About Marbella beaches
Marbella is the aristocrat of the Costa del Sol, patronised since the 1950s by princes, sheikhs and Spanish socialites, and developed as a playground for like-minded and like-monied people. Nowhere is this more conspicuous than at its famous leisure port, Puerto Banús, where some of the world’s biggest and most expensive private yachts moor. For a taste of old Marbella, wander round the picturesque Casco Antiguo (Old Town) with its narrow whitewashed alleyways and flower-filled balconies. Around the exquisite little main square, Patio de los Naranjos, are some beautiful 16th- and 17th-century buildings.
Marbella comprises 27km (17 miles) of coastline with 24 named beaches, stretching from San Pedro de Alcántara (west) to Calahonda (east). Most are naturally formed from soft golden sand, some are grey and man-made. The popular ones offer all watersports, inflatable rides, beach bars, showers and other facilities. The most popular are the centrally located Puerto Banús, La Fontanilla, La Venus and La Bajadilla (the last two are also known as El Fuerte). Heading east, the beaches of Las Chapas, Artola/Cabopino, and Calahonda are rated by many visitors as the best. Cabopino is a naturist beach with dunes.
Beyond the beach:
The Costa del Sol is also known as the Costa del Golf, with a dozen clubs in and around Marbella alone – the Nueva Andalucía area is home to several courses. Just along the coast are several world-famous championship courses. There are also top-class tennis clubs and sailing opportunities locally. You can learn to water-ski the easy way (on a lake, by Cable Ski) at Parque de las Medranas in San Pedro de Alcántara. On those rare rainy days, there are two important museum collections to visit. The Museo de Bonsai (Avenida del Dr Maiz Viñal) holds Europe’s finest collections of tiny trees. The Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo (Museum of Spanish Contemporary Engravings) at Calle Hospital Bazán (www.museodelgrabado.com), houses etchings by such famous names as Picasso and Miró.
Despite its adult-oriented jet-set image, Marbella is very well equipped for families. Funny Beach (Carretera N-340, Km 184) includes trampolines and mini-motorbikes plus water-skiing, jet-skis and go-karts for older kids and adults. At Puerto Banús, Cortylandia is designed for younger ones and includes gentle train trips, mini cars and canoe rides. Selwo Aventura (Carretera N-340, Km 162.5, between San Pedro de Alcántara and Estepona: www.selwo.es) is an impressive African-themed nature park where 2,000 animals and 700 birds roam in as-near-natural-as-possible conditions. Natura Aventura (Calle Santa Beatriz 32, San Pedro de Alcántara: www.natura-aventura.com) is an outdoor pursuits adventure park for all ages, including canyoning, climbing, go karts, paintballing, and canoeing.
Mijas (33km/20 miles east) is an idyllic little Andalucian village which has been over-gentrified to accommodate the expectations of coach loads of daily visitors, but is still worth seeing, particularly at quiet times. At Mijas Costa (27km/17 miles east), Parque Acuático (Carretera N-340, Km 209; www.aquamijas.com) is a popular waterpark with the usual rota of white-knuckle flumes and rides. For more major family attractions head 45 km/28 miles east to Benalmádena Costa. Ronda (61km/38 miles north west of Marbella), set above a spectacular ravine in the midst of classic rolling Andalucian countryside, is one the region’s most attractive and historically interesting towns.
There is no shortage of places in Marbella where you can blow the budget. If you want to do it on a meal try La Hacienda, a delightful quiet rustic spot 13km (8 miles) east of Marbella (Urbanización Hacienda Las Chapas, Carretera de Cádiz Km 193; www.restaurantelahacienda.com). Or maybe The Beach Club (Rio Real Playa, Carretera de Cádiz), a buzzy beachside restaurant where you can spot celebs, listen to live music and tuck into lobster lasagne with truffles. If you want to spend yet more serious money after that, dress to kill and head to the Olivia Valere Discoteca (Carretera d’Istan, Km 0.8, near the mosque; website: www.oliviavalere.com). The guest book includes Bruce Willis, Naomi Campbell and Joaquin Cortes!