The Costa del Sol is the stretch of golden beaches that run along the southern coast of Spain in the Andalucía region (roughly) from Nerja to Estepona.
My trip south was a much-needed break from the heat of Madrid (40°c in July-August). Walking on the beach, feeling the sand between my toes, while the waves lapped at my feet was just amazing. It’s still hot on the Costa del Sol, don’t get me wrong but the sea breeze and the opportunity to take a dip and cool down in the water was a great relief from summer in the city.
There are beaches to cater for all needs on the Costa del Sol, from quiet little secluded coves to busy water sports havens. An amazing selection of beach-side bars and restaurants and lots of interesting towns and villages to wander through. There are also many day trips within easy reach of Malaga, so there is plenty going on in this part of Spain.
Let me tell you a little bit more about what there is to see and do on the Costa del Sol and my trip south to explore the area.
What to see on the Costa del Sol
It’s mostly famous for its towering high-rise hotels and hordes of holidaymakers. With them come the many drinking establishments that help tourists to feel at home. The ones showing premier league football, serving English fry-ups and John Smiths on tap. They’re not really my cup of tea, to be honest (though I’m sure that they do make a really good cuppa).
It is easy to see what my fellow Brits find so appealing about this area of Spain. But there really is more to the Costa del Sol than the obvious UK home comforts you see at first glance.
*RELATED article: Nerja, the jewel of the Costa del Sol
Costa del Sol beaches
It seems like the sun is always shining on the Costa del Sol and the wide sandy beaches entice you to take a dip in the clear blue waters or stop a while in a beach-side Chiringuito for a nice cold beer and tapas.
My favorite beaches on the Costa del Sol are in…
Fuengirola because it’s so big and there’s a lot of nice loungers (see pic below).
Cala de Mijas because it’s away from the bigger towns and fairly quiet (see pic above).
Nerja because it has the rocky cliff drop and mountains in the background (the title pic).
There are so many gorgeous beaches to choose from when you visit the Costa del Sol. They all offer the same kind of amenities but have their own individual charms. The most famous ones are probably in Torremolinos, Benalmadena and Marbella.
Costa del Sol towns
The town of Malaga is the main city in Andalucia and the gateway to the Costa del Sol, with its huge international airport and extensive train and bus connections. It has a surprisingly rich cultural history and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It has an amazing, well preserved Alcazaba and Roman Amphitheatre, which are well worth a visit.
Fun fact – Malaga is the birthplace of Picasso and Antonio Banderas
*RELATED article: For an itinerary of what to see in Malaga read – A Weekend in Malaga
The nearby Marbella is well-known for attracting the rich and famous to its high-end Puerto Banus. A fabulous marina filled with luxury speed boats and yachts. The harbour is lined with exclusive restaurants, bars, nightclubs and designer shops. Marbella also has a cute old town with narrow cobbled streets lined with orange trees. Here you can find flower-filled balconies overlooking nice traditional restaurants serving great tapas and seafood.
Further inland you’ll find the town of Ronda. A very picturesque town perched up high atop a deep gorge. Its a dramatic sight and well worth the journey to see it with your own eyes. The stone bridge across the gorge is stunning and the old town hides lots of Moorish architecture to explore.
The traditional Andalusian hillside town of Mijas is a pueblo maze of whitewashed buildings. Day tourists visit for a glimpse of this beautiful place and to enjoy the panoramic views. Stopping for lunch or drinks, a donkey ride, or to buy local handmade crafts. It’s easy to think you have stepped back in time, it’s so quiet and relaxed here.
Another great pueblo blanco to explore is Frigiliana. Hailed by the Spanish tourism board as the prettiest town in Andalucía it’s a lovely day trip. You’ll find steep, narrow cobbled streets lined with cute townhouses, pot plants and bougainvillea. Wander through secret doorways to find hidden terraces offering amazing views.
*RELATED article: To read more about Frigiliana read – Frigiliana, the prettiest town in Andalucía
What to do on the Costa del Sol
The Costa del Sol isn’t just about sunbathing and wandering around pretty Andalusian towns. There are lots of things to do if you prefer a more active holiday or you want to indulge in the local cuisine and nightlife.
Costa del Sol nightlife
Marbella is pretty well known for its nightlife, there are lots of bars and clubs to choose from in the town and down by the beach. Along the harbour you will find some nice cocktail bars. If you head into Puerto Banus you can party with the beautiful and the famous at some of the more glamorous bars like Tibu, Pangea and Ocean Club.
Costa del Sol food
I love my food so one the highlights for me when visiting the Costa del Sol is the grilled seafood served on the beach called Espeto. Down on the beach, you will find old boats turned into barbecues. They are filled with wood logs or coal and lit in the late morning. Left to burn away until lunch-time then rows of skewered seafood are perched on top of the glowing embers and left to sizzle in the sunshine. My favourite is the traditional sardines, it’s just delicious! Here’s more info on Espeto from Devour Malaga.
The Andalusia region is renowned for its local food. For more suggestions on what to eat in this area of Spain read this great guide on Andalusian cuisine.
Costa del Sol activities
There are numerous water parks and beach activities to keep you entertained along the Costa del Sol. From kayaking and snorkeling to jet skiing and scuba diving, no matter what your level of expertise there is something for everyone.
For a more leisurely afternoon, you could take a boat trip or play golf. If you are a bit of a thrill seeker you could go to the nearby Caminito del Rey. A daring cliff walkway, recently renovated, it’s 1 metre wide and 100 metres above the river below.
Nature lovers can check out the many wildlife parks or the Nerja Caves. A series of huge caverns full of stalagmites and prehistoric history.
I hope this guide has given you a little insight into all the awesome things to see and do on the Costa del Sol. My trip South certainly showed me there is more to the area then I expected. I hope it has given you some ideas for your next trip or some inspiration to visit.
If you love the Costa del Sol and have any tips to share, it would be great to hear them! Please leave me a message in the comments box.
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