Beach flags in Spain
and what they mean

🕔 5 mins (total)


Like so many other things in our daily lives here in Catalunya – recycling and parking to give just two examples – the flags used on Spanish beaches are colour-coded to let you know when and where it is safe to swim. The system is very simple and it’s worth paying heed to whatever colour beach flag is on display. Not to do so would just be foolish!

Colour-coded beaches as seen all around the Costas of Spain
Colour-coded beaches as seen all around the Costas of Spain

Beach flags for safety

On most Costa Brava beaches, lifeguards are on duty from June through September inclusive, although exact dates can vary from one municipality to the next. Typically they tend to be on duty from around 10:00 till about 19:00, but this too may vary a little from place to place. In any case, though, with the lifeguards come the beach flags, so just in case you’re not familiar with the system of different coloured flags used to indicate the swimming conditions, here’s a short recap:

  • A green flag means it is safe to swim, so jump right on in!

  • A yellow flag means swimming is permitted, but caution is advised, and it is recommended that you only swim close to where there are lifeguards on duty.

  • If you see a red flag, go to the xiringuito for a few beers instead – swimming is definitely not allowed!

  • A black flag means that the beach is unsafe due to the condition of the sea and/or sand, but fortunately, these are very rarely seen in these parts.

  • Keep an eye out as well for beach flags with a jellyfish drawn on them. Their meaning is pretty self-explanatory: it’s another day for beers in the xiringuito!


In general, jellyfish are not a big problem on Costa Brava beaches, but they do show up occasionally. The most common species of jellyfish on these shores is very imaginatively called the Common Jellyfish, although in both Catalan and Spanish, it is known as a Medusa. If you remember your Greek mythology (or maybe some movies!), you’ll know that Medusa was a winged part-human woman with poisonous snakes instead of hair – kinda like jellyfish tentacles. Lovely, huh? Anyone who looked that ancient Greek Medusa in the eye would immediately be turned to stone. The jellyfish medusa is positively nice by comparison and will only sting you instead.

It’s pretty rare to see actual jellyfish beach flags, and lifeguards are more likely to fly the yellow beach flag instead if there are just a few jellyfish in the water. On occasion, though, weather events such as extreme heat can cause jellyfish that normally swim in deeper waters to “invade” beaches and shores. So if you see jellyfish beach flags, don’t ignore them. They’re flying there for a reason!

Blue Flags

  • A blue flag represents something different. This is an “eco-label award for beaches with good practices regarding water quality, environmental management, safety & services and environmental education”. As the intro on the Global Blue Flag website says: “The iconic Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognized voluntary awards for beaches, marinas, and sustainable tourism boats. In order to qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained.”
Blue Flags represent the safest, most accessible and environmentally cleanest beaches.
Blue Flags represent the safest, most accessible, and environmentally cleanest beaches.

Staying with those blue flag beaches, did you know that Spain is the world leader for its number of beaches that have been awarded Blue Flags, and has been for a few years now? In 2023, Spain was awarded a total of 747 blue flags nationwide, thus retaining the top spot ahead of Greece, Turkey, and France. Of that total, 638 of the blue flags are for beaches, the rest for port marinas and tourist boats. Of Spain’s grand total, 118 are in Catalunya, and 28 of those are right here on the Costa Brava (up two from last year).

The leading Comunidades Autónomas in Spain are Valencia (with Alicante as the overall № 1 Province in the country), followed by Andalucía and Galicia, with Catalunya in fourth place. The following is the full list of Blue Flag Costa Brava beaches by municipality, and just to make things even easier for you, we’ve even created a Map of Blue Flag Costa Brava Beaches for 2024! You’ll notice that the majority are in the Baix Empordà. In addition to the beaches, Blue Flags were also awarded to the port marinas of Club Nàutic l’Estartit, L’Estartit; the Port of Aiguablava, Begur; the Port d’Aro, in Castell d’Aro, Platja d’Aro & s’Agaró, and the Palamós Marina.

  • Castelló d’Empúries: (1)
    • Empúriabrava
  • Blanes: (3)
    • Blanes
    • Sabanell
    • Sant Francesc-Cala Bona
  • Castell-Platja d’Aro: (3)
    • Cala Rovira
    • Platja d’Aro-Platja Gran
    • Sa Conca
  • Palafrugell (3)
    • Canadell
    • Llafranc
    • Tamariu
  • Palamós: (1)
    • La Fosca
  • Port de la Selva (1)
  • Llançá: (2)
    • Del Port
    • Grifeu
  • Calonge i Sant Antoni: (4)
    • Cala Cristus-Ses Torretes
    • Es Monestrí
    • Sant Antoni
    • Torre Valentina
  • Sant Feliu de Guíxols: (2)
    • Sant Feliu
    • Sant Pol
  • Torroelloa de Montgrí: (1)
    • Cala Montgó
  • Tossa de Mar: (2)
    • Gran de Tossa
    • La Mar Menuda
  • Lloret de Mar (5)
    • Cala Canyelles
    • Sa Boadella
    • Santa Cristina
    • Platja de Lloret
    • Platja de Fenals

Know before you go

For the most part, the platjas of the Baix Empordà are pretty fantastic places for hanging out, sunbathing, having lunch, and especially swimming – but do check the beach flags before you take the plunge, just in case there might be a strong current not easily detectable to the untrained eye. Incredibly sadly, in the months of June and July 2023 alone, 20 people drowned in Catalan waters, seven in just one week at the end of July.

Whatever kind of beach you want, La Costa Brava has it all! There are small coves and beaches several kilometres long, and everything in between. Whether you want a beach suitable for all the family, somewhere with places to get a bite to eat or a few beers, or a quiet secluded naturist beach where you can strip to your birthday suit and go au naturale, there’s a beach on the Costa Brava for you.

There are even some beaches that allow dogs during the summer months, and although there aren’t that many, some of them happen to be very nice indeed. Outside the main tourist season, dogs can frolic to their heart’s content on almost all Costa Brava beaches. Check out our Pets blog to see which beaches are dog-friendly.

If maybe you’d like a few suggestions, feel free to have a browse of Our Top 10 Beaches of El Baix Empordà blog. We are so spoilt for choice with so many wonderful beaches along the length of the Costa Brava that we had to narrow our recommendations down to just the Baix Empordà this time, and we even still had to leave some lovely beaches out! In the interests of fairness, we’ll be writing another piece on the beaches of the Alt Empordà in the very near future.

The official flag of the Comunitat Autònoma de Catalunya flying high
The official flag of the Comunitat Autònoma de Catalunya flying high

By the way…

If you see a red and yellow flag, don’t be confused; it’s not a beach flag at all! That’s just the official flag of the Comunitat Autònoma de Catalunya and is the same one you’ll see flying outside Ajuntaments (Town Halls) around the region. It’s not the independentista flag, just the regular official one, and is called La Senyera. The independentista one is called the Estellada, but that’s a story for another day!

NjOY! those beaches, but swim safely!

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