Costa del Sol Holiday Planning Guide
Costa del Sol, literally translated as the "Coast of the Sun," extends for over 150 km (93 mi) along the Mediterranean Sea. This stretch of Spain's coastline is home to numerous beach resorts, many of which are considered among Europe's finest holiday destinations. Benefiting from a temperate climate, the region is an ideal place to visit for sailing, diving, or simply enjoying a dip in the sea and relaxing on the sand. Though urbanized and always packed with visitors from around the world, this coast retains numerous tiny coves and off-the-beaten-track bays where visitors eager to escape the crowds can lose themselves. And while warm sands and gentle waters may be the main Costa del Sol tourist attractions, the many seaside restaurants offer culinary delights, as well.
Places to Visit on Costa del SolMalaga
: Famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, this historical city mixes beautiful, old buildings with modern shopping streets, and provides the perfect jump-off point for exploring nearby beaches and hiking trails.Marbella
: This luxuriously cosmopolitan beach resort boasts quality nightclubs and restaurants alongside archeological heritage sites, museums, and entertaining cultural performances.Benalmadena
: Known for its year-round warm weather and gorgeous beaches, Benalmádena is peppered with ancient ruins and picture-perfect Andalusian villages. Fuengirola
: This city is among the most frequented stops on Costa del Sol tours for its white sand beaches, world-class shopping, and posh restaurants.Mijas
: Tourists flock to this mountainside town because of its traditional whitewashed houses, historical museums, souvenir shops, and golf resorts (including the largest one in Spain). Torremolinos
: Popular particularly with British and Irish tourists on holiday on the Costa del Sol, this resort town is known for its booming nightlife and beach scene catering especially to the LGBT crowd. Nerja
: Explore the world underground in this municipality, where evidence of Roman settlements and prehistoric times are found in old caves.Estepona
: Renowned for its clean beaches lined with delicious tapas bars and restaurants, this town is also a great base for trekking hiking trails through the mountains.Antequera
: Known as the "heart of Andalusia," Antequera is famous for the nearby karst limestone rocks and rich history as seen in its architecture and archeological finds.Torre del Mar
: Costa del Sol tourist attractions in this resort town include stunning beaches and historical buildings in an authentic Spanish atmosphere.
Things to Do on Costa del Sol
Popular Costa del Sol Tourist AttractionsCastillo de Gibralfaro
: Explore the ramparts, courtyard, and outer walls of this 15th-century castle that once played home to King Ferdinand and now features on Málaga's official flag.Marbella Old Quarter
: Stroll the cobblestone streets surrounded by historical buildings and citrus trees, admiring well-preserved architecture like the 16th-century city hall.Tivoli World
: The thrills at this amusement park span 40 various rides from bumper cars to a free-fall tower as well as performances of flamenco dancing, music, and pirate acts.Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Malaga
: Discover how crystals are formed and learn about the art of glass-making at this museum displaying 700 glass and crystal pieces dating as far back as Phoenician times.Playa de Burriana
: A Costa del Sol trip would not be complete without relaxing on a beach like Playa de Burriana, which offers water sports, beach playgrounds, and sun loungers available for rent.Teleferico Benalmadena
: Take a 15-minute journey on these cable cars from the coast of Benalmádena to the summit of the Calamorro Mountain, where visitors are rewarded with stunning views.Benalmadena Pueblo (The Old Village)
: This old Andalusian village is a picture-perfect place to walk among whitewashed houses, blooming flower beds, and historical buildings like its 15th-century church.Aqualand Torremolinos
: Cool off on your Costa del Sol holiday and make a splash in the pools at this water park featuring countless slides and other exciting attractions for all ages.Los Boliches
: This family-oriented beach boasts golden sands and calm Mediterranean waters equipped with cafes, restaurants, and the occasional music festival or flea market.Selwo Marina
: Get to know local marine life like dolphins, sea lions, penguins, tropical fish, and much more at this educational and interactive aquarium.
Planning a Costa del Sol Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Costa del Sol with Kids
The Mediterranean region of Costa del Sol is a playground for families, whether your group is interested in shopping, games, parks, or beaches. Explore the natural treasures in Nerja
and delve underground in prehistoric caverns, or dive underwater instead in Torremolinos
and swim with tropical fish. Fuengirola
is known for its world-class shopping as well as fun attractions like zoos and water sport centers. Include time to relax in your Costa del Sol itinerary and take the kids to any of the region's beaches, like the white sand shorelines and calm waters in Fuengirola or Benalmadena
Things to Do on Costa del Sol with Kids
In a region designed for tourism and family-friendly vacations, there is no shortage of Costa del Sol tourist attractions for kids. Appeal to your child's sense of wonder with a visit to the Fundación Cueva de Nerja
, a prehistoric underground world featuring eight rooms with stalactite and stalagmite formations. The site's main lobby displays human artifacts found on site, and one large cave hosts concerts. Discover the wildlife at Bioparc Fuengirola
, a man-made jungle habitat housing tropical birds and terrestrial mammals alike. Encourage the kids to identify each animal using the educational displays. If your young travelers enjoy animal-related attractions, go with Riding Fun In The Sun
on a horseback journey across the Andalucian countryside and beaches. The tour company offers a range of horses for all ages and skill levels with a choice of English or Spanish saddle. For children too young to ride horseback, Monte Aventura, Andalucia Ecotours
provides off-road Jeep tours in Sierra De Las Nieves
Challenge each other on the racetrack at Karting Experience Fuengirola
, a go-kart park located on top of a shopping center. One race usually lasts about ten minutes, and a smaller track is available for little children. Another game-filled afternoon awaits at Playa Mini Golf Espana
, a miniature golf course with 12 challenging holes, a restaurant, and beautiful ocean views.
Tips for a Family Vacation on Costa del Sol
If you are traveling with picky eaters on your Costa del Sol holiday, try ordering tapas. These small, appetizer-size plates are fun for everyone to nibble at, and also present a minimal commitment if the dish is not to your child's liking. Treat the whole family to the hidden gem at Mayan Monkey Mijas
, a chocolate factory offering tours and workshops demonstrating chocolate-making. Kids will love the opportunity to choose between 50 kinds of delectable concoctions.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Costa del Sol
Cuisine of Costa del Sol
Costa del Sol's cuisine is a delightful mixture of flavors from different cultures thanks to the area's history as a maritime trade center. Fish and rice dishes are the most popular foods--including pescaito frito and huevos a la flamenca--and you can cool off on your Costa del Sol holiday by sampling the region's refreshing cold vegetable soups. Do not miss the chance to try tapas in Malaga
, where Welovemalaga - Walking & Tapas Tours
offers walking and bike tours through the city while stopping to sample these delicious Spanish dishes from various restaurants. Love the local food so much that you'd like to recreate it later? Visit La Rosilla Lifestyle and Food
and learn how to cook traditional Costa del Sol dishes from a pro.
A gastronomic tour of Costa del Sol would be incomplete without tasting the wine. Take a full-day cellar tour or short boutique visit with Tannin Trail
, a company that organizes visits to cellars, vineyards, and shops with tastings and an English-speaking guide.
Shopping on Costa del Sol
There is no shortage of high-fashion shopping on Costa del Sol, but there are also plenty of options for unique items. Leather products, wooden utensils, furniture, and home decor are all popular handmade crafts that make perfect gifts or souvenirs of your Costa del Sol vacation. Find vintage pieces at La Casa Del Cardenal
, where antique furniture is renovated along with old ceramics, glassware, jewelry, and more. If it is vintage clothing you prefer, Vintage Deja Vu
sells clothing from every decade, including furs. If you can't find what you're looking for, head to Mercado Central Atarazanas
: this traditional market housed inside a 19th-century building sells stained-glass art, artisan cheeses, and everything in between.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Costa del Sol
History of Costa del Sol
Costa Del Sol has a long history going back to the Celtiberian tribes who settled throughout the Iberian peninsula. In the 8th century BCE the Phoenicians created the colony Malaka, which would eventually become the predominant city of the region, present-day Malaga
. It then fell under the rule of Carthage but was lost to the Roman Republic in the Second Punic War. Under Roman rule the area became connected to other hubs of civilization and culture throughout the peninsula by a series of roads called the Via Herculea.
The region was a part of Visigothic Spain after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was conquered during the Moorish invasion of Spain, and it was during this time the city, known then as Malaqa, had its city walls built. Visit Alcazaba
, a Moorish military stronghold, to learn about the Moorish conquest and admire the exquisite Muslim architecture. The region temporarily became an independent kingdom centered on Malaga in the 11th century before becoming part of the Kingdom of Granada. The siege of the city of Malaga was one of the major battles during the reconquest by the Catholics.
The region fell into decline until the 18th century, when foreign merchants started exporting wine and raisins from the area. Public works built around Malaga helped to revitalize the region--this, combined with its strategic location, made the area important in the early 18th century. After Gibraltar was lost to the British, Malaga became the Spanish Crown's key to defending the strait. The region continued its growth during the 18th century and eventually a business middle class began to emerge, which in turn fed a 19th-century economic boom.
The late 19th century saw an economic downturn in the area, which led to the loss of many jobs and troubles for the industries located in the region. A group of influential Malaga businessmen formed a society with the goal of revitalizing the area through the development of a tourist industry. The region saw some development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the beautiful Arabic-style structure at Centro Cultural Ayuntamiento De Benalmádena, Castillo de Bil Bil
--but this came to a halt with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, which pitted the Republic of Spain against a nationalist uprising.
The region and the city of Malaga stayed in Republican hands at the beginning of the war. Eventually, however, Franco's Nationalist forces and their Italian allies made a quick assault into the region and took the city of Malaga in less than a week. The Nationalist forces were responsible for several atrocities in the city, including the infamous Malaga-Almeria Road Massacre, during which they bombarded and shot down fleeing Republicans and civilians.
After the end of the war the region began developing its tourist industry again, spurred on by local nobility that took an interest and created resorts. In the 1950s the area grew in popularity and became a common celebrity vacation spot. In the 1960s this growth continued and the name Costa del Sol was coined. A new class of industrial workers led to the area's rapid development, including the rebuilding of the Malaga airport. See the airport's original terminal at Malaga Aeronautical Museum
, which is filled with aviation artifacts, hands-on displays, and old restored planes. Today, tourism in Costa del Sol continues to thrive and the region remains a favorite spot for international travelers.
Landscape of Costa del Sol
Costa del Sol harbors a wide variety of geographical features like gorgeous beaches, towering cliffs, calm bays, and sand dunes. See dramatic natural rock formations at El Torcal Natural Park
, where visitors can identify each formation by names like the Sphinx and the Camel. The park also displays the region's rich plant life like wild roses and orchids. If you're in search of a pristine white sand beach and turquoise waters for your Costa del Sol vacation, head to Papagayo Beach
. Thanks to walking paths, this stunning piece of shoreline backed by rocky cliffs is easily accessible despite the steep surroundings. Take snorkeling gear to look for fish, or if you really want to explore the underwater world around Costa del Sol, go diving with Simply Diving
. The PADI five-star center offers dives into colorful reefs, certification courses, and beginners' lessons.
Holidays & Festivals on Costa del Sol
Incorporating one of the region's exciting festivals into your Costa del Sol vacation gives you a taste of cultural activities. Two major festivals take place in July, at the height of the tourist season. Stop in Mijas
to join the Mijas Blues Festival, a five-day celebration with live blues performances every day. Marbella
's Starlite Festival, one of the region's largest events, starts in late July and continues for a whole month of musical performances, fashion, art, film, and cuisine--all outdoors under the stars. Feria de los Pueblos, another popular celebration held each April in Fuengirola
, offers a colorful and fascinating international festival showcasing food and entertainment from all over the world.
Costa del Sol Travel Tips
Climate of Costa del Sol
Nicknamed the Sunshine Coast for its 320-plus days of sunshine per year, Costa del Sol enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild, rainy winters. Most visitors plan their Costa del Sol holiday in spring, from April to May, or summer, from June through August, to take advantage of the warm temperatures. Spring sees minimal rainfall and average temperatures between 22 and 27 C (71.6 and 80.6 F). It almost never rains in summer, and days can climb to 29 C (84 F) or higher, while the sea averages around 23 C (73 F). That said, the waters remain swimmable year-round, rarely falling below 20 C (68 F).
Transportation on Costa del Sol
Costa del Sol's transportation system is easy to use, and routes stretch to most cities and towns. Buses are budget-friendly while also comfortable, providing the most affordable way to travel long distance. If you prefer to do your sightseeing in Costa del Sol on your own time, you can rent a car. Alternatively, hop on two wheels: bicycle rides make a great way to see the countryside and meet the locals.