Few places conjure up such evocative images on hearing its name as the Costa del Sol. It is the original sun, sea, and sand destination, and still remains the most popular. Needless to say there is much more to the Costa del Sol than just that, it is also the home to some of the images that most typify Spain – Flamenco, white washed villages, and a laid back approach to life. From its epic mountain ranges to its millennia of history and layers upon layers of culture, both ancient and modern, The Sun Coast is a diverse and intoxicating destination.
Beach Cuisine Flamenco Golf Relax Sea Sevillanas Sun Tapas Villages White washed
Who is living next door?
The Costa del Sol was once the most provincial of all Spanish regions, home almost exclusively to farmers and fishermen. Many still engage in these activities but in the last 50 years tourism has come to outstrip them in terms of economic importance meaning that you are likely to find people of all nationalities living and holidaying in the Costa de Sol.
What to expect?
Expect brilliant sunshine year round and a warm Andalucian welcome. On the coast itself you will find excellent tourist infrastructure and in the mountain villages you will find a way of life that seems almost untouched by modernity.
There is a perception of the Costa del Sol that laying on the beach and hitting the bars is all that there is to the outdoor pursuits here. For some people it is, but the more curious traveller will find that there is a plethora of outdoor activities away from the beach to keep you occupied.
What not to expect?
Do not expect solitude, at least not in peak season in the busier resorts. The Costa del Sol receives somewhere in the region of 10 million tourists a year, the vast majority of whom come during the summer months. If it is peace and tranquillity you want explore the interior of the region. It is lesser known, yet full of hidden gems.
Yoy will be amazed by
You will be amazed by the quality of life and how cheap it is to live well on the Costa del Sol. Locals may complain about rising prices but compared to northern Europe everything in this part of Spain feels like a steal, from the free tapas with you drinks to the property market: compared to what you would get for the same money back home, you can live like royalty here.
By train from Málaga to: Madrid 2hr 45´ Sevilla 2hr 40´ Granada 1hr 35´ Córdoba 1hr 40´ Alicante 4hr 35´ Valencia 6hr renfe.com
By boat: Algeciras to Ceuta Tarifa to Tangier Málaga to Melilla
The city of Málaga is connected by Metro. Metro of Málaga
Distance... Marbella – 60km Granada – 125km Gibraltar – 134km Córdoba – 150km Sevilla – 296km
Connecting flights to 126 destinations aena.es From the airport to: Málaga – 8km Torremolinos – 18km Fuengirola – 27km Marbella – 54km Nerja – 70km Estepona – 84km
"Hanging from the imposing mountains, barely stopping on your vertiginous fall towards the blue waves, you seem to reign under the sky, over the waters, halfway through the air...".
This was Vicente Aleixandre's love for Malaga. For its light, its waves, its views of the horizon, its mountains and its sky. The Costa del Sol is one of the favourite destinations for Spaniards and Europeans to buy a second home. Is it because of the good weather, that never stops? Because of the endless beaches? Or is it because of the gastronomy, the inland routes, the culture and the history of its towns and cities?
On the Costa del Sol, life is lived with a view to the sea. A morning stroll along the shore, a game of paddle tennis or a few laps in the late afternoon is the best way to enjoy it. Our opinion is clear: enjoy a long life on the beach.
More than two kilometres in length (the longest beach in Torremolinos) and dark sand as a result of its volcanic origin make La Carihuela one of the best known beaches. It also preserves the charm of the Andalusian tradition, with fishing boats as part of the landscape. Don't miss the seafood restaurants in the area!
Due to its location, this beach has warmer waters than others in the area, and gets more hours of sunshine. It is also close to the town centre, but it is quieter than La Rada and less crowded. It is one of the most popular beaches in the area, especially because of the beach bars with live music on summer weekends.
In 2013, Maro Beach was voted the best beach in Andalusia and the second best in Spain. Under the cliffs of Maro, a waterfall (which you can access by kayak) and the blue-green colour of the sea make this beach unique. It is more accessible than El Cañuelo, and is surrounded by vegetation, crops and reed beds, and is also ideal for spotting corals and fish. If you arrive early, the sunrise will blow your mind.
Carvajal has the 'Q' for Quality and a Blue Flag, so you are guaranteed a good day at the beach. Its location and the services available make it ideal for the whole family, and it is one of the favourite beaches of Benalmádena residents. Jet skis, water bikes, sun loungers, parasols, showers and toilets... even massages! And the most popular thing on the beach: La Cubana, a very special beach bar, with a great atmosphere and delicious food.
Walking along the beach is great, but the Costa del Sol offers much more than that. In its cities and towns you will find places that speak of legends, cultures, stories of battles and dreams. Places where stone has shaped a way of life. Are you ready to discover them?
Let's start with monumental Málaga. A city with more than 3,000 years of history and Phoenician origins which, in recent years, has embarked on a process of renewal, becoming one of the most interesting capitals in Spain. Pedestrianisation of the city centre, the arrival of many high-end restaurants and hotels and investment in public transport have contributed to making Málaga the capital of the Costa del Sol par excellence. Not to mention the opening of museums and art galleries of the highest level, such as the Picasso Museum in Málaga. Don't miss the Alcazaba, the Roman Theatre, the Cathedral... and take a stroll along the famous Calle Larios.
Moving on to Marbella, do you need an introduction? Cary Grant, Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn put this fishing town on the map in the 1950s and it has been a destination for the upper classes ever since. Aside from its harbour (and impressive yachts) and streets lined with designer boutiques, Marbella retains its Andalusian charm, as in the old town square with its orange trees, cafés and Baroque architecture.
And then there is Mijas, with its Moorish heritage, nestled in the foothills of the mountains. Take a stroll (be prepared for the slopes!) or, if you're lazy, take a donkey-taxi ride around town. Its old town is a Historic-Artistic Site. Don't miss the Gardens and the Mirador de la Muralla viewpoint, and the remains of the ancient fortress on which the town was built. The views of the Mediterranean Sea from the Paseo de la Muralla are breathtaking!
Another popular village in Málaga, Frigiliana, is also a Historic-Artistic Site due to the exquisite preservation of its buildings. It seems as if it was built yesterday! It is very popular with foreigners, giving it a unique cosmopolitan atmosphere. Flower-filled corners, hidden squares, terraces with views, small fountains... For those with a sweet tooth: the sugar cane honey from Ingenio Nuestra Señora del Carmen (the only sugar cane honey factory in Europe) is spectacular.
Stop. Close your eyes. Breathe. We all need moments to unwind, fill our lungs with fresh air and relax. On the Costa del Sol you will find landscapes, protected areas and natural parks where you can recharge your batteries. So, who is going to think about the sea?
Both have been declared Biosphere Reserves, and with good reason. The Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park is home to the largest pinsapo fir forest on the planet! Species such as the mountain goat, the otter or the golden eagle have chosen it as their home, and a whole series of lodgings and villages make the visit more comfortable. On top of that, there is a network of trails that are perfect for hiking. The Sierra de Grazalema, between Cádiz and Málaga, is known for being one of the rainiest places on the Iberian Peninsula. This makes for lush vegetation, which grows between abrupt reliefs and canyons such as the Garganta Verde (Green Gorge), 400 metres deep. You can visit it on foot, on horseback, hang-gliding, paragliding... or canoeing on the Zahara-Gastor reservoir.
A visit to the Torcal de Antequera, a unique natural site, declared a World Heritage Site, is an absolute must. The shapes of its limestone rocks form a city of stone that looks almost like a stage set. Its chasms and caves are a dream for speleology lovers and it has one of the few astronomical observatories in Andalusia. Not far away is the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra Nature Reserve, the largest lagoon in Andalusia and the second most important flamingo colony in Europe. Surrounded by olive and cereal fields covering almost 1,400 hectares!
The Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Natural Park is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the Sierra Malagueña with its narrow gorge carved by the Guadalhorce river. Within its walls lies the famous Caminito del Rey path, with breathtaking views of the canyon. They say it is 'the most dangerous path in the world'... we'll let you discover it for yourself.
Amidst so much nature, landscapes and hidden corners, culture also has its place. Málaga has three of the most important museums in Spain.
Visiting the capital of the Costa del Sol and not visiting the Picasso Museum in Málaga should be considered a crime. There is a reason why it has become the most visited museum in Andalusia! Following the wish of the artist , who wanted his work to be displayed in his hometown, the MPM was inaugurated in 2003 at the Buenavista Palace, in the heart of Málaga. A staggering 233 works of art await you in a thematic and chronological tour that is perfect for gaining an in-depth knowledge of Picasso's artistic career.
This art gallery opened in 2011 and houses one of the most important collections of Spanish and Andalusian paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. The more than 250 works are part of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza's personal collection and reflect styles such as landscapes and Costumbrismo, as well as a selection of pieces by Old Masters such as Zurbarán. The 16th-century Palacio de Villalón building was renovated to house it and is in itself a museum, with a central courtyard that resembles a large Cordovan courtyard with arabesque arches.
This is the first branch of the Georges Pompidou National Centre for Art and Culture outside France. It is ideal for getting to know modern and contemporary art through collections from the 20th and 21st centuries over a surface area of 2,000 square metres. Its building, the Cube of Malaga, is one of the most recognisable in the city, located on Pier One, in the Port of Malaga. Dance, drama and cinema also have their place in a very extensive cultural offering.
If there is something that is done well on the Costa del Sol, it is cooking. With local, diverse and unbeatable quality ingredients, the fish and vegetable dishes are mouthwatering. Bring your appetite, because you'll want to try EVERYTHING.
The exciting dishes created by its talented chef, Amador Fernández, could not be better suited to the location in the Villa Guadalupe hotel. With stunning views of Málaga and the Mediterranean Sea, plus the artwork of Irene van Vlijmen (the chef's mother) decorating the walls, this restaurant has it all. The Repsol Guide recommends the lamb shoulder, the organic artichokes and the foie gras with apple emulsion - we'll have to take them up on that!
With two Michelin stars, chef Benito Gómez's restaurant is a hallmark of Ronda's restaurant scene. His cuisine stands out for not deceiving, for avoiding fanfare and offering a creative cuisine, but always based on the flavours and products of the region, which are presented in the best possible way. As they say, at Bardal you can recognise everything, and the menu makes it clear that the diner is in Ronda, which is also one of the most beautiful places in Andalusia.
With two Michelin stars behind it, Skina is the creation of chef Mario Cachinero and his creative cuisine that draws on traditional Andalusian recipes, all in one of the smallest Michelin restaurants in the world! Nestled in Marbella's old town, Skina couldn't have a better name. Wild Galician fish, premium oils from Jaén, unique meats... the ajoblanco with mackerel and coriander is a must.
Diego Gallegos clearly knows what he's talking about: aquaculture and sustainability. He is one of the new chefs who has recently joined the list of Michelin stars on the Costa del Sol. Known as the Caviar Chef (Andalusian sturgeon is his star product), he chooses freshwater fish for his creations, and around 90% of what he serves is farmed by himself! Sollo is a must if you want to enjoy a surprising experience, like an appetizer at his R&D workshop.
The variety of landscapes and environments on the Costa del Sol make it ideal for many types of sports. The best ones are outdoors, of course. You can enjoy them even in winter, and the weather will still be nice and warm! There's a wide variety to choose from. It's up to you to be lazy.
The Mediterranean Sea is the best sporting area you will find. If you enjoy exploring the seabed, the coast of Nerja is renowned for scuba diving and snorkelling. Try Nerja Diving. Or you can also kayak along the impressive cliffs of the Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Park. The waters of Benalmádena, Marbella and Estepona are also good places to find Nemo. For some wave action, try Guadalmar (Málaga), Río Real (Marbella) and Guadalmansa (Estepona).
For the brave, there are plenty of adventure sports. Canyoning is one of those activities where understanding nature is essential (and being willing to get wet)! Try it at the Sima del Diablo, in Júzcar. At Pangea Active Nature they offer everything. And don't miss the Cueva del Gato, a top speleology site with underground galleries and a river that runs underground. At the Hundidero-Gato Complex you can swim across lakes and climb over passages with ropes. A fun way to get in touch with caving. If you are more laid-back, the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir is the place for you. You can go paddle-surfing, kayaking and canoeing.
The wild mountain scenery of inland Málaga and the wide sandy beaches of the Costa del Sol are great for exploring on horseback. Whether you are an experienced rider or a first time rider, you will find the perfect route. The inland routes are the most popular, it's almost like you're in the Wild West! The Andalusian horse is known all over the world and what better place than the Costa del Sol to ride it.
The Costa del Sol is also known as the 'golf coast'. Given the good climate that allows you to play all year round, the variety of golf courses (74 in total, and almost 120 in Andalusia), for hosting international tournaments such as the Ryder Cup, the Volvo Masters and the World Cup... and for the wide range of dedicated accommodation, and even resorts with their own golf course. There is no excuse for not improving your drive!
Designed by Seve Ballesteros, this 18-hole course in the mountains of Fuengirola, between Málaga and Marbella, forms a beautiful and lush landscape that makes playing golf an unforgettable experience. The views of the Sierra de Mijas mountains and the Mediterranean Sea are a plus and, in addition, each hole is different and you can use all types of clubs. Bonus: around the practice area there is a 9-hole par 3 course.
With 9 holes, Casares Golf Club was created to serve as a garden for one of the most exclusive residential areas on the Costa del Sol. The course runs gently through the valley and is surrounded by vineyards, orange trees and other Mediterranean vegetation. Par 5 is one of the most popular among golfers because of its difficulty. Do you dare to play it? By the way, its restaurant, Brasserie de Arturo, serves Andalusian dishes that are ideal for recharging your batteries.
With an 18-hole course, and located in the eastern part of Marbella, Cabopino has magnificent views of the sea and a spectacular hole 3, considered one of the most beautiful on the Costa del Sol, along with the lakes that protect holes 13 and 15. Inaugurated in 2001, it is perfect for professionals and amateurs alike.
In Spain, culture and traditions are celebrated. And the Costa del Sol is no exception. Here life is lived by dancing, singing, getting excited, being with friends and enjoying the fresh air. If you want to become one of them, you can't miss any of this:
In August, the city of Málaga dresses up for the most fun event of the year: the Málaga Fair. Nine days of flamenco, Andalusian horses, stalls, wine, folklore... The fair commemorates the taking of the city by the Catholic Monarchs in 1487, but today any excuse is a good one to dress up in typical Andalusian costume and have a good time. During the day, the historic centre, decorated with lanterns and flowers, is the perfect setting for parades, orchestras, floats... and, at night, the party moves to the Real del Cortijo de Torres, where there are stalls with music and even rides!
Catholics and non-Catholics alike are moved by the beauty of Málaga's Holy Week. Because it is not only based on religion. It is culture, history, art... and there is a reason why it has been declared a celebration of International Tourist Interest. As in the rest of the country, it is celebrated after the first full moon of the spring equinox. The thrones and images impress everyone, as well as the devotion and sentiment of the people of Málaga.
When talking about Andalusia, you have to talk about flamenco. Declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for its cultural value, flamenco is not only dancing and singing, it is a way of looking at life, a part of the Andalusian identity. You can find flamenco festivals everywhere, and they are the best way to get to know this art. The Flamenco Festival Torre del Cante in Alhaurín de la Torre takes place in June and is one of the most important. Also the Cante Grande de Casabermeja Festival, which is attended by some of the most renowned artists in the country, and the Cante Grande de Ronda Festival, one of the oldest in Andalusia.
The Costa del Sol has scenery, nature, fiestas, history... but we all like to go shopping from time to time, don't we? You'll have to control yourself, because Málaga has products as tempting as these.
Carob tree cakes, Antequera muffins, fig bread, olives from Álora, sugar cane honey, toasted almonds... in short, we would need a huge pantry to store all the mouth-watering products from Málaga.
Craftwork also has its place in Málaga. For example, through the ceramics of Alfonso Rot, the pottery of Isiwax and the glass of Vidrieras Viarca, which is behind some of the most impressive stained glass windows in the cathedral of Málaga and the church of La Paloma in Madrid.
And for other types of shopping (clothing, footwear, decoration...), you will find plenty of places. Málaga Plaza is the main shopping centre in the city centre, or you can also go to the Rincón Larios Centro Shopping Centre. Don't miss the Atarazanas market for fresh local produce, and the Thursday market in Vélez Málaga for handicrafts such as ceramics, and local produce (strawberries, grapes, olive oil, sugar...). And Laguna Beach Village, in Estepona, is great for enjoying the beach while you shop. Built around a swimming pool and almost on the shore, its thatched roof simulates a Pacific hut. The shops carry unique brands you won't find anywhere else.
Now that you know a little more about the Costa del Sol, we are sure you are ready to discover it for yourself. In this corner of the world we like to live the good life near the sea and under the sun.