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Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

The best and worst of the Western Costa del Sol
Sunday, October 2, 2022 @ 12:17 PM

The Costa del Sol has been “going” for a long time. The first coastal villages West of Málaga City to be developed into holiday resorts were Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola and Marbella.

Some were built quickly and cheaply without much regard for planning regulations.

In an effort to cash in on the new concept of the “package tour”, hotels were simply thrown up with little attention paid to comfort, safety and issues of longevity.

Many of these tatty structures have been or are being torn down, to be replaced with altogether more tasteful and attractive alternatives.

Pablo de Ronda lives out of choice up in the mountains of the Serranía de Ronda, yet he has ventured from time to time to the strange, dirty, noisy and expensive world of the coast of sunshine.

I have been on day trips to Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Marbella, San Pedro de Alcántara, Estepona, Casares Playa, Manilva and Algeciras. Of these I like the eastern end of Torremolinos out towards Guadalmar best, as it is still quite undeveloped, yet has a great beach and loads of chiringuitos.

On my one visit to Benalmádena I didn’t spot a single Spaniard. Enough said.

San Pedro town I like a lot. It has a great atmosphere and is nice and open. The beaches are stony, however. The chiringuitos are good, if somewhat pricey.

Estepona is a genteel town with an enchanting casco antiguo (old part), a great main beach, a pretty port and some fine restaurants. It’s a very well-cared-for place.

Casares Playa, despite the name, has disappointing beaches. Friends of ours have a front-line apartment on a newish urbanización there. We enjoyed a visit to see them and even swam in the sea in the winter, December 2021.

Manilva we visited off-season on the recommendation of Spanish friends, but it was dead. The beach chiringuito that had been suggested to us was all shut up for the winter. Fortunately we had spotted an Argentine restaurant on the main road. El Estribo gave us an outstanding lunch which included some fabulous Argentine beef.

We travelled on Mr Henderson’s railway to Algeciras for my 61st birthday. We shan’t be going again. It’s not an attractive town, it’s grubby and quite boring.

That’s my personal view of the places I’ve been to on day trips on this part of the Costa del Sol.

My one experience of staying overnight (two nights, in fact) was quite recent, in September 2022. My wife, sister-in-law and I had a mini-break in the Mijas area. We stayed in Colinas del Faro between La Cala de Mijas and Fuengirola. A very convenient location from which to explore the area.

On the first evening we attended a gala dinner of the Costa Press Club at Restaurante Play in Mijas Costa. Although this was a private function for over 60 people, we could tell that it would be a great place for a romantic dinner for two overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Good food and friendly staff.

On the following morning I had an early coffee or two in Fuengirola, at Granier on the seafront and in a churrería in the Los Boliches part of town. I’d been to Fuengirola a few times over the years and I’m afraid it continues to disappoint. Seedy and shabby, it badly needs a facelift. Its splendid beach deserves a better resort behind it.

La Cala de Mijas is a better bet. It’s a pretty little village nestled between the busy A7 and the beach, which is fantastic. Parking is a nightmare, however. All three of us went there for breakfast. We chose a chiringuito on the beach. Set up for tourists there were various English breakfasts on offer, which were huge, so reasonably good value-for-money. We were well-fed.

After a bit of expensive window-shopping – even the sale goods were eye-poppingly pricey – we headed up into the hills to Mijas proper, ie Mijas Pueblo. This is without question a classy town with a terrific ambience. There were plenty of spectacular views to enjoy.

We lunched at one of the many restaurants crowded around the main square. The only one with a table in the shade. Gastrobar Alboka offered a range of gourmet tapas, from which we chose a couple each. Excellent, if somewhat dearer than we’re used to up in the Serrania de Ronda.

That night we did a bit of research on Trip Advisor and opted for Tapas Bar Bocarte in Cala de Mijas. We dined on excellent tapas which were generous in size and tasty, but once again expensive. On the night we were there the service was very slow, although they were very busy, to be fair. All in all, though, we had a good night, and we would go there again if we were in the area.

Our final breakfast was in Granier in Fuengirola. I had been the day before, but the womenfolk not. Expensive, but we knew it would be. What we didn’t expect was a 60€ surcharge – a parking fine!

So, that’s my review of the western Costa del Sol. Highlights, in alphabetical order, are: Cala de Mijas, Estepona, Guadalmar, Mijas Pueblo, San Pedro de Alcántara and Torremolinos. The rest you can keep.

Like 3


rob_j1 said:
Saturday, October 8, 2022 @ 11:08 AM

I Always found the port at Sotogrande to be nice with a lot of great eating experiences. I would have recommended you to try Benahavis as well, although if you're sticking to coastal areas, then maybe it's too far inland. Nevertheless, it is a lovely place.

PablodeRonda said:
Sunday, October 9, 2022 @ 6:44 AM

Hi, rob_j1
Thanks for reading my blog and for your comment.
I have been to both Sotogrande and Benahavis. Sotogrande is not my cup of tea - too much wealth, polo and golf. Benahavis I like very much, but, as you guessed, I didn't include it because it's not on the coast.
One is on a hiding to nothing with this kind of article because it's subjective. For example, I don't like Fuengirola, but clearly thousands, if not millions, do, as it continues to be busy with tourists.

carvajal7 said:
Saturday, October 15, 2022 @ 12:49 PM

I’m going to defend this part of the coast having lived in Carvajal ( between Fuengi and Benalmadena) although I quite agree about Fuengi itself!
Hubby and I spent a few lovely summers on Menorca in 2001 onwards but then decided to try the mainland and the Costa del Sol. We located a private villa with pool in Pueblo Lopez in Fuengi - that was all lovely and then we ventured into the town in the evening for dinner and I remember bursting into tears at the sight of all the drunks and nightclubbers taking over the seafront! I demanded that we get the 1st available flight home!
However due to the villa being so lovely and peaceful but within walking distance of all amenities I actually settled down.
To cut a long story short we decided to buy an apartment in Carvajal ( 3 stops away from Fuengi on the train) in 2004 and lived there permanently from 2012 for 3 and a half years - we came back to the U.K. due to family issues and had to sell but we return to Los Boliches every time we go away - the beaches there are lovely and it is much less seedy than Fuengi itself with all the amenities still. We absolutely love Granier in LB!
We were both teachers and an ex headmaster bought a place in Nerja and we often used to fly out together to Malaga for half term breaks etc and he said that he lived in the posh end whilst we were in the common end! However he would always be rushing off to collect his rental car in Malaga whilst we leisurely caught the Cercanias train which took us right to our home in Carvajal and all the other popular destinations along the western side to up to Fuengirola.
(*It is a no brainer to extend this line to Marbella and eventually to Gibraltar - no idea why the govt keeps stalling on this - it is already the most profitable local train line in the whole of Spain!)
So we visited Nerja for a weekend - yes, it was prettier but we actually found it quite limited in terms of choice of cafes and restaurants and quite boring in the end!
Whilst living in Andalusia we also visited Ronda, Cordoba and Sevilla - again, we found Ronda quite boring; Cordoba was ok and we loved Sevilla!
Like you say these things are all a matter of personal choice and no offence intended by my opinions.
We’re very quiet people and yes, the western side of the Costa is way too busy in July and August and probably much more expensive than inland. There are probably too many high rise blocks although less than Benidorm I would say but we just returned yesterday from an absolutely lovely 10 days of more or less empty beaches and apart from a few little showers still gorgeous weather for October so all in all after a very shaky start 21 years ago I have to say that I do love the western side!

carvajal7 said:
Saturday, October 15, 2022 @ 12:49 PM

Sorry - it went through 3 times 🤣🤣

PablodeRonda said:
Sunday, October 16, 2022 @ 6:06 AM

Hi Carvajal7
Thanks for your comments. I found them very interesting. You should write a blog.
I confess I don't know Carvajal - it sounds lovely.
As you say these things are all a matter of personal choice.
I wouldn't wish to live in Nerja but I've enjoyec my several short visits there.
I'm surprised you find Ronda boring - it's anything but for me. My first wife and I fell in love with it so much on a short visit in 2000 that by the following year we were the proud owners of an apartment there. We used it at least once every year for holidays.
As time went on we divorced and I retired early but I retained the apartment for another 14 years.
In the meantime I had met and married my second wife who was already living in the area.
We have lived just outside Ronda for the last 11 years.
Apart from Ronda's beauty, the cultural offer is second to none, with regular theatre, concerts and other events. There are some outstanding restaurants and tapa bars.
Córdoba is one of my favourite Andalucían cities, along with Cádiz. Sevilla is indeed spectacular.
I agree with you about the railway line. I understand that it would be too expensive to extend because of the difficult terrain.
Finally, I'm glad you got to like Spain after your shaky start and that you've enjoyed your many years here. Shame you had to go back.
BTW, I was also a teacher.

jhna said:
Sunday, October 16, 2022 @ 10:36 AM

I suppose it's all a matter of personal choice and I thank you for your entertaining and informative writing. I would however, like to take issue with you - in the nicest and most polite manner possible! - concerning Algeciras. I've lived there for 30 years (working in the container port) and have found the people lovely, friendly and open, apart from the odd few regarding Gibraltar. Whilst Algeciras is not a tourist destination in it's own right, (port towns do tend to be a bit seedy don't they, but I've never had my car broken into in Algeciras, unlike in Sotogrande when I visited a friend?) it's ideally situated for Tarifa and Cadiz, with my favourite beach in the whole of Spain, Bolnia, only a 30-minute drive away. We live in a lovely house with a fantastic view of Gibraltar, Morroco and the open sea beyond. So Algeciras is not a 'postcard town' but I feel makes up for it in terms of the people and some great little tapas bars.

PablodeRonda said:
Monday, October 17, 2022 @ 6:11 AM

Hi jhna
I realise that I'm on a hiding-to-nothing when I write opinion pieces like this.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I'm quite happy to acknowledge that some people might find that the places I like, such as Ronda, Montejaque, Nerja and Frigiliana (all Malaga), are boring. Equally I'm happy to admit that maybe I didn't give Algeciras much of a chance having only spent a day there. What you say about port cities is right, they can be rather seedy/shabby. Take Cádiz - I love it there, and back in the UK, I love Liverpool and Bristol, although they're not everybody's cup of tea.
Maybe I should stick to writing factual stuff .....

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