The Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) is the coastal area of the southern Spanish province of Malaga, in the region of Andalusia (south of the Iberian Peninsula). The Costa del Sol is one of the most important tourist areas in Spain, which concentrates around 35% of tourism in Andalusia and hosts more than 20 million overnight stays per year.
It is generally considered that the Coast of the Sun (or Sun Coast) goes from the border of the province of Granada at the east, to Gibraltar at the west. This makes around 185 km of Mediterranean coast, covering from the municipality of La Línea de la Concepción to Nerja. This “Coast of the Sun” is traditionally divided into two areas: the “Western Costa del Sol” and the “Eastern Costa del Sol”, where the city of Malaga, the capital of the region, is right between those two areas of this Spanish coastal area.
There is a great diversity of landscapes in the narrow strip between the sea and the mountains of the Costa del Sol: Beaches, cliffs, mouths, coves and dunes. The rivers are short and seasonal, resulting in small estuaries and valleys not very prone to agriculture.
The coastline shows a slightly trimmed profile. It has the largest number of beaches in the whole region of Andalusia, specifically 124 beaches of a total of 321. The sandy areas occupy most of the Costa del Sol, except some rocky sections in the municipalities of Manilva, Mijas, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Rincón de la Victoria and the cliffs of Maro, in the municipality of Nerja.
In the 1950s, the rise of international tourism began and since then it has been a preferential destination for tourists, mainly British, Germans, Scandinavians and French. As a result, there has been strong economic and demographic growth in this geographical area.
The Costa del Sol enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean climate, having more than 300 sunny days per year.
The summer is hot and dry with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F). On the other hand, the winter is mild and humid, with temperatures ranging from 5°C to 17°C (41°F to 62.6°F).
The rain falls mainly between November and May. Drought is present from June to September.
Main cities and towns within the Coast of the Sun
The main towns in the Costa del Sol are listed below. They are ordered from west to east, so if you decide to take a tourist route along the Coast of the Sun (especially if you start from the English area of Gibraltar), you can follow the order below. Don’t forget that the city of Malaga is right in the centre of the Costa del Sol, you fill find useful to keep it in mind. J
La Línea de la Concepción
This municipality is located at the western end of the Sun Coast. Nevertheless, it is not within the province of Malaga but it is administratively located in the province of Cadiz and Campo de Gibraltar.
It has a total of 11 km of beaches up to the frontier with Gibraltar. It houses two ports, one for fishing while the other is a leisure port.
It offers a wide gastronomic offer and a very cosmopolitan atmosphere where currently more than 23 nationalities coexist. The city has an airport just a few metres away on foot, in the territory of Gibraltar.
As a municipality adjacent to the province of Malaga, and due to geographical reasons, San Roque is the last municipality of the Costa del Sol in the province of Cadiz, right before Manilva (Malaga), in the heart of Campo de Gibraltar.
It is a decentralised municipality in historic centres, where it highlights the coastal and luxury urbanisation of Sotogrande, considered one of the main residential areas of Andalusia, Spain, and even Europe.
It is the southernmost municipality of the province of Malaga, adjacent to the province of Cadiz.
The coast of Manilva extends from southwest to northeast, in a coastal line of 7.8 km that goes from rocky coves to sandy beaches.
At only 14 kilometres from the coast, the town of Casares goes from the Ronda highlands to the Campo de Gibraltar. It is one of the best places that shows the visitor the typical style of the mountain villages of this region.
It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, as evidenced in 1978 when it was declared a historical-artistic site.
It has about 21 km of beaches. Focused mainly on tourism, the census population of Estepona is around 70,000 inhabitants, which is in continuous demographic growth.
It has a beautiful pedestrian town centre decorated with coloured pots, sculptures and large murals on the façades of some buildings.
It is a perfect place to shop and enjoy the Mediterranean environment facing the sea, Sierra Bermeja (a mountain range) and the remains of the castle of San Luis.
Behavís is a mountain village located at 7 km from the beach, providing to its visitors with spectacular views of the Costa del Sol.
It has nine golf courses, a reason that makes it to be considered the core of the “Costa del Golf” (Coast of the Golf).
It is also considered one of the main gastronomic places of Costa del Sol due to its many restaurants in its urban area.
Marbella, in the center of the Western Costa del Sol, is between the foothills of the Sierra Blanca and the coastline.
It is the great recreational center of the south-west Mediterranean Spanish coast, and for decades it has attracted the so-called “jetset”.
Puerto Banús has one of the most important and exclusive leisure ports in the Mediterranean, where some of the most luxurious yachts in the world dock.
The municipality of Mijas extends its lands from the mountains of Mijas to the sea, through a landscape of hills.
The town of Mijas (Mijas Pueblo), situated at an altitude of 428 metres above sea level, retains the charm of the typical white Andalusian village.
In its 12 km of coast is the nucleus of La Cala de Mijas, as well as many urbanizations.
In addition to beaches, Fuengirola has an Arab castle and Roman vestiges.
Moreover, it is also remarkable its nightlife. It has a wide range of Nordic and English leisure places, as well as a wide variety of pubs and discopubs both Spanish and English and Irish themed, including a good gastronomic offer.
This municipality offers many possibilities to spend your leisure time.
It has around 13,000 hotel beds, golf courses, amusement park, leisure port, auditorium, aquarium, dolphinarium, the Casino of Torrequebrada, exhibition center and museum of pre-Columbian art.
It also has Catholic, Protestant, Hindu and Buddhist temples, and a cable car to the top of Mount Calamorro.
The municipality of Torremolinos, former neighborhood of Malaga and independent municipality since 1988, goes from the foothills of the mountain range of Mijas to the sea, in a terrain of soft relief that loses height as it approaches the beach line.
The large green spaces at the foot of the mountain range connect with the complex and varied urban network that gives a unique profile to the town.
Málaga (right in the middle of Costa del Sol)
Málaga is the capital of the Costa del Sol and the province with the same name (Málaga). Thus, it is the axis of communications of the area as center of the metropolitan area.
In addition to its very outstanding historical center, which is declared a Historical Monumental Site and is connected to the Port (in which remains the trace of its three thousand years of history), there is an outstanding range of museums and many places to enjoy the local gastronomy.
Rincón de la Victoria
Rincón de la Victoria (Victory Corner) is a municipality made of several urban centers: Benagalbón (five kilometers inland), La Cala, Torre de Benagalbón, Aguirre, Los Millares and some others with a smaller population than the previous ones.
All those towns have experienced a spectacular expansion in the last 20 years, mainly due to their belonging to the metropolitan area of Malaga. Thus, what was originally a second home for many people from the city of Malaga, nowadays it has become their first home.
Velez-Malaga is a municipality with more than 80,000 inhabitants. It is located in the center of the Axarquía region, it dominates the fertile valley of the river that bears the same name, and it is surrounded by plantations of subtropical products (this municipality is the main producer of subtropical products in all of Europe).
It has 22 kilometres of coastline, where old fishing villages have become reference points due to the quality of the services provided and the cleanliness of its beaches. This is the case of the towns of Chilches, Benajarafe, Valleniza, Almayate (where you can find one of the best naturist beaches of Costa del Sol). Special mention to the municipality of Torre del Mar, the main town of the municipality of Vélez-Málaga, a place where are held countless activities of all kinds throughout the year: concerts, air festivals, parties and processions; its promenade is also one of the longest and most extensive promenades on the Costa del Sol. It also stands out Caleta de Vélez, a place where are located the main fishing and sports ports of the whole Andalusian Mediterranean coast.
On the other hand, the old area of the city of Vélez-Málaga (which has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site) keeps a patrimonial treasure: its old Muslim citadel stands out in the highest part, and next to it you can find the church of Santa María de la Encarnación, a religious building that shares its space with the first museum dedicated to the Holy Week in all Andalusia.
Hotels, shopping centres, water parks and a wide range of restaurants and beach bars make Vélez-Málaga an extraordinary place to visit throughout the year and learn about its traditions. Some of them are the Holy Week, which was declared a festival of national tourist interest in Andalusia; the Fair of Santiago or Santa Ana with a maritime-terrestrial procession of the Virgin of Carmen, and the Royal Fair of San Miguel at the end of September.
The municipality of Algarrobo has 9.7 km² and some more of 6,000 inhabitants.
From north to south, it is crossed by the river Algarrobo-Sayalonga, which runs through a valley whose landscape, previously covered with olive trees, almond trees and vineyards, is suffering a substantial change as the cultivation of vegetables and subtropical products imposes itself in the area.
The urban nucleus of Algarrobo, which has a Moorish layout, is located at three kilometres away from the coast. In order to distinguish the beach area from the village itself, it has been named Algarrobo-Costa. Tourist visits should include the parish church of Santa Ana, the hermitage of San Sebastián, the watchtowers and the archaeological remains of the Necropolis of Trayamar (Phoenician).
The municipality called Torrox has a population of around 16,000 inhabitants.
The valleys of this municipality are generally covered by orchards that offer a strong contrast with the surrounding hillsides, occupied by olive trees and vineyards, if not by bushes and pastures.
The coastline offers a “strange” panoramic view in which the plastics of the greenhouses coexist with the coastal tourist development, contrasting with the beautiful views offered by the inland area.
Nerja is the most renowned municipality on the Eastern Costa del Sol. Its tourist attractions include the balcony of Europe and the cave of Nerja, as well as the Natural Park of Sierra Tejeda, Alhama and Almijara and the Natural Site “the Cliffs of Maro”.
Nerja has several beaches, including Burriana, Calahonda, El Salón, La Torrecilla, El Playazo, and the unspoilt paradise of the beaches of Maro, an environment that has not suffered yet the consequences of uncontrolled urbanization of other areas of the coast.
This municipality has an official population of around 20,000 inhabitants, where approximately the 20% are from the United Kingdom.
It is also remarkable that in Nerja, it was filmed in the 80s the famous Spanish TV show called “Verano Azul” (Blue Summer).
Airport Málaga – Coast of the Sun
The airport named “Malaga-Costa del Sol” is the fourth biggest airport in Spain in number of travellers. In 2017 it registered more than 137,000 flights and more than 18 million passengers (11.7% more than in 2016), of which 16 million correspond to international flights (+12.4%) which is around the 85% of the international traffic in the region. Therefore, the airport Malaga-Costa del Sol has become the main communications infrastructure of Andalusia and the gateway of the region to the world.
In this airport, there are more than 50 airlines maintaining direct international connections with 136 cities around the world, mainly throughout Europe, but also other places such as North America (New York, Toronto and Montreal).
The airport is connected to the city of Marbella by the city bus 24 hours a day (line A, Airport – Paseo del Parque) and many intercity buses to the Costa del Sol, as well as by suburban train.
Origin of the name “Coast of the Sun”
Rodolfo Lussnigg (Vienna, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1876 – Madrid, Spain, 1950) was an Austrian diplomat and tourism entrepreneur established in the Spanish province of Almeria. He was responsible for one of the most important tourist promotion work of the province, using the name “Costa del Sol” to refer to the coast of Almeria, and the motto “Almeria, the city where the Sun stays on winter”.
Rodolfo Lussnigg was the owner of the most important hotel in Almería at the beginning of the 20th century: The Hotel Simón. On February 16, 1928 he began a campaign in the newspaper La Crónica Meridional, in order to attract visitors who were going to the Exhibitions in Seville and Barcelona. To do so, he used the name “Costa del Sol”.
Nowadays Almería is not considered part of the “Costa del Sol”. It uses its own name as “Costa de Almería”.
The City of the Sun
The Costa del Sol is a continuous and big conurbanization with approximately 1.5 million inhabitants. For this reason, there are already many media defining the Coast of the Sun as the City of the Sun (Ciudad del Sol): a city that functions by itself through several municipalities, something similar to what happened in Los Angeles (USA).
There are plans to unite the Western Costa del Sol into a single city defined as Ciudad del Sol, which would also include the metropolitan area of Malaga. If this project is finally created, with a supra-municipal structure, Malaga would become the fourth most populated city in Spain, surpassed only by Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid.
Coast of the Golf
As a curiosity, the Costa del Sol is also known as the Costa del Golf. This is because it has the highest concentration of golf courses in Andalusia and the European continent, which are distributed as follows:
- 21 in the municipality of Marbella;
- 11 in Mijas;
- 10 in Estepona;
- 9 in San Roque;
- 9 in Benahavís;
- 3 in Málaga;
- 2 in Casares;
- 2 in Rincón de la Victoria;
- 2 in Benalmádena;
- 1 in Vélez-Málaga;
- 1 in Fuengirola;
- 1 in Nerja;
- 1 in Manilva.
In addition to these golf courses, there are also those in the inland areas of the region, such as Alhaurín el Grande, Alhaurín de la Torre and Antequera.
More pictures of Costa del Sol
Here you can see some additional examples of the beauty you can enjoy in Costa del Sol.