If you see a rhinoceros as you make your way to the Costa del Sol’s most famous port, don’t rub your eyes and blink… stop and snap it, this 3.6 ton beauty is a statue by the best known 20th century Spanish artist, Malaga born Pablo Picasso. Close by is another colossal work, a 26 metre high bronze and copper figure on a pedestal, La Victoria, by famous Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. Impressive pieces, but then this purpose-built playground for the rich, aristocratic and famous was designed to impress from the start.
Set in the foreground of Marbella’s iconic La Concha (seashell) mountain which ensures its micro-climate, Puerto Banus was created as a luxury marina and entertainment/shopping complex in spring 1970 by a local developer of vision, José Banús. He arrived in Marbella in the early 1960s and acquired a huge tract of land; though his far reaching ambitions for it were considered crazy by many – how he proved them wrong! Marbella had already become a magnet for very many big names including royalty and A-list Hollywood stars and Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, the Aga Khan, Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame and film director Roman Polanski were among those who came to the lavish opening party for Puerto José Banus.
Incidentally, it was the architect Noldi Schreck, who also worked on Beverly Hills, who fended off notions of skyscraper residences in favour of low-rise, white Andalucian style buildings making the development enduringly pleasant and avoiding a disastrous mistake.
Strung between two golden sand beaches, tranquil outside of summer and buzzing during it, the harbour and village-style pedestrian streets behind it continue to attract royalty and celebrities. The young, chic crowd arrive eager to pop champagne corks while chillaxing at one of the fashionable and accordingly pricey beach clubs, among them Ocean Club and Buddha Beach. Banus’s beaches offer differing vibes with more peace to be found on the west side and lively fun on the east. If you shun Beach clubs there are Spanish chiringuito beach bars serving tasty Spanish food.
Some of the best nightlife on the coast
Banus nightlife is considered to be amongst the best on the coast, with revellers drawn to the celebrated name bars and clubs. These include Sinatra’s, Old Joy’s Pub and Panagea, with top haunts the lucrative stalking grounds of paparazzi looking to feed the unstoppable appetite of chat magazines and the tabloids back in the UK.Exclusive, but not excluding, Puerto Banus is where wealth is most definitely out on parade with top end designer shops, supercars, privately owned boats and mega yachts displaying varying degrees of opulence. If it would take a lottery win to enjoy this lifestyle, no matter, it all provides wonderful eye candy as you take a coffee or beer and watch the to’ings and fro’ings along the harbour front.
Restaurants range from traditional to contemporary with a range of cuisines that include family favourites in places such as Hard Rock Café, Dalli’s Pasta Factory and Pizzeria Picasso, and progress through to gourmet dining in restaurants that include Villa Tiberio, El Gran Gatsby and Los Bandidos. Be prepared to pay a premium to enjoy ‘front row’ drinking establishments.
If a Louis Vuitton price tag is beyond reach the large El Corte Inglés department store, a few streets back, has a wide and exciting range of fashion labels and in the Marina Banus shopping centre opposite you’ll find among other High St names that of Zara, and even a ‘healthy eating’ basement café that is part of the Terra Sana chain.
Time of day and season very much colours the mood of southern Spain’s riposte to St. Tropez. As the sun’s brilliant rays play on the water’s surface and up to 900 or so boats and yachts bob gently in the harbour, the effect is simply dazzling; fortunately you’ll be wearing your de rigeur ‘sunnies’!
In summer the pace is frenetic and fun-loving
With sunny days all year round, this scene can be enjoyed across the seasons. In quieter months, join local residents and out of season holidaymakers taking a stroll and the ambience is serene, from April families from the Spanish capital Madrid arrive for Andalucia’s famous ferias and Easter celebrations and noise levels crank up a notch – or more. In July and August, with a flood of holidaymakers from across Europe and beyond, the pace is frenetic and fun loving, especially as dusk falls and the well-heeled – or simply expensively kitted out – come out to play and shop.
From the superbly sited Club La Costa World resort, midway between Marbella and Malaga, you can be sat in a waterfront chic Puerto Banus bar in just 30 minutes’ drive time. If you enjoy browsing market stalls, then the large Saturday market across the road in Nueva Andalucia, by the bullring, has a rich array of souvenirs, arts and crafts, furniture and clothes,