Where is Costa del Sol? The Ultimate Local Guide

You’ve probably heard of Costa del Sol, but if you wonder “Where is Costa del Sol?” and which towns belong to this part of Spain, this expert local guide includes the answer to your questions.

I was born and raised in Costa del Sol, and I’m passionate about showing other travellers like you about this beautiful part of Spain, which is much more than beaches.

In this ultimate Costa del Sol guide, you’ll find out about the location, towns, weather, traditions, and food.

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Where is Costa del Sol?

Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) is in the province of Malaga in Southern Spain. 

Although there isn’t an official limit, it refers to the coast that goes from the Gibraltar area, Manilva being the last town that belongs to the province of Malaga, to the east side of Malaga towards Nerja. 

Map of Costa del Sol

Map of Costa del Sol.

Main destinations in Costa del Sol

Nerja

balcon de europa beach

My favourite Eastern Costa del Sol town is Nerja. It has incredibly beautiful natural landscapes, including beaches, a nearby natural park and mountains.

The beaches in Nerja are the best in Costa del Sol, without a doubt. The water is crystal clear, the facilities are good and its surroundings even better. If you’re into snorkelling and kayaking, this is your place.

When it comes to attractions, Nerja Caves is a must-see. I’ve been a couple of times and was amazed by the stalactites. However, I also recommend exploring the Nerja Historic Centre and visiting the local museum.

Nerja is a 10 minute drive from one of the prettiest towns in Costa del Sol, Frigiliana, so this is a short excursion you can easily do in half a day.

Frigiliana reminds me of Greek Islands like Santorini because of its white-painted houses with turquoise doors and gorgeous streets home to friendly cats.

Malaga

Larios Street, the shopping street in Malaga, Spain.

Málaga is the capital city of Costa del Sol and the most populated with locals and expats. It’s estimated that 593,000 people live in Malaga in 2024.

The highlights of Malaga include La Alcazaba, a beautiful historical palace and fortress that dates back to the Moorish period, Malaga Cathedral and Picasso Museum. 

All of them are in the historic centre, which is the main area you want to explore if you love sightseeing. 

I recommend choosing Malaga over other destinations in Costa del Sol if you’re a history buff because you can visit palaces, castles and numerous museums. 

Torremolinos

Beach promenade in Los Alamos Beach, Torremolinos

Torremolinos is one of the closest beach towns to Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP), and it’s the best place to stay in Costa del Sol because of its location. The airport is less than a 10 minute drive, and you’re close to Malaga City and other fantastic resorts like Benalmadena and Fuengirola.

The town was well-known as a small fishing village, but tourism in the 80s and 90s completely changed it. You can find anything you would expect a beach town to have, from beach clubs and fantastic hotels to restaurants and attractions.

The beaches are the number one attraction in Torremolinos and are perfect for all ages. I often visit Los Álamos with my family, but La Carihuela has to be the best beach in Torremolinos.

Other attractions in the town include Casa de Los Navajas, Torremolinos Historic Centre, Parque de la Batería (Battery Park) and the famous Aqualand water park.

Benalmadena

Cristina in the swing located in Torremuelle Beach, Benalmadena, Spain

Benalmadena is also on the top list of the most visited beach resorts in Costa del Sol.

This fact is unsurprising because the town is home to plenty of family-friendly activities, from visiting the SEA LIFE aquarium and Parque de la Paloma to the Butterfly Park and Castillo de Colomares.

There are plenty of things to do in Benalmadena, but you also have the option of going on fun excursions to Mijas Pueblo, Fuengirola’s Zoo (Bioparc), and Gibraltar.

Also, let’s not forget its golden sand beaches and fantastic accommodation options.

Fuengirola

seafront promenade fuengirola

Tucked between Benalmadena and Mijas, Fuengirola is a hub for expats and travellers in Costa del Sol.

The highlight of Fuengirola is its fantastic coastline, which is home to beaches with facilities and activities for all ages.

Nevertheless, that isn’t the only thing to do in Fuengirola. You can visit the castle (Sohail Castle), go to one of the biggest street markets in Costa del Sol, stroll along the beach promenade, where you can spot important statues, and attend international events.

Mijas

Sunset at the beach.

Mijas is divided into two parts: Mijas Costa and Mijas Pueblo. Mijas Costa refers to the area located next to the beach, whereas Mijas pueblo refers to the small village on the mountainside.

Both areas have different activities to offer and are equally worth visiting. Mijas Costa is perfect for relaxing, so if you’re looking for a laid-back holiday by the beach, this is the place to stay.

However, if you want to immerse yourself in the culture, sightsee and be more active during your holiday, Mijas Pueblo is the one for you.

Although the beaches in Mijas Costa are spectacular, Mijas Pueblo is one of my favourite villages in Malaga.

You can take in the views from its viewpoints, wander its cobblestone streets with pretty flowerpots on the walls, visit the local museum or book a chocolate-making experience at Mayan Monkey Mijas.

Marbella

A square with restaurants in the historic centre of Marbella, Spain

Marbella is one of the largest towns in Costa del Sol. It’s divided into different areas, including Elviria, Cabopino, Marbella city centre, Puerto Banus and San Pedro de Alcantara.

It has a reputation for its 5-star beach resorts, luxury port with international high-end boutiques like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, and golden sand beaches.

Although beaches and shopping might be two reasons to visit Marbella, they aren’t the only ones. My favourite spot is the historic centre of Marbella; it makes you feel like you’re in a maze with its narrow cobbled streets with independent shops, restaurants and important historic buildings like Marbella Castle.

Other great activities to do in Marbella include relaxing at a beach club, riding a bike on the beach promenade, taking a tapas tour and watching a flamenco show.

Estepona

orchidarium estepona

An underrated destination in Costa del Sol is Estepona. This charming coastal town has a lot to offer, including seeing Costa del Sol’s most beautiful historic centre. Despite having a soft spot for Marbella Historic Centre, I have to admit Estepona Historic Centre has more to do and see.

Within the old town, you can route through the most picturesque streets and see amazing local street art and sculptures.

Other attractions to add to your list are the Orchidarium, Estepona’s port and Selwo Aventura.

Manilva

Bordering Cadiz, it’s one of the last towns in the province of Malaga.

It isn’t as popular as Benalmadena or Marbella, so I can confirm that Manilva is a hidden gem in Costa del Sol, and it has unique things to be discovered.

Its main attraction is Castillo de la Duquesa, an 18th-century castle in a former Roman villa. It was built to protect the town from pirate attacks, and it’s now an important historical building in the town.

You can also visit the town’s church and square, its street markets, and its beautiful port.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to spend time on its crystal-clear beaches.

Rincón de la Victoria

Beach promenade at Rincon de la Victoria, Malaga, Spain.

Rincon de la Victoria is the first town in the Axarquia region that belongs to Costa del Sol Oriental, referring to the eastern part of Costa del Sol.

The town has great attractions that you should visit. For example, Cueva del Tesoro, an extraordinary cave with important archaeological remains from the Palaeolithic and The Bronze Age.

Other important buildings are Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church and Torre de Benagalbón.

With a 9-kilometre coast, Rincon de la Victoria is also home to many fantastic beaches and water activities to enjoy during summer. However, it’s worth visiting all year round.

Vélez-Málaga

Vélez-Malaga is the main coastal town of the Axarquia region. Its stunning coast and numerous monuments make Velez-Malaga worth visiting.

What I love about this town in the east of Costa del Sol is its authenticity and smaller crowds.

Wander its historic centre, where past meets present, and you can enjoy an array of important monuments and architectural buildings, stroll along the lovely Torre del Mar beach promenade and eat delicious fried fish.

Torrox

Torrox is well-known for being the town with the best climate in Europe. With an average annual temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, there’s plenty of sunshine to relish.

Its natural surroundings are gorgeous with its cliffs, coves and tall mountains.

Visit its historic centre, discover its Roman ruins, see its lighthouse or embark on an adventure like hiking the Chillar River in the summer months.

With Nerja and Frigiliana around the corner, you can also explore them on a day trip.

What’s the weather like in Costa del Sol?

Sunbeds in a beach in Marbella.

The short answer is sunny and warm. It has approximately 300 days of blue skies.

Summers are hot and dry. You can expect an average temperature of 30 degrees (86ºF). However, it’s completely normal to experience days in which the thermometer reaches 35 to 40 degrees (39.2ºF).

Winters are mild, but bear in mind that the temperature difference between day and night is usually big. For example, the average temperature in December is 17 degrees (62.6ºF) during the day and 9 degrees (48.2ºF) at night.

Overall, Costa del Sol is dry all year round, but November, February and March tend to be the rainiest months.

What about snow? No, it doesn’t snow in Costa del Sol, but it does snow in its nearby natural parks.


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Attractions

Malaga and the other Costa del Sol towns have incredible attractions despite their extensive coastline. Here is a list of the top attractions sorted by towns:

Malaga

  • Alcazaba and Roman Theatre
  • Malaga Cathedral
  • Gibralfaro Castle
  • Picasso Museum
  • Carmen Thyssen Museum
  • Parque de Málaga

Torremolinos

  • Casa de los Navajas
  • Aqualand and Crocodile Park
  • Parque de la Batería

Benalmadena

  • Puerto Marina
  • SEA LIFE
  • Selwo Marina
  • Parque de la Paloma
  • Butterfly Park
  • Buddhist Temple
  • Colomares Castle

Fuengirola

  • Bioparc Fuengirola
  • Costa WaterPark
  • Sould Park
  • Sohail Castle

Mijas

  • Local Museum
  • Miniature Museum
  • Ermita de la Virgen
  • Mayan Monkey Mijas

Marbella

  • Marbella old town
  • Spanish Engravings Museum
  • Parque de la Alameda
  • Ralli Museum
  • Puerto Banus

Estepona

  • Estepona old town
  • Estepona marina
  • Orchidarium
  • Selwo Aventura

Nerja

  • Nerja Caves
  • Nerja old town
  • Balcon de Europa

Gastronomy

A photo of fried anchovies with lemon on a white plate

Like every Andalusian cuisine, Costa del Sol’s gastronomy has been influenced by other cuisines like Arabic, Jewish, and Spanish traditions.

The star ingredients are fish and seafood that are locally sourced. Typical fish in Malaga include anchovies, sardines and monkfish, and these are present in many dishes like gazpachuelo, a fish soup with potatoes and mayonnaise, pescaito frito, a combination of fried fish and seafood, and espetos, grilled sardines.

However, when you visit inland towns in Malaga, you’ll also find traditional meat-based dishes.

It’s also worth mentioning wine because Malaga province has excellent wineries, especially in Ronda and Axarquia regions. I highly recommend trying Malaga’s sweet wine, but there are other types of wine to taste.

Festivals

Marbella's fair decorations

If you’re all about immersing yourself in the culture, I get you. I’m the same, and festivals give us a taste of the local culture and traditions.

Luckily, we have many traditional events in Costa del Sol, so I suggest checking out the calendar before travelling. I’m going to tell you the biggest events in Costa del Sol, but each town has smaller fairs and events usually held in spring and summer.

Semana Santa

Semana Santa (Holy Week), celebrated at the end of March or beginning of April, is big in Southern Spain and Costa del Sol.

Religious parades take place in every town across the costa. However, if you want to see the parade on a bigger scale, you must go to the ones in Malaga city centre. The atmosphere and religious floats are like no other.

If you visit Costa del Sol during Easter, I suggest trying the torrijas. They are similar to French toast, and they are to die for. You’ll find them in many bakeries at this time of the year.

Feria de Agosto

Feria de Agosto, also known as Feria de Malaga, is the biggest traditional event in Costa del Sol. The fair takes place in the city of Malaga during the second week of August and usually lasts 7 to 8 days.

During the afternoon, you can go to the “Feria de Día” (Day Fair), which is in Calle Larios. Locals wear traditional dresses and suits, dance malagueñas (a type of flamenco dance but typical of Malaga), and eat and drink Cartojal wine.

In the evening, you can go to the “Feria de Noche” (Evening fair) next to the Congress Palace. The fairground is packed with rides for kids and adults, an auditorium for concerts and many stalls where you can grab food, drink and dance.

How to get to Costa del Sol

Overhead photo of motorway in Marbella, Spain

The easiest way to travel to Costa del Sol from overseas is by plane, and the closest airport is Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP), one of the largest airports in Spain.

Malaga Airport has many routes across Europe and Africa, so it’s worth checking if there are any direct flights from your departure destination.

If there aren’t direct flights, search for flights to Seville or Madrid Airport, from which you can take the RENFE train to Malaga María Zambrano station.

Frequently Asked Questions About Costa del Sol

What country is Costa del Sol in?

Costa del Sol is in Southern Spain.

What is the Costa del Sol known for?

Costa del Sol is mainly known for its beaches, sunshine and golf.

What is Costa del Sol like?

Costa del Sol is a fantastic destination to visit in Spain. It not only has beautiful beaches but also lots of attractions for all ages, delicious food, and cultural activities.

Is Costa del Sol expensive?

No, however, travelling off-season and knowing where to eat and sleep can help you save lots of money. Also, some coastal towns are cheaper than others. For example, Torremolinos is cheaper than Marbella.

Is Costa del Sol worth visiting?

Yes, Costa del Sol is worth visiting for many reasons, including its gorgeous sunny weather, blue flag beaches, family-friendly attractions, delicious fish and seafood dishes, fun day trips, and, of course, culture.

What is the closest airport to Costa del Sol?

The closest airport to Costa del Sol is Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport.

Conclusion on this Costa del Sol guide

I hope this ultimate guide to Costa del Sol from a local has inspired you to travel to this beautiful area of Spain.

Do you have any questions about Costa del Sol? Drop them in the comments, and if you want more help planning your trip, check out my custom travel planning services.

Enjoy your time in Costa del Sol!

Cristina xx

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