Lying to the western side of its better known neighbours, Marbella and Puerto Banus, Estepona is a seaside town that enjoys all of the advantages of its Costa del Sol location, but with relatively few of the crowds that traditionally go hand in hand with the classic Spanish holiday combination of sun, sea and sand!
Estepona is easy to reach from Club La Costa World – it’s just a 45-minute drive heading west on either the A7 coast road, or the AP7 toll road. The town sits on a stretch of the southern Spanish coast that is punctuated by rivers and streams and benefits from the protection of the impressive Sierra Bermeja – a stunning mountain backdrop that not only ensures fairly constant, year-round temperatures, but also offers some exceptional high-level walking and biking routes.
The excellent, sandy beaches that stretch out over a combined distance of some 21km along the coastline on either side of the town are the main reason for its popularity as an all year-round holiday destination – although it is probably more used to welcoming Spanish holidaymakers than those from northern Europe, who generally choose to stay in the resorts further to the east.
Around 1990, Estepona was being positively lined up by the Walt Disney Corporation to become the location for its first Eurodisney project. Sadly, and perhaps mistakenly in hindsight given the comparative weather patterns, the site was finally awarded to Paris.
However, all is not lost for theme park enthusiasts! Just outside Estepona is Selwo Aventura – part safari park, part theme park – a popular visitor attraction that is home to over 2000 animals from Africa, Asia and South America. The park offers a ‘safari-style’ experience where visitors view the animals in semi-wild conditions, either on foot while crossing over hanging bridges or from the back of a lorry.
Estepona history & architecture
Like many towns in southern Spain, Estepona was the subject of historic battles between the Moors and the Christians but, unlike many other more fortunate locations, only two relics remain in the town to remind us of former times. An iconic clock tower stands next to a modern school on the site of a former church that was built in 1473 by Enrique IV of Castile, who re-captured the town and decided that a Christian church should replace the original mosque.
Enrique IV also built the San Luis Castle as part of a coastal defence system of castles and towers to protect against raiding Berber pirates. Very little of the original castle is still standing today, but what remains of the ruins of the old walls is estimated to be from the 16th century, possibly with some Moorish stonework left over from the earliest design. A pleasant garden in the shadow of the walls makes for a welcome break.
A walk around the old town centre takes visitors along narrow streets lined with shops, bars and restaurants, and through pretty squares and plazas lined with fragrant orange and lemon trees that inevitably lead back to the sunny promenade lining the beachfront.
The town’s bullring only dates back as far as 1972 but its interesting, asymmetric design and external landscaping – rendering stairways redundant – make it a feature worth seeing. The building is used as a popular, open air concert venue during the busy summer holiday months and is also home to the Museum of Bullfighting and the Museum of Agriculture, Fossils and .Archaeology
Central to the commercial success of Estepona is the large fishing port and sports marina – about a 10 minute walk from the town centre. Alongside the moorings for dozens of working vessels and luxury leisure craft, the port also hosts a lively Sunday market and boasts a huge variety of busy cafés and bars and restaurants offering a wide range of international cuisines. It’s a great place for ‘people-watching’ while sipping a cool drink and provides plenty of entertainment options – including some excellent nightclubs – all open until the wee small hours.
Estepona’s lovely central promenade is a key feature of its appeal for visitors. It has recently undergone significant development with outstanding results that can be enjoyed during a comfortable stroll adjacent to La Rada beach. Colourful, landscaped garden areas line the walkway, which is part-covered by overhead sail-cloths to provide some welcome shade, and several ‘chiringuito’ beach bars are dotted at convenient intervals along the route.
Playa La Rada, in the centre of town, is by far the most popular beach in Estepona, due largely to the modern promenade, which runs behind the beach along its entire 2.6km length and disguises the convenient and abundant underground car parking. The clean, golden sand is well maintained and the water is safe for family fun and swimming. Chiringuitos linethe beach, serving traditional Spanish seaside treats including paella and fresh-caught sardines ‘al espeto’ and there are water-sports facilities for hire.
Just a few kilometres to the east of Estepona is another popular beach – Playa El Padron – with plenty of car parking, two beach bars and, most importantly, a Blue Flag award for its first-class facilities and standards of cleanliness. An added holiday attraction here comes in the form of the adjacent shopping and leisure facilities of Laguna Village, an up-market centre designed in Asian style and offering smart designer clothing and gift shops, as well as some stylish restaurants and a tapas bar.
El Padron is also the location of the glitzy Puro Beach club and restaurant, which has a beachside swimming pool cloaked with swaying palm trees, elegant white sun loungers for up to 6 people and chill-out sounds from a resident DJ.
Other Estepona beaches include the first official naturist beach in Spain at Costa Natura to the west of the town, and Playa del Cristo, a small cove ideal for families, with lifeguard patrols and two more superb beach front chiringuitos.
Out and about
Although not renowned for its throbbing nightlife, Estepona does have a few late night venues in the port. However, an evening out here is more likely to be about enjoying a meal in one of the many excellent restaurants close to the sea front or in and around the quaint central street called Calle Real. Tempting cuisines include traditional Spanish and Mediterranean – with an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood – as well as Italian, Moroccan and Indian. Dining is typically ‘al fresco’ on buzzing terraces under the stars.
Shopping in Estepona is mainly about small family businesses offering good quality food and clothing, with no large shopping complex available locally. The indoor market provides a superb range of fresh produce and there is also a weekly market in the main square every Wednesday selling fresh food, clothing and souvenirs.
Golfers visiting the Estepona area will be spoiled for choice, with so many excellent courses within easy reach of the town. Choose from Estepona GC, Valle Romano GC, La Duquesa GCC, La Resina GCC or El Paraíso GC. Two new resort complexes nearby, with superb if rather expensive golfing facilities available, are at Finca Cortesin – the new home of the Volvo World Match Play Championship – and the sensational Dona Julia resort, near the lovely mountain village of Cáceres.
On your Costa del Sol holiday at Club La Costa World, why not get out and explore your surroundings? Including Estepona on your travels will be well worth the effort and something that will set your holiday apart from the ‘norm’ – you’ll still be talking about it long after your return!