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Costa del Sol /Malaga, Spain

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know…?

  • Painter Pablo Picasso was born in the city of Malaga.
  • Hundreds of spaghetti westerns were shot in the Tabernas Desert outside Almeria.
  • Of the 101 town names in Malaga province, 14 begin with “al” which means “the” in Arabic.
  • Bulls are not attracted to red but to the matador’s large, fast-moving cape.
  • The name Torremolinos (Tower of the Mills) recalls the town’s now-lost mills, built when the Moors ruled.

Down by the seaside

The Costa del Sol, or Sun Coast, reaches across Spain’s southern shore, sitting on the Mediterranean Sea and facing Africa’s northern coast. It’s in the province of Malaga, where the capital city also is Malaga. Blessed with a warm climate, sunny skies and sandy beaches, the Costa del Sol is heavily reliant on tourism, much of it from northern Europe.

The city of Malaga is roughly at the center of the beach area. East of Malaga, the Costa del Sol ends at Nerja although, for many, the Sun Coast is understood to extend farther east, to Almeria, capital of Almeria province.

West of Malaga, the Costa del Sol curves to the south toward Gibraltar. The major resorts are here, including Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Torremolinos, plus the celebs’ favorite, Marbella.

The western part of the Costa del Sol has more of everything — it’s got the glitz and glamor, but it’s got the crowds and the bulk of hotel and other development. Put more plainly, some stretches are overdeveloped.

Generally, the resort towns have histories of some interest, whether they were simple fishing villages or something more consequential — and the old town centers are there for the curious to explore. The histories of Malaga and Torremolinos reach into antiquity encompassing the Phoenician, Greek and Roman times.

Spain was conquered by the Moors (north African Moslems) in the eighth century. The Costa del Sol was in the last area to be taken back by the Spanish, in 1492. As a result, several coastal towns have Moorish fortresses on view, as well as churches that were built soon after the Reconquest.

Aside from those sightseeing attractions, the resorts offer entertainment and enlightenment, whether at nightclubs and flamenco shows or at religious festivals and in museums.

Everywhere, mountains are nearby, good for journeys inland to shop and sightsee in perched villages or pursue the active life caving or rock climbing. Some caves, inhabited in the Paleolithic era, appeal as sightseeing attractions, too. But, above all, the Costa del Sol remains a beach destination, with options for things like diving, fishing, sailing plus dolphin and whale watching.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a look under the water; scuba diving is available along the Costa del Sol. As are deep-sea fishing, sailing and snorkeling.
  • In Malaga, factor in time for the museum focused on the history of bullfighting and the history of Malaga’s bullring, La Malagueta, but the Humane Society International recommends against attending a fight because attendance supports animal cruelty. During Holy Week, attending a lecture on bullfighting is another option.
  • Make a night of it in the restaurants, discos and clubs in downtown Malaga. In summer, when there is more action, branch out for nightspots in Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Torremolinos and, especially, Marbella.
  • In this region most known for sun, water and beaches, try canyoning and caving, available because of rugged terrain a few miles inland and sometimes a lot closer. Also, near Malaga, visit the Cueva del Tesoro where optimists have long hunted for treasures rumored to have been left by Moorish rulers.
  • At Malaga’s Picasso Museum, housing the painter’s works, join an introductory engraving workshop.
  • Rent a rowboat in Nerja and hightail it to one of the area’s isolated coves for privacy and tranquility on the Sun Coast.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Shop for Andalusian crafts — baskets, pottery and woven goods — in the charming village of Mijas. Visit the Mijas bullring and the Lady of the Rock Church (carved into a hillside rock). Hire a donkey for transportation in town.
  • Attend the Cueva de Nerja Festival (International Festival of Music and Dance), staged inside the caves each summer. At other seasons, see the caves for the signs of habitation during the Paleolithic era.
  • Order pescaito frito — a platter of fried fresh seafood — the most popular dish on this coast. Sample traditional Malaga wine, and consider visiting the Wine Museum in Malaga, too.
  • In June, be on hand for Marbella’s annual fiesta celebrating its patron saint, an event featuring fireworks, flamenco and processions. Or, in the spring, experience Holy Week celebrations in Malaga.
  • Drive the scenic coastline, considering these choices: from Nerja to La Herradura, from Calahonda to Castell de Ferro or from Aguadulce to Almeria.
  • At Marbella, join a trip to observe whales and dolphins, generally seen in the Bay of Gibraltar.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take excursions to nearby perched villages, such as Casares, 15 miles from the coast.
  • Visit Mini-Hollywood, a real movie set now part of a theme park, outside Almeria. See a familiar-looking Wild West, which was a backdrop for scores of spaghetti westerns; the same landscape served “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
  • Go to beaches like Algarrobo, Guadalmar or Malapesquera. Sample area spa services, too.
  • Play golf or tennis or both. Your choice.
  • Sightsee in Malaga, seeing the Moorish Alcazaba fortress, which is now the Archaeological Museum, and the Castillo de Gibralfaro, also a Moorish fortress. Another itinerary item: the Pablo Ruiz Picasso House Museum focused on the artist’s life and located in his childhood home.
  • Attend a flamenco dance performance. See the Flamenco Museum in Malaga.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Costa del Sol Tourism at