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.