San Sebastian is the culinary capital of Spain and one of the world’s great food destinations. Eating your way through this Basque city is a pleasure, even if you don’t consider yourself much of a “foodie”. From endless pintxos bars serving tasty tapas to a handful of Michelin restaurants that take fine dining to new levels, San Sebastian has perfected the art of eating well.
Nestled in the stunning Bay of Biscay, this cozy city is blessed with more than just gastronomy. The crescent shaped Playa de la Concha is the main beach in town and offers lovely promenade walks year-round. In the summer months, when the temperature starts to creep above 25°C, visitors can soak up the sun and take a dip in the refreshing North Atlantic Ocean.
Beyond the food and beaches lies a world of unique outdoor adventures that not many tourists know about. Hikers can follow their feet on a range of coastal tracks and old woodland trails that showcase the hidden gems of Northern Spain. The region also boasts a rugged coastline with sights such as flysch rock formations, glistening blue coves and charming little ports.
The best way to travel along the coast is to book one of the incredible sailing trips with Experience San Sebastian. This 5-star rated tour operator specializes in active adventures which immerse guests in the natural beauty of Basque Country – both on land and water. Sailing is a favorite pastime of the Donostiarra who all share a deep connection to the sea.
These sailing trips cater to all preferences. Travelers can jump onboard a sunset sail to witness golden hour out on the Atlantic, cruise for a half-day to scenic islands and secret stretches of coastline, or escape the city on a full-day trip that ventures across the border into France. Whatever your dream trip may be – the team at Experience San Sebastian can deliver.
3 Awesome Sailing Trips in San Sebastian
1. Sail Away with Me – French Basque Coastline
Starting from San Sebastian, this five-hour sailing voyage heads northeast toward the French town of Saint Jean de Luz. The first port of call on this fully private experience is the seductive Basque town of Hondarribia (still technically in Spain). From here the boat officially crosses the border into France and slowly makes its way onto the charming Corniche coastline.
Further along these waters is a picturesque bay in Saint Jean de Luz where the vessel will drop anchor for a few hours. Spend your time swimming in the beautifully brisk waters and enjoy a picnic for lunch. Sail back to San Sebastian in the afternoon with the summer breeze guiding you back. Feel the wind in your hair and revel in the freedom of being out at sea.
Starting times for this odyssey are 10am or 4pm (depending on the time of year). Groups of up to 12 people can be accommodated with a minimum of 2 guests. This is the ultimate day adventure for groups of friends, families with children or couples searching for a romantic getaway together. A qualified and friendly helmsman is of course included on the trip.
2. The Call of the Big Blue – Spanish Basque Coastline
Departing from La Concha bay on a sunny day of your choice, The Call of the Big Blue is a phenomenal trip to book in summer with friends or loved ones. As you leave, take photos of San Sebastian from a different perspective on the water. Set sail past Santa Clara Island and alongside surf beaches where you can just make out local surfers tearing up the waves.
The final destination is a pretty little port where the helmsman onboard will drop anchor and set up the perfect picnic spot for your group. After swimming in the big blue and trying a few gastronomical wonders of San Sebastian, it will be time to raise up the anchor and drift back to Playa de la Concha. The coastal views throughout this excursion are just extraordinary.
Like Sail Away with Me, this trip has two starting times of either 10am or 3pm and can host up to 12 guests. Bigger groups can be accommodated, however you would need to get in touch with the team at Experience San Sebastian to organize the logistics around that. Inclusions on this tour are an exclusive guide and helmsman, Basque picnic and drinks.
3. The Sunset Sailing Trip – San Sebastian
For those visiting San Sebastian for only a few days, the sunset trip is a great way to get out on the water for a couple of hours and tick this experience off your list. This two hour journey kicks off at 7.30pm in the summer and takes guests to see the main beaches surrounding the city. Once the sun has set, sail back to La Concha for a swim and some drinks.
Types of Sailing Boats with Experience San Sebastian
Experience San Sebastian offers two types of sailing boats for their boat tours. The first is called Heritage. It’s a 60-foot yacht with two masts and a wooden hull. As the name suggests, this vessel is wise – with over 90 years of sailing experience behind her. Heritage has been restored to add more creature comforts for the modern traveler without losing its original charm.
The other boat in the fleet is named Modern Deluxe: a 40-foot yacht which boasts a teak deck and all round elegance. Those who appreciate modern design will adore this boat. Modern Deluxe is the perfect option for cruising around the Basque coast in comfort and style, while soaking up the sun in the summertime. You really can’t go wrong with either of these boats.
Why Book with Experience San Sebastian?
Experience San Sebastian is a small business founded by Penny and Borja. Penny is Welsh and has spent 15 years living in Donostia. As a tourist herself, she knows what it takes to create enjoyable experiences for visitors. Borja, on the other hand, is a local through and through. He is passionate about his home and knows where to find hidden gems to share with travelers.
Together this duo have created a unique offering: active adventures that combine the natural beauty of San Sebastian with its famed gastronomy. They believe a good meal is enhanced when a genuine appetite is built up after a few outdoor activities. This is not limited to sailing (of course) as the company offers other adventures such as hiking, surfing, biking and more.
All of their tours introduce guests to a variety of fantastic local foods to cap off the experiences. Some trips, like the sailing ones, include picnics onboard. Others take you to street pintxos stalls to try a platter of delicious Northern Spanish flavors or to Michelin-star restaurants where the world’s most exquisite dishes can be found. Great food is just a part of life here.
Penny and Borja also recognize the importance of being environmentally ethical. Their love of the great outdoors extends to sustainable practices like not using single-use plastics on any of their tours. San Sebastian is a pristine place and they want to keep it that way for generations to come. You might even see them picking up litter or doing a #2MinuteBeachClean.
On a fundamental level, Experience San Sebastian knows that there is so much more to this city than just pintxos bars. They wish to reveal a different side to this Basque gem – one that focuses on a spirit of adventure that the locals hold dear. Let them take care of your San Sebastian holiday so you can relax in the knowledge that every small detail is taken care of.
Tips for your First Visit to San Sebastian
- The best time of year to visit San Sebastian, weather-wise, is June to August. This is the summer period and guarantees the best climate. However, the pintxos bars can get crowded during the summer. So if you want to visit the city without tourists, consider coming in May or September. The shoulder season offers a quieter version of Donostia.
- There are several ways to arrive in San Sebastian. Most come via plane, others via bus and some visit as part of a great Basque road trip. If you want to fly in, San Sebastian has three airports located nearby. For example, travelers can fly into Bilbao and then take the bus. Spain also has a wonderful network of trains which you could consider taking.
- First-time visitors to the city should stay in the Old Town (Parte Vieja). This is the historic center where you can get lost in its winding alleys, magnificent churches, incredible architecture and popular pintxos bars.
- In addition to booking one of the amazing outdoor adventures with Experience San Sebastian, try to save some money for one special night at a Michelin-star restaurant. There are 11 of these world-class Michelin restaurants throughout the city. Just ensure you book well in advance!