The Costa del Sol strikes a great balance between feeling familiar whilst retaining the elegance of a Spanish holiday destination. Unlike the busier Costa Brava and Costa Blanca, this region of Southern Spain has managed to become hugely popular without compromising its character. Nowhere is this truer than in Marbella, the jewel in the region’s crown. For a holiday in 2019 that promises superb weather, great food, drink and hidden streets bustling with arts and craft shops, Marbella holidays are the one.
Add to this a gorgeous waterfront promenade stretching for miles, lined with buzzing beach bars and tapas huts, surrounded by palm trees and white sands, the azure blue of the Mediterranean on one side. The playground of the rich and famous, Puerto Banus, is a little way along the coast, a great place to people watch and marvel at boats the size of houses. Marbella also boasts one of our favourite old towns in all of Spain, a maze of cobbled alleyways and hidden church squares, atmospheric local restaurants, craft shops and chatting locals.
The whole stretch of coastline between Malaga and Gibraltar is awash with fun things to see and do, however if you venture off the beaten track inland, you’ll reap some of the area’s richest rewards. A holiday in Marbella wouldn’t be complete without a trip up into the hills to the whitewashed town of Mijas. Here you can tuck into cheap as chips local tapas in restaurants overlooking the town square, take a horse drawn carriage through its streets, and take in the incredible views of the coast from up high.
Back down at sea level, the elegant harbour town of Puerto Banus makes for a great place to have lunch in the company of luxurious boats, charter boats and water sports excursions, and enjoy an eclectic nightlife scene. On the cultural side of things, you shouldn’t miss the Basilica de Vega del Mar, a North African inspired church, or the intricate ceramic tiles of the Ermita de Santiago. You could head to Selwo Marina in Torremolinos to see snakes, birds and dolphins, or even take a boat across the Morocco for the day to experience the intoxicating atmosphere of North African souks.
Wine and Dine
Marbella and its surrounding areas really are known for being a melting pot of local and international cuisine. Such is the region’s appeal with expats, you could be tucking into a hearty Full English of a morning, feasting on freshly grilled local fish for lunch, and sampling award winning Asian fusion at dinner time. The region is synonymous with Iberican pork, fresh fish, Andalucian sherry, red and dessert wines. Marbella itself is a gourmet’s paradise, overflowing with intimate backstreet tapas bars, bodegas and international restaurants. The Orange Tree, in the picturesque Orange Square, is one of the old town’s most popular spots with its amazing wine list and selection of Spanish fusion dishes such as seared king prawns with chorizo.
In nearby Fuengirola, Bodeda-Asador El Toston is the place to go for dark wood interiors, floor to ceiling bottles of vintage wine, and some of the region’s most incredible tapas and small plates. The town is also a great place for more familiar cuisine, with plenty of Irish pubs and pizza joints lining the seafront.
There’s plenty to keep all the family entertained in and around Marbella. Aside from the region’s family friendly beaches and waters, attractions for kids young and old are never far away. Take the go-kart track just outside Fuengirola for example, where thrills and spills aplenty can be had and you can take each other on across this challenging course. Little ones will love the horse drawn carriages of Mijas, whereas wildlife fans will enjoy the sights and sounds of nearby Biopark Zoo, which is filled with gorillas, crocodiles and snakes, to name a few. Get up close and personal with penguins at Selwo Marina, or for something a little more tropical, take the kids to Butterfly Park near Benalmedena, a paradise of plants, flowers and, of course, butterflies. And who could forget the flumes and pools at Aqualand just outside Torremolinos? The largest water park on the Costa del Sol offers up a great selection of waterslides alongside excellent facilities such as restaurants, bars and sunbathing areas.
Action and Adventure
If you’re looking to get an adrenaline rush on a Marbella holiday then you won’t be disappointed. Aventura Amazonia in Elviria presents you with a number of different treetop obstacle courses, not to mention the longest zipline in Andalucia at 240 metres. Rides, dance shows and live music are the order of the day at Tivoli Park, the area’s longest running amusement park. At Costa Park, you can get high with over 50 huge trampolines, a basketball and dodgeball court and foam, or even speed through the Andalusian countryside on a quad bike. For something a little more sedate but equally as adventurous, you can go on guided horse rides along the beach at Fuengirola, a great excursion for families and couples alike.
You can be sure that a region that translates as ‘Sun Coast’ will include its fair share of great beaches. Holidays in Marbella and the surrounding areas will be filled with days of swimming in the warm Mediterranean sea, relaxing in the shade and sharing plates of fried fish, excellent water sports opportunities or simply plenty of sun worshipping. Head to Bounty Beach for a cool, relaxed vibe, music and well priced food and drink. For something a little refined you could head to Nikki Beach, home of a world famous beach club and known for its high rolling parties, to relax on sun loungers under the palm trees and sip on Champagne. And to the west of Puerto Banus lies the sheltered, seductive beach of Nuevo Andalucia, perfect for quiet family days out. With around 23 beaches to choose from along its 20 or so miles of coastline, holidays in Marbella won’t be without their fair share of waterfront action.
There’s a little something for all nightlife lovers enjoying a holiday in Marbella. The town itself is all about the atmosphere and intimacy of the old town, where live music spills onto the streets, shops stay open late and a real sense of community permeates through the bars and restaurants. Things get a little livelier in nearby Puerto Banus, where revellers enjoy excellent dinners in the harbour’s restaurants before venturing into the back streets to find buzzing bars and clubs that stay open till the early hours. The well known Nikki Beach is the place for long summer nights spent drinking Champagne, cocktails and dancing under the stars. And for a sensational New Years’ Eve party, the British run Beach Club near Elviria puts on a firework display, incredible a la carte menu and live music until late.
Marbella’s excellence as a destination for lovers comes both from its refined and more humble elements. The luxury seafront retreat at El Oceano, with its sumptuous buffet and poolside dining tables, is a great place to treat the one you love, whilst a simple stroll along the Marbella promenade past the lighthouse at sunset is just as romantic but without breaking the bank. A day spent down at Capobino beach, sharing plates of tapas in one of the beachside chiringuitos, is a surefire way to each other’s hearts, whilst an evening explore of the old town and its Moorish architecture is a great post dinner activity. Or simply relax on one of La Alameda Park’s exquisitely crafted benches under palm trees, enjoying the sight of locals going about their daily lives amongst the fountains, a tranquil place to take a break from your sightseeing together.
Andalusia enjoys a rich and varied cultural heritage, celebrating the very finest in its towns, beaches and mountains beyond. The town of Estepona, a little further west along the coastline, is becoming known for its incredible murals painted on the sides of its Moorish buildings, whereby local artists have been given the opportunity to decorate the vast blank spaces of the town’s neighbourhoods. It’s also known for its collection of museums, including the archeological museum and the museum of image and sound.
As far as cultural events go, the Virgen del Carmen festivities in Malaga are not to be missed, as the patron saint of fishermen is celebrated with parades and floating effigies. Or, to escape the hustle and bustle of the coast, take a trip up to Ronda, one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain, one that is set into the rock and looks like something that’s been unearthed after being buried for centuries.