Open water races and challenges in Spain

Swimming events in Spain are amazing and affordable, says Karen Parnell

Oceanman Benidorm 2

Living in Spain for the last three years, I’ve come to appreciate this is an open water swimmer’s paradise. I’ve been taking part in some amazing swimming events here and have enjoyed them so much I want to share them. In general, they are extremely well organised and amazing value for money. In addition, flying into Spain from the UK or elsewhere in Europe is usually relatively cheap and there are some fantastic, low cost places to eat and stay including authentic Spanish B&Bs and villas. Many events are entirely achievable over a long weekend. Needless to say, the water and air temperature are higher than the UK and other parts of Northern Europe so you can also top up your tan or combine a swim event with a family get away.

Here are a few of the events I have taken part in or supported in the past three years and hope you will get a chance to enjoy them.


This is the “Winter Journey” swim in Marbella and takes place in February. You can choose to swim with or without wetsuit and it is organised by Marbella City Council and local swimming clubs. The start of the race will take place at the Playa de la Venus, located in Avenida Del Mar, Marbella. From there the swimmers will travel the distance of 1,500 meters to the Playa de la Fontanilla.

The beauty of this swim is that you are right in the heart of Marbella so can make a long weekend of your trip to swim in this event. The nearest airport is Malaga, which is cheap to fly to from the UK. Being in February the accommodation is also great value and you can get a fantastic room near to all the amazing restaurants, bars and other Marbella attractions. This means you can bring the whole family even if they don’t take part in the winter swim.

Registration is at from 9am on the Paseo Marítimo de Marbella and the swim start is a 12 and finishes at around 1pm. It’s limited to 300 swimmers so is intimate and has chip timing.

As with all races in Spain they will finish the race with free drinks, fruit and food at the jetty of La Fontanilla Beach.

Find out more:


Oceanman events take place in many locations around the globe and the one in Spain takes place in Benidorm on the Costa Blanca.

Oceanman is a bit like IRONMAN® triathlon events as each swimming race has places available to the fastest swimmers in their age group and a chance to swim at the Oceanman world championships.

The swim distances are 10km, 5km and 1.5km. The prices go up over time and range from €25 to €90 depending on the distance you select. The sprint (1.5km) and the full (10km) start and finish at Malpas Beach whereas the half (5km) starts at Island Benidorm and finishes at Malpas Beach. You can wear a wetsuit (mandatory if the water temperature is below 18ºC) and you must swim with a tow float. Each distance is limited to just 300 swimmers. There are feeding points on the full and half distance and you can enjoy bananas, water, isotonic drinks and gels. It’s chip timed.

The first 10 male and female swimmers in each age category for both the Oceanman & half Oceanman are offered a place for the World Championship.

Find out more:


This is a fantastic swimming event which takes place around Tabarca Island. Swimmers enjoy its incredible seabed in the best possible way, swimming with friends and enjoying this natural environment whilst being 100% respectful of it.

This is a non-competitive swimming event, and everyone swims within 50m of the coast, so it is very safe and has full kayak support. The organisers will bring your change of clothes to the finish area and provide water, isotonic drinks and fruit throughout.

After the event, the swimmers can explore this unusual authentic Spanish island with their families and discover its charm and enjoy the regional Spanish food and drink by the sea.

All swimmers get a commemorative swimming hat and t-shirt for entering the event.

In all the distances there will be regrouping at various points of the course so no one will get separated during the swim, so it is a very fun and safe event.

4.7km Route

This route is the most popular, for mid-level swimmers who are already comfortable in the sea. The start will be from the cove that is close to the jetty of the port, Port de la Mina, then head east until you reach the area of the cemetery and Punta Falcón, on the south side of the island and keeping the island shore on the right, then on to the quarry, where you will turn to the north face of the island and on to the finish area, a small cove in the old port, just before entering the port area.

3.2km Route

This route is ideal for beginners in open waters and people who are just starting out.

For both routes, both the starting point and the layout is the same apart from where the 3.2km route ends which is at the beach, just across the Island from the start.

Getting to Tabarca Island

This is an interesting event as you will need to get a ferry to this quaint island. The ferry leaves from Tabarqueras, in Santa Pola at 8:30am.

Registration opens in January and closes in April or when the limit of 200 swimmers and 50 supporters is full. This is a very special event and a trip out to the unusual Island of Tabarca is something the whole family with enjoy. The nearest airport is Alicante.

Find out more:


This is a series of 1500m swims in the Embalses of Granada (reservoirs) and seas of the Costa Tropical. You can do them singly or complete the series for a chance to win the overall age group prize.

The series in 2019:

  • Embalse de Cubillas (Albolote- Universidad) – 25th May
  • Embalse de Colomera (Colomera) – 16th June
  • Peñón de La Caleta (Salobreña) – 7th July
  • Embalse del Negratín (Cuevas del Campo) – 14th July
  • Embalse de Bermejales (Arenas del Rey) – 28th July
  • Bahía de la Herradura (Almuñécar) – 1st September

The Circuit of six swims in the sea and reservoirs are distributed in six municipalities of Granada and are organised by the city councils with the collaboration of the Diputación de Granada and the support of the Red Cross of the Sea, Civil Protection or firefighters from Granada.

Each is very well organised and usually has adult (1500m) and children’s (500m) swims with kayak and boat support. Each participant gets a gift at the end and food and drinks plus there is also music, so pack a picnic!

The price in 2019 was €8 per event or €30 for the six-swim series. The nearest airports are Granada and Malaga.

Find out more:


The Swim to Swim "Costa de Torremolinos" has its origin in the swimming sessions of the local fire fighters and forms part of their training. The swimming sessions used to take part in the Virgen del Carmen pool before it closed. In 2011, Mauricio Salido González, deputy head of the service, decided to transfer the swim sessions to the sea.

These sessions proved more and more popular and took place most days and the distances they covered increased over time. They progressed from rescue and lifeguard sessions to long distance swims for fitness and enjoyment.

This developed into an annual swim of the entire Torremolinos coastline and a memorial swim dedicated to Manuel Ángel Cosano Tejedera, a fireman and great fan of swimming. Money raised goes to the fire service.

Now in it’s seventh year, the 7km swim takes place in July at 10am and costs just €18. Each participant receives a commemorative swim hat and t-shirt and gets a chip time. You can swim with or without a wetsuit. The nearest airport is Malaga.

Find out more:


Lovers of swimming should have a date for their diaries in Estepona in July, the Third Virgen del Carmen Coronada Open Water Swim, a charity race that is held with the aim of promoting the sport of swimming.

The event takes place on the Rada beach, in front of Plaza ABC in Estepona, in the afternoon. The swim consists of four levels depending on the distance: a short race for children (300m); a long race for children (600m); a short race for adults (1250m) and a long race for adults (2500m). The event is between €7 and €12 to enter. Estepona is further down the coast from Marbella and you can choose to fly in to Gibraltar airport or Malaga for this event.

Estepona has numerous street cafes and tapas bars still serve traditional Spanish delicacies. In the 'old town' the steep, narrow streets are pedestrianised and decorated with different colour flower pots. It is a delight for photographers. You will find bars and small shops in Estepona, where you'd least expect them, all very inviting and friendly.


This event has several distances for adults and children over 14 years old (1.5km, 3.8km, 6km, 800m and 300m) and is set in the town of Pulpi, famous for its “Giant Geode of Pulpí” (volcanic rock). It is a beautiful rock formation covered in transparent gypsum crystals and is considered the best preserved in the world. It was discovered on the inside of an abandoned mine in El Pilar de Jaravia, one of the many populated areas of Pulpí and is millions of years old.

The San Juan de los Terreros Island Crossing swim, in Pulpí (Almería) is organized by the City Council of Pulpí, and celebrates its fourth edition in 2019 and joins the Solidarity Brazadas Circuit for the benefit of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation raising money to build a school-workshop for women with disabilities and disadvantaged castes of rural India.

It is one of the most spectacular crossings of Andalusia around the two small islets of volcanic rock that form the Isla de Terreros-Isla Negra Natural.

The nearest airport is Alicante and nearest large city is Almeria.

The event costs just 15 euro for adults and 3 euro for the children’s distances.

There are several swims in this series around Spain and more details can be found here:

Karen Parnell is a British Triathlon Federation Level 3 coach and tutor and a Swim England open water swimming coach. She lives in Southern Spain and knows the open water swimming hidden gems.

Swim Camp
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Issue 61 May 2022

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