The Costa del Sol truly lives up to its name, the Sun Coast, with one of the most enviable climates in the world – and the warmest winters in Europe. Blessed with as many as 320 days of glorious Mediterranean sunshine a year, and average daily temperatures of 17°C/ 63°F and 8°C/46°F at night from December to February, this hugely popular area welcomes millions of tourists annually, of all nationalities, many of whom enjoy an extended “summer” season lasting for eight months from April to November.
A prime national and international hub for a large number of regular airline companies, with the major low-cost budget airlines also operating a full schedule of flights, the newly expanded and revamped Málaga airport is the main gateway to the Costa del Sol – with 13 million people arriving each year and daily links with 20 cities in Spain and over 100 throughout Europe.
Málaga is connected to the rest of Spain via a modern motorway network, as well as the high-speed AVE rail service (just two hours and 20 minutes to Madrid), and local trains cover the route from Málaga city to the resorts of Fuengirola, Benalmádena and Torremolinos.
Málaga airport transfers by taxi, rail and bus are plentiful but, if you want to explore further afield, all of the major and various local car hire companies have representative offices on-site. The airport, roads, rail and other infrastructure facilities have been significantly upgraded in recent years in accordance with demand, while Málaga port is becoming increasingly popular with international cruise liners, receiving over 700,000 passengers a year.
The Costa del Sol region extends 150 kilometres through Málaga province, surrounded by majestic mountain ranges to the north and golden beaches to the south. It is home to a veritable treasure trove of delights for every type of tourist.
Historically, most of the population lived in quaint fishing villages, or traditional “white” villages in the mountains, but the region has now been tastefully transformed into one of Europe’s foremost tourist destinations. It offers a wide and varied range of beach resorts, from up-market to family-friendly, with abundant amenities, excellent leisure facilities and a buzzing nightlife, as well as medium-sized resorts catering to visitors with more tranquil tastes and preferences.
Ultra-chic areas such as Marbella, Puerto Banús, La Zagaleta and Sotogrande have given the Costa del Sol an international reputation as a popular playground for the super-rich and famous, but it is also a land of wonderful contrasts, with more sedate coastal and mountain villages seemingly locked in time with their classic white-washed houses and warm Andalucian hospitality.
With 60 championship golf courses, including the renowned Valderrama (considered the finest course in continental Europe), the “Costa del Golf” is a golfers’ paradise, while boating enthusiasts can sail their yachts into a string of world-class marinas. Water sports such as scuba diving, wind surfing and snorkelling are well catered for, and several companies offer boat trips for dolphin, turtle and whale spotting.
The Coast’s flora and fauna is a delight for nature lovers, with a fascinating network of tracks and refuges for walking and hiking. Other sports and leisure pursuits, such as horse riding and tennis, are also popular, and one of Spain’s premier ski resorts, Sierra Nevada, is just two hours away in Granada province.
Attractions of special interest to families include theatre shows, water parks, an internationally renowned zoo and various animal, sea-life, fun and adventure complexes. Vibrant street markets are held in towns along the coast throughout the week, and bustling commercial centres are a must-visit for dedicated shoppers.
Spain’s celebrated cuisine – and wine – can be savoured by day at trendy bars by the sea and, at night, on the al fresco restaurants of top restaurants offering both local and international delicacies.
Previously referring to the entire stretch of coastline from Almería to Gibraltar, the geographic term Costa del Sol is today more strictly applied to the coastal strip within Malaga province, part of Andalucía, Spain’s southern-most region… steeped in history and culture and famous for flamenco, fiestas and bullfights.
Settlement in the region dates to the Bronze Age, and since then the Costa del Sol has been colonised by many different cultures, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and Moors, before the Reconquista restored it to Catholic rule. All have left an enthralling mark in customs and architecture.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the area was subject to a new form of contemporary “colonisation” – tourism – and converted into a destination of world renown.