Undoubtably, one of the top holiday destinations in Europe is the western Costa del Sol, 150 kilometres of golden coastline dotted with towns and villages that sowed the seeds that transformed the region into one of the most important tourist destinations in the world.
Fringed with beaches to suit all tastes, this beautiful coastline looks out across the Mediterranean Sea to Gibraltar and North Africa, offering panoramic views and outstanding sunsets. Famed for calm, warm and transparent waters, the scenery of the western Costa del Sol is varied, the mountains forming the backdrop for numerous beaches.
The ‘sun coast’ is so-called because it boasts a benevolent climate with more than 325 days of sunshine a year.
This stretch of the coast offers every type of tourist attraction, including luxury, boutique and budget hotels, sandy beaches, theme and nature parks, adventure activities, inland villages nestled in mountainous areas, a rich and longstanding cultural and gastronomic history, and some of the most exclusive golf courses in Europe. Consequently, a large percentage of the total accommodation available in Andalucía is concentrated on the western Costa del Sol.
Formerly made up of a series of small fishing settlements - hence the popular local cuisine, ‘pescaíto frito’ (small fried fish) and espetos (skewered sardines), today the region is a world-renowned tourist destination and includes some of the most popular holiday towns in Europe, including Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella and Estepona. mijas and Benalmádena both boast a pretty white mountain villages as well as their coastal strip, and Benahavís, famed for its fine dining and golf, stands back from the coast.
Over the past few decades, the authorities responsible for the tourism sector, and private companies that operate within it, have created one of the most powerful beach holiday locations in Europe.
Every year, millions of visitors from other parts of Spain, from Europe and elsewhere, come to Malaga province specifically to enjoy the beaches, which have been conscientiously enhanced in recent years. Almost 50 beaches have now been awarded the blue flag nomination.
Other initiatives include everything from the regeneration and cleaning of the sand and building and improving seafront promenades, to the major Coastal Path (Senda Litoral), a project that will eventually allow people to walk along the entire coastline of Malaga province without interruption.
Malaga province has beaches to suit all tastes that offer various amenities, including sun beds, parasols, water sports facilities, and, occasionally, waiter service from a nearby chiringuito or beachside club.
Along with urban beaches ideal for a family day by the sea, this stretch offers secluded coves where the crystal-clear waters are a haven for divers and snorkellers, and naturist areas: these include the Costa Natura, near Estepona; Cabopino in Marbella; Benalnatura in Benalmádena; Playa Marina in Mijas Costa, and Guadalmar in Malaga.
Of course, Torremolinos was a pioneer in the development of the tourist industry of the late 1950s and early ‘60s, attracting the world’s rich and famous and creating its fabled reputation as one of the liveliest and most liberal towns on the Costa del Sol.
Although the town is still one of the top destinations on this coast, the centre has changed almost beyond recognition over the last few years. The Plaza Costa del Sol, the geographical centre of the town, has been transformed into a spacious pedestrianised boulevard, along with an increasingly large range of restaurants and leisure options, revamped hotels and the growing number of parks and green spaces.
The reconstruction of this area of Torremolinos has blended tradition with modernity and has included numerous technologies in a bid to digitalise tourism.
Along with other Costa towns like Marbella and Benalmádena, Torremolinos has been awarded the certification of Smart Tourist Destination (DTI), a recognition that is awarded to resorts that improve competitiveness through the inclusion of measures linked to innovation, sustainability and digital transformation.
Rich in attractive beaches, gardens, theme parks and a stunning marina, the neighbouring town of Benalmádena is another popular tourist resort on the Costa del Sol. The town covers an area of almost 30 kilometres and extends from the Sierra de Mijas down to the coastline of the Mediterranean.
The population is concentrated in three main centres: Benalmádena Pueblo, Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmádena Costa.
Benalmádena Pueblo is the old town, an attractive sleepy white village perched in the mountains with panoramic views of the coast. Today, the tranquil village life in Benalmádena Pueblo goes hand in hand with the tourism industry and the town offers something for every type of visitor.
Benalmádena has become celebrated for its numerous tourist attractions, including the cable car, the butterfly park and the Selwo Marina dolphinarium.
Fuengirola, like the aforementioned resorts, has changed beyond recognition since the advent of mass tourism in the early 1960s.
Today, Fuengirola has broad, sandy beaches along a seven-kilometre promenade extending from the Sohail castle to Los Boliches and Carvajal. All of the beaches, which offer every kind of seaside amenity, have been awarded the distinction of Blue Flags and the Q of Spanish Tourist Quality (ICTE).
Located higher in the Sierra de Mijas at more than 400 metres above sea level, the quintessential village of Mijas is one of the favourite tourist destinations on the Costa del Sol. For the greater part of the 20th century, the sleepy ‘pueblo blanco’ was a poor, virtually destitute agricultural community approachable only by a dirt track that wound its way up from the coast. With the advent of tourism in the early 1960s, Mijas Pueblo began to transform into a holidaymaker’s paradise, offering all the mystery and folklore expected from those seeking a little bit of traditional Spanish culture.
Benahavís is another popular town located on the Serrania de Ronda mountain range between Marbella and Ronda, approximately seven kilometres from the coast.
Places of great natural and historic interest are to be found within its boundaries, such as El Cerro del Duque and Montemayor Castle, making it a favourite for the culture-seeking tourist.
Marbella needs little introduction for those in search of luxury tourism. Thanks to the high quality and range of the facilities and services it provides, Marbella has enjoyed a reputation for exclusiveness that attracts celebrities and personalities from all over the world.
Situated 25km from Marbella, Estepona is a typical Andalusian town with unique seafaring and agricultural traditions.
Known as the garden of the Costa del Sol due to the fact that many of the streets and squares have been decorated with an abundance of plants, flowers and trees, the pretty town of Estepona is one of the few coastal towns that has maintained its old village charm, especially in the old town.
The western Costa del Sol remains one of the most attractive and most visited beach resorts in Europe, because it offers something for every type of visitor.