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Spain still unbeaten for blue-flagged beaches...since 1987
Thursday, May 11, 2023 @ 7:51 PM

YET again and for the 36th year running, Spain holds the record for the highest number of blue-flagged beaches in the world, with its east-coast region of the Comunidad Valenciana having more than any other.

And for the second consecutive year, Spain has increased its blue-flag count by exactly six – from 615 in 2021 and 621 in 2022, its total has risen to 627 for 2023.

Paradise by name and by nature - Villajoyosa's El Paraíso beach (Alicante province) is one of Spain's 627 blue-flag holders (photo: Villajoyosa town hall)

Overall, 91% of beaches, ports, yacht marinas and leisure crafts, such as cruise ships, which applied for blue flag status were accepted, although it was beaches which showed the greatest rise in standards.

Last year, 103 ports and yacht clubs earned blue flags, but the number has dropped to 97, whilst the five 'tourist vessels' given the kitemark in 2022 have retained it for 2023.

Counting these, Spain now holds 729 blue flags, of which 627 are beaches, out of the 689 which applied.

Many awarded flags for this year were regaining those lost in 2022, showing that their town councils had dedicated extra effort in attempting to bring their beaches back up to 'excellent'.


More than one in seven blue-flagged beaches are in Spain

An international quality stamp, the blue flag award was created in 1987 and applying for it is voluntary, but nerve-wracking and expensive. Extremely rigorous criteria must be met, which normally involves months of local authority efforts and considerable funding – although the cash spent on bringing a beach up to the stringent standards for a blue flag is normally considered an investment rather than an expense, since it is a major draw for tourists and a splendid advert for a destination.

The International Environmental Education Foundation is the awarding body, and Spain's blue flags are granted via the Environmental and Consumer Education Association (ADEAC).

Blue flags are also awarded to ports and yacht marinas, such as this one on the Costa del Sol

As yet, Spain has never failed to be the country with the most blue flags on earth – quite an achievement, considering it competes against established beach tourism destinations that multiply it in size and length of coast, such as Brazil and México and, in the case of Australia and the USA, countries larger in land-mass than the entire continent of Europe.

In fact, 15% of all blue-flagged beaches on earth are in Spain – one in every 6.7 - with Greece and Turkey coming second and third.

“We should be super-proud of Spain, because it is one of the few countries in the world where its entire coast is accessible to the public, and that requires huge effort,” says ADEAC deputy chairwoman Virginia Yuste.

“I have never yet found another country like this.”


Where are the flags?

Perhaps it's unsurprising that the regions with the longest coastlines will have the most blue-flagged beaches – but that's not necessarily the case. Whilst the southernmost mainland region of Andalucía has more coastal provinces than any other – AlmeríaGranadaMálagaCádiz and Huelva – its flag total for this year, 148, comes second to that of the Comunidad Valenciana, with 153.

The latter, with three provinces, all bordering the Mediterranean, is habitually the region with the most blue flags, and the southernmost of these provinces, Alicante, always holds the most in the Comunidad Valenciana.



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