With stylish marinas, modern hotels and sandy beaches – not to mention 320-odd days of sunshine a year – a holiday to the Costa del Sol is always a winner.
Whoever said you can't have it all hasn't been to the Costa del Sol. Skirting Spain's southern coast, it packs in the full spectrum of beach holidays. Take Benalmadena, for example. What families can’t do in here isn’t worth mentioning. The super-sized stretch of sand is the big draw, and then there’s the Sea Life Centre and theme park to think about. There’s no shortage of bars, shops and restaurants, either. And you can go traditional in its cobbled old town, Benalmadena Pueblo.
Torremolinos is another classic beach resort. Its sandy sweeps are dotted with ‘chiringuito’ bars, and the town itself is choc-full of shops and restaurants. The place really comes alive at night. For something a little more slow-paced, head for the old district, El Calvario, and you’ll find traditional markets and countless tapas bars.
Authentic Spain and City Life
If traditional Spain is high on your agenda, try the seaside town of Estepona. It’s still a pretty big resort, but it’s held tight to its whitewashed, Andalusian charm. Wander its steep cobbled streets and you’ll come across no end of unusual shops, pavement cafés and tapas bars. The original fish market is still going strong, too. And if you’re up for venturing away from the coastline, Andalusia’s big three – Granada, Seville and Cordoba – are all within daytripping distance.
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Sandwiched between Torremolinos and Marbella, the former fishing village of Fuengirola is now one of the Costa del Sol’s biggest players. It’s got the high-rise hotels, buzzing bars and tourist-friendly restaurants to prove it, but there are also side streets and squares crammed with upmarket tapas places and chic boutiques. And a Moorish castle adds a bit of history. The real draw, though, is the super-sized sandy beach.
Teetering on the rocks on the southern tip of Andalusia – about 40 minutes from Malàga – is Nerja, AKA the jewel of the Costa del Sol. You’re in classic Costa territory here, with sandy beaches and an all-night bar scene. There’s tumultuous history to explore, too – the centrepiece is the Balcon de Europa, a viewing platform that was once part of a battle-torn castle. No wonder King Alfonso XII made Nerja his holiday home back in the 1880s.
Puerto Banus is Marbella’s world-famous port, right in the heart of Spain’s Costa del Sol. It’s a millionaire’s playground with beach clubs, super-yachts moored in the marina, and a long strip of bars, clubs and designer boutiques along the water. There’s another side to this firecracker of a spot, though – head away from the sea and there are quieter bars and authentic Spanish tapas.