient level of Spanish most foreigners who need to work will choose an area that has a good percentage of people who speak their home language.
If your dream is to live and work on the coast of Spain then a sound strategy would be to research which areas have the largest numbers of people from your home country as you will inevitably rely on them for work or to get your business off the ground.
For more tips and strategies see our article about Starting a Business on the Sunny Shores of Spain:

Summary of the main areas of coastal Spain with a large expat community, stronger economy, and better prospects for work or entrepreneurship.

  1. The areas south of Malaga and including Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, and Marbella.
  2. The areas including Torrevieja and Orihuela Costa. (Vilamartin, Playa Flamenca, La Zenia, Cabo Roig, San Miguel de Salinas, Campoamor, and Torrevieja City.)
  3. The areas north of Torrevieja. (Quesada, Rojales, Guardamar, Torre la Mata, Los Montesinos, and Torrevieja City.)
  4. The northern residential areas of Alicante City and including Playa San Juan, Cabo de las Huertas, Muchavista, and El Campello.
  5. The Northern Costa Blanca stretching from Benidorm in the South to Denia in the North.
  6. The areas south of Barcelona City and including Sitges, Castelldefels, Gavá, and Viladecans.
  7. The central Costa Brava including Palafrugell, Begur, and Palamós. (A smaller area with a focus on Quality rather than quantity.)

Social Life

Without a doubt, out of the entire planet, you will be hard pressed to find a culture that enjoys fiestas and social gatherings more than the people in Andalucia. The Andalucians are very welcoming and warm people. This is the region in Spain where it is the easiest to make friends. People have time for one another, and arguably the most important things in life. Before long you will find yourself with a good group of friends.

In all of the other coastal regions, including Alicante and Valencia, we found it relatively easy to make friends and as foreigners, we always felt welcome.
For us, the toughest region to make friends and feel at home was Cataluña. We found it to be the most insular province in Spain. This is something you have to really take seriously if you are considering the Costa Brava or the areas south of Barcelona.

Noise and consideration for others

Unfortunately, all those fiestas and social gatherings in Andalucia come at a price. You will definitely want to be living in a freestanding villa, and not in an apartment block. Your quality of life will differ vastly depending on your accommodation. And you will want to steer clear of holiday complexes, especially holiday complexes with swimming pools. Don’t be fooled by how quiet and serene they are outside of summer. You have been warned.


From Cadiz province, across to the Costa del Sol, through Murcia, and to the Northern Costa Blanca the climate is truly spectacular.
Because the Mediterranean (and the Atlantic in the case of Cadiz province) regulates coastal temperatures you have the advantage of very mild winters.
In the far southern parts of Andalucia (Tarifa, Estepona, Mojacar) February is the only really chilly month.
In the Northern Costa Blanca, the months of January and February are usually the coldest but by March you are already welcoming warmer temperatures.
Summers can stretch on to November with many people still bathing in the sea and enjoying sunny days at the beach. And in the southernmost regions, there are many fine beach days in December and March.
In the southernmost regions from mid-July to the end of August, the heat and humidity can be stifling and uncomfortable. In fact, many expats choose this period to get away and visit family in Northern Europe.

Culture, recreation, amenities, and convenience

The Costa Blanca is the coastal area that boasts the most choices for arts and activities. It offers an array of concerts, shows, live music, art exhibitions, and a smorgasbord of outdoor activities.
The two nearby cities of Alicante and Valencia offer a plethora of world famous fiestas and events, including the Volvo Ocean Race, the Fallas in Valencia, the Bonfires of Saint John (Hogueras de Alicante), and The Tomatina (tomato throwing festival) to name just a few.

There are close to forty golf courses and a neverending supply of hiking and mountain biking trails. Cycling is very popular and most of the 1st tier professional teams use the areas around Altea, Calpe, and Javea as a base every year.
The respective airports of Alicante and Valencia also offer easy access to International travel from anywhere on the Costa Blanca.

The Balearics and The Canary Islands

The Spanish islands have some of the most spectacular scenery that you will find anywhere in the world. From postcard-white sandy beaches with crystal blue waters to rugged mountains with dramatic cliffs, and hidden ‘unexplored’ coves. It’s very easy to fall in love with many of the picturesque villages in Mallorca, Ibiza, Lanzarote, and Tenerife while succumbing to the laidback lifestyle.

Are the islands the best place to live in Spain?
In reality, most foreigners who purchase property in the Canaries and Balearics are usually purchasing a holiday home. While island life offers the epitome of relaxation and a feeling of escape, year-round living can offer up a completely different experience.
In the Balearics the peaceful isolation may be appealing at first however the smaller pool of social opportunities (especially for younger people) can be boring. In addition, the Catalan-speaking communities of the Balearics can be a bit insular, and where Andalucia would receive 10/10 for welcoming foreigners, the Balearics would receive 6/10, and the Canary Islands 7.5/10.
There are limited cultural, recreational, and entertainment options, and less variety with regard to food options. Travel can be expensive and inconvenient requiring long ferry journeys or air travel.
The island economies are also not the most robust or diverse so there will be challenges for work and business opportunities.
That said, there are many happy families and couples living in the Spanish islands forming part of close-knit social communities, with more than enough hobbies and entertainment, and an enviable stress-free lifestyle to boot.
We all have different life situations. People’s priorities and commitments vary a lot.

So where is the best place to live in Spain?

Well for us, it is undoubtedly the Costa Blanca. We feel it offers the best work-life balance.
The strong and versatile economy of the area is important to us. The region is very well connected and the two International airports offer easy access to explore the rest of Europe or to visit friends and family.

The infrastructure of the region rivals any of the top European countries. There are cheap fast trains to the major cities (including Madrid and Barcelona) which are very handy for a business trip or a weekend getaway. The free highway from Valencia to Alicante is well-maintained and very convenient. Local trams, shuttles, and buses connect the towns and villages. By Car it’s only 4 hours to Madrid, and a little more to Barcelona. And you have ferry connections from Denia Port to Mallorca and Ibiza for an easy weekend escape.

The Costa Blanca, and in particular the Northern Costa Blanca, is incredibly diverse with dozens of villages and larger towns all within a 30 km radius and all offering a diverse range of cultural opportunities. At times it’s difficult deciding what to do out of all the options.
The towns of Denia, Javea, Moraira, Calpe, Altea, and Albir offer an extremely enticing lifestyle with many rich and beautiful experiences.

The climate is perfect for us. There is a little more rain (we still get around 300 days of sunshine each year) but that also means we can enjoy more greenery and diverse crops. The area also offers a little bit of a respite from the hotter summers of the south.

The cost of living and real estate is a little higher than in Southern Spain, however, you have access to a higher quality of medical care, food, education, schooling, and infrastructure. There is a truly diverse range of amenities and services rivalled only in the larger cities.
The Costa Blanca offers an excellent array of delicious food and wine. The beverage and food culture here is similar to what you will find in the larger cities. The region is home to many world-famous wineries and Michelin Star restaurants.

For us, the Costa Blanca has an unbeatable combination of climate, affordability, quality of life, entertainment options, food and wine, strong economy, and easy access to other parts of Europe.
We think it’s the ideal place for retirees, families, holiday home owners, and couples, while the larger urban centres of Alicante, Valencia, and Denia are better for singles.