When my sister announced to a work colleague that she would be spending some days by the beach in Benalmádena on the west-end of the Costa del Sol, it was met with this rather snarky response: “I see. And what are your expectations of that place then?”
This was clearly a display of mean-spiritedness however it attests to the sometimes ill-received reputation of this destination. Admittedly, I probably used to think this way back in my student days, when I thought it was only worth investing your precious annual leave and money in travelling to far-flung, exotic places (although I never would have verbally stated this to someone excited to visit a place I personally wasn’t interested in!).
“Time, maturity and experience has shown me that there is beauty in most places if you have an open mind and seek it out…”
Time, maturity and experience has shown me that there is beauty in most places if you have an open mind and seek it out and Benalmádena is no exception. In fact, there are plenty of attractive sights to be found here along with a calm, seaside town ambience and chilled chiringuitos (beach front bars).
While it is true that you will see McDonalds, so-called ‘greasy spoon cafés’ and Irish bars strung along the Paseo Maritimo, there are actually plenty of Spanish tapas bars and restaurants and it does not have the raucous, tourist-packed nightlife of its neighbour Fuengirola, located 8 kilometres westwards along the coastline.
In my opinion, the most pleasant bars and eateries in Benalmádena Costa itself are at its quite spectacular Puerto Marina. In fact, the marina of Benalmádena has been voted ‘Best Marina in the World’ several times! (So take that, sister’s snobby work colleague!) It certainly can hold its own and I prefer it much more to the one in Marbella. So, let’s take a look!
Reason #1: Puerto Marina
What immediately strikes you is the abundance of blue everywhere in the usually clear, sunny sky and glittering water. This backdrop allows the white buildings to really dazzle and it is quite simply aesthetically lovely to take in. Numerous yachts sit, moored up to the harbour while their flags ripple in the breeze in tune with the leaves of the palm trees which line the outskirts.
Along with the bars, restaurants and discotecas, there is also the Sea Life Aquarium and Selwa Marina Delfinarium (this of course depends on what your personal views are on such places which keep marine mammals in captivity- it is a divisive topic).
Depending on which restaurant you choose, you can usually eat for quite a reasonable price; I have paid no more than 20 euros for a starter, main and glass of wine or two at several establishments here with stunning views to gaze upon as you take in the relaxing sea air and sunshine.
Reason #2: Chiringuitos!
Ok, this is not a photo of one of the beach bars itself however it is a really scenic and chilled part of the beach with several of the said chiringuitos nearby.
A chiringuito is simply a beach bar however in Spain they have an almost tropical vibe, usually with reggae music tinkling out from the speakers, a whole array of fruit ready for slicing into refreshing cocktails such as piña coladas and sometimes, bar snacks such as olives, patatas fritas or tortilla patata.
The chiringuitos which have fully functioning kitchens will serve the Málaga staples of pescaíto frito (freshly caught local fish rolled in flour then fried in olive oil) such as boquerones, calamar and rosada (sort of like a pink sea-bream) and with a squeeze of lemon and a chilled cerveza, it really is the ideal seaside treat.
They are usually cheap too, a glass of wine will set you back only 2 euros and if you order your food the Spanish way and share your plates, then you will probably only end up paying around 10 euros per person. (Note- even red wine is generally served straight from the fridge here! It’s a taste which grows on you over time… I promise!)
Reason 3: The Paseo Maritimo
Owing to Andalucía’s Moorish past, this curious building called ‘Castillo El-Bil-Bil’, positioned along the Paseo Maritimo looks like it could be straight out of Marrakech however it was built during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s and is used today for Sunday songs of praise sessions and exhibitions of local artists’ work.
This eye-catching art installment is affectionately known as ‘Windmill Roundabout’ by tourists and it adds a lovely dash of colour and movement to the street as the decorations flutter in the breeze- almost like an abstract interpretation of those little plastic garden windmills we would plant in our gardens as children!
You can walk from Benalmádena to Fuengirola right along the Paseo Maritimo (8 kilometres as mentioned earlier) which I did, feeling rather worse for wear back in January this year, and it took around 2 hours. It could take less time if you are feeling much healthier than I did that morning!
Fuengirola- 8 kilometres west from Benalmádena. A pleasant 2 hour walk.
Reason #4: Arroyo de la Miel
Translated as ‘Honey Stream’, this is the town centre of Benalmádena and this name can be recognised on the metro line (known as the Cercanías). It is not directly on the coast; it takes around half an hour to walk from the beach to this area. Here you will find plenty of restaurants, take-aways, shops, bars but the population is distinctly local and you will see far fewer foreign tourists. If you ever become a bit bored of sunbathing all day, a trip to Arroyo de la Miel could provide a few hours of entertainment and shopping.
Reason #5: Affordability
Benalmádena allows people to have a lovely beach holiday without breaking the bank. It is ideal for families and costs of food, drink and accommodation are very reasonable (in relation to costs of other holiday destinations!). The Costa del Sol’s name is not by coincidence- it really is sunny there on average 320 days a year (with an average temperature of 25-30 degrees celcius) Hotel prices plummet in the Winter months and I have visited a few of times out of peak season in November, January and February. While the weather is not for bikinis, shorts and t-shirts, it is still much warmer and more cheerful than being freezing elsewhere!
So- Benalmádena has pretty much all you could want in an affordable escape to the sun. With it being only a 3 hour flight from most places in the UK, Benalmádena should not be overlooked anymore, it should be enjoyed and loved!