The crowning jewel of the Costa del Sol, Marbella’s reputation for glamour is still going strong and – together with neighbouring Puerto Banús – it is home to some of Spain’s most exclusive hangouts. Our restaurant and club specialists can get you in to the smartest establishments, but we also recommend taking some time out to visit the charming nearby villages and sun-soaked beaches.
With 23 beaches dotted along the 27km stretch of the Costa Del Sol, there’s always an opportunity to get away from the crowds even in the busiest months. Families should make a beeline for the west facing El Cristo cove which is sheltered from the wind and has been awarded Blue Flag status. Unlike many of the beaches nearby, the water remains shallow for at least 100 metres and there are no sharp dips in the sand bars, making it ideal for little ones to splash around.
To mix with the locals, pack your snorkel and beach towel and head to Playa El Cañuelo near Nerja in the east. The whole area is a designated nature reserve, so it’s totally unspoiled by development and the water is impossibly clear. This stretch of coastline is renowned for its abundant marine life and you won’t need to flipper far from the beach to be surrounded by a kaleidoscope of fish and keen scuba divers should swim to the craggy headland for deep-water exploration.
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the glitz and glamour which has made this area famous and no beach embodies this side of life more than Puerto Banús. It’s the place to be seen and a day on the sand is as much about socialising as it is sunbathing. It’s easy to get into the swing of things once you get settled on a sun lounger with a cocktail in hand and, even if this isn’t your scene, it should be experienced at least once during your holiday.
Venturing inland, the beautiful white-painted hilltop villages represent the true character of Andalucía, a standout example being Mijas. Upon reaching the main pueblo, simply wander the cobbled streets and browse the handmade pottery and other local wares in the craft shops. Before making your descent, don’t miss the little chapel carved out of the cliff face.
An hour’s drive from Marbella, Ronda is well worth a visit for its dramatic Puente Nuevo alone – the so-called new bridge actually dates back to the 18th century and connects the two parts of town over a deep ravine. Considered the birthplace of modern bullfighting – where matadors stand on their own feet instead of on horseback – the Plaza de Toros has a comprehensive museum.
Back by the sea, Estepona sits to the west of Puerto Banús, beckoning visitors with its grand port packed with bars and restaurants. It’s tempting to spend all day on the large beach, but the town dates back to the 4th century, so make sure you wander around the pedestrianised historic quarter.
No visit to Marbella would be complete without a stroll around the Old Town, where you can admire 15th-century architecture and pop into quaint boutiques. Coincide your visit with sundown when the locals start to gather at the Orange Square – so-named for its abundance of orange trees which released a reviving fragrance – and sip sangria at one of the many tapas bars.
Afterwards, embark on the 20-minute ramble or hop in a taxi over to long-established favourite Beckett’s for live music and superb cuisine on the al fresco terrace. Combining global flavours with local produce, the vast menu ranges from steamed mussels in a Thai green curry broth to pan-fried lamb’s liver with crispy bacon, caramelised onion and spring onion mash.
Harking back to Marbella’s golden age, Villa Tiberio was established more than 27 years ago by renowned restaurateur Sandro Morelli – formerly of Fulham’s iconic nightclub Barbarella. Set in themed gardens with classical sculptures and fountains interlaced with magenta bougainvillea, the restaurant specialises in Italian cuisine. House specialities – including osso bucco, fettuccine salmone, scallop and prawn thermidor, and roast suckling pig – are expertly paired with wines from Italy, Spain and France.
It will come as no surprise that Nikki Beach Marbella is popular with a stylish set, who frequent the beach club to lounge on the immaculately kept day beds, take a dip in the pool and enjoy a spot of lunch under the parasols just set back from the sand. Featuring international guest DJs, the comprehensive events calendar keeps guests entertained from 12pm until the early morning.
Known to stay open until 7am, the Moorish-themed Olivia Valère club is the namesake and brainchild of the legendary Moroccan-born nightlife entrepreneur, which draws in a celebrity crowd with its huge dancefloor and multiple bars. Begin with an opulent dinner at the open-air Babilonia restaurant or keep it light at the neighbouring Sushi Bar, seamlessly run by Olivia’s daughter.
If admiring supercars and luxury yachts is a favourite holiday pastime of yours, look no further than the gleaming marina at Puerto Banús. With spectacular views, heady cocktails and a varied live music programme – spanning R&B, hip-hop and house – the rooftop at Pangea nightclub is the number one drinking spot. At the other end of the port, Seven Puerto Banús comes in a close second with its regular casino night and big-name acts including Marc Anthony.
With a guestbook of distinguished names – including Audrey Hepburn and Michelle Obama – the Marbella Club Golf Resort & Spa effortlessly combines film-star glamour with a host of energising activities. From golf on the 18-hole course and horse riding at the equestrian centre to deep-sea fishing, it is our pick for go-getting holidaymakers.
Located at the other end of the Golden Mile, the super luxurious Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa Marbella is the number one choice for those looking for rest and relaxation. The Six Senses Spa is complete with a hydrotherapy pool, herbal steam room, sauna, hammam and treatment rooms overlooking the sea.
If you’re travelling with children, look no further than the beautiful Kempinski Hotel Bahia, located right on the beachfront. Kids can get involved in a packed programme of daily activities while you soak up the sun next to the three swimming pools which cascade through the tropical gardens, play tennis, hit the gym or take part in the daily yoga classes. When it’s time to eat, guests can choose between four excellent restaurants.
.*Subject to availability
Last updated on 21 February 2017