You probably haven’t heard of the Costa Tropical but trust me when I say it’s an area of unspoiled Southern Spain’s coastline that you need to be aware of.
The guide books barely mention it, I even saw one map of the Spanish Costas that just left a gap of coast with no label. So, maybe there’s nothing to see or do on the Costa Tropical and no-one goes there. Or, are they trying to keep it a secret and the locals want it all for themselves.
We took a trip down to Granada earlier this year and thought we’d do a little detour to the coast to investigate. This is what we found and the essential guide to the Costa Tropical.
Where is the Costa Tropical?
The Costa Tropical is on the Mediterranean coast of Andalucía and is part of the Granada Province, covering over 80km of coast-line.
Nestled between the Costa del Sol and Costa Almeria it’s a secret gem that we fell in love with instantly and to be honest is now top of our list of where to live long-term in Spain.
The name comes from the areas unique micro-climate and is pronounced “costa tro-pi-kal”. The climate is created by the Sierra Nevada mountains providing ample water supply and protection from winds. The result is very mild winters and summers, quite different from Granada which is just on the other side of the mountains.
It’s a relaxed area, that’s far less developed than the neighbouring Costa del Sol. Mainly due to the limited development and low-rise beach side buildings.
It’s one of the most scenic stretches of coast in Southern Spain. The drive between beaches is just stunning. From a steep coastal road, cut high into the terrain you can glimpse coves of clear water and lush green, dotted with white washed villas.
Map provided by andalucia.com
Things to see and do on the Costa Tropical
Costa Tropical beaches
A succession of beaches or “playas” line the coast of Almeñécar. The prettiest stretch is the Playa de Cotobro in the west. The most famous and largest beach is Playa de San Cristobal, where families tend to go as there are ample facilities such as lounger and parasol hire. We stayed in a hotel on the front here and it was lovely. The hotel roof terrace gave us wonderful views of the beach and a spectacular sunset with some amazing colours. Nearer the town you’ll find Playa Puerta del Mar, slightly more high-rise but with softer sand it can attract big crowds.
La Herradura is a horseshoe bay sheltered beach. On the hill side at either end you can see villas and urbanizations dotted around. All strategically placed to enjoy the wonderful bay views. Down on the beach the mix of dark sand and pebble creates deep blue clear waters. This beach has excellent water sports facilities and on windy days is very popular with wind surfers. The western end at Playa el Carbon in particular struck me as the area where surfers hang out on the beach. With rows of campervans parked up and a more hippy-style, chilled vibe in the bars. Along the front are fantastic grassy hillocks with tall palm trees sprouting from the sand, perfect for seeking some shade.
Salobreña is a little cluster of white houses climbing up a craggy rock with the remains of an Islamic castle sitting high atop the hill watching over the town and beaches. Walk down from the town towards the clear blue sea to find wide stretches of dark sand. With only a handful of restaurants on the beach front it’s a very underdeveloped and low-key beach.
Calahonda is a lovely old fishing village that’s part of the Motril Municipality. Shadowed by the cliffs that surround it, this beach has a sheltered and secluded feel. It’s a short walk into the nearby village where you can get amazing fresh seafood for lunch.
Castel de Ferro
The most famous of the beaches here is Cala de la Rijana, one of the best places for scuba diving on the Costa Tropical.
Costa Tropical towns and villages
Motril is the biggest town on Costa Tropical and centre for the agricultural and commercial businesses. There is a busy port and yacht marina as well as a large golf course.
The busiest old town, particularly in the summer when locals flock to the coast from inland regions. You could call Almuñécar the resort town of Costa Tropical. It’s also the local hub where people go to the market, supermarket, clothes shops and bars.
The inland village has become popular spot for rural tourism. Hikers can enjoy many walking routes and wine lovers can enjoy some of the best wines in Granada province.
The twice award-winning village has pretty narrow streets with traditional Andalucían windows, balconies and flower baskets. Its popular for tourists wanting to capture the essence of and authentic old pueblo. Local dishes of spicy sausage, black pudding and veal are said to be delicious.
Costa Tropical food
Driving through the Costa Tropical you will see fields of lush fruit plantations. The Rio Seco and Rio Verde valleys that run behind the town of Almeñécar are a sea of tropical fruit trees. Due to the great weather and fertile soil its perfect for growing fruit like mangos, avocados, papaya and kiwi.
The sea off the Costa Tropical has vast supplies of delicious, fresh seafood. Including monkfish, bream, squid, grouper and many shellfish. Seafood paella and tapas are the most popular dishes.
This the name for the bar/restaurants set up on the beach. Traditionally quite a simple structure or bar shack, with sandy floor. Normally only open during the summer, however most Chiringuitos on the south coast of Spain have been refurbished and can be quite big establishments. They are often the hub of the town, holding events and fiestas and are the perfect spot for a nice cold beer.
On the beaches of Costa Tropical it’s common to see the local Chiringuito cook up huge paellas or fish barbeques for patrons enjoying the sunshine.
Costa Tropical things to do
- Wind surfing
- Loro Sexi Bird Park
- Botanical Garden
- Water park
- Roman Aqueduct
- San Miguel Castle
Getting around Costa Tropical
A public bus service runs along the coast but they are quite small, can get crowded and they stop regularly, taking the long route.
The Spanish coach company Alsa has an extensive service in Costa Tropical. This is a more comfortable way to quickly get from one beach to the next. Buy tickets from the machine at the bus station or with the driver (but make sure you have change). Schedules are posted at most bus stops and usually run on time (if a little behind, typical Spanish style). The Alsa bus from Almuñécar to La Herradura costs €1.20 each way.
You can hire a car and drive through the area, it’s certainly a beautifully scenic drive. Be aware that roads whilst in great condition are high cliff-side, winding and narrow and you often feel very close to the mountain edge.
Traveling to Costa Tropical
Fly into Malaga and take either a private transfer or taxi. The drive will take just over 1 hour and cost approximately €80.
Malaga bus station
Alternatively take a bus or taxi to the main bus station where you can find frequent Alsa services to the Costa Tropical.
Here’s a link to the ALSA website to buy tickets or get more info.
Fly into Granada and take either a private transfer or taxi. The drive will take approximately 90 minutes and cost €100-140.
Granada bus station
The cheapest option is to take the airport bus to Granada bus station and take the Alsa coach from there to various spots on the Costa Tropical.
I hope you feel inspired to visit the Costa Tropical in Spain after reading this guide 🙂 If you have any questions about visiting this area of Spain, please just send us a message.
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