If you’re the type that gets easily bored on the beach, then check out our top 5 destinations in Europe where it’s all about non-stop action. From surfing and bodyboarding in the Algarve to caving and mountain biking in Menorca, we’ve got the lowdown on Europe’s top spots for adrenaline junkies. We’ve picked out the best hotels in each area too, putting you right in the heart of the action.
1. The Algarve, Portugal
To witness the world’s biggest waves, go to Nazare on Portugal’s west coast in winter – a mighty 100ft wave was ridden here recently. But for something a little calmer, head to the Algarve on the country’s picture-perfect south coast – you’ll find a handful of spots ideal for newbies and seasoned pros. We recommend Sagres, a laid-back beach town with plenty of surf schools. Check out Mareta Beach for beginners, and Bordeira for experienced wave riders.
For those who prefer things horizontal, the Algarve offers tons of opportunities for bodyboarders of all levels. At Praia de Gale you’ll find plenty of bodyboarding schools and consistent waves that aren’t too daunting; trip over to Beliche, 3km from Sages, and you’ll discover a beautiful protected cove with endless barrels – the most fun you can have on a bodyboard.
With jutting rock formations and hidden sea caves, the Algarve was made to be explored by kayak. At Ponta de Piedade in Lagos, you’ll discover towering rocks and untouched coves, while the caves and grottoes at Praia de Igrina are perfect for beginner paddlers. The jewel in the crown is the cave at Benagil, a mesmerising formation that can only be reached from the water.
Stay in Lagos for easy access to the Algarve’s best beaches. We recommend Vila Gale Lagos, with its vast, lagoon-style pools and outstanding ocean views.
2. Costa del Sol, Spain
An hour from upmarket Marbella, you’ll discover one of Europe’s best hiking trails – Caminito del Ray. Not for the feint hearted, this lofty hike takes you through a gorge on a 100m-high suspended walkway. At 8km long, the trail is not too challenging, and the views are breathtaking. If you have a fear of heights, then Torcal de Antequera in Malaga makes a great alternative, a Unesco-designated park with stunning natural formations.
There are few things more fun than zipping across the Spanish terrain on a quad bike. Start your adventure in Mijas, 5 minutes from Fuengirola. Go offroad through mountains and traditional villages on a thrilling tour with spectacular mountain views. If you’re nearer to Malaga town, this exciting safari takes you through crop fields, along dirt roads, and across rivers – be prepared to get wet and muddy!
Beginner canyoners get to slip and slide through the rocks and rivers of Guadalmina, Marbella, on this adrenaline-pumping adventure. If you’re no stranger to the sport, you can take on a level 2 excursion full of thrilling rappels, canyon swims, and jumps into wild water – and even tackle the mighty Cathedral Canyon.
Hotel Las Rampas in Fuengirola puts you where you need to be, a stylish and well-equipped hotel, 2 minutes from the beach.
3. Madeira, Portugal
There are plenty of ways to begin your underwater adventures in Madeira, with more than a dozen dive schools on the southeast coast alone. Porto Santo is one of the island’s most sought-after dive spots, with gin-clear waters, and reef wrecks home to grouper, barracuda and kingfish. Garajau Nature Reserve is another can’t-miss, where you’ll discover salema shoals, amberjacks, and – if you’re lucky – a rare monk seal.
Going on an open-top 4×4 safari means you get to see the best of Madeira, off the beaten track. You’ll see a whole new side to this fascinating island, as you traverse the rugged coastline, rocky mountains, and forested tracks. Stop off at the natural pools in Porto Maniz for a refreshing dip, and take in the exceptional natural beauty of Seixal on this one-of-a-kind tour.
Regularly topping lists of the world’s best hikes, clambering to the top of Pico do Areeiro mountain at sunrise is one for the bucket list. From the summit, take the challenging trail north to Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest peak. You’ll face steep climbs, narrow pathways, and dark tunnels, along with views you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Base yourself in capital Funchal for easy access to all the top attractions. The Vine Hotel is our choice, a chic design hotel with panoramic views of the city.
4. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
If you’ve got an urge to try out the heart-pumping sport of kitesurfing, there’s nowhere better to learn than Fuerteventura. With scores of professional schools dotted throughout the island’s north and south, take your pick, and you’ll be up and flying in no time. The best spots for beginners are the beaches in Corralejo, and La Playa del Burro in the northeast.
Home to the Windsurfing World Championships, Fuerteventura is heaven for sailboarders, offering excellent conditions year-round. If you’re just starting out, you’re best bet is to take a lesson at one of the many schools on the island – check out Caleta de Fuste for shallow waters protected from the prevailing winds.
The summer months are best if you’re new to the sport, while Autumn through to Spring sees the pros take on the big waves. El Cotillo Beach on the west coast is a mecca for beginner surfers, with plenty of expert tuition on hand. For an alternative, Playa del Morro in the northeast offers reliable waves that rarely get too big in the summer.
A stay at the highly-rated Barcelo Corralejo Bay puts you within walking distance of the island’s big-name surf schools, including Quicksilver, Rip Curl, and O’Neil.
5. Menorca, Balearic Islands
Often looked over for bigger cousin Majorca, Menorca offers some of Europe’s best beaches, with amazingly clear water for snorkelling. One of the most popular places to spot Menorca’s marine life is Cala Marcella, a stunning cove hemmed in by limestone cliffs. Look out for scorpionfish, starfish, octopus, and sea turtles.
Caving and coasteering:
Slip on a wetsuit and explore Menorca’s hidden depths on a thrilling cave expedition. You’ll swim through the mesmerising Costa de Coloms, an ancient cave system home to underground lakes, and glistening stalagmites. Or why not try your hand at coasteering, an adrenaline-pumping sport combining cliff jumping, rock climbing, and rappelling?
Mountain biking in Menorca is spectacular, with trails through forests, hills, and along the coast. Start off with the Cami de Cavalls, a trail that follows the wonderful Menorcan coastline, complete with steep drops, short, rocky climbs, and sandy coves. If you fancy leaving the trail, you’ll find lots of car-free tracks for exploring the countryside and gently rolling hills.
Wherever you’re based in Menorca, you’ll be able to join the Cami de Cavalls trail – it circles the entire island. Check in to the Floramar Aparthotel for a large outdoor pool, modern accommodation, and extra-special views of Cala Galdana Bay.