20 Best things to do in Salou and surroundings
If this year you are going to Salou to spend the summer holidays, you are in luck, because there are many things to do in Salou!
It is an easy destination for groups of friends and families, with beautiful beaches, endless sun, great restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere. It is also a very affordable place for a family vacation.
But Salou is much more than cheap vacation packages. There are many things to do in and around Salou. It's also a great place to rent a car or bike and go exploring.
So when you get tired of the nearest pool and beach, here is this mini guide and the best things to do in Salou.
These are just some of the incredible things to do in Salou that will guarantee you a complete and fun holiday to remember!
- Where is Salou?
- What to do in Salou and surroundings
- 1. PortAventura World
- 2. Fountains of Salou
- 3. Visit the beautiful coves of Salou and surroundings
- 4. Salou Tourist Train
- 5. Llevant Beach
- 6. Ponent Beach
- 7. Camino de Ronda
- 8. Paseo de Jaume I
- 9. Ferrari Land
- 10. Caribbean Water Park
- 11. Day trip to Tarragona
- 12. Capellans Beach
- 13. Sesame Adventure
- 14. Day trip to Reus
- 15. Long Beach
- 16. Llenguadets beach
- 17. Day trip to Cambrils
- 18. Nightlife in Salou, Carles Buïgas street and surroundings
- 19. Visit the historic buildings of Salou
- 20. Try the local Catalan cuisine
Where is Salou?
Salou is a tourist city on the Costa Dorada. It is a strip of coast in the province of Tarragona (Catalonia), in the Mediterranean Sea. Its beaches are calm and shallow waters, and Salou has both small coves and extensive beaches.
The city is about 98 km (approximately 70 minutes by car) south of Barcelona. The nearest airport to Salou is Reus, which is only 10 km or 15 minutes away by car.
If you go by car to Salou you cannot miss this article about the free parking areas in Salou.
You might think that this is some obscure airport that few airports fly directly to, but that's not the case at all. Some 15 British airports fly to Reus airport during the peak summer months, including Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester and various London airports. Jet2, TUI and Ryanair fly to Reus and their flights last between two and three hours.
Salou is very close to the cities of Tarragona and Reus and the tourist town of Cambrils. All three of these places would make great day trips from Salou if you wanted to explore other parts of the region.
Now yes, we go with our ranking of the 20 best things to see in Salou.
What to do in Salou and surroundings
1. PortAventura World
starting strong, Without a doubt, one of the things to do in Salou as a family is to go to PortAventura World. It is a huge complex of several theme parks, such as PortAventura Park, Ferrari Land, Caribe Aquatic Park and SésamoAventura.
There are also other smaller amusement parks in the same general area. It's like a Spanish mecca of adrenaline and entertainment that will keep your kids buzzing all day.
PortAventura Park is the main one and has more than 40 rides and roller coasters, as well as theater performances and plenty of restaurants. There are even PortAventura hotels, so it's like a mini DisneyWorld right on the Mediterranean coast.
And as in the Disney or Universal theme parks, you can buy packages if you want to visit more than one of the PortAventura World parks. There are also express passes that can be a good investment in the summer months. It's a very popular place and some lines have an hour wait, so you'll be glad you spent a pretty penny!
Travel tip: If you expect to love PortAventura World, I highly recommend staying at one of the nearby hotels, where you will have early access to the park. The theme park is brilliant and you could easily spend several days in it.
But it's also very hot and little shade so personally I'd like to go to the park for two hours each morning and then leave when it gets crowded and the lines are 1-2 hours long.
2. Fountains of Salou
You might think that the fountains aren't that exciting, even if the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas and the Fontana di Trevi in Rome disagree! And in Salou, the fountains are definitely something you have to see.
Salou has a number of great fountains, such as the Font Lluminosa, which is the oldest, the Font Ornamentals, the Font Cibernètica and the Font Laberint. A Catalan architect named Carles Buïgas, who also built the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in Barcelona, designed the Font Lluminosa in the 1970s. So he knows a thing or two about making water look interesting.
If you have a rainy day in Salou, you cannot miss our post about What to do in Salou if it rains.
During the summer months, from July 1 to September 10, you can see the four fountains put on their own displays of light and music every day. Needless to say, your kids will love running through these jets. Carry a spare change of clothes in your backpack in case they get soaked.
Fonts Ornamentals has a light display that runs between 6pm and 10pm. It's very cool because there is a walkway that crosses the fountain and the water projects an arc over your head. Font Cibernètica performs at 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and the Font Lluminosa exhibition is at 10:30 p.m.
In the spring and autumn months, all of them perform on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (including holidays) between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
3. Visit the beautiful coves of Salou and surroundings
One of the best things to do in Salou is its beaches. There are two main beaches (we'll talk more about them soon!) and several smaller coves called the Calas del Cap de Salou.
There are five in total: Cala de la Vinya, Cala els Crancs, Cala Morisca, Cala de la Font and Cala de la Penya Tallada.
These coves are further east of the main strip beaches, so you'll probably need a car to get to them. Or you can walk the Punta del Cap de Salou hiking trail (if you're feeling active!), because seeing them is definitely worth it.
You could also easily swim between some of them, since Cala de la Vinya and Cala Font are very close. You just have to be careful where you put yourself, as the coast is rockier here.
These coves are much quieter than the main beaches, with a more rugged and natural landscape, although the tradeoff is fewer services and things to do nearby. But if you have warm, clear waters to swim in and lush scenery to gaze at, what else do you need?
4. Salou Tourist Train
When you start traveling as a family, all the cultural visits that you liked to do are soon replaced by more entertaining and stimulating activities. You can have the best of both worlds with the Salou Tourist Train.
It's literally an adorable red bus with open doors that looks like a toy train. The train leaves from the Salou tourist office and makes a circular tour of the main monuments and points of interest in Salou. Some of them are the fountains, the monument to Jaume I, the City Park, the Torre Vella art gallery and the Church of Santa María del Mar.
The Salou Tourist Train runs approximately every half hour and only costs €6 for adults and €4 for children over 3 years of age. They have audio guides for both adults and children (if you can convince them to take the guides for more than two minutes!) in several languages.
5. Llevant Beach
Llevant beach is one of the most popular in Salou and, therefore, one of the best things to do in Salou! It runs parallel to the promenade, Passeig de Jaume I, where all the fountains are. The number of activities and services that this urban beach manages to accommodate is surprising, since it is only 1.2 km long.
There are two huge car parks on Passeig de Jaume I, so finding where to park won't be a problem. In addition, there are lots of public toilets along the promenade. There are also showers, beach bars, ice cream parlors, volleyball courts, restaurants and much more.
If you like lazing around on a beach with everything you need close by (and don't mind the crowds!), then Llevant is perfect. You can rent a sun lounger and umbrella or bring your own.
Travel Hack: Try Kayaking!
You can rent kayaks while you are in Salou, which is a great family activity to have fun, keep fit, cool off and see Salou from a different perspective Look at this post to find out all the water sports to do in Salou.
6. Ponent Beach
On the opposite side of the port to that of Llevant is the Ponent beach. Although it is much narrower and has fewer services, it is usually the quieter of the two. Ponent also has a huge children's play area with plenty of palm trees providing some much needed shade.
It looks less commercial, but there are still a few restaurants and bars on the sand. Out of season, it is a popular place for locals to go fishing.
But the difference between the two beaches is negligible. Both are beautiful, clean beaches with soft sand and calm shorelines. Lifeguards are on duty during the day in high seasons and you will undoubtedly have a great day at the beach no matter which one you choose
If you want to try both, go to Llevant first in the morning, when it's quieter, and then go to Ponent beach after lunch.
7. Camino de Ronda
Who doesn't love hiking in 30°C heat during a relaxing beach holiday? It's actually quite fun if you venture out in the morning or afternoon when the sun isn't as strong. And staying active will help you feel a little less lethargic when you come home.
The Camí de Ronda is a 6.5 km coastal walk that starts at Llevant beach and ends at an old lighthouse called Far de Cap Salou. The first 2 km of the path are completely paved and the other 4.5 km are a nature trail.
The lighthouse itself is pretty cool, but the views of the rocky cliffs in this part of Salou are impressive. It is certainly an excursion to do at sunset, if you can.
You can also go down the coastal path in the other direction via Ponent beach, Vilafortuny beach and Cavet beach towards Cambrils. But don't forget that you'll also have to walk back, unless one of you stays behind and picks you up later.
Remember to bring slippers, because walking 6.5 km in flip-flops won't be much fun.
8. Paseo de Jaume I
At first glance, Passeig de Jaume I looks like just another pedestrian street. It runs next to Salou's main beach, Llevant, and it's just a big marble slab, right?
Actually, there is more to do on this street than you might expect. First of all, it is dedicated to James I the Conqueror and there is a huge monument to him in the middle of the street. He was a Catalan king from the 13th century and is an icon for the Catalan people.
Palm trees line both sides of the street, leaving a huge promenade in the middle. And there's plenty of space to gather around the Salou Fountains to watch the nightly displays.
The name of Salou appears in the center of the strip in huge letters that you can usually find children trying to climb. But it's a great place for an Instagrammable photo.
On this promenade and on the street just behind it you will find many restaurants, ice cream parlors, souvenir shops and tourist companies. The tourist office is on this street, as are bicycle rental companies, diving excursions, boat trips and kitesurfing.
Do not forget to look at the old olive tree that grows on the corner of Passeig de Jaume I with Barcelona street. It is about 1,000 years old and seems unrecognizable compared to any other olive tree you have seen due to its gigantic size.
9. Ferrari Land
Located in PortAventura World, Ferrari Land is exactly what you think it is. It's a Ferrari themed amusement park with over 16 rides and rides where everything is gold and red and has at least a vague connection to cars.
Also, they lean heavily on the Italian theme. You'll find cypress trees, a miniature version of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, and restaurants like Ristorante Cavallino, which serve Italian cuisine.
One of the most amazing and cool things about Ferrari Land is that it is home to the highest mountain in Europe. and faster roller coaster Yes, right in Salou! Who would have thought that it would be one of the best things to do in Salou? The Red Force looks absolutely terrifying and hopefully your kids who are tall enough to ride it will agree.
With any luck, they'll satisfy their need for speed on the Junior Red Force roller coaster or on the race tracks. There is also an exhibition on former Ferrari motorsport legends and some of their old Formula 1 cars.
10. Caribbean Water Park
Isn't it against the law to go on a family holiday to Spain and not go to a water park? You might think so, considering how many of them there are all over the country. In PortAventura Caribbean Water Park It has to be among the best.
There are more than 16 rides and pools in the water park, including waterfalls, wave pools, pirate ships, and mega slides. There are plenty of things to do for kids of all ages and plenty of Caribbean-themed restaurants and snack bars.
If your kids aren't too busy going down slides with names like "Torrent" and "Rapid Race," you can float down the Caribe lazy river. Or you can relax in one of their sun loungers next to Bahama Beach. There are enough things to do to spend a whole day here.
11. Day trip to Tarragona
There are so many things to do in Salou that you can have a lot of fun on your vacation even if you never leave the city. But there are so many other beautiful places within 20 minutes that it would be a shame not to explore them.
The city of Tarragona is only 17 km north along the coast from Salou, 20 minutes by car or 15 minutes by train. It is a port city with historic buildings and many of them date back to its history as a Roman colony.
Check out this post about best things to do in Tarragona for a 1 day excursion from Salou.
You can even take a guided tour of all the places related to the Roman heritage of Tarragona. there is the Roman amphitheater that dominates the coast, a chariot racing track from the 1st century, an ancient Roman aqueduct and a Roman Forum.
Honestly, there are so many ruins in the city that you will pass by just walking through the streets! And you have to visit the Roman Walls. You won't believe how much of the old city wall is still standing after 2,000 years.
Of course, any Spanish city is not complete without an absolutely spectacular cathedral. The Cathedral of Tarragona (or to use its full name, the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana i Primada de Santa Tecla de Tarragona) is magnificent. Its patio has a beautiful water fountain and walking among all the beautiful orange trees is sure to put you in a good mood.
Tarragona also has many small shops and traditional Spanish boutiques and restaurants. This part of Spain is famous for its seafood and rice dishes, so you can't go wrong with a plate of mussels or a big bowl of paella.
The Tarragona wine region is essentially the Country of Cava. It would be rude not to order a glass of cava to accompany the seafood, you're on vacation!
12. Capellans Beach
Capellans beach is not as large as the Llevant and Ponent beaches, but it is not so small as to be a cove. Dominated by residential apartments and a favorite with the locals, Capellans is ideal for older couples and families with very young children.
Its smaller size means you don't have to walk as far from your lounger to get to the local beach bar or take a dip in the sea. And it's much easier to keep an eye on your children playing in the sea while you sunbathe, since there are fewer places for them to escape.
You can also rent kayaks on this beach and there is even a path for wheelchair users. Isn't that cool? More beaches need to have trails so people with extra accessibility needs can get their feet wet in the water too!
If you feel like taking a walk, the walkway that ascends the cliffs next to Capellans offers beautiful views of the beach and the other coves on the coast.
13. Sesame Adventure
You've had a Ferrari themed amusement park and a Caribbean themed water park in addition to the main theme park. Are you sure that in PortAventura World everything is already covered? Oh no, not quite! SésamoAventura is part of PortAventura and is designed for the little ones.
And not only that, the theme of SésamoAventura is a delicious mix of Sesame Street and Polynesia. And what is even stranger, it fully succeeds and a trip to this theme park is an absolute delight.
Here the roller coasters are much slower, less scary and lower to the ground than in the other parks. There are 3D rides that the whole family can enjoy and theatrical performances with Elmo, Bert, Ernie and the whole gang. Many of the attractions, such as Elmo's Farm and the Enchanted Garden, do not have height restrictions.
And if the names of the characters are confusing to you, keep in mind that the characters on Sesame Street have different names in Spanish: Bert is Blas, Ernie is Epi, and Big Bird is La Gallina Caponata. In fact, the name of the program in Spain is Sesame Street, so you can teach your kids some Spanish while you're there!
14. Day trip to Reus
Reus is a great day trip to Salou alternative to Tarragona. Or you can easily do both if you stay in Salou for more than a week. It couldn't be a more comfortable place to drive from your base in Salou.
It is the capital of the Costa Dorada region, but it is very different from Salou and other tourist cities on the coast. There are fewer tourists and it is the architecture, galleries, museums and gastronomic scene, rather than the beaches, that make Reus a place worth visiting.
It is not surprising that the architecture of Reus is so interesting because it is the hometown of Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí is famous for designing various structures in Barcelona and throughout Catalonia, such as the Sagrada Familia. In Reus, you can visit the Gaudí museum and tourist center to find out more about his life and work.
And if architecture is your thing, take a walk along the Reus Modernist Route. There are 23 buildings on this self-guided circular walk, which begins and ends at the Market Square. There are plaques on the outside of the buildings that explain a bit who designed them and their history.
If you can only enter one of the buildings on the route, make it Casa Navas. It is a semi-detached house decorated with colored mosaics and stained glass windows.
Like Tarragona, Reus and the vineyards on the outskirts of the city produce many spirits and wines. The Museu del Vermut de Reus is the largest vermouth museum in the world (don't try to try all 6,000 varieties!) and is also a good place to dine.
15. Long Beach
Due to its location on an irregular part of the Catalan coast, Salou offers more beaches in one area than many other tourist cities. It has long stretches, tiny coves and a few smaller beaches in between.
Llarga beach is one of them. You won't find sun loungers here, but you won't have to share your piece of sand with anyone either. The cliffs curve around the beach, making it seem like a safer place to bathe. Plus, you're surrounded by greenery here instead of high-rise resorts, making you feel like you're on an island.
As it is smaller and more in a residential area, parking is a bit difficult to find, so get there early. But even so, it has all the facilities you need to spend a whole day at the beach here.
16. Llenguadets beach
Make it a double day at the beach by leaving the car parked in Llarga and walking along the promenade along the cliffs to Llenguadets beach. Better yet, you can swim around the cliffs as long as you're careful to avoid the rocks!
Llenguadets beach is an extra cove that is right next to Llarga. It's actually about a 5 minute walk. Climb up to one of the many viewpoints near these two beaches if you want a nice spot to watch the Salou sunset.
17. Day trip to Cambrils
Reus and Tarragona are perfect day trips from Salou if you are traveling as a couple or as a family with very young or older children. But if you have children in elementary school, you may find more things to do for them in another tourist city.
Luckily, Cambrils is 8 km south of Salou and only 15 minutes by car. You change scenery and your children will find it hard to get bored with all the things to do in Cambrils. We all win!
If your children prefer active adventures to theme parks, visit Jumpland Ecological Adventure. Instead of roller coasters and rides, they have zip lines, ropes courses, and climbing walls. You can even rent bikes in Salou for the day and cycle to Cambrils, because the Camí de Ronda coastal path and promenade connect Salou with Cambrils.
You will find the beaches of Cambrils much more relaxed than those of Salou and probably less crowded. Its volleyball courts are improvised and there are fewer rental chairs. But the main beach, that of Forès, still has many restaurants, bars and shops along the promenade.
A little further south of the main town is where you'll find the smaller, less crowded beaches. Some of the ones you can visit are Cambrils, Llosa and Arcadia.
One of the best beaches near Cambrils is actually halfway to Salou. Vilafortuny beach is a vast, clean expanse of fine sand and is perfect for strolling, as you're unlikely to have to wade through too many crowds. As there are fewer bathers and the water is less calm than other beaches in the area, it is ideal for renting jet skis or trying other water sports.
18. Nightlife in Salou, Carles Buïgas street and surroundings
No, the Catalan architect Carles Buïgas, who died in 1973, does not run any pub crawl. But the street in Salou that bears his name, Carrer de Carles Buïgas, is where you should head if you want to experience the best of Salou's nightlife.
If you like the party and want To know more about nightlife and the best clubs in Salou, you have to read this post.
It offers everything: bars, clubs, live music and even karaoke. And yes, if you love visiting English and Irish pubs during your summer holidays in Spain, this is where you will find them. Most organize weekly contests.
Dance lovers should head to Kiss, the best nightclub on the Strip. Keep in mind that there are not many clubs in Salou, but the demand is high. It doesn't hurt to hit the clubs early, especially since you have a better chance of getting discounted or free tickets and cheaper drinks.
19. Visit the historic buildings of Salou
It's easy to forget that these modern resort towns existed long before the tourism boom on the Spanish coast and that they have a lot of history. Salou is no different and has its fair share of fascinating monuments.
For example, the old Customs and Harbor Master's Office from the 19th century, in Plaza Bonet. Salou was an important exporter of brandy in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. And although the new one updated much of the building in the 20th century, it still has its horse trough and drinking fountain.
Today, Torre Vella can be an art gallery and one of the most important cultural things to do in Salou. But in the 16th century it was a watchtower intended to spot pirates approaching the Salou coast. It also has some beautiful gardens with impressive sculptures.
La Masía Catalana, not far from Capellans beach, is a faithful recreation of what a Catalan farmhouse would have looked like hundreds of years ago. They even have animals like chickens, donkeys, and goats, so it can be a fun attraction if you have small children!
20. Try the local Catalan cuisine
Tapas, tortilla, paella... Everyone likes Spanish food, but not all of it is native to Catalonia. One of the best things to do in Salou during your summer holidays is to try all the Catalan cuisine that you can find.
Seafood, grilled vegetables and sausages are the heart of the traditional dishes of this area. They love a charcuterie board with tasty cured meats, bread, tomato, cheese, olives and some kind of fried potato. Anything with aioli (a mixture of garlic and olive oil) is a hit in Catalonia, and some even call it "Catalan mayonnaise" because Catalans eat it with everything.
White beans, aubergine, prawns, rice and anchovies are basic in Catalan dishes. And there is also a lot of French influence, so it is not surprising that foie gras and duck confit are served on the menus of restaurants in this area.
But at the end of the day, you should continue to eat patatas bravas, churros and croquetas if that's what you fancy. You're on vacation! It is your duty to eat as many delicious Spanish dishes as you can.
Other things to do in the area...
There are many things to do in Salou, but if you are looking for something else, here are some other things I loved to do in the area.
Stand up paddle boarding near Salou was amazing. We paddled to some beautiful caves and got off the boards to explore them. The water was calm and warm so even if you are new to paddle boarding this is a great activity to try!
Here is a link to paddle surf board rental in Salou.
Visiting the Cartoixa d'Escaladei, a former monastery and museum complex, was amazing and if you have a car for your holiday in Salou I highly recommend you visit. Not only is the monastery beautiful, but also the surrounding mountains and the drive through the countryside to get there is breathtaking!
If you're going to be visiting a lot of historical attractions on your vacation, it might be worth getting the Pass Monuments of Catalonia.
Another amazing day from Salou would be to visit Monastery of Montserrat. There is an incredible excursion that you can do from Salou and you will also see Gaudí's crypt.
While you're in Salou you can also take a full day trip to Barcelona, as it's not far away! here you have one full-day excursion to Barcelona from Salou which includes free time in the city.
If you like incredible landscapes, you cannot miss an excursion to Siurana, an incredible mountain village with the most amazing views. If you have a car, I recommend that you drive yourself, but you can take a excursion from Salou that includes a visit to other beautiful towns.