The sun is out in full force in August, beating down on the Iberian Peninsula. Everywhere from Madrid to the Mediterranean coast and especially down in the southern Andalusia region is feeling the heat by this time. By August, many locals have fled Madrid in search of sea breezes, as average highs in the capital often push 90°F (32°C) of very dry heat. Temperatures in Barcelona are a little better, with an average of about 82°F (28°C), which makes for great beach weather.
If you do make it down to Andalusia, expect extreme heat during this month. Temps in inland cities like Seville and Córdoba regularly surpass 100°F (38°C), so you might be better sticking to the coastal cities like Cádiz. Head north to the Atlantic coast and Basque Country for some of the mildest temps. The mercury in San Sebastián, for example, hovers around a 74°F (23°C) in August.
Crowds & Costs
Most beach destinations are going to be crowded in August. This includes Barcelona, Mallorca, Ibiza, and the Canary Islands. Expect to pay the highest high-season prices on both hotels and flights. Moreover, you're going to want to book any Spanish beach holiday in Spain well in advance to ensure you actually have a place to stay when you arrive.
Where to Go
As alluded to above, if you want to escape the heat, you can head to San Sebastián, where some of the best food in the country awaits. If you do want the sun and beaches but don't thrive amid great crowds of people, there are some relatively hidden coastal gems in the country.
You could head to the lesser-visited cities on the Mediterranean coast between Barcelona and Andalusia. Valencia has some nice beaches, plus it's the birthplace of that most famous of dishes, paella. Then there's Alicante, a large port city on Spain's Costa Blanca. There's a historic Old Town and good nightlife here, but more importantly, there are great beaches at Santa Pola and Granadella. The latter is found in a tranquil cove and boasts turquoise waters that are the stuff of postcards.
If you do decide to brave the heat of southern Andalusia, you'll find over 60 miles (100 km) of incredible desert beaches around the coves and bays of the province of Almeria. These include Mónsul Beach, Aguadulce Beach, Los Genoveses Beach, and the crystal clear waters of Los Muertos Beach, which some locals have referred to as "Heaven on earth." Many of these stretches of sand are only accessible by foot, so you can bet they won't be as crowded as the famous resort beaches elsewhere in Spain.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
If you find yourself in Madrid, staying inside where the A/C can protect you from the harsh sun is best. Perhaps visit a few of the city's famous landmarks, such as the Prado Museum or La Sagrada Familia, the 19th-century gothic church designed by Gaudí.
Everywhere in Spain is great for food, and no doubt, if you're enjoying a beach holiday in Barcelona or Andalusia, you'll be enjoying some great Tapas. If you visit the north and San Sebastián, however, you can take advantage of pintxos culture. These small plates and little bites are akin to tapas yet are a tad more elevated in terms of preparation. Walk into most cafés in the historic center, and you'll find these delicacies piled high on countertops, just waiting for hungry patrons to sample them.
And if you're in Spain at the end of the month, head to Buñol, in the province of Valencia. Here you can enjoy one of the biggest and craziest parties in the country (more on this below).
Events in August
La Tomatina, Buñol. Every August 28, people flock to the small town of Buñol, located about a half-hour west of Valencia. The exact origins of this bizarre and messy festival aren't known; however, it's assumed that the tradition began with an angry food fight during an outdoor parade in August 1945. The locals apparently enjoyed it so much that they made pelting one another with tomatoes a firm fixture on their summer social calendar.
Today visitors come from all over the world to throw tomatoes at one another, but it's a short-lived affair. The actual tomato-throwing only takes about an hour. After that, workers clean the streets, and the party moves indoors. Know that if you wish to attend La Tomatina, participation is restricted to those who have purchased tickets in advance.
Traveling to Spain in August? Check out these great itineraries
Best of Barcelona & the Costa Brava - 9 Days. This cultural itinerary features Barcelona's vibrant and eclectic city and the quaint villages along the rugged Costa Brava coastline. It's the perfect area to enjoy some hidden beaches in August.
Best of Barcelona & Valencia - 9 Days. This itinerary not only allows you to visit the incredible metropolis of Barcelona, but you can also hit Valencia and—if you're in town at the right time—partake in La Tomatina.