Born and raised in Costa del Sol, I’ve always loved to host friends and family from other Spanish cities and show them all the amazing things they can do and see in my hometown.
Whereas some of my hosts only wanted to see the main attractions and the touristy life (I had to learn how to be a tourist in my own city), others were curious about how they could make the most of the place by having a local experience!
Experiences like having some delicious grilled sardines, visiting less well-known little towns with beautiful white houses and narrow streets or speaking like the locals.
It’s a busy and touristy place, especially during the summer, but I’m going to tell you some travel tips as well as places that locals tend to go so you have an authentic experience when you’re travelling to Costa del Sol.
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Go to the beach early in the morning
The beach is busy all the time during the summer, so my number one piece of advice is to go early in the morning to make sure you get a good spot and chill. This is even more important on Sundays.
Why? Shopping centres, banks, supermarkets, etc. don’t open on Sundays so it’s the time when families go to the beach.
If you don’t like being on a busy beach with kids playing on the shore and umbrellas everywhere making it difficult to find a spot for yourself, you could avoid going to the beach on a Sunday and look for an alternative plan.
For example, you could walk around Málaga city centre, have lunch in the port and visit the beautiful Alcazaba castle from 2pm for free admission that only happens on Sundays.
If you’re looking for a less touristy beach, I would recommend going to Playa La Misericordia in Málaga or the beginning of Los Álamos beach in Torremolinos.
Avoid eating in restaurants close to the ports
Most of these restaurants offer “traditional Spanish meals”, but they certainly don’t taste as good as a real traditional restaurant.
If you want to spot these places, you can easily do so by looking at their menus which are available in English, French, German, etc. and the list goes on.
For example, if you go to Torremolinos, you can also spot these places because they’re all next to Irish pubs, chinese restaurants and Burger King.
If you want to try the local fish and seafood in Torremolinos, I’d recommend having lunch at Los Mellizos and trying the fried fish, you won’t regret it!
Try the local food
If you’re a foodie who loves Mediterranean food, Málaga is a great place to eat healthy and delicious food. Here are some of the typical dishes you can try in tapas bars, restaurants or bakeries:
- Espeto de sardinas. These are sardines skewers that have been roasted over a barbecue pit. They’re a bit messy to eat because you need to eat them with your hands, but the taste is incredibly delicious.
- Gazpachuelo malagueño. It’s a soup made with white fish, potatoes, shrimps, water, salt and mayonnaise.
- Ensalada malagueña. A great refreshing salad for the summer! Its ingredients are potatoes, onions, oranges, tuna or salted cod, boiled eggs and green olives.
- Pescaito frito. A mixture of different types of fried fish that can also include octopus and squid.
- Plato de los Montes de Málaga. If you want comfort food and love meat, you should try this one. This meal consists of chips, roasted green peppers, fried egg, chorizo and pork meat.
- Tortas locas or locas. This is a delicious and sweet pastry filled with custard that you can’t miss and you can find them in any bakery around Málaga.
- Torrijas. These are a Spanish version of French Toast. They are normally served in Semana Santa (Holy Week) in any local bakery. You must try them if you happen to be in Malaga during Easter. However, if you can’t wait to try them, this is my grandma’s torrija recipe
Experience the feria
If you’ve never heard of the Feria de Agosto before, it’s a fair that takes place in Malaga in the middle of August and lasts for 10 days.
During the day, you can enjoy dancing or having some delicious tapas or wine (Cartojal wine is a must!) Whereas, during the night, you can go on a rollercoaster or many other attractions, or listen to live music.
Alternatively, you can visit other ferias that take place in different towns along the Costa del Sol during the summer. Use this calendar to help you find more events.
Attend a music event
There are many music events going on during the summer wherever you stay in Costa del Sol.
For example, you can attend Los Alamos festival in Estepona, Starlite concerts which happen in Marbella during summer and you can see many national and international singers (like Jason Derulo or Luis Fonsi), or simply a live flamenco evening in El Pimpi bar, Málaga.
This is a great way to get to know more about the locals and the culture.
Try to speak Spanish and engage with the locals
Spanish people are very friendly, outgoing and always attempt to help you (even if they don’t know your language.) However, they’ll really appreciate you trying to speak the language or even just using a few words.
If you already know a bit of Spanish, beware of the accent! The Andalucia accents (i.e. Málaga, Sevilla, Cádiz, etc.) are very unique but as a general rule we don’t pronounce the “s” at the end of words like in other places in Spain.
Also, every place has some local words you haven’t probably heard of before. In Málaga, we have words like “pechá” which means a lot, or “perita” which means cool.
If you’re travelling alone and you’re looking to make friends, I recommend staying in a hostel instead of a hotel. You’ll get to know more people in the same position as you!
To find a great hostel check HostelWorld. They don’t charge you any booking fees, they offer modern hostels across the world and have a 24/7 customer service available in several languages.
Party like a local
If you love to party and dance, here’s a couple of things to consider to party like a local:
- Don’t arrive at the club before 12 am because the place will be dead;
- Try to sing (even if you don’t know what they’re saying);
- Dance to any sort of music!
Also, drinks have lots of alcohol so it’ll be easier to get drunk. Why am I telling you this?
If you’re partying in the UK, alcohol is measured and you’ll have to spend more money on drinks, however, if you’re partying in Spain, the bartender just pours the alcohol to the glass without measuring.
Enjoy an ice cream
If you’re looking for relaxing evenings, you can just grab an ice cream like many locals do.
You’ll be surprised to see how many families and young people sit down in the ice cream shop, chat, and enjoy eating their ice creams.
The two ice cream shops you can’t miss are:
1) Heladería Inma (located in Málaga)
2) Kalua (located in several locations around Costa del Sol)
They have delicious artisanal ice creams, many flavours to choose from, and they open until 2am!
Depending on the time you go, you’ll probably have to queue a bit but it’ll be very worth it. My favourite flavour is strawberry sorbet 🙂
Visit the lakes and mountains
Costa del Sol is very well-known by the coast as its name suggests, however, if you want a different experience and you’re adventurous, why don’t you try to visit the lakes?
El Caminito del Rey is a must and it’s very accessible! You can go by car, bus (there’s a shuttle bus) or train from Málaga María Zambrano station.
If you want to visit other natural places I would highly recommend visiting them with a local or tour.
I’ve always visited these places with my family or friends so I’ve never been on a tour. However, if you’d love to visit Caminito del Rey with a guide, this guide has very good reviews.
Join others doing sports
Love meeting other people? An easy way to meet others is to join people doing sport.
If you’re on the beach in the morning or evening, you can see many groups playing volleyball. People are very kind so they’d be happy to introduce you to others and invite you to play with them.
TIP: To ask in Spanish if you could join them, say “¿Puedo jugar con vosotros?” (Can I play with you?) or “¿Me puedo unir?” (Can I join you?)
Also, you can find many people playing football or basketball in the big parks such as Parque del Oeste in Málaga.
Order a coffee in a local cafetería
I know you may be thinking, “oh well! I can do that anywhere in the world, right?” I can do that in Starbucks, Costa or any other chains!
But if you want to learn more about the language and the culture, I recommend going to the local cafeteria to see how many different types of coffee you can find.
Malagueños (people from Málaga) have their own coffee language because you won’t see those names in other parts of Spain.
For example, if you want to order a latte, you should say “un mitad,” or if you love a strong coffee, ask for “un largo.”
If you don’t like coffee like me, you can enjoy a delicious and fresh orange juice!
Go to the markets
If you’re staying longer and have your own kitchen, I encourage you to go to the markets to buy your food!
Prices are lower and you get fresh and delicious ingredients. Mercado Atarazanas is the most accessible because it’s in the city centre but it’s also well-known for its beautiful architecture.
In there you can find local ingredients such as raisins, peaches, honey made in Frigiliana and many others.
As you can see there are many ways to experience Costa del Sol as a local! I love watching the sunset in the summer.
Costa del Sol has an amazing combination of sea and mountains, so there’s nothing better than watching the sunset and taking pictures from a high place!
If you’re wondering where to stay, these 12 fabulous Marbella accommodations are ideal for you if you love a sophisticated experience in a popular town.
If you’re after more rural and authentic experiences, I’d definitely check towns like Estepona, Ronda and Antequera.
Have you ever been to Costa del Sol? If not, the best way to explore Costa del Sol is a seven-day road trip!
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