Southern Spain’s Costa del Sol is a sweet nut of a destination; crack it open and all the ingredients for a complete family holiday spill out. Year round sunshine, golden sandy beaches, endless leisure and entertainment choices … these guarantee its enduring popularity, as does its ability to surprise!
In Malaga province, the coastline stretches 160km with broad swathes of golden sand, rocky bays, coves and conserved dunes waiting to be explored. You can opt to enjoy a lively vibe with water sports, bars and restaurants, a paid-entry Beach Club with chill out beds, music and champagne, or your own ‘secret’ hideaway; there are designated nudist beaches too.
More than a dozen main seaside towns and the city of Malaga, a cultural gem, vie to offer holidaying families something different; and while you can speak and eat ‘English’ each has a distinctive character and has preserved its Spanish identity, so a few words of the language and a journey into the local cuisine are recommended.
Fun-loving ferias (festivals and fairgrounds), romerias (decorated processions and picnics), fireworks, flamenco, celebrations and costumed religious observances, most notably the parades of Holy Week, are proudly enacted by young and old before crowds of warmly welcomed visitors.
The Costa’s ‘kernel’, with tourism roots that hark back to a golden era of the 1950s when aristocracy and ‘A’ list Hollywood film stars came here, is the section from fun loving Torremolinos to the famous, and controversial, British held Rock of Gibraltar. During peak summer this is the stretch the majority of families descend on, confident of finding everything that makes a holiday fabulous. Which is why celebrities and royals still fly in to party or play polo, snapped by the Paparazzi in the beaches and clubs of Marbella – or ‘Marbs’ as reality TV has made it known.
Along here, just past the bustling town of Fuengirola, en route to upscale Marbella, and with far-reaching views over the sparkling Mediterranean, is Club La Costa World; a location that places the best of the Costa within easy reach with bus stops nearby, a walk-to beach and direct vehicle access to the coastal highway. Several stunning resorts are linked by beautifully kept exotic gardens and brightly painted resort road trains.
In addition to terrific beaches, souvenir shops and dozens of restaurants that pepper ‘the strip’, the coast is host to a variety of themed and animal attractions among them Selwo Marina, Selwo Adventure Park, Tivoli World, Sea Life, Fuengirola BioParc – a modern concept zoo, and at the extremes – parks of fearsome looking crocodiles or exotic butterflies. There are water activity centres such as Mijas Aqua Park, Aqualand Torremolinos and relative newcomer AquaArena. Water sports enthusiasts can ride, sail and fly out to sea, and there are PADI scuba diving centres at Benalamadena and Fuengirola.
For those who prefer not to get their feet wet golf courses abound, earning an alternative name of Costa del Golf, and there are jeep safaris into the hinterland, horse riding stables and hiking trails. When night falls, the coast is brilliantly illuminated with evening and open late venues as found in the famous 24-hour square in Benalmadena.
Culture and history abound in this part of Spain
If the coast is glitzy, dazzling and dedicated to hedonistic pleasure, even a short ride inland brings the visitor into contact with traditional Andalucia. Away from the buzz are tranquil white villages amid beautiful countryside, the peace broken only by the sounds of crickets and the tinkling bells of grazing goats. Here there are vineyards, olive and almond groves, orchards, lakes, mountains and valleys.
A hire car, or taking advantage of organised day trips, multiply sightseeing opportunities to include southern Spain’s magnificent monuments and cities, most notably the Alhambra Palace at Granada, the Mezquita at Cordoba, historic Seville, awe inspiring Ronda and land of sherry manufacture and bull farms, Jerez.
Culture and history abound in this part of Spain, the Arab Moorish occupation leaving a legacy of exceptional buildings, including ancient baths that can still be enjoyed today. Along the coast remains of watchtowers dating from the 15th-17th centuries, still stand sentinel. Art is everywhere too, from small galleries to important collections such as those of Carmen Thyssen and the museum dedicated to Picasso, both found in Malaga.
Eating is an important part of any holiday and on the Costa choice ranges from cheerful chiringuitos (beach bars), across fast food outlets, modest Spanish ventas serving home cooking and international restaurants, all the way up to Michelin starred and trendy modern eateries. Whether you prefer tapas (light bites), fish’n’ chips or gourmet cuisine, there is something to suit every budget and palate.
Of course a central reason for coming to the coast is the weather. Encircled and protected by mountain ranges the climate is mild in winter with plenty of sunshine days and wall-to-wall hot rays in peak summer. Spring and autumn, even winter, are ideal seasons to enjoy sightseeing without the crowds, walking and sports.
A combination of cheap and frequent flights from the UK, combined with the promise of wonderful weather and unbeatable attractions, make the Costa del Sol a top destination for British families. With its cosmopolitan appeal, millions of Europeans and visitors from other parts of the world choose to come here, proving that as a holiday destination the Costa del Sol certainly has it cracked.
Seaside towns to visit
Malaga… provincial seaport capital and cruise ship port with a fascinating historic centre and stylish modern shopping avenue. An incredible car museum and another for interactive music are among more unusual attractions.
Nerja… a lovely town at the eastern end of the Costa del Sol that is famous for spectacular views from its impressive Balcón de Europa. Also worth visiting are nearby caves, adorned with stalactites and prehistoric wall paintings.
Torremolinos… despite heavy tourist development, this popular town still retains its Spanish flavour, and don’t be surprised to see ex-pats in frilly frocks joining in the flamenco fun on high days and holidays.
Fuengirola… a family favourite with a long seafront, good beaches and busy streets lined with restaurants, bars and many independent small shops.
La Cala… nicely compact with lanes of whitewashed Spanish houses, a few decent shops, attractive seafront and a good selection of restaurants and bars.
Marbella… you don’ t have to be rich, but if you are you’ll be found in the swankiest hotels, clubs, restaurants and bars along ‘the mile’. Make for historic Orange Square, it’s delightful.
Puerto Banus… famous for its chic and stylish marina with pricey boutiques, bars and restaurants. Take a ‘selfie’ posing next to a billionaire’s yacht or Ferrari!