Part 1 of the Move to Spain guide to resorts on the Costa del Sol goes west. This end of the Costa del Sol between Sotogrande and Marbella includes some of the Costa del Sol’s most famous resorts and priciest property.
Less densely populated and built-up than central Costa del Sol, it still attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year and has a sizeable expat population.
Resorts are listed in a west-east direction towards Malaga.
Western Costa del Sol – general characteristics.
Scenery – the west end is the greenest part of the Costa del Sol and includes two very high mountain peaks. La Concha to the north of Marbella and Los Reales outside Estepona both top 1,000m.
Weather – resorts in the far west of the Costa del Sol tend to have slightly higher rainfall than the rest and it’s windier, particularly near Sotogrande. That said, the area still boasts over 320 days of sunshine a year. Marbella enjoys its own micro-climate, famed as one of the best in southern Spain.
Size – Marbella is easily the largest resort in this part of the Costa del Sol and the other main resorts are considerably smaller. The coastline is densely built-up between Marbella and Estepona, while beyond Estepona construction is concentrated in the main residential areas.
Expat population – thousands of expats have made the Costa del Sol, known as the California of Europe, as their permanent home. The British made up the largest group, although there are also large numbers of German, Scandinavian and Russian residents.
Cost of living – prices are generally higher at the west end of the Costa del Sol and reach their most expensive in Marbella and Sotogrande. In these two resorts you pay a premium for almost everything.
Transport – transport connections are good. The AP-7 motorway runs from Malaga to Sotogrande and although toll fees are high, the road provides a quick and safe way of reaching this part of the Costa del Sol. Public transport is limited to buses, although there’s a frequent service between Estepona and Marbella.
Property prices – New developments around Manilva offer some of the cheapest property on the Costa del Sol, particularly if you buy inland. However, this part of the Costa del Sol includes some of the most expensive homes in Spain and multi-million price tags are commonplace.
The so-called Golden Triangle that encompasses Benahavís, Estepona and Marbella is highly sought-after and very expensive. Read more about the Costa del Sol property market here.
Expat amenities – the large expat population has led to a wide choice of expat amenities.
The west end of the Costa del Sol is home to a number of international schools and health clinics, expat business concerns and services catering specifically for foreigners.
Golf courses – this area of the Costa del Sol boasts the most golf courses, which include some of the best in Spain. Valderrama in Sotogrande, for example, regularly hosts world championships including the Andalusian Masters and Ryder Cup.
The Nueva Andalucía development, to the west of Marbella, is known as Golf Valley because of the large number of golf courses located there.
Population (2016): 2,342
Largest foreign population group (2016): British
Distance to Malaga Airport: 108km
More information: tourism website
The residential development of Sotogrande sits on the Guadiaro River at the far west end of the Costa del Sol. Conceived as a millionaire enclave, Sotogrande consists of high-end townhouses and villas, many of which come with a several million-euro price tag.
Popular with commuters who work in nearby Gibraltar, Sotogrande is also a favourite with rich Spanish holidaymakers.
Outside the summer season, the number of residents falls considerably and the resort is very quiet.
Sotogrande has an attractive marina, several golf courses and one of Europe’s most famous polo grounds.
Amenities include supermarkets and limited services.
Gibraltar Airport is nearby, making this a good alternative to Malaga for flights to the UK.
Population (2016): 14,750
Foreign population (2016): 5,701; largest population group British
Distance to Malaga Airport: 96km
More information: council website http://www.manilva.es/
Manilva village itself sits inland on the hill, although the sprawl of developments along the coastline and centred around La Duquesa Marina belong to Manilva.
This area has some of the cheapest property on the Costa del Sol, particularly new-build apartments, owned by banks and situated inland.
On the coast, there are several golf courses (with associated property) and reasonable amenities.
La Duquesa Marina has a good choice of restaurants and bars. You’ll find more choice of services available in nearby Estepona.
Population (2016): 66,683
Foreign population (2016): 15,070; largest population group British
Distance to Malaga Airport: 81km
More information: tourism website
Estepona, like Nerja, link to Guide to resorts on the Costa del Sol east has kept its traditional Spanish charm and the town centre is one of the best-preserved and prettiest on the Costa del Sol.
The eastern side of the resort, known as the New Golden Mile, is home to several high-end developments, 5-star hotels (including Kempinski and Villa Padierna), 18-hole golf courses and luxury beach clubs.
Slightly further inland are numerous residential complexes including Cancelada and El Paraiso, popular with expat residents.
Estepona has excellent beaches – those on the eastern side tend to be quieter than those in nearby Marbella – and several of the top attractions on the Costa del Sol.
These include Selwo Aventura safari parksafari park and the Orquidarium.
Amenities are good, both in the town centre and on the New Golden Mile. They include several international schools, a good choice of supermarkets and shops plus healthcare services.
Population (2016): 7,342
Foreign population (2016): 4,670; largest population group British
Distance to Malaga Airport: 70km
More information: council website http://www.benahavis.es/
Benahavís village is tiny but the municipal area ranks as one of the largest on the Costa del Sol.
It contains some of the most exclusive developments in Spain such as La Zagaleta, the most expensive place in the country to buy property, El Madroñal and Montemayor.
Several townhouse and apartment complexes are located in the vicinity of the village, famed on the Costa del Sol for its choice of excellent restaurants.
Home to mountains, rivers and extensive woodlands, Benahavís is one of the most attractive enclaves on the Costa del Sol.
As such, it appeals to high-end expat residents and holidaymakers. The village itself offers few amenities and services, but there’s a good choice available in nearby Estepona and Marbella.
Population (2016): 140,744
Foreign population (2016): 33,446; largest population group Moroccan
Distance to Malaga Airport: 50km
More information: tourism website http://www.turismo.marbella.es/en/
As the Costa del Sol’s most famous resort, Marbella needs no introduction. Known for its celebrity appeal, the resort has attracted the world’s rich and famous since the early 1960s.
Marbella is home to world-class sporting facilities (the resorts boasts 12 golf courses alone); the Golden Mile with its mansions, palaces and 5-star GL hotels; Puerto Banús Marina with its long list of luxury boutiques and mooring for some of the world’s finest superyachts; and one of the Spain’s highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants.
The resort ranks as Spain’s third most popular luxury shopping destination after Madrid and Barcelona.
Marbella includes a well-preserved old quarter with typical Andalusian architecture; a busy town centre; and numerous outlying developments that stretch Marbella’s 27km of coastline.
In the west is the small town of San Pedro de Alcántara, one of the most Spanish enclaves in Marbella, the luxury development of Nueva Andalucía (home to Golf Valley) and Puerto Banús.
In the east lie several high-end developments such as Los Monteros and Hacienda Las Chapas as well as several golf courses.
Marbella has the best amenities and services in this part of the Costa del Sol.
The choice of international schools includes some of the longest established in the region and there’s a long list of healthcare clinics.
The state-funded Costa del Sol hospital is also located here. Shopping is excellent and La Cañada shopping centre to the north of town one of the largest in southern Spain.
The cost of living in Marbella is noticeably higher than in other resorts on the Costa del Sol.
The average price of property doubles that for the coast as a whole and as a result, many expat residents prefer to live in neighbouring Estepona or Mijas Costa.