Costa del Sol, Spain

Rincon de la Victoria, Costa del Sol Beaches, Spain. Jebulon

Rincon de la Victoria beach, Costa del Sol, Spain. Photo by Jebulon.

Costa del Sol beaches, Andalusia

Along 160 km of Spain’s south-central coast, running from Estepona to Nerja, the Costa del Sol (Sun Coast) is the country’s primo sun and sand destination. The reason is simple, because it claims to get 300 days of sunshine a year (though the sun is not reliable outside May-October) and partly because it used to be beautiful – apart from the depressingly grey tinge to most of the sand hereabouts.

Some people think the entire coast from Gibraltar to Cabo de Gata is one costa, but actually after Nerja it becomes Costa Tropical and then finally in the far east Costa Almeria.

These Costa del Sol beaches, protected from northerly winds by the Sierra Blanca mountains, offer extensive, rather coarse beige-fading-to-grey sands rinsed by warmish Mediterranean waters.

One of the best aspects of a holiday in this region – Andalusia – is that when visitors are tired of getting fried on the beaches they have easy access to Andalucia’s stunning inland tourist attractions (a couple of hours in a rental car, or take a tour). Sights such as  Seville, Granada and Cordoba, and traditional white-washed, hill-top villages  known as Pueblos Blancos (such as Mijas, just 20 minutes away) and gorgeous Ronda.
And then there are the mass of championship golf courses dotted around the area that trumpet this as the Costa del Golf.

This combination of sun, sand and sights is a big draw, enticing huge numbers of low-cost travellers and stuffing the beaches with boozy, burnt-to-a-crispy-pink Brits, Germans and Russians.

As a result of its dubious charms and excessive bribe-controlled development the Costa del Sol is Europe’s most congested coastal strip, with a succession of world-recognised holiday complexes and overbuilt resorts. Some of the most popular places are Marbella, Torremolinos, Malaga and Nerja.
Our choice of best beach resort on this Costa is Estepona.

From west to east, the Costa del Sol’s biggest beach destinations


Paseo maritimo, Estepona, Costa del Sol Beaches, Spain. jaycross

Paseo Maritimo (the street) and La Rada beach in Estepona, Costa del Sol. Photo by Jaycross

Estepona’s La Rada beach is wide and 1. 5kms long, with soft though dull coloured sand, backed by a fine promenade and all the usual facilities. The beach is much bigger than neighbouring Marbella’s several offerings but the town is smaller and quieter and offers a more ‘real’ Spanish beach vacation with a charming old town and little late night action.

Estepona has a large and active fishing port that not only supplies the town with fresh fish, bars and restaurants but is also home to a regular Sunday market.

A few minutes west along the coast is lovely little cove of Cristo Beach with lifeguards and a couple of beach cafés and bars, while further on is Spain’s first nudist Costa del Sol beaches, Costa Natura.

Estepona claims a micro climate of over 325 days of sunshine a year and is only 45 kms from Gibraltar Airport though we can’t recommend that route as ‘immigration’ queues to enter Gibraltar territory can be ridiculous, depending on how hostile the Spanish border guards are feeling that day.
Malaga’s excellent airport is 80 kms away, fastest via the A7 autopista (toll road).


Prom beach Marbella, Costa del Sol Beaches, Spain. TimOve

A distant Marbella beach, Costa del Sol. Photo by TimOve

An hour’s drive to the west of Malaga, Marbella is often referred to as the Miami/Monaco of Spain, where the rich and beautiful people hang out.  There may be some uber-expensive enclaves in the area, such as Puerto Banus, and some smart street like Ancha above, but central Marbella is inhabited mostly by honeymoon couples and desperate housewives. . . More on Marbella


Torremolinos, Costa del Sol Beaches, Spain

Torremolinos in October. Photo by Jeanne Menj.

Torremolinos’ 9km of dark grey beaches are well maintained but dominated by high-rise hotels and apartment blocks. Most tourists go to Torremolinos more for the vibrant sort-of Spanish nightlife than these dull Costa del Sol beaches.

In the high season, both Playamar-Bajondillo in the east and Playa La Carihuela in the west are stuffed with packaged holiday makers, 70% of them from the UK. Party animals enjoy La Carihuela with its excellent beach bars. Torremolinos is 8 km from Malaga airport and 13 km from Malaga city centre. Buses are fast and cheap and you pay on entering to the driver.

Approximate time by bus or car from Torremolinos to:

Granada, 3 hours; Ronda, 2 hours 25 min; Sevilla, 2 hours 30 min; Cordoba, 3 hours 30 min; Algeciras, 2 hours 40 min; Estepona, 1 hour 40 min; Marbella, 1 hour 5 min; Mijas, 1 hour; Fuengirola, 50 min; Malaga, 35 min.


Playa Malagueta, Costa del Sol Beaches, Spain

Playa Malagueta, Malaga, photo by elfeffe.

The gray sand beaches and reasonably calm waters along the bay of Malaga are all well-maintained and well provided with facilities, ideal for families. More on Malaga


Nerja, Costa del Sol Beaches, Spain

Typically small but comfortable and convenient Calahonda beach, but only if you are staying in Nerja, otherwise parking is close to impossible. The beach beyond (photo below) is popular Burriana. Photo by Robert Martinez.

50 km from Malaga airport Nerja’s beaches are mostly small and tranquil but the sand is still coarse, light grey and tends towards pebbles despite the fortune spent by the local authority on importing fine sand. Nerja town is pleasantly white and walkable but somewhat dull and overbuilt. No change there then, business as usual on Costa del Sol beaches.

Nerja’s largest and most commercial beach is Burriana, with many restaurants, cafes and water sports available while the longest (2km) and least crowded sand is on Playazo or El Salon, secluded, sandy bays.