Although property on the Costa Blanca is cheaper, sun-seekers still flock to Spain’s Mediterranean coast and its sandy beaches, but they may be surprised at the improvements, especially around Marbella.
The Costa del Sol is a playground of Mediterranean beaches, where the sun shines year-round, and the shore is lined with hotels, cabanas, yacht harbors, casinos, golf courses and promenades filled with cafes and shops. If it sounds like a riot of over development, some of it is.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its considerable charms. New resort hotels, such as Villa Padierna in Marbella, are elegant, tasteful and built back from the busy shore in well-kept grounds and gardens.
Villa Padierna’s Tuscan-villa-style building stands amid a rolling green golf course, and the interior is like an art gallery of Roman artefacts and later works of art. The resort represents the “new look” of this part of the Costa del Sol, which is working very hard to reclaim its shoreline from earlier abuses. In fact, it is allowing no new building in many areas, and requiring unsuitable buildings on the shore to be torn down. The plan is to return much of this coast to natural shoreline.
This new determination to reclaim its character as Andalucía’s window on the Mediterranean redeems Marbella and the coast around it from its previous image as a snowbird package-tour haven. In a few short years it has regained much of its old Spanish charm.
The town of Marbella has character, a happy maze of narrow stone-paved streets that climb the hillside. In its leafy plazas flowering trees perfume the evening and shade the café tables from the afternoon sun. The weather is spring-like in mid-winter, thanks to the sheltering bulk of the mountains behind it.
Few real tourist sights tempt visitors away from the cafes and the long, wide stretches of golden sand that separate the town from the sea. Apart from a surprisingly incongruous museum of Bonsai trees, one of the largest collections anywhere and well worth visiting, there are few must-see sights. Just a thoroughly pleasant Spanish town, with appealing weather and great beaches.
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Nearby Puerto Banus, by contrast, is a chichi little port whose low buildings along the harborside are dwarfed by the ostentatious mega-yachts moored side-by-side in its marina. The town is definitely worth visiting, preferably in the evening, when the promenades are filled with people, the shops open and the cafes overflowing.
Behind this coast are the sierras, mountains that protect the shore and account for the weather’s sunny disposition here. For those who prefer walking to lying in the sun, the tourist office has a useful brochure entitled Malaga Sun Routes and Excursions, which gives directions m maps and brief descriptions of 42 walking and cycling routes through rock formations, medieval villages, wetlands, valleys, gorges and ruins of Moorish castles throughout the province’s varied landscapes.
With everything from elegant new resort hotels and trendy boutiques to trails to hike through the mountains and villages, the Costa del Sol now appeals to all tastes and budgets.