Málaga’s stunning coastline – or the “Costa del Sol” (Coast of the Sun) as it has become known – is one of the most famous stretches of sea and sand in the world. Its countless beaches offer everything – from the bling and glitz of Marbella, where renting a sunlounger can cost you hundreds of euros, to the charming fishing villages of Nerja and La Carihuela.
One of the best things about being in Málaga, especially on a sweltering summer’s day, is the city’s proximity to a cluster of superb beaches. The Playa Malagueta is the closest of them all and is reached by just a 10-minute walk along the lovely promenade at the east end of Málaga’s great port. Its 0.6 mile-long, man-made stretch of fine sand provides the perfect setting for a refreshing dip and a dose of Andalusian sun, before lunch or drinks in one of the many excellent restaurants and bars on the nearby Paseo del Muelle Dos.
La Caleta, Málaga
A little further eastwards along the coast from Playa Malagueta is Playa Caleta, another superb city-beach known for being the most well-maintained in the area. Despite its proximity to the city center, Caleta doesn’t feel closed-in, grimy or overcrowded: from its clean sands are beautiful views of the rough, mountainous terrain that surrounds Málaga. Cool little beach bars along its length and a range of watersports for those who quickly tire of sunbathing complete Caleta’s offering.
When sun-seeking holidayers touch down at Málaga’s busy international airport, one of the first places they head after baggage reclaim is Nerja, a charming ex-fishing village an hour’s drive eastwards along the coast. Despite its huge popularity with tourists, the coastal stretch that is dominated by Playa Burriana has retained its tradional, fishing-orientated ambience. Though only about half a mile long, Burriana has absolutely everything you could want for an epic day and evening at the beach: an unbroken row of chiringuitos serving some of the best seafood around, beautiful views, watersports – and all just a 15 minute walk (albeit up rather a steep hill) from the town center.
La Rada, Estepona
Estepona is one of the prettiest, most charming towns on Málaga’s coastine. It’s often overshadowed as a tourist destination by nearby Marbella – a fact which only enhances its attractiveness, of course. Estepona also has one of the loveliest beaches in the province, with a mile-and-a-half of fine gray sand and tranquil bathing easily accesible from the town’s main promenade, the Avenida España. Estepona’s slight underdog status among visitors to the Costa del Sol means that, although it’s popular with locals, it never becomes uncomfortably packed, even in August. It’s the perfect place to set up camp for the day and from which to explore delightful Estepona itself.
Puerto Banús, Marbella
Less than 20 miles east along the coast from the unspoilt oasis of Estepona and you’re in a different world. Marbella has carved out a reputation for itself as being the loudest, most brash and bling destination on the south coast of Spain; a favorite among the world’s millionaires and billionaires. Playa Puerto Banús is one of the best-known beaches close to the the city (5.5 miles south-west of Marbella) and offers a more refined ambience than the crowded and noisy sands of Marbella itself. Situated along the length of Puerto Banus’ attractive marina, this clean and spacious beach is lined with smart beauty salons and sleek bars and restaurants.
Nikki beach is the strip of sand favored by celebrity-spotters from all over the world. This infamous beach and resort (and beach club, and brand name, etc, etc) is a good eight-and-a-half miles from a town now associated with almost vulgar displays of wealth and bling. Nikki obviously has elements of that, too (it’s the only beach on this list to have its own website packed full of glamorous event listings, for example), but it’s also a stunning stretch of coast known for its clear waters. A day-trip to Nikki requires a bit of extra outlay, as you can imagine – but it’s worth experiencing once if you’re in the area. Top tip: unless you’re feeling particularly loaded, bring your own sun-lounger. A day’s worth of tanning on the white leather ones on the raised decking area can set you back anywhere up to 300 euros.
Beaches in Torremolinos
A package-holiday haven to rival the notorious Benidorm, Torremolinos wouldn’t be sought out by a traveler looking to experience authentic Andalusia. But for beaches it’s one of the best spots in Málaga province. Its six main beaches are now all connected by a recently-reonovated four-and-a-half mile promenade, lined with palm trees and boasting exceptional views of the coast and the rugged landscape inland. Playa de Bajondillo is closest to Torremolinos itself and can become very busy, but heading westwards along the promendae brings you to more tranquil areas close to the charming old fishing village of La Carihuela.
Some of the Coasta del Sol’s best swimming and sunbathing is to be had on the beautiful beaches in the municipality of Mijas, named after one of Málaga’s most iconic whitewashed towns. The longest and most popular of these is Calahonda, a two-and-a-half mile stretch of perfect yellow sand and deep blue sea that ends up close to the infamous Nikki beach in Marbella (see above). The urbanization of Calahonda itself is a popular destination for expats, who are drawn to its beaches and its superb location almost exactly halfway between Marbella and Fuengirola – a party town known among Mijas locals as “Fuengi.”