Did you know that stubbing out your cigarette and leaving the stub on the beach is a minimum 750 euro fine? All part of the Coastal Law here in Spain. "La ley de Costas" was implemented in 1988; the idea was to protect the Spanish coastline (some 8,000 kilometers) and its beaches.
It has proven very controversial over the years, particularly in the area of construction. With the building boom that started around 2000 (and the main cause of the economic crisis still choking Spain) many developments were built illegally along the coast and current proposed changes to the law will allow these buildings to remain. I’ve just deleted about 2000 words I wrote going into more detail of the construction/property side but I can sum it up with three :- “insane, corruption, illegal”.
The basic idea of the Coastal Law we all love of course, protect all beaches and keep them public with no restriction as far as access goes. Once on the beach everyone enjoys themselves and leaves the beach as they found it without spoiling the enjoyment of others, to defend the coast against erosion and excessive urbanisation.
There are general rules which apply to all beaches then each region may also have their own rules for beaches which will be displayed on a board by the main entrance(s).
The main general rule is there are no private beaches anywhere on Spain. If you find a beautiful beach that appears to be part of a luxury hotel (the Anfi complex here springs to mind) then that beach is public and you have clear access to the beach. I remember in the old days when a security guard was stationed at the top of the entrance going down to the beach. He’d stand there all day looking very mean but all we had to do was walk past him and down the path to the beach. Even though Anfi had spent millions developing the beach it wasn’t theirs.
Still with the general rules; you can’t play music without headphones, if you want to have a BBQ you have to apply for permission 7 days in advance with the local police. No animals on the beach unless you’ve found one of the rare designated beaches where dogs are allowed, I think there are three here on Gran Canaria and none are in the south. No sex of course, there’s a 750 - 3000 euro fine for that, not sure how they calculate the actual amount or why it would vary. Ball games must be 10 meters or more away from the water (other than sex which we’ve already established isn’t allowed). No dropping litter (or cigarette ends) which is a more obvious one to adhere to though unfortunately a common one which is broken and never enforced. On remote beaches no overnight camping nor can you leave camping equipment such as tables and chairs in order to reserve your space for the next day.
Local rules (check the info board by the entrance) often include closing the beach between midnight and 7am, no alcohol unless consumed in a beach-side bar, smoking and non-smoking sections, don’t cover the designated umbrellas with your towel, no handing out flyers or sticking up posters, no feeding the pigeons – that’s actually a law on many beaches where you can be fined if you break it.
(Playa de Tres Peos - Dogs allowed!)
Dogs - I personally have a problem taking my dogs to the beach as they are both Doberman; if the police saw them on the beach I am 100% certain I would receive the expected 1,500 euro fine. I’ve heard a lot of arguments from other people I know with dogs that tell me it’s OK to take them to this beach or that as often other dogs are there. The reality is unless a policeman is in a bad mood if you take a small dog to a more secluded beach that tourists don’t use you’ll probably be fine. You should however be fined regardless of which beach you’re on or what size your dog is. The only exceptions to that are two beaches by Arinaga – Playa de los Cuervitos & Playa de los Cuervitos (both at the end of Vargas and recommended!) or the beach in front of Las Terrazas Playa Boca Barranco (not recommended, too windy, too many waves and too much waste - line, net …) left by fisherman.