Living in Costa del Sol Spain: The Definitive Guide

Costa del sol Spain

The Costa del Sol Spain is a popular tourist destination, known for its sunny weather and a wide variety of attractions and activities.

From exploring historic cities such as Malaga, to relaxing on sandy beaches in Nerja or Fuengirola, there is something for everyone in this diverse region.

With a multitude of accommodation options, including luxury hotels and private villas, and easy access via Málaga-Costa del Sol airport, the Costa del Sol is an excellent choice for an unforgettable Spanish getaway.


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Top Places to Visit in Costa del Sol Spain

The Costa del Sol is a region filled with excitement and captivating scenery.

From vibrant cities to small charming villages, it offers something for every type of traveller.

Here are some of the top destinations in Costa del Sol that you absolutely must not miss.

Malaga: A Vibrant and Cultural City with Lots to See and Do

Malaga is a city on the Costa del Sol Spain that offers something for everyone.

This cultural hub is perfect for art lovers and history buffs. Visit Pablo Picasso’s birthplace and delve into the famous painter’s life and works.

You can also wander along the streets of the old town and marvel at the Renaissance and Baroque architecture or visit the Alcazaba fortress, one of the most important Moorish castles in Spain.

If you are looking for some leisure time, head to Calle Larios for some shopping, or visit the famous Muelle Uno, an open-air mall offering restaurants, bars and boutiques, while enjoying beautiful sea views.

Málaga City is the capital of Málaga province and the largest city in the area.

A proper city with a lot of restaurants, museums, shops, and sights, Málaga is perfect for those who want Coastal Life with the conveniences of a big city.

The historic center is charming, full of narrow alleyways and plazas.

The area’s largest airport, with plenty of direct domestic and international flights is in Málaga.

And Málaga is well connected by transportation – the AVE, high speed train, services the city.

There are two commuter train lines heading to other cities on the Costa del Sol Spain and inland.

And within the city limits, there is a metro line and plenty of busses, making having a car unnecessary.

Unlike many other parts of the Costa del Sol, Málaga City is very Spanish, especially once you get out of the center.

That makes it the perfect spot for those who want to learn Spanish and integrate more in Spanish culture (instead of living in an enclave of expats).

It also is rich in Andaluz culture, with an annual Feria every august.

And there is so much history here too.

The well excavated Roman Theater can be visited for free.

And looming over the city is the Alcazaba, a fortress used to protect the city during the middle ages.

With a population of around 578,000, Málaga city is Spain’s largest city, and is one of the most underrated big cities in Spain!

Malaga Spain

Marbella: A Luxury Destination for High-End Holidays and Nightlife

Marbella is a glamorous destination that appeals to a more luxurious and sophisticated crowd.

With its high-end boutiques, world-class restaurants, and impressive millionaire’s harbor, it has a lot to offer.

Don’t miss out on the vibrant nightlife, which will give you a night to remember with its bustling bars, up-scale clubs and trendy parties.

Make sure to visit the famous Puerto Banus, where you can enjoy luxury yachts and exotic cars in the company of the rich and famous.

To make your experience even more luxurious, you can enjoy some of Marbella’s famous beach clubs, where you can sip cocktails and enjoy the sunshine in style.

Upscale and more exclusive, Marbella is Costa del Sol’s most expensive area.

The city itself is clean, has a lovely boardwork lined with shops and restaurants, and has a quaint historic center.

It is the second most populous municipality in the province of Málaga after Málaga City.

Full of life and culture, between July and October the city hosts a number of festivals including an international film festival.

There are loads of museums, shops, and restaurants as well as sites of historical and cultural significance.

Very international, Marbella is home to a large number of foregin residents.

Marbella also has (or was home to) many rich and famous residents including George Clooney and Sean Connery.

Marbella’s marina is also a popular place for luxury yachts from all around the world to dock.

Not surprisingly, some of the Costa del Sol’s most beautiful beaches are around Marbella.

There are upscale golf courses and beautiful hills nearby for walks in nature.

Marbella has all the amenities of a city for the Spanish dream abroad.

It just comes at a higher price than the other Costa del Sol locations.

Ronda: A Picturesque Gem in the Mountains with Historic Roots

Ronda is one of the most beautiful gems of the Costa del Sol Spain.

Situated in the mountains, it boasts stunning landscapes with breathtaking gorges and hills.

Known for its beautiful historic center, with narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and magnificent palaces, it is considered one of the most romantic towns in Spain.

Don’t miss a visit to the famous Puente Nuevo, an iconic bridge that spans the El Tajo gorge.

This town is also famous for its gastronomy, with typical dishes like bull’s tail, chorizo, and gazpacho, to name just a few.

Ronda Spain

Mijas: A Charming Village Tucked Away on the Hillside

Mijas is a picturesque village on the Costa del Sol Spain, located on the hillside and boasting breathtaking views of the sea.

Wander around its narrow streets and enjoy the traditional Andalusian architecture with its white buildings and colorful flowers.

Visit the local artisan shops and discover the work of local artisans.

Mijas is a perfect destination for a relaxing day with plenty of nice cafes and restaurants to explore.

Make sure not to miss the beautiful sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock, a famous pilgrimage destination dating back to the 16th century.

West of Fuengirola is Mijas Costa.

La Cala de Mijas, Riviera del Sol and Calahonda make up this area popular with expats from many countries.

Not nearly as built up with resorts as Torremolinos, Benalmadena, and Fuengirola, this area of the Costa del Sol Spain feels more like a small village than a coastal resort.

Property is limited and doesn’t stay on the market for too long, making this area very seeked-out.

There are smaller shops in town, with major supermarkets and commercial centers about 15-20 mins away by car.

It is best to have a car if you choose to live on this part of the coast as public transportation is much more limited.

Nerja: A Coastal Town with Sandy Beaches and Hidden Coves

Nerja is a coastal town located on the eastern end of the Costa del Sol Spain.

With its beautiful beaches, hidden coves and crystal-clear waters, it is a popular destination for beach-goers and water-sports enthusiasts.

The Balcon de Europa, a stunning promenade overlooking the sea, offers fantastic views of the town’s iconic beaches and the Mediterranean Sea.

Visit the Cuevas de Nerja, an impressive network of underground caves with spectacular rock formations.

The town is also renowned for its delicious seafood dishes, with a range of fish and shellfish dishes to suit every taste.

At the end of the Axarquia Costa del Sol is the town of Nerja, one of Spain’s most beautiful beach towns.

It is a popular summer destination for Spaniards and foreigners alike, but in the winter it quiets down, making it a charming coastal village.

There are caves nearby that you can explore and even kayak in.

And Nerja is closer to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, so in the winter you could ski in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon!

Nerja has a plethora of great restaurants and shopping.

There is even some nightlife here.

There is a quaint Spanish historic center, and the beaches in and around Nerja are some of the best in Andalucía.

Many foreigners have moved to Nerja, especially those seeking a slower pace of life.

Fuengirola: A Family-Friendly Destination with Authentic Spanish Culture

Fuengirola Spain is a family-friendly destination that caters to all ages.

With its long sandy beaches and plenty of activities, it’s perfect for families with young children.

Visit the Bioparc Fuengirola, a zoo with a difference, where animals are kept in environments close to their natural habitats.

Take the kids to the water park, or have some fun with a round of mini golf.

For the adults, Fuengirola offers plenty of beach bars, restaurants, and cafes with charming terraces where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine.

Finally, at the end of the commuter train line from Málaga, west of Benalmádena, is Fuengiorla.

With 8 kilometres of sandy beaches, this is one of Costa del Sol’s most popular packaged holiday destinations.

This is also an area very popular with foregin residents.

In fact 25% of the population here is made up of foreigners.

English is widely spoken, and there are many services and businesses for those who are looking to settle in Fuengirola.

The city has a zoo, a harbor, and even some Roman ruins.

The area along the beach is very built up with highrise hotels and condos.

Urban Fuengirola is connected to Málaga by commuter train and to many other areas by bus.


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Benalmadena: An Up-and-Coming Resort with Something for Everyone

Benalmadena Spain is a rising star on the Costa del Sol Spain. With its beautiful beaches, modern and diverse hotels, and its lively marina, it offers something for every type of traveller.

Take a stroll down the Paseo Maritimo, a seaside promenade that stretches along the coast, or visit the Castillo de Bil Bil, a beautiful castle that has been converted into a cultural center, to experience the Arabic-style architecture of the place.

For those interested in more adventure, visit the Tivoli World amusement park which offers rides and attractions for all ages.

Heading west, the next city from Torremolinos is Benalmádena.

Benalmádena has some of the best beaches in the area.

But it is also one of the most built up places in Spain.

There are a few unique things to see and do.

You can also find a modern castle (Colomares Castle) as well as a Buddhist Stupa, making you think for a moment that you are in Thailand and not Spain!

There is a marina and even a cable car whisking visitors from sea level up into the hills above.

Like Torremolinos, Benalmádena is also connected to the area by busses and a commuter train.

Three main parts make up Benalmádena: Benalmádena Pueblo, Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmádena Costa.

This area is popular with both holidaymakers as well as expats (many retirees).

English is widely spoken and there are many businesses and services targeted toward the foreign residents.

Estepona: A beautiful Spanish town

West of Marbella, is Estepona, which is geographically closer to Gibraltar than Málaga city.

Estepona is very popular with people from the UK as well as other European countries.

It is said to be one of the best places to retire in Spain.

Nearly 25% of the population is foreign residents.

Golf is a popular sport here.

It is quieter than the rest of Western Costa del Sol Spain, and more affordable than Marbella.

Long and flat, with kilometers of coastline, Estepona has excellent sandy beaches.

The area has a working fishing port (think fresh seafood!) as well as a marina for leisure boating.

Estepona is also considered to be one of the safest areas to live on the Costa del Sol Spain.

It is perfect for those who want a quieter life at a smaller price than in Marbella.

Estepona Spain

In summary:

  • Malaga offers history, art and leisure
  • Marbella is a luxurious destination with high-end nightlife
  • Ronda is a romantic town with picturesque views and delicious food
  • Mijas is a charming hillside village with traditional Andalusian architecture and local artisans
  • Nerja is a coastal town with beautiful beaches and the Cuevas de Nerja, an impressive underground cave network
  • Fuengirola is a family-friendly destination with plenty of activities for all ages
  • Benalmadena is an up-and-coming resort with something for everyone, including a beautiful marina, seaside promenade, and Tivoli World amusement park.


Discovering More about the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol in Spain boasts a rich history and culture, beautiful architecture, stunning natural beauty and thrilling activities to keep visitors entertained.

Here are some ways to discover more about the Costa del Sol:

History and Heritage of Costa del Sol: Uncovering the Ancient Roots of This Region

The Costa del Sol, which translates to “Coast of the Sun“, has a long and fascinating history. Phoenician and Roman settlers have all left their mark on the region.

Malaga, the region’s largest city, is home to a number of important historical sites, including the Roman Theatre and the Alcazaba, a castle from the 11th century

If you want to discover more about the region’s ancient roots, don’t miss visiting the nearby Caves of Nerja, a historical and geological wonder with impressive rock formations and cave paintings dating back more than 20,000 years.

The White Villages of Andalusia: Exploring the Architectural Treasures of Costa del Sol

The picturesque white villages of Andalusia, or “pueblos blancos” in Spanish, are easily accessible from the Costa del Sol Spain and are not to be missed.

These villages, including Mijas, Ronda, and Benahavis, are characterised by their traditional white-washed houses, narrow streets, colorful flowers, and impressive architecture.

Stroll through the cobblestone streets and discover charming plazas, visit historical sites like the Puente Nuevo bridge in Ronda, or stop for a drink and sample local delicacies in traditional taverns and restaurants.

Beaches and Beyond: Activities and Adventure in Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is well-known for its beautiful beaches and clear waters, but it also offers plenty of activities beyond its beaches.

Adventure seekers can enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, and jet skiing along the coast, or hike through stunning nature reserves, like the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara, and Alhama Natural Park, which offer impressive mountainous views and peaceful surroundings.

If you prefer to stay dry, go on a sunset horseback trek or play a round of golf on one of the many championship golf courses that the region has to offer.

Caminito del Rey: An stunning Walking Trail with a Thrill Factor

The Caminito del Rey, located just 1 hour drive from Malaga, is an exhilarating walking trail that has been recently renovated.

The one-of-a-kind walkway features metal walkways pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge.

The trail offers unbeatable views of the surrounding rugged terrain and the Guadalhorce River.

Although it’s not for the faint-hearted, it’s a trail that can be enjoyed by anyone who loves breathtaking natural beauty, and there’s no need to be an experienced hiker.

Puerto Banus: An Iconic Marina Filled with Glamour and Luxury

Puerto Banus is an exclusive marina located in Marbella.

A visit here is a chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous and soak up the high-end lifestyle.

Go for a stroll along the marina and browse through designer boutiques, admire impressive yachts belonging to wealthy businessmen and celebrities and sample world-class cuisine.

Don’t forget to stop at one of the many cafés, bars and restaurants overlooking the marina and take in the atmosphere while sipping a sundowner cocktail.


Planning Your Costa del Sol Trip

Once you’ve decided to visit the Costa del Sol Spain, you’ll need to start planning your trip.

In this section, we’ll cover everything you need to know about planning your visit to this vibrant region of Spain, from all-inclusive holidays to transportation options.

All-Inclusive Holidays to Costa del Sol: What is included and What You Need to Know

If you’re looking for a stress-free vacation, an all-inclusive holiday might be just what you need.

There are many options for all-inclusive packages in the Costa del Sol region, but it’s important to understand what is included before you book.

Most all-inclusive packages include your hotel stay, meals, drinks, and some activities.

Some may also include transportation to and from the airport.

Before you book, it’s important to read the fine print to understand exactly what is included and what is not.

Guided Tours of Costa del Sol: Selecting the Appropriate Experience for You

A guided tour can be an excellent way to explore the Costa del Sol region, especially if it’s your first time visiting.

There are many tour options available, from general sightseeing tours to theme-specific tours like food or wine.

Before selecting a guided tour, it’s important to research the tour company and read reviews from previous customers.

Consider your interests and preferences when selecting a tour to ensure you have the best experience possible.

 About Accommodation: Hotels and Other Options for Staying in Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol Spain offers a wide variety of accommodation options.

The most popular are hotels, but there are also many villas, apartments, and holiday rentals available.

If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, there will be some excellent options.

For a more authentic experience, consider staying in a smaller town or village rather than a larger city like Malaga or Marbella.

Whatever your preference, it’s important to research and book your accommodation well in advance of your trip.

Value for Money on Costa del Sol: Saving Tips and Tricks

The Costa del Sol can be an expensive destination, but there are many ways to save money without sacrificing your experience.

Researching and booking in advance can often save you money on your accommodations and transportation.

Additionally, consider visiting during off-season months, when prices are typically lower.

Finally, consider using public transportation or renting a car to save money on transportation costs.

Getting Around the Costa del Sol: Transport Options, Car Rentals and Public Transit

The Costa del Sol Spain is a large region, with many cities and towns to explore.

Transportation options include renting a car, using public transportation, or taking taxis.

Renting a car can be a convenient option, especially if you plan to explore the region outside of larger cities.

Public transportation is also an option, with buses and trains connecting most of the major cities in the region.


Yours Free

Spain 101 is a free ebook full of unique tips that will save you thousands of Euros when moving to / living in Spain.

Would you like to get it now?

Please click / tap on the image below:


About Karen

KarenThank you so much Karen for your contribution to write this article.

Karen is a travel consultant specializing in Spain, from California.  She has 20 years of travel industry experience with travel companies like Airbnb and STA Travel.  Karen now lives in Spain and through her, Spain Less Traveled site, she helps clients who want to experience Spain more authentically with personalized itineraries and individual travel consulting.  Additionally, she founded and administers fast-growing Travel Spain! Facebook Community.


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