Things to Do

Visiting the Costa del Sol

There is more to the Costa del Sol than beautiful beaches. Why not admire the architecture, hike up La Concha, or even go skiing?

Costa del Sol

By Kathryn Stride

Updated 6-3-2024

The Costa del Sol is well-established as a bucket holiday destination, but few realize how much is on offer. With 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s no wonder it gets over 13 million visitors annually. Furthermore, it’s a great place to take the kids during the school holidays – from gorgeous beaches to history, culture, cities, and even skiing. Just a few of the things you can discover there include:


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Towns and villages on the Costa del Sol

While this area of Spain used to get slammed for its concrete tower blocks and construction-related corruption, there is a lot of great architecture to discover. You can find several stunning white villages nestled into the hillsides, not to mention vibrant Spanish towns and cities.

Marbella, for example, is a fantastic town with lots of charm, a predominantly Spanish population, a beautiful beachside promenade, and tons of fantastic bars and restaurants. It is often confused with the nearby Puerto Banús and thought to be an expensive, flashy place. In fact, this is a very real, working Spanish town and merits a visit.

Paved street and white houses in Marbella old town
Marbella old town

Marbella’s hidden gem is its historic and picturesque casco antiguo (Old Town). This has changed little over the centuries and still features ancient architecture, a maze of narrow cobbled streets with charming white washed houses and beautiful plazas. At the centre is Orange Square, a beautiful and typically Andalucian square, full of orange trees and sweetly scented tropical plants. The Old Town is a great place to explore – full of unusual shops, galleries, little chapels, and churches. It also boasts a fantastic selection of bars, cafes, and other eateries.

The picturesque Pueblos Blancos, or numerous ‘white villages’ represent a typical Andalucian feature. If you hire a car, you can spend several days driving around the stunning countryside, visiting these relatively unexplored villages, stepping back into Andalucía’s past. Casares, one of the most beautiful stands on the mountainside, surrounding an ancient Muslim fortress. Despite its proximity to the coast, it has remained unspoilt by tourism. You can spend hours wandering its quaint, narrow, cobbled streets, taking in the breathtaking scenery and enjoying its sleepy, old-fashioned feel.

Skiing on the Costa del Sol

Although the Costa del Sol is associated with fantastic beaches and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, that’s not all it has on offer. Indeed, very few people realize that Andalucía also has a ski resort, where you can enjoy great skiing from December to the beginning of May. This winter wonderland is just a stone’s throw from the Costa del Sol. On a good day you can even see the sea from the slopes. In fact, it’s so close that you can enjoy hot sunshine on the coast in the morning and be on the slopes within two hours.

Ski lifts and observatory on Sierra Nevada mountain
Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada – whose name means Snowy Mountain Range – near Granada offers sunshine and good snow. Its pistes include runs for beginner and intermediate skiers, plus a handful of more challenging runs. Although it is not a huge resort, there are wide, well-positioned slopes, quick and efficient lifts, and good restaurants and bars to rest those weary feet. Plus you can combine skiing with a day on the beach to recover before you head home.

Costa del Sol for sports lovers

The Costa del Sol is a fantastic choice for sports fans to enjoy an active holiday. It features more than 35 18-hole courses and over 10 nine-hole golf courses.

Tennis fans have the choice of nine fantastic tennis clubs, as well as many outdoor courts attached to hotels and urbanizations. If you’re feeling competitive, it’s worth getting involved in local matches and competitions. For example, there are numerous sporting events including polo competitions and races.

With its nearby hills and mountains, the Costa del Sol is also a perfect place for mountain biking and hiking. For the more adventurous, a hike up the iconic La Concha is a must. But don’t underestimate it – it’s 1,215 meters tall (for British readers, that’s almost as high as Ben Nevis). There are several companies offering quad-biking, horse riding and walking tours to help you make the most of the stunning scenery.

La Concha mountain seen from below
La Concha mountain

There are also a host of water sports to take advantage of the Med, such as sea-kayaking, windsurfing, diving, and kite surfing. If you’d rather stay dry, take to the sea for a spot of fishing, learn to sail, or to try to spot some native dolphins.

Day trips from the Costa del Sol

Andalucía boasts some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. Just two or three hours’ drive away from the Costa del Sol, many of its cities are fantastic destinations for a day out or part of a road trip. For example, get swept away in the bustling, cobbled streets and ancient buildings in the Jewish Quarter in Seville. Admire the harmonious blend of 2,000 years of Christian and Muslim religious history in the stunning Mezquita in Córdoba. Don’t miss the Alhambra, set against the snow covered peaks of Sierra Nevada in Granada, or the golden dome of Cádiz cathedral shimmering high over the white–tipped waves of the Atlantic ocean.

Aerial view of Cádiz cathedral and surrounding city
Cádiz cathedral

Even closer to the coast is Málaga. Málaga’s long history has left multiple beautiful monuments such as the Cathedral, Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba, and the Roman Theater (in Spanish). There are also a selection of stunning historical gardens, and over 20 different museums to visit.

However, the city’s biggest claim to fame is its artistic heritage. Málaga was Picasso’s birthplace, and the fantastic Picasso Museum honors and celebrates the city’s most famous son. This gallery has over 200 works by Picasso on permanent display, including oil paintings, sculptures, drawings, sketches, etchings, and ceramics, housed in a stunning 17th-century Renaissance building.

Relax and rejuvenate

A holiday in Spain is a great way to get rid of the stress and strain of working life. Visit some of the beautiful beach clubs, stroll down the promenade and enjoy the laid-back pace of life. In addition, there are some amazing luxury spas and health clubs where you can pamper yourself and ensure you come back rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated.

One of the many pleasures of a visit to the Costa del Sol is the fantastic food. There are so many restaurants to choose from, serving all types of cuisine. Check out the chiringuitos (small bars selling drinks and tapas) on the beach – tapas is an excellent way to sample some of the local Spanish fare. You don’t have to walk far to find great restaurants, the main problem is knowing which ones to choose.

Family fun on the Costa del Sol

Spain is a very family-friendly place and kids are welcome wherever you go. The Costa del Sol has a whole host of fantastic places to go and things to do. For example, the Aquamijas water park, Bioparc Fuengirola, and Selwo Aventura safari park in Estepona.

For teenage fun, there are many organisations on the Coast who offer adventures as scuba diving, quad-biking, jeep safaris in the National Parks, mountain treks on horse-back, canyoning in the region’s gorges, and paintballing.