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There are few places on earth that combine stunning beaches, charming colorful towns, historical landmarks, and innovative art the way that the Costa del Sol does. The hundred-mile stretch of shoreline on Spain’s southern coast includes the area’s biggest city of Málaga and the popular haven of Marbella, as well as other shorefront towns and villages from Manilva in the southwest to Nerja in the northwest. Here the sunny mood set by a year-round warm climate is matched by cheerful design touches, including the trademark Andalusian style of whitewashed buildings with brightly colored floral accents. Hugged on the south by the Mediterranean coastline and mountain peaks on the north, the region truly lives up to its name of “Sun Coast.”
The main airport is Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP) in Málaga, roughly in the middle of the coastal region. But if you’re headed toward southern towns such as Manvila and Casares, Gibraltar International Airport (GIB) may be slightly closer. If you plan to city hop along the coastline, it’s best to rent a car, but if you’ll be concentrating your time in one area, it may be best to use the cabs, buses, and rideshares in the region to get to your destination. For those traveling from other European destinations, train service runs into Málaga’s main terminal (about a 15-minute walk to the city center), with high-speed services from Madrid and Barcelona. Rail service is also available from Grenada, Seville, Fuengirola, and Torremolinos.
Nothing beats the Mediterranean in the summer months. But of course, the side effect is that the season also marks the most popular time to visit, with crowded beaches and higher price tags on flights. During the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall, especially April, September, and November, the weather is still pleasant and most days the waters are still warm enough for a dip, making it an ideal time to go. Winters never get too cold on land, but note that the seawater does get quite chilly this time of year. One of the biggest events in the area is Holy Week in Málaga, starting on Palm Sunday, while Marbella Carnival in February, La Noche en Blanco (White Night) in May in Málaga, and San Pedro Alcantara Fair in October in Marbella are also highlights.
As the capital of the Costa del Sol region, Málaga is best known for its 16 beaches, but also its historic landmarks such as the Moorish fortress of Alcazaba and the towering Castillo de Gibralfaro, with an old town at its base. Art is also a part of the city’s fabric, with the Carmen Thyssen Museum, the Pompidou Centre Malaga (the first Pompidou Centre outside France), the Centre for Contemporary Art, and a museum dedicated to its most famous artist, Pablo Picasso, who was born here.
If Málaga is the heart of the Costa del Sol, then Marbella is its soul. Located about 45 minutes to the southwest, the area is lined with beaches — ranging in layout from natural dunes to those geared toward water sports. The city’s Old Town is rooted in its historic ruins, in particular the Arabic walls, but also is a hub of modern art, with 10 Salvador Dalí sculptures stationed along Avenida del Mar.
This town simply oozes with Andalusian charm. Everywhere you turn, colorful buildings line the streets. Add to that 13 miles of shoreline and a delightful waterfront promenade and marina, and it’s simply a Mediterreanan paradise. If that’s not enough, Estepona also has a murals route with 40 works of art, and a sculpture route featuring 30 pieces.