Are you looking to travel to the beach in a Spanish-speaking country? Sol, playa, arena… (Sun, beach, sand…) Yeah, that does sound good!
And guess what? You’ll enjoy it even more if you know all the beach Spanish words and chunks to, say, get the best chair and umbrella, order food and drinks, join in on a beach volleyball game, or anything else you do at the beach!
I am Spring Spanish teacher Maura, y ¡vamos a la playa! (and let’s go to the beach!)
1. Getting ready for the beach: bathing suits and sunscreen
So, in order to get to the beach and thoroughly enjoy everything it has to offer, you’d need to get the right gear.
- Un traje de baño (A bathing suit). This would be the most general term. Depending on the country, it might vary a bit, though.
A juzgar por su estilo, yo los llamaría: (Judging by their style, I would call them:)
- Traje de baño entero (Whole bathing suit)
- Bikini o de dos piezas (Bikini or a two piece)
- Short de playa (Beach short)
Then we have:
- El protector solar (Sunscreen)
- El bronceador (Sun tanning lotion)
- Las sandalias, cholas, chanclas (Sandals)
There are probably a lot more words for this, but “sandalias” will never let you down. In general, take into account that I’m Venezuelan and clothing tends to vary a little bit from country to country, though not enough to make it impossible to understand.
- El bolso de playa (Beach bag)
- La toalla de playa (Beach towel)
- El pareo (Sarong)
Just in case, know that it is very common to have separate towels for the beach. I grew up on an island and over there, it’s even frowned upon to use your regular towels for the beach.
To recap: El negro es mi traje de baño favorito y es entero. (The black one is my favorite swimsuit, and it's a whole one.) Nunca he usado short de playa o bronceador. (I have never worn beach shorts or suntan lotion.) Prefiero protector solar, el cual todos deberíamos usar a diario. (I prefer sunscreen, which we should all use every day.) Mis sandalias son Adidas y mi bolso de playa es de Mango. (My sandals are Adidas and my beach bag is from Mango.) Suelo llevar el pareo aunque no lo use, y la toalla de playa para echarme en la arena más que para secarme. (I usually bring the sarong even if I don't use it, and the beach towel to lie on the sand rather than to dry myself.)
Two more things before we continue: one, being at the beach is one of those things that can make you seriously hungry and thirsty, so stick till the end if you want to learn how to order cocktails and food. Dos, por favor, por favor, por favor, no uses medias en la playa a menos que realmente lo necesites. (Two, please, please, please, do not wear socks to the beach unless you really need to.)
2. At the beach: the set up
As soon as you get to the beach, the first thing you need to figure out is, how do I protect myself from this intense sun, so I don’t die after this? Here’s what you could say to the person in charge of the renting.
- Quisiéramos un toldo con dos sillas de extensión, por favor. (We would like a canopy with two extension chairs, please.)
Adjust the amount as necessary.
- Una silla extra, por favor. (An extra chair, please.)
If there are two types of chairs available, usually “silla” (chair) would be the regular one and “silla de extensión o tumbona” (extension chair or deckchair) the one you can use to lay down.
- ¿Pagamos ahora o al irnos? (Do we pay now or when we leave?)
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? (How much does it cost?)
- ¿Aceptas tarjeta? (Do you accept credit cards?)
Little advice, take cash to the beach. It can become a whole thing very quickly.
- ¿Podemos pedirte comida y bebidas a ti? (Can we order food and drinks from you?)
Some kiosks will be in charge of both the beach canopy and food and drinks, some won’t. Como esta configuración cambia de una playa a otra, siempre me propongo preguntar esto en cuanto llego a la playa para saber dónde conseguir mi sustento cuando lo quiera. (Since this configuration changes from beach to beach, I always make it a thing to ask this as soon as I get to the beach, so I know where to get my sustenance when I want it.)
Maybe you run into a beach volleyball game and you want to join. For this, use:
- ¿Les importa si me uno? (Mind if I join you?)
- ¿Me les puedo unir? (Can I join you?)
Now, onto the main thing, the water which we could call:
- El mar (The sea)
- El oceano (The ocean)
I tend to just use “mar” for everything but, granted, I have less experience with oceanic beaches. So, just know that for this scenario there’s a slight, almost non-important difference between these two words. You could also just call it:
- El agua (The water)
Inside the water, we have:
- Las olas (The waves)
- La marea (The tide)
- La resaca (The undertow)
A lot of things can happen in the water, so we have chunks like:
- Tragué agua. (I swallowed water.) Very common thing to happen if the waves are a little crazy.
- Me llevó una ola. (I was carried away by a wave.)
- Me arrastró una ola. (I was swept away by a wave.) These last two are what you’d say to your friends if you’re coming out of the water looking like you almost died.
- Cuidado con la resaca. (Watch out for the undertow.)
- Tengo arena en todas partes. (I got sand everywhere.)
Cuidado con la resaca is a very important thing to be able to understand and tell others about. Certainly, there are many ways to say the same thing, but they’ll all involve tener cuidado and the word resaca. No sé qué tan común es esto para ti, pero para mí fue muy importante mientras crecía. (I don’t know how common this will be for you, but this was huge for me while growing up.)
La resaca, which can also mean “hangover” to some of us, is definitely the most dangerous thing at the beach, because you can’t see it. If you’re not familiar, you might not even feel it or know that, that pull underneath the surface can be a super strong, treacherous thing. Puede que te empuje hacia adentro más de lo que es cómodo y haga que salir sea peligrosamente difícil. (It might pull you in a way more than it’s comfortable and make getting out dangerously hard.) So, keep an ear out for this chunk and stay safe!
And, of course, the rest of the elements like:
- La arena (The sand) If it’s very hot, which it tends to be, you might also need to warn others about it by saying:
- La arena está muy caliente. (The sand is very hot.) Or, la arena quema. (the sand burns.)
- El sol (The sun)
The sun is such a protagonist, it determines the whole experience. When it’s too hot, we say things like:
- El sol está que arde. (The sun is burning.)
- El sol está que pica. (The sun is itching.)
3. Eating at the beach: kiosks, food, and drinks
Anytime we’re at the beach, I just have to get a beachy cocktail. I tend to say things like:
- Yo quiero un coctel. (I want a cocktail.)
- Yo quiero una piña colada o un daiquirí. (I want a piña colada or a daiquiri.)
For food, obviously the most common, which you can probably find at any beach, is seafood. Things like:
- Camarones fritos (Fried shrimp). They don’t have to be fried, but this is very common and so delicious I just had to specify.
- Langosta (Lobster). In case you don’t know, this tends to be the most expensive and take the longest to cook.
- Pescado (Fish). There are many different presentations, some could be:
- Pescado frito (Fried fish): this is usually the whole fish and is incredible. As you can see, I’m dying with this.
- Filete de pescado a la plancha (Grilled fish fillet).This would be the cleanest piece of meat.
- Rueda de pescado (Fish darne). This includes the bone in the middle.
A little side note, when it comes to talking about fish in Spanish, we have two words:
- Pez: which we use to talk about the wild animal, either in the sea, in a fish tank, or even a dead fish you found at the beach.
- Pescado: this does imply the fish has been fished out of the water, it’s dead, and it’s meant to be food.
Let me know in the comments what you think is the most useful chunk you learned in this lesson!