Surf and Swim on a Budget: Europe’s Top 5 Out-of-the-Way Beaches

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Europe: history, culture, and wild, unspoiled beaches? Yes, it’s true, Europe is still home to some hidden beaches that will blow your mind. With a little planning, it’s still possible to surf, swim, and climb on a budget, while still beating the crowds. Here are my favorite out-of-the-way beach destinations in Europe, whether you’re into surfing, hiking, or just soaking up the sun.

Shabla, Bulgaria

Located on Bulgaria’s northern coast, Shabla is one of the few remaining spots on the Black Sea that’s relatively untouched. The area has miles of unspoiled sandy beach, and the Black Sea is warm and generally calm from July through September, making for perfect swimming.

If you’d rather seek adventure than catch rays, Shabla has some impressive natural wonders. The rocky cliffside village of Tyulenovo boasts underwater caves for diving, and plenty of picturesque rock faces for climbing.

Shabla is a perfect spot for climbers and beach campers on a budget, since Bulgaria is still one of the cheapest countries in Europe. It’s about 50 miles north of Bulgaria’s seaside metropolis, Varna, and may take some effort to reach. Outside of large cities, Bulgaria is largely untouched by tourism, and few of the older locals speak English. For anyone willing to make the effort, however, Shabla is one of the Black Sea’s most rewarding destinations.

Sennen Cove, UK

For some of Europe’s best surfing, in a quaint British fishing village, grab your board and your wetsuit and head to Sennen Cove. It’s one of the lesser-known gems in Cornwall, the rocky peninsula on the southwest coast of Great Britain. Sennen Cove’s beach offers fine white sand and perfect waves for surfers of all levels, year-round. With fewer tourists than other spots in Cornwall, Sennen Cove has managed to maintain a quiet, peaceful vibe. The area even flies the prestigious “Blue Flag,” an award for exceptionally pristine coastline spots.

Although the area is popular in the summer, there’s also excellent surfing during the colder months. Cornwall gets more sunshine than most places in Great Britain, and with the right gear, Sennen Cove is a great getaway for winter surfing.

Petrovac, Montenegro

Montenegro remains one of the top outdoor destinations on the Balkan Peninsula, with mountains, plenty of wilderness, and of course, fantastic beaches on the Adriatic Sea. The country has blossomed into a great backpacking spot, with plenty of camping, hiking, and cheap accommodations.

To experience Montenegro at its best, skip the overcrowded resort area in Budva and head down to Petrovac. Alongside the sandy beaches, Petrovac offers endless pine forests and picturesque olive groves.

For budget travelers and backpackers, check out one of Petrovac’s campsites. When you’ve had your fill of sunbathing, hike up to the Rezevici Monastery to explore the nearby caves and take in a stunning view of the Adriatic. And don’t forget to sample Montenegro’s famous wine and fresh cuisine for a true taste of southern Europe.

Karaburun, Albania

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience on a tight budget, head to the “Albanian Riviera” for a truly unique European beach getaway. If you’re also an experienced backpacker who craves privacy, it’s worth the effort to explore Karaburun. This peninsula offers endless hiking and plenty of hidden beaches. The entire peninsula is designated as a national park, and it’s only accessible by boat from the nearby city of Vlore. Once you’re there, there are over 70 kilometers of coastline to explore, including caves, cliffs, and quiet pebble beaches with pristine water for swimming.

For a real taste of Albania, make a trip to nearby Sazan. This little island has a unique history; it was the site of a strategic and very secretive military base during Albania’s communist era. Today, Sazan is being rediscovered by curious travelers, who can explore the island’s vast network of underground bunkers.

Galicia, Spain

This province on the rugged northwestern coast is Spain is a must for dedicated, adventurous surfers. Galicia is no Ibiza: the water is cold and rough, and the weather is wet and unpredictable. But the surfing is world-class; the high rocky cliffs are padded by golden sandy beaches where you can catch waves practically year-round. In fact, the hardest part of surfing in Galicia is usually finding waves small enough to handle. Novice surfers can start at Pantin, Galicia’s most famous surfing spot, and from there find plenty to explore.

Along with the surfing, Galicia offers plenty of wilderness and scenery. The plentiful rain makes Galicia look more like Ireland than Spain, with lush greenery and stunning rock formations along the coast. These spots tend to be some of the most scenic, including the rocks of As Catedrais and the gorgeous sandy beach of Lume Boo.

Between surfing and exploring, make sure you try the local seafood. Galicia’s seafood is considered the best in Spain, and much of it comes in easy-to-sample, affordable tapas. Local delicacies include octopus, shellfish, and the famed percebes, or gooseneck barnacles, an expensive treat that Galicia is known for. The seafood is best during the fishing season, in fall, winter, and spring.

What’s your favorite secret beach spot in Europe? Do you prefer Europe for surfing, climbing, or just getting away? Share your tips in the comments.


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Stephan Aarstol is an American internet entrepreneur and author of the book The Five Hour Workday, which is based on Tower Paddle Boards' invention of the 5-hour workday in 2015 that would eventually spread the idea to over 10 million people worldwide. Since founding Tower in 2010, it has gone on to become one of America's fastest growing companies and Mark Cuban's best investment in the history of Shark Tank. Tower has diversified into a direct to consumer electric bike company called Tower Electric Bikes, a beachfront event venue called Tower Beach Club, and NoMiddleman.com, where consumers can shop all the world's finest direct to consumer brands from one easy place.