The Costa del Sol has come a long way since the 1950s, when Spanish Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe first opened The Marbella Club in a sleepy seaside town and the glitterati descended.
Now referred to as the Golden Mile, the Costa del Sol’s beach-front towns have housed celebrities and royalty for decades. Everyone from Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Ronnie Wood and the Obamas have spent time soaking up glamour under the Spanish sun. However, the area has retained some of its traditional charm and has a lot more to offer than just yachts and parties. Here’s our guide to the Costa del Sol.
1. There is culture
It’s not all about the latest celebrity visit or raucous bar crawls and beach parties. The Costa del Sol has a lot to offer on the arts scene. From local galleries to theatre, from Concerts in the Nerja Caves to the Picasso Museum, there is something for everyone. In fact there are over 100 museums and galleries in the Malaga province alone. Just a quick look in an art gallery can freshen you up and get you inspired for an afternoon’s shopping or beaching.
Hiking in the Sierra Nevada, source: Flickr/taquiman
2. There is sport
The terrain provides the perfect location for a spot of something different. Trail running through Sierra Nevada or even skiing in the Sierra Nevada, canyoning in Ronda, marathon running in Marbella, it’s all there for the taking. The cooler shoulder-season climate makes this the perfect training camp destination.
3. But they do love a party…
Those on the Costa del Sol party the beach club way. Brunch clubs that run until the next morning serve food, cocktails and fantastic DJs reign supreme on the Costa del Sol. Whether it’s the sexy Nikki Beach, the safari-chic Trocadero Arena or the holistic Purobeach Marbella, you will be able to find the best beach clubs for you.
Nikki Beach Marbella, source: www.facebook.com/nikkibeachmarbella
4. Marbella’s micro-climate
Perhaps the secret to Marbella’s popularity is the weather. Sitting right on the sea it is backed by the Sierra Blanca mountain range in the north, making it a truly wonderful suntrap. While it may be windy in the Straits of Gibraltar, or rough waves up in Fuengirola, the weather in Marbella will mainly be calm and pleasant. The town has 320 days of sun per year and only 45 days of rain.
Beach at the Puento Romano Hotel
5. Beach it like a local
Sunburn is not attractive and it is not healthy, instead make like the locals and go to the beach in the early evening. At the height of summer, a trip to the beach between 4pm and 7pm is perfect and you won’t get too hot or burnt.
6. Fiesta for all
Somewhere nearby there will be a local fiesta going on. Spain is a Catholic country and so there are saint’s days all the time, meaning there are almost weekly parties in celebration. Sometimes the smaller ones are the best but make sure you check the local guides and what’s on pages and pencil in the activities, which can sometimes be up to a week long. Alternatively, before you book, look for what fiestas are coming up and plan your holiday around it. Semana Santa, for example, is a sight to behold and worth managing your trip around.
Pedro Romero festival, source: www.visitacostadelsol.com
7. It’s not all about the Costa
Your trip doesn’t have to be confined to the seashore, moving a little inland will reward you with pristine, white villages, and mountainous escapes. Put down your guide book and walk around, get lost in the little villages, you’ll find the main square quickly enough, then enjoy a snack in a local restaurant that will be cheaper than those on the shoreline. A drive further on you will find luxurious resort hotels with spas and good restaurants.
Istan (a short drive from the Costa del Sol), source: Flickr/Nan Palmero
8. Enjoy your day the Spanish way
Adopt the Spanish timetable and take advantage of the siesta. Shops and offices still do it and when the heat really hits, you can understand why. Staying out of the midday heat and sleeping your lunch off can set you up for an early evening dip followed by a late supper and some serious people watching.
When you go out for a coffee, don’t ask for a cappuccino. Café con leche is what you’re after; it is essentially the same as its Italian cousin. Don’t complicate things and ask for a drink that Spain hasn’t needed to adopt.
BDBA, source: www.bdba.com
10. Dress to impress
Seaside towns along the Costa del Sol have become havens for British celebrities. The Marbella area is also home to the rich and famous like Simon Cowell, Sean Connery and Alan Sugar. It’s no wonder that fashion and image for holidaymakers on the Costa del Sol is so important. The phrase ‘no carbs before Marbs’ had to come from somewhere.