Each week we will be bringing you our new Area Focus feature that’ll give you the low down on some of our most popular and most interesting holiday destinations. This week we are looking at three of the best resorts on the Costa del Sol; La Cala de Mijas, Benalmadena and Marbella.
La Cala de Mijas
La Cala de Mijas began life as a quiet fishing village. Its golden sandy beaches and proximity to neighbouring Fuengirola and Marbella have made it popular with tourists that flocked to the Costa del Sol in the 1960s. Until the 1970s La Cala was known as ‘La Cala de Moral’ meaning ‘the Bay of Mulberries’ due to the number of mulberry trees in the area. The name was changed as it was thought to be too similar to nearby ‘Cala del Moral’ located near to Malaga. The resort grew in popularity throughout the 20th century and new holiday homes and apartments have been built in the area to cater for the steady flow of tourists that travel there to enjoy great beaches and the relaxed atmosphere of bars and restaurants in the village.
Amenities: La Cala has a great selection of bars and restaurants serving everything from freshly caught seafood to Chinese cuisine. A weekly market is held on a Saturday and this is popular with locals and tourists looking for a bargain. There are a number of shops in the resort including a bakery and butchers and several banks with ATM machines are located in the town as well. There are lots of great holiday homes around La Cala, perfect for a relaxing break.
Attractions: Entertainment isn’t in short supply in this part of the world and as with lots of resorts along the Costa del So golf is never too far away. There are a few courses very close to the centre of La Cala including ‘La Cala Golf, with 3 18 hole championship courses; ‘Mijas Golf’ which has 2 18 hole courses and ‘Santana Golf’, an 18 hole course set in Mijas countryside. For those that like a flutter on the horses the ‘Hipodromo Costa del Sol’ is situated just outside of La Cala de Mijas, up in the hills. The race course has two tracks and stands that hold up to 10,000 spectators. Racing events go on all year and it is a great evening out.
Events: A big event in La Cala de Mijas and the Mijas area is Mijas Carnival which takes place on the last two weeks of September each year. Streets are closed off, food and drink is served in the streets by local restaurants and there is a fairground and street musicians adding to the carnival feel. You don’t want to miss this party!
Benalmadena is a resort of two halves; it has the bustling coastal area that has been modernised and improved greatly over the last 10 years and it also has the traditional, whitewashed ‘pueblo’, a pretty village just inland from the main resort. Records of Benalmadena date back to the 7th century but the town was heavily influenced by Moorish settlements in the 15th century and there are two Almenara towers on the coastline here that still stand after being built in the 15th century to guard the coast from invasions of Barbary pirates (history buffs will enjoy a visit to these!).
Benalmadena is now a popular tourist resort due to its close proximity to Malaga Airport, family-friendly beaches and attractions and lively nightlife. In between the ‘Benalmadena Costa’ on the coast and ‘Benalmadena Pueblo’ inland you’ll find ‘Arroyo de la Miel’ which is the main residential area and is also home to Tivoli World Amusement Park. Arroyo de la Miel was built up in the 1700s to house paper factories but it is now home to many of the businesses and apartment blocks in the Benalmadena area.
Amenities: Benalmadena has everything you want in a family seaside resort including a large, modern marina with over 200 shops, bars and restaurants; clean sandy beaches and lots of sunshine! It is well located on the train line from Malaga Airport so getting to and from the resort is very easy. This line also runs to neighbouring resorts of Torremolinos and Fuengirola which makes getting around cheap and easy. The promenade along the seafront was redeveloped in recent years and the town now looks modern and fresh, it is also lovely to take a stroll along the promenade in the mornings when the town is peaceful.
Benalmadena Pueblo has retained all the charm of a traditional whitewashed Andalucian village with narrow cobbled streets and a village square. There are some great restaurants here and you also get great views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There is also a private hospital in Benalmadena for any medical needs or emergencies.
Activities: Benalmadena has so much to do you will never get bored! It is particularly great for families with lots of exciting attractions for kids. Tivoli World is an amusement park with children’s rides, live music events and lots and places to eat and drink. The park even has its own currency! On the Puerto Marina in central Benalmadena you will find the Sealife Centre which houses the largest collection of sharks in Europe. It is well worth a visit here with lots of other interesting marine life on show.
The Sealife Centre is also located right next to one of the Blue Flag beaches in Benalmadena so you can go for a chill out on the beach afterwards! Paloma Park is a beautiful landscaped park with a huge lake, gardens, children’s play areas and resident wildlife located in Benalmadena Costa. Entrance to the park is free and it’s a lovely place to have a picnic or just spend some time in the gardens enjoying the wildlife. For those that are not afraid of heights you can ride the cable car from opposite the entrance to Tivoli World right up into the mountains. The summit is 800 metres high and once at the top you can also experience a bird of prey exhibition with vultures, eagles, owls and falcons.
Benalmadena Pueblo is a wonderful place to spend the day. Yu can take in the magnificent views of the coast, visit Colomares Castle or even the Buddhist temple ‘Benalmadena Stupa’ which is located on the road form the pueblo up to Mijas. Benalmadena Peublo is also home to Europe’s largest butterfly park ‘Mariposario de Benalmadena.’
Events: Benalmadena residents are always up for a carnival and there are a few dates in the calendar that are worth noting. The 24 June is the day of San Juan, a festival all over Spain and celebrations in Arroyo de la Miel go on from 24 to 29 June with fireworks, street parties and a local fair. From July 15 to 29 the Benalmadena Summer Festival of Music, Theatre and Dance takes place in the wonderful surroundings of Parque de la Paloma with shows to suit all tastes going on over this period.
Marbella is synonymous with glamour and a favourite holiday destination of the rich and famous but the city is also rich in history. Marbella’s history stretches right back to 1600BC when the Romans conquered the city and named it Salduba, the Salt City. There are Roman ruins in the city including a Roman Baths. As with many cities in Spain there is a strong Moorish influence visible in Marbella with some beautiful architecture throughout the city including a fortress that was built to protect Arabs from Christian attacks. The ‘Old Town’ part of the city has lots of lovely buildings built around the Orange Square including the Town Hall, built in 1568; the Chapel of Santiago, built in 1552 and the Magistrates Court, built in 1552.
Amenities: There is very little that you will struggle to find in Marbella. All types of restaurant from Macdonald’s to fine dining establishments can be found in the city and its surrounding suburbs of Las Chapas, Elviria, El Rosario, Los Monteros and Rio Real. The beaches are wide and sandy and you can choose if you want a family-friendly spot or you can head to one of the super-trendy beach clubs that are dotted along the coast from central Marbella to its even flasher neighbour, Puerto Banus. There are no shortage of shops in Marbella, from little gift shops to designer stores. Puerto Banus is famed for its designer store with Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked outside. La Canada Shopping Mall is also just a short drive out of town and you’ll find over 150 high street stores here.
Activities: There are around 11 golf courses within a 10 minute drive of central Marbella including Marbella Golf and Country Club; La Quinta Golf; Santa Clara Golf and Los Naranjos. If you want to experience how the other half live take a walk down ‘Golden Mile’, the place where the rich and famous live. There are HUGE houses everywhere! There are 24 different beaches to choose from in Marbella and you will find a range of watersports and fishing trips available on many of these. You can take a horse drawn carriage tour of the Old Town of Marbella if you want to experience the ‘real’ history and beauty of this wonderful city. If you are a party animal there is no end of bars and clubs that stay open until dawn!
Events: Every year in the first week of June Marbella celebrates its patron saint San Bernabe with a week-long fair. San Barnabe Day is always on the 11 June but the dates of the fair can vary depending on where this falls. A king and queen of the fair are picked each year in a competition before the festivities begin and there is dancing, food stalls and entertainment throughout the week. Fireworks are set off on the Monday night before San Barnabe Day on the beach near to El Fuerte Hotel. There is lots going on in festival week so pick up a guide from the tourist office on Orange Square to keep up with all the events.
The Costa del Sol is a great year-round destination. Rent one of our Costa del Sol Villas with Heated Pools and enjoy a warm dip whatever the weather!