Spain’s Costa del Sol



Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol, encompassing much of Spain’s southern coastline, got a burst of publicity last summer when First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha vacationed in the area. If your clients were inspired by the First Family’s trip, here’s what you need to know to recreate a vacation worthy of a President—or a First Lady!


A Presidential Itinerary

Villa PadiernaCosta del Sol’s biggest city is Málaga, which has a harbor that makes it ideal for pre- and post-cruise stays, or even for day trips on a cruise. The coastal layout of the city lets visitors step off their cruise ships and be in the heart of town in minutes. The city is also served by the high-speed AVE trains, which can bring travelers to Madrid in less than three hours. Marbella is another popular beachfront town that is somewhat less urban than Málaga and ideal for a quieter retreat. On their first day in Costa del Sol, the Obamas visited Marbella and shopped in Puerto Banús, a luxury marina and shopping complex.

The next day, they visited the Alhambra, an ancient Moorish castle in Granada, as well as the city’s Cathedral. Visitors with green thumbs will want to tour the Generalife, an elaborate garden with massive roses. (It’s best to get tickets to the Alhambra in advance from Granada is 80 miles from Málaga, about a 90-minute drive, and is one of the best examples of Moorish influence in the region. Encourage your clients to wander along side-streets and choose an intimate café or bar to sample local tapas (snacks) and drinks.



Agent Advice

Mary Couto Lewis of Apex Tours and Travel notes that the sun shines around 300 days of the year in Costa del Sol (hence its name, “Coast of the Sun”). Her favorite hotels in the region are the Marbella Club Hotel, the Puente Romano Hotel, Las Dunas, Casa la Concha and the Sunset Beach Club Hotel .

Lewis suggests a visit to Marbella’s Old Town, which has ancient architecture and a maze of narrow cobbled streets full of boutique shops, funky art galleries, bars and eateries. She says a day at Funny Beach is “perfect for those who love amusement, speed and adrenaline.”

“To explore the town without the legwork, choose from the Marbella Tourist Train or a horse-drawn carriage ride, both popular with the kids.”

The best beaches, she says, are in the Elviria and Hotel Don Carlos areas. “All along these beaches are beach bars, known as chiringuitos, serving drinks and typical Mediterranean cuisine, right on the sand.”

In terms of culture in Marbella, Lewis says, “the Black Box Theatre offers plays in Spanish and English; the Bonsai Museum has one of Europe’s most important collections of Bonsais; and the Museum of Spanish Contemporary Engravings exhibits works by Picasso, Miró, Tàpies and Chillida, among others. The Sammer Gallery in Puerto Banús is among the largest modern art galleries in Spain.”

Frank Liebermann of All Ways Travel recommends the Paradores hotels throughout Spain. “They’re the best hotels for families—for anything,” he says.



The ladies then relaxed on the Costalita beach in Estepona, a town that has 13 miles of beaches. Estepona also has a vibrant fishing community, and the local restaurants serve fresh seafood. The Obamas also visited the Selwo Aventura Park, a wildlife and animal park in the vicinity, with 2,000 animals in recreated natural ecosystems.

On the last day, they visited the ancient mountain city of Ronda, which had inspired novelists like George Eliot and Ernest Hemingway and filmmaker Orson Welles. Three bridges span the El Tajo canyon, which divides the city.

Where They Stayed

The Obamas stayed at the five-star Villa Padierna Hotel in the town of Benahavis, close to Marbella. The 19 executive suites are the most popular, though families may want to book the Junior Suites, which share a private corridor with Deluxe rooms for larger groups. For top rooms, pick the Two-Bedroom Villas with Private Pool (numbers 600 onward). Good to know: Both the One- and Two-Bedroom Villas come with private butler service.

The hotel’s 12-room spa has many treatments, but we hear the Chakra Balancing with Hot Stones is popular. (Julia is the most-requested masseuse and Miriam the top esthetician.) Good for families: Kids, too, can get specialized massages and manicures. Spa Receptionist Karolina Vázquez (011-34-952-889-150, [email protected]) can make reservations.
For golfers, the hotel has three 18-hole courses as part of the Flamingos Golf Club, and offers customized golf clinics for guests. Golf Manager Andreas Hagemann can be reached at [email protected].

The resort has five restaurants to cater to different tastes, but the main venue is La Véranda, headed by Executive Chef Víctor Taborda, who trained with three-star Michelin Chef Martín Berasategui. We hear the six-course tasting menu is a must-try. Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins can be accommodated. Contact Maitre d’ Carlos Moya ([email protected]) for reservations.

The travel agent liaison at the hotel is Ana Montañez ([email protected], 011-34-952-889-150) in the reservations department.


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