The Most Beautiful Beaches in Málaga

Pick a sheltered spot on one of the small beach coves in popular Nerja on the Costa del Sol
Pick a sheltered spot on one of the small beach coves in popular Nerja on the Costa del Sol | © Greg Balfour Evans / Alamy Stock Photo
Mark Nayler

Málaga’s stunning coastline – or the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) as the world calls it today – is one of the most famous stretches of sea and sand in the world. Infamous, too, for displays of bling and wealth and high-priced sun lounger rentals. But there are countless places there where less is more and you’ll find it in the fishing villages lapped by clear Mediterranean waters. Whatever your bag or budget, here are the most beautiful beaches in Málaga, Spain.

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1. Torremolinos, for a long promenade

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Umbrellas, sun loungers and people swimming in the water at the beach in Torremolinos, Spain
© Andrei Nekrassov / Alamy Stock Photo

If you know the name – and chances are you do, since it’s up there alongside Benidorm – you might not have included Torremolinos on your bucket list. But for beaches it’s one of the best spots in Málaga province. Its six main stretches are connected by a recently renovated palm trees-lined promenade: at almost 8km (5mi) long, it delivers exceptional views of the coast and the rugged Andalusian interior. Playa El Bajondillo, the closest to Torremolinos, can become very busy so head westwards and you’ll find tranquillity around the fishing village of La Carihuela.

2. Mijas Costa, for the best swimming and sunbathing

Natural Feature

People relaxing and walking along the beach at Calahonda, Costa del Sol
© Philip Bird / Alamy Stock Photo

You’ll enjoy some of the best swimming and sunbathing in the municipality of Mijas, named after one of the region’s most iconic pueblos blancos (whitewashed towns). The longest and most popular is Calahonda, a 4km (2.5mi) stretch of perfect yellow sand and deep blue Mediterranean sea. The modern residential development of Calahonda is beloved of expats, who are drawn to its beaches and superb location almost halfway between Marbella and Fuengirola – a party town known among Mijas locals as Fuengi.

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4. La Caleta, Málaga, for open stretches of sand

Natural Feature

Palm trees and sand at La Caleta beach in Málaga
© Mario Galati / Alamy Stock Photo
A little further east along the coast from Playa Malagueta is La Caleta, another superb city beach hailed as the most well-maintained of the competition. Yes, it’s close to the city centre, but La Caleta doesn’t feel closed-in, grimy or overcrowded. Stretched out on its clean sands you’ll have beautiful views of the untamed mountainous terrain that backdrops Málaga. All along it are cool little beach bars and if you get bored of sunbathing, there are all kinds of water sports to sign up for, from windsurfing to jet-skiing.

5. Burriana, Nerja, for a perfect beach day

Natural Feature

Boats on the sand and waves coming in at Burriana beach, Nerja, with hills and mountains in the distance
© Artur Bogacki / Shutterstock
One of the first places people head to on landing at Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport is Nerja, a former fishing village an hour’s drive east along the coast. It’s hugely popular with tourists and yet the Playa Burriana stretch has retained its traditional ambience. Everything you need for the perfect beach day is sold, or is free, along its half-mile reach (beautiful views, water sports), all just a 15-minute walk from the centre of Nerja. When the sun sinks, you can visit one of the chiringuitos (beach shacks), which serve some of the best seafood around.

6. La Rada, Estepona, for a local hidden gem

Natural Feature

People relaxing under umbrellas on the sandy La Rada beach near Estepona
© John James Wood / Alamy Stock Photo
Welcome to one of the prettiest towns on the Málaga coastline, its charm only enhanced by its deference to limelight-seeking Marbella close by. La Rada is one of the loveliest beaches in the province: 2.4km (1.5mi) of fine grey sand easily accessible from the town’s main promenade, Avenida España. With its slight underdog status among Costa del Sol’s international tourists, it never becomes packed, attracting largely locals for days of tranquil bathing, even in August. Estepona itself is delightful so allow time to explore while you’re here.

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7. Puerto Banús, Marbella, for a more refined ambience

Natural Feature

Thatched umbrellas and sunbeds on Puerto Banus beach, with rugged mountains in the background
© lisako66 / Shutterstock
Fewer than 32km (20mi) east along the coast from Estepona you’re in a different world. Marbella has a reputation for being the loudest, brashest, blingiest spot on the south coast of Spain; a honeypot for millionaires and billionaires. But, just under 9.6km (6mi) from Marbella, Playa Puerto Banús is one of the best known beaches, clean and spacious, with a more refined ambience than the crowded and noisy sands of the big M itself. There’s an attractive marina, and for spenders, a choice of smart beauty salons, sleek bars and restaurants.

8. Nikki Beach, Marbella, for a glitzy beach day

Natural Feature

Orange sun loungers, palm trees and white umbrellas at Nikki Beach Club, Marbella
© Perry van Munster / Alamy Stock Photo
It’s not a beach so much as a global brand – you’ll find a branch of Nikki Beach from Thailand and Dubai to the Caribbean and Greek Isles. This outpost is a good 13.6km (8.5mi) from Marbella but it attracts – and displays – the same outre shows of wealth. (It’s the only beach on this list to have its own website packed full of glamorous event listings). That said, it’s a stunning stretch of coast nuzzled by clear waters. Top tip: unless you’re feeling particularly loaded, bring your own sun lounger. A day’s tanning on the white-leather beauties on the raised decking area can set you back up to 300 euros.

9. Playa de el Palo, for an up-and-coming escape

Natural Feature

The strong maritime history of the area is still visible in the jabegas – traditional boats used by fishermen – at this stretch of sand, poised snugly between Pedregalejo and El Chanquete beaches to the west of Málaga. Bring the family for Saturday or Sunday downtime. Come the weekend, it’s locals central, for many reasons: shallow waters, sandy shoreline and a promenade lined with bars and seafood restaurants. If you fancy exploring the wider vicinity, you won’t be disappointed. El Palo is one of Malaga’s up-and-coming areas and busy with new tapas bars and restaurants.

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10. Playa Peñón del Cuervo, for two beaches in one

Natural Feature

Two people walking on the sandy beach at Playa Peñón del Cuervo, in Málaga
© Jennifer Santolla / Alamy Stock Photo

East of La Malagueta, Playa del Peñón del Cuervo is a small, simple beach notable for the large rock forming an isthmus that divides it in two. Set close to the road, it isn’t a place for booming nightlife or busy tapas bars, such as you find on Malaga’s more popular beaches. But that doesn’t mean it’s a party pooper. On the contrary, you’ll find plenty of moragas – after-dark get togethers –around a flickering bonfire, with skewered sardines charring in the aromatic flames.

Jo Fernandez-Corugedo contributed additional reporting to this article.

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