It’s unfair, but for some reason, the Costa del Sol has a little bit of a bad reputation. The free-flowing drinks of certain party-friendly areas, the relatively affordable accommodation, and the influx of tourists from all classes – especially from the UK – have made it so that some people would never even dream of visiting the Costa del Sol. But how wrong they are, and what a fascinating part of the world they are missing out on.
This is the Andalusian coast, southern Spain’s gemlike offering to the world, and the location of much of the region’s connection to its past overlords – the Moors. And this is the enchanting thing about the Costa del Sol; how its history sits in proximity to its resorts, sparkling beaches, and ports.
Ruined castles look out over beaches where tourists sunbathe and paddle in the Mediterranean Sea; Roman relics sit next to convenient train connections; Renaissance churches are neighbors with souvenir shops – it all works in harmony.
Map of the Costa del Sol
Then there’s the nature; not just in terms of beaches and seaside fun, but all manner of other landscapes that make the Costa del Sol a beautiful place to explore for anybody active and willing enough to get outdoors and away from the beach. You’ll find clifftop trails, mountains to hike, and even superb cave systems to explore.
When it comes to finding a base for the night, the accommodation in Costa del Sol comes to the rescue. Here, you will find everything from friendly, family-run guesthouses for ultimate homely coziness, to shiny resorts complete with multiple pools and kids’ clubs.
A long established Costa del Sol getaway, Malaga comes complete with a range of accommodation to suit practically every visitor; there are many family-friendly resorts and high rise hotels to choose from in this port city.
Malaga may well have a reputation for partying, but there is a whole lot of culture and history to learn about and soak up here. Just head to the medieval Alcabaza – a Moorish palace complete with amazing views – or the Picasso Museum – set in a converted palace – to experience just a small portion of what makes Malaga tick.
From the nearby La Concepción Historical-Botanical Gardens to the beach that the resorts are centered around, the natural landscape here is something that’s very worth your time. Easy to get in and out of, Malaga is well connected by road, has a train station, and even an airport.
Where to Stay in Malaga
- Vincci Selección Posada del Patio – A swish, 5-star hotel, Vincci Selección Posada del Patio is located in the very center of town. With that in mind, you’ll find the Malaga Cathedral and the La Aduna Palace close by. The rooms at this high-end hotel are decorated in a simple, minimalist style, with muted color pops and textured walls; some feature large baths. Amenities-wise, this hotel boasts a rooftop pool and a restaurant, but most interestingly, there are archaeological finds (discovered under the hotel) on display – including parts of the city’s old wall!
- Mariposa Hotel Malaga – This stylish hotel has been decorated with an Art Deco-flavored eye for design, making for a cool place to stay. The spacious, monochrome rooms come with beautiful bathrooms to match, as well as large windows and balconies. The hotel also boasts an attractive sun deck as well as a small restaurant. There are also a whole lot of choices when it comes to dining nearby. In addition, Malaga’s Old Town is just a 15-minute walk away, and all the shopping on Calle Larios is easy to reach, too.
- Malaga Premium Hotel – Malaga Premium Hotel is suitable for drinking and dining; there’s a rooftop bar, which is great for evening sunset drinks, as well as two restaurants. The rooms at this 3-star design hotel come with cool feature walls, hardwood floors, and high ceilings. There are also floor to ceiling windows that open onto all the interesting sights and sounds of the city. In terms of location, it’s the perfect choice for those who want to explore the town: it’s set right on Malaga’s pedestrianized shopping street in the middle of town.
Further west along the Andalusian coast from Malaga lies the city of Marbella. Neither the typical ‘soulless’ Costa del Sol that makes many people shy away from this town nor the expensive haunt of the nouveau-riche, Marbella boasts 47 kilometers of beach to choose a spot on. There are also numerous cultural hotspots, all with a backdrop of the beautiful Sierra Blanca Mountains.
Take a walk around Marbella’s charming old town, choosing to stay anywhere from an affordable boutique hotel to a luxury resort, and take a stroll along the many paths of the Parque de la Represa.
Marbella may not have its own train station (it’s the largest city in Spain without one), but nearby Fuengirola does, and getting the bus from here to Marbella is simple enough.
Where to Stay in Marbella
- Vincci Selección Estrella del Mar – With a beautiful outdoor pool area surrounded by lush lawns and shaded by trees, as well as a sun-dappled outdoor terrace, Vincci Selección Estrella del Mar is a serene and picturesque place to stay. The rooms boast traditional terracotta floors and combine nicely with the calm, cream colors; there’s a private balcony where you can breakfast with sea views. Elviria Beach is mere steps from the hotel, so beach fans will have no trouble getting there. That’s if you can pull yourself away from the four pools on offer!
- Alanda Hotel Marbella – Alanda Hotel Marbella is located in the Marbella’s Golden Mile, which is one of the most luxurious places to live in town. Overlooking the Mediterranean and the Sierra Blanca mountains, this resort hotel boasts manicured gardens, complete with outdoor pools surrounded by palm trees and sun loungers. The rooms are modern, with light wood furnishings, hardwood floors, and whitewashed walls. They even have their own balconies, with large, luxurious windows. There is a spa and a gym, two onsite restaurants, and a poolside bar!
One of the small towns located between Marbella and Malaga, Benalmádena may be compact, but there is a lot going for this little Costa del Sol gem.
For families traveling in the area, you’ll be pleased to know that you’ll be able to amuse your children at least for one day at the Tivoli World theme park located nearby. They’ll probably also love the dreamy, fairytale-like castle of Castillo Monumento Colomares, a monument built in the late 1980s dedicated to the life of Christopher Columbus. There’s also an aquarium, in the form of Sea Life Benalmádena.
Staying in Benalmádena is easy, thanks to the number of predominantly budget to mid-range accommodation options. Getting here is simple too, thanks to the town’s railway station.
Where to Stay in Benalmadena
- Hotel Best Siroco – With its beachside location close to Torre Bermeja, this is the ideal place for those who want to spend their time soaking up the sun by the sea. The hotel boasts two large outdoor pools complete with numerous sun loungers, meaning there’s space for everybody. The rooms at Hotel Best Siroco overlook the gardens and the pool. They are simple with a decidedly minimalist yet warm design, and come with bathrooms to match. Here you can enjoy evening cocktails at the terrace bar or taste an array of Spanish dishes at the restaurant.
- Hotel La Fonda – Hotel La Fonda is situated inside an old building that has now been restored to its former glory. The classic architecture boasts whitewashed archways and a simply stunning interior courtyard complete with flowers and terracotta tiles. There’s even an outdoor pool just outside the bedrooms. This 4-star offering also features a gorgeous spa. Rooms boast marble floors and relaxing, earthy tones. Fans of golf can enjoy a selection of nearby golf courses, while if you’re interested in history, head Bil Bil Castle.
Complete with the Playa del Cristo beach, castle ruins in the form of Castillo de San Luis, plenty of affordable mid-range hotels, a train station, and plenty of other good points, the town of Estepona is a great option for anybody looking for a place to stay along the Costa del Sol.
It’s got a little bit of everything. Located west of Marbella, Estepona is famous for its Puerto Deportivo, complete with a few 5-star hotel options, a lot of restaurants, bars and cafes; this is also the place to go for sailing or diving excursions.
Plaza de las Flores is a picturesque place in Estepona to stroll around, filled as it is with flowers – as you might have been able to tell from the name. Here is where you’ll find the Colección Garó, home to a good collection of artworks ranging from 15th-century pieces to signed Picasso prints.
Where to Stay in Estepona
- TRH Paraíso – This is a large resort hotel where you will find practically everything you need for a seaside getaway. There’s a huge pool here to match. TRH Paraíso boasts a chic hotel restaurant with a vista that looks over the surrounding sea and mountains for evening meals with a view; there’s also a buffet breakfast served up in the mornings. The rooms are low key with hardwood bedframes, floors to match, and whitewashed floors, allowing the views to take center stage. Next door, guests will find a golf course.
- Diana Park – This 3-star hotel is a small but friendly place, with rooms that feel natural and cozy, but ultimately comfortable. They come with modern, tiled bathrooms, and balconies that look out across the pool. The outdoor pool at Diana Park is a pleasant place to cool off and catch a few rays in the afternoon, plus you can spend evenings drinking and dining at the hotel restaurant and bar. The location is close to a selection of golf courses, as well as the lovely El Saladillo Beach for a nice slice of sun, sea, and sand.
Backed by the peaks of the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama Natural Park, Nerja is located just east of Malaga and offers up a natural slice of Costa del Sol beauty.
This town is famous for the Caves of Nerja, which are arguably one of Spain’s most visited tourist sights – and for good reason. This magnificent wonder boasts neolithic cave paintings and stretches underground for five kilometers. They are large enough that concerts are even held inside!
Nearby, the Cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo provide ample opportunities for peaceful walks among the many trails lacing the cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea. You can even learn about the history of the town at the Museo de Nerja.
Thankfully, staying in Nerja is easy – there are numerous affordable hotels and guesthouses in town.
Where to Stay in Nerja
- Parador de Nerja – Perched atop a cliff, this sprawling hotel features beautiful views of the sea and surrounding mountainous landscape. Parador de Nerja offers direct access to the nearby Burriana Beach via a lift, which is extra convenient. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool set practically on the cliff edge, as well as lovely manicured gardens. The rooms boast traditional terracotta tiles, outdoor balconies (or sun terraces), and marble bathrooms. There’s a hotel restaurant where you can enjoy Andalusian Dishes, as well as a bar for drinks as the sun drops into the sea.
- Villa Flamenca – The rooms at this hotel may not be cutting edge, but they have traditional touches to them – like tiled floors, wood beds, and warm colors – that make them feel homely and comfortable. Outside of where you’ll be laying your head, Villa Flamenca features a rooftop terrace with sun loungers, a Jacuzzi, and a swimming pool. There’s a hotel restaurant and bar located onsite which are cozy and fun places to spend an evening. Location-wise, this 3-star hotel is a stone’s throw from Burriana Beach and close to the famed Balcony of Europe for amazing views.
Practically the whole coastline of Torremolinos is beach; from the shores of El Bajondillo to the smaller La Carihuela, you’ll have plenty of space to relax on this portion of sun, sea, and sand.
Situated just north of Benalmádena and a little to the south of Malaga itself, Torremolinos is well connected; the airport is not too far away at all. Plus, Torremolinos boasts multiple train stations (North to South: Los Alamos, La Colina, and Estacion de El Pinillo), which makes station hopping along the Costa del Sol simple indeed.
Torremolinos is also handily packed with accommodation offerings, from sea view apartments to family run guesthouses and big resorts, with just about everything in between – and most on the cheaper side of mid-range, too. It’s here where you’ll find the super fun, family-friendly waterpark of Aqualand Torremolinos.
Where to Stay in Torremolinos
- Melia Costa del Sol – This is a modern hotel with rooms that are minimalist in style – think white walls, white-painted furniture, clean and contemporary. That same theme continues throughout the rest of Melia Costa del Sol, with white sun loungers and umbrellas and around the pools, allowing the blue of the water to pop out. There’s a restaurant on site, serving up specialty dishes, but you’ll find many other places to eat along the nearby area of Bajondillo Beach, which is mere steps from this hotel.
Another of the Costa del Sol’s quintessential destinations that mixes beachside fun with history, Fuengirola boasts eight kilometers of beach, as well as the Moorish era Sohail Castle looking down over the town.
There’s a museum in town looking at the area’s local history; at the other extreme, there’s also a small waterpark – Aquamijas.
With two train stations – Fuengirola and Los Biloches further north – this town is easy to get to. There’s a number of affordable hotel options in town, too. Even the 4-star offerings here are quite easy on the wallet. Once you’ve bagged yourself a place to stay, there’s even more culture to discover; for example, Yacimiento Arqueologico Romano – the extensive ruins of a Roman-era bathhouse – is a fascinating site.
Where to Stay in Fuengirola
- Ilunion Fuengirola – With tasteful design featuring throughout this hotel from the eye-catching seating areas in the foyer to the tiled restaurant – Ilunion Fuengirola is certainly a stylish place to stay. The rooms at this 4-star hotel are subtly sophisticated and combine traditional aspects of the region with modern comforts; they even come with large, comfortable beds and sea views. The location of this hotel is excellent: it’s right near all the action of Fuengirola’s seafront promenade, itself a simple a stone’s throw from Los Boliches Beach.
Connected to Fuengirola to the south via the A-387 road, Mijas is situated 430 meters above sea level on a hillside. A long independent village, Mijas has been through trade with the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, and ruled by the Visigoths and then the Moors.
Needless to say, its location makes it an intensely picturesque place to stay. In some ways the fact that it doesn’t have a great deal of accommodation options keeps it feeling beautifully authentic.
There are a few choices, mainly in the form of lower mid-range villas and quaint guesthouses. But staying here is all about soaking up the landscape and enjoying the historic atmosphere – thanks to places like the wine-oriented Enoteca Museo del Vino Mijas or the beautiful church of Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña.
Where to Stay in Mijas
- TRH Mijas – Sandwiched between the beautiful beach and the rugged mountains, this hotel is a grand, classic piece of architecture. With rustic sunshades and clean lines around the vast pool, the old-school elegance of TRH Mijas is not to be underestimated. The rooms are very traditional but still beautifully finished, and come complete with charming bathrooms. Located near to golf courses, it’s also possible to reach Los Boliches Beach by car or public transport. But the sights of town, including the Ermita de la Virgen de la Peña, are only a short walk away.
Complete with a wonderful Moorish-era old town, the ruins of Castillo de Lizar, and the 16th-century palace of El Ingenio which now houses a molasses factory, Frigiliana is an intriguing Costa del Sol destination.
This town is not actually situated on the coast, but it’s not far north from Mijos along the winding road of MA-5105. This place is not to be missed – if not for that Moorish part of town alone, a hilly slice of town where steps lead through whitewashed houses decked out with plenty of flowers.
In terms of accommodation, there are B&Bs, villas, and pensions in Frigiliana, some of which inch into lower high-end territory in terms of price. It’s worth it though; this town is stunning. And when you need something to eat or drink, there are a fair few establishments in town catering to that!
Where to Stay in Frigiliana
- Hotel Villa Frigiliana – Hotel Villa Frigiliana is located inside a classic building with rooms to match. They may not be the most modern or lavish, but they’re quaint and have a charm of their own. The balconies have stunning views of the mountains and make a perfect spot for sunset. There is also an outdoor swimming pool, small but surrounded by old walls, as well a cozy restaurant. Situated just outside of town, this hotel is steps from the village itself, where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll around the old streets.