The sea on your doorstep on Spain’s northern coast
Road trip: Day 12 – 14. July 2016. Pechón, Cantabria, Spain
Word of mouth. Insider knowledge. Priceless on a camping trip. In fact the vast majority of our trip was mapped out from extensive Google research, but Camping Las Arenas we discovered thanks to a big ‘X’ drawn on our map by a seasoned fellow camper a few sites previous in Galicia.
We met Antonio and his family back in Muiniera in O Grove. Around the camp fire we got the maps out and compared routes. Antonio told us about this “unmissable” camp site in Cantabria, “the best camp site in Spain” he claimed. He described it as high on a hill with incredible views and bracing breezes, one of the few ‘free camping’ sites on the northern coast, almost surrounded by water facing the sea with a river running alongside.
We were intrigued. So although Cantabria had not been on our itinerary, we squeezed a few things each side so we could enjoy a brief two nights here.
And indeed Camping Las Arenas IS almost surrounded by water. It’s located on a natural headland on the Cantabrian Sea, right at the mouth of the Río Tina Mayor. It is best described visually by the camp site’s own aerial image:
Ok, I see what you mean Antonio.
Grassy with gorgeous views
I remember on arrival the overpowering smell of freshly cut grass. It’s a smell I normally associate with summers in Ireland, not Spain. But this is the north of Spain, where there is mucha mucha lluvia (rain) year round. I spotted a guy on a lawnmower when we were checking in. He was still mowing that evening, and the next morning…he never stopped! The soundtrack to our 2 days here was the crashing of waves with a bass line of lawnmower.
This is a vast and varied site with no bum spots. Picking a pitch is tough, only because there are so many good ones! It’s worth taking your time over. You could go high up near reception with expansive views. Or you could go shady and isolated under big leafy trees. Or take an unpopular flat spot in the middle and enjoy the advantage of no neighbours and your own private football field.
Our priority was a sea view and beach access. Of course this prime real estate was popular. But we managed to find a spot with uninterrupted views to the sea from our tent. There were camper vans and tents on the levels below us but thanks to the terrace system, once sitting down in our deck chairs, they were out of sight.
The “free camping” that Antonio referred to means that pitches aren’t marked out. There are no border hedges, it’s just a big field. You pick a spot maintaining a respectful distance from your neighbours. It’s big though, you don’t need to worry about being elbowed in on. We arrived on a Thursday. By Friday afternoon a wave of weekenders swept in so they opened an extra field near the woods so everyone could spread out.
On the beach
The best thing about this site was the sea view and proximity to the beach. In fact there are two beaches accessible from the camp site but we only got to the one nearest us. It was about a 2 minute walk down an asphalt track.
By day it was good for body-boarding and swimming, though it could get quite rough depending on winds and tides. The currents are strong so you need to be vigilant with kids.
By night it was….magical.
Very well run
This camp site ran like clock work – lots of staff, always someone in reception, good sanitary facilities and plenty of them, constant warm water, great shop and restaurant, all the boxes ticked.
The only downside for us was the vastness of the site. It was too big to get to know other kids, unless you got lucky and made friends with the next door neighbours. And it’s steep! Popping to the shop was no mean feat. Also because of the steep terrain and vehicles at pitches, it wasn’t safe to let the kids wander.
Also, a bizarre thing for Spain I thought, they made occasional announcements over loudspeakers. It really broke the spell I have to say! One minute you’re soaking up the view, meditating on the infinite nature of being and the next a crackly voice is reminding you that barbeques aren’t allowed (or something equally superfluous). Anyway, just a small complaint as it didn’t happen often thankfully, I think twice in the two days we were there.
There was a ton of activities available, including diving, canoeing, horse-riding, canyoning, rafting, quad bikes, caving, golf and hiking. Also fishing on the adjacent river, good for salmon, sea bass and bream.
I was itching to check out the rocky coastline. From our tent we could see cliff walks winding tantalisingly through the trees on both sides. And less than an hour inland are the Picos de Europa, also the famous Altamira Caves. Not enough time, so many reasons to return..
Camp site facilities
There’s a big spotless pool and separate toddler’s pool. The water was fairly cold even in July. This photo shows it empty only because it was very early morning. Normally it was full of crazy kids who don’t feel the temperature like their ageing parents. As you can see it’s pretty exposed and there’s no seating but you can bring your own of course.
Also for children there’s a small playground and in the bar, a foosball table, a pool table and some video games.
The restaurant was top notch with a huge range of fresh fish, a little pricey for a camp site restaurant but for the quality of food and service, a bargain.
Open: April 27 to Sept 30.
Altitude: Sea level
Pitches: 350. Not marked out. With / without shade. Grass surface. Terraced.
Credit cards accepted.
Electric hook ups.
Water taps near pitches.
Dogs allowed (free).
Swimming pool and toddler’s pool. (Open June 1 to Sept 30)
Pool table and video games
Marked out walking routes near the camp site.
Restaurant, cafe and bar. Takeaway pizzas.
Supermarket (fresh bead daily) and postal service onsite.
A short taster of the wild Cantabrian coastline.