With 300-plus days of sunshine each year, the aptly named Costa del Sol (Sun Coast) attracts more than 12m visitors annually. Once a string of fishing villages, this sweeping coastline in southern Spain’s province of Málaga now offers luxury resorts, renowned restaurants and family-friendly attractions close to outstanding beaches. Pull yourself away from the sunlounger to visit these vibrant seaside towns, too.
Families love Benalmádena Costa, where even the most restless children will always find something exciting to do. The action centres around those golden sandy beaches, where sunbathers can seek shade in a string of chiringuitos (beach bars) and seafood restaurants when hunger strikes. For more family-friendly outings, see marine life at Selwo Marina, spot wild animals at the Parque de las Palomas or hit the rides at the Tivoli World theme park.
Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Once a traditional Andalusian fishing village, Torremolinos is now a holiday hotspot for anyone who loves to laze on the beach by day and hit the dance floor at night. The cosmopolitan town has 7km (4mi) of sugar-soft sand, a vast choice of hotels and even stunning nearby hills for walking off sore heads the morning after. At night, you’re spoilt for choice, with open-air festivals, chic nightclubs, lively pubs and seafront bars all close at hand.
Beach lovers can plonk their towels down on a different stretch of sand every day in Fuengirola. Between the Torreblanca neighbourhood and Sohail Castle, you’ll find a glorious 7km (4mi) stretch of beach, with restaurants, bars and shops nearby so that you won’t have to go far if you need extra suntan lotion. Those who get bored easily can also visit one of the town’s diving schools to give scuba diving a go or check out the 10th-century Moorish fortress, Sohail Castle.
One of the most famous seaside resorts in the world, Marbella is celebrated for its glamorous nightlife, balmy climate, beautiful beaches and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Its glitzy Golden Mile is brimming with trendy nightclubs, luxury hotels and exclusive restaurants where VIPs come to see and be seen. However, Marbella’s delightful Old Town is the real star, with its narrow, cobbled lanes, flower-filled piazzas, tiny shops and independent galleries.
With its roots going back to prehistoric times, Estepona is less flashy than its neighbour Marbella, but it has an intimate vibe, traditional restaurants and an elegant marina, making it perfect for those looking for a more laid-back holiday. It’s also a magnet for watersports fans. However, those who like to fly and flop won’t be disappointed as Estepona has a staggering 21km (13mi) of postcard-worthy coastline on its sandy doorstep.
Málaga is having a moment. Once overlooked by visitors heading straight to the resort towns farther along the coast, this chic Spanish city is fast becoming a go-to weekend break for culture vultures. Picasso’s home town now has several art galleries, including the prestigious Centre Pompidou Málaga, a redeveloped port area and the Soho culture district. There are beaches within walking distance and flat coastal trails for cycling. You’ll also find a Moorish fortress with parts dating to the 11th century and a Roman amphitheatre for bona fide sightseeing.
Though tourists rush past this town on the way to the high-rise hotels and sprawling nightclubs of better-known resorts in Costa del Sol, Manilva is an idyllic small town well worth exploring. Its dazzling white buildings, sleepy harbour and tranquil seafront promenade set the holiday mood, but it’s also home to an excellent archaeological museum, an 18th-century church and the Castillo de la Duquesa, built on the site of a Roman villa, to stop boredom from biting.
This former fishing region began attracting artists and writers in the 1950s and has never looked back. It’s now a serene holiday heaven for tourists in the know who return every year for 12km (7mi) of golden coastline, family-run hotels, spectacular hiking trails and the charming mountain village of Mijas Pueblo. The flat coastal walk to Cabopino is a must-do, stopping along the way for sea dips and drinks from the beach bars.
Nerja was the preferred holiday destination of King Alfonso XII in the 1880s, and people have been flocking here ever since for the 16km (10mi) coastline, all-night bars and low-rise whitewashed buildings. The central Balcón de Europa, some 40 minutes from Málaga, is a viewing platform built on the foundations of an old fort; it’s an excellent place to see street entertainment, people-watch and take in the ultimate sea view.