hey say you have never truly baked in the sun until you’ve done it along Spain’s Costa del Sol, and they may be right. With sunny days most of the year, it can beat the climate of any other part of Europe.
The Costa del Sol is part of the autonomous region known as Andalucia (Andalusia in English), which contains the provinces of Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga and Seville. It includes about 186 miles of the Spanish Mediterranean Coast belonging to Granada, Malaga and Cadiz, though the Granada Province coastline was recently redesignated as the “Costa Tropical”.
The whole coastline, consisting of a series of large beaches, coves half-hidden among cliffs, tony sports harbours and fabulous fishing grounds, is protected from the northern winds by a mountain chain which sometimes plunges right down to the edge of the sea. The mild climate, scant rainfall and the sea breeze produce a semitropical vegetation with frequent palm trees, cypresses, oleander and hibiscus, while inland there is a very different different countryside — mountains, valleys full of orchards and ancient whitewashed villages dozing in the sun.
We will be visiting the province of Malaga, tucked in between Cadiz and Granada and with the very best of everything the Costa del Sol has to offer.
The capital city of Malaga (also named Malaga) is the major coastal city in all of Andalucia. It is a genuine and typical Andalucian city with what has been called “a gritty individualism untouched by tourism and, to a large extent, the passage of time.”
Occupied by the Moors for centuries (until they were finally driven out after many long and vicious battles against the Christians in the 1400s), this city— indeed, the entire area— still bears the historic and architectural imprint of their reign. One of the best examples of this is La Alcazaba, a fortress which dates back to 1065 and is now a fascinating archaeological museum well worth a visit.
These days, Malaga prides itself on being a modern city with the heart of commerce dominated by Calle Larios which is the local Wall Street equivalent. This is a very good place to start exploring the city, as it is surrounded by attractive small streets and plazas, as well as the magnificent cathedral (which offers daily guided tours) and a plethora of small shops and local cafes.
During the nineteenth century, Malaga was a popular winter resort for the wealthy famed for its elegance and sophistication. The impressive park on Calle Alameda dates back to this era and is recognised as being one of the most celebrated botanical collections in all of Europe. During the winter, open air concerts are held here every Sunday which makes a refreshing change from the “bucket and spade” scenario on the coast.
A few miles outside of Malaga is Spain’s answer to St. Tropez: the scintillating city of Marbella. The motto of Marbella is “A Way of Life” and this luxurious resort area certainly seems to have it all. This is a great place for rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, or at least gawking at them from a distance.
But Marbella’s heart can perhaps be best appreciated by exploring the back streets in the old part of town. One of the prettiest places is the fabled Orange Square (“La Plaza de los Naranjos”) which is located just off the main street in the older district and also home to the 16th century town hall and tourist office where you can pick up a detailed map and any additional information.
The plaza is lined with stately buildings, small shops, art galleries, bars and bistros and is a hub of activity day and night. Depending on the time of year, of course, the colours here are truly dramatic and vibrant with the trees and exotic tropical plants set against a backdrop of dazzling white buildings and a deep blue sky. When the orange trees are in bloom, they scent the air of the entire town.
You should also be sure to explore the labyrinth of the surrounding narrow streets, where homes and shops intermingle to create the atmosphere of a small village. Here is where you will find numerous excellent restaurants to choose from, ranging from those specialising in everything from cordon bleu to the gritty individuality of a backstreet Spanish bar where the Serrano ham is gently cured by tobacco smoke and the tapas (snacks) are cheap and delicious.
Down towards the coast is the La Alameda park (Parque de la Alameda), the pride of Marbella, where you can book your personal horse and carriage to travel in style if you wish, or people watch from one of the pretty tiled benches scattered throughout the park. This small park, featuring a magnificent large central fountain decorated in traditional Andalucian tiles, is loved by locals and tourists alike as a tranquil place to take a break.
Leaving the park, going toward the sea, you will find yourself on a broad pedestrian walkway that is features original sculptures by Salvador Dali and Eduardo Soriano. This is arguably one of the most delightful promenades on the costa, and you will want to spend some time there. Flanked by elegant restaurants and bars, it is thankfully free of trinket and t-shirt shops.
With casinos, clubs and just about every sporting activity under the sun, few places can match Marbella for world class tennis, sailing and golf. There are some 50-plus golf courses in the area and three pleasurecraft harbours– not counting Puerto Banus.
Just west of Marbella, Puerto Banus is “the place to be pampered yachtside and watch the world go by or window shop at one of several of the world renowned fashion houses and boutiques. The port has grown considerably over the years and now includes a casino, commercial shopping centre, El Corte Ingles department store, marine observatory and a multi cinema with films shown in their original soundtrack. The nightlife is buzzing here with alfresco bars, piano clubs and discos which are open dusk until dawn.”
Five miles east of Marbella and minutes from Puerto Banus is where you will find the luxurious Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort, an Interval International-affiliated Premier Resort (designated by a Golden Pineapple).
Sporting 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments, these units feature 0pen living and dining areas with elegant and comfortable furnishings, including sleeper sofa in living area; fully equipped kitchen; televisions throughout, cable/satellite programming, DVD player; master suite with oversize soaking tub; fully furnished private balconies and patios; and in-apartment washer and dryer.
The resort itself boasts beachfront access; restaurants and a sports bar; a market with deli items, snacks, coffee, soft drinks and necessities; an outdoor beachside pool and garden lap pool with outdoor whirlpool spas; a children’s play area with a heated wading pool; a heated indoor family and children’s pools, heated indoor quiet pool with whirlpool spa; a fitness center, aerobics studio, shuffleboard, Fun Court; and a kid’s activity center.
Reflecting the Moorish architecture of five centuries ago, Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort is a destination with a wealth of old-world charm. Centrally located in Spain’s fabled Costa del Sol and a short drive to the exclusive beach at Puerto Banus, the resort puts you in the middle of the excitement, steps away from the beach and a million miles from the cares of everyday life. Marriott Vacation Club’s first European resort is just half an hour from Malaga airport and three hours from London or Frankfurt, situated close to local shops, elegant restaurants, and sidewalk cafes
With its usual attention to detail and care for location, Marriott Vacation Club chose a wonderful spot for its first European resort and then built it to perfection. You will absolutely adore it!
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.malaga.com/ –All of Malaga
- http://www.red2000.com/spain/malaga/ –Decent general info about Malaga
- http://www.cyberspain.com/passion/picasso.htm –About Picasso
- http://www.marbella-guide.com/ –A British guide to Marbella, online since 1999
- http://www.pgb.es/marbella/ –Marbella
- http://www.surinenglish.com/ –Local news, in English, for Southern Spain
- http://www.marbella-lawyers.com/ –A complete guide to law in Spain
- http://www.andalucia.com/banus/home.htm –About Puerto Banus
"On the Road" is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
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