Costa del Sol and Costa de Almería Feature
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Best Beaches of the Southern Coast
The resorts of the Costa del Sol have been attracting tourists since the 1950s with their magical combination of brochure-blue sea, miles of beaches, reliable sun-bronzing weather.
The beaches here range from shingle in Almuñecar, Nerja, and Málaga to fine, gritty sand from Torremolinos westward. The best—and most crowded—beaches are east of Málaga and those flanking the most popular resorts of Nerja, Torremolinos, Fuengirola, and Marbella. For more secluded beaches, head west of Estepona and past Gibraltar to Tarifa and the Cádiz coast. The beaches change when you hit the Atlantic, becoming appealingly wide with fine golden sand. The winds are usually quite strong here, which means that although you can't read a newspaper while lying out, the conditions for wind- and kite-surfing are near perfect.
Beaches are free and busiest in July, August, and on Sundays from May through October when malagueño families arrive for a day on the beach and lunch at a seafood chiringuito (seaside restaurant or bar).
Over the Top-less
In Spain, as in many parts of Europe, it is perfectly acceptable for women to go topless on the beach, although covering up is the norm at beach bars. There are several nude beaches on the Costas; look for the playa naturista sign. The most popular are in Maro (near Nerja), Benalmádena Costa, and near Tarifa.
La Carihuela, Torremolinos
This former fishing district of Torremolinos has a wide stretch of beach. The chiringuitos here are some of the best on the Costa, and the promenade, which continues until Benalmádena port with its striking Asian-inspired architecture and great choice of restaurants and bars, is delightful for strolling.
The unspoiled beach here has a refreshing low-key feel and is backed by low-rise buildings and greenery. East of Fuengirola center, the Carvajal beach bars have a young vibe with regular live music in summer. It's also an easily accessible beach on the Málaga-Fuengirola train with a stop easy walking distance from the sand.
Playa Los Lances, Tarifa
This white sandy beach is one of the least spoiled in Andalusia. Backed by lush vegetation, lagoons, and the occasional campsite and boho-chic hotel Tarifa's main beach is famed throughout Europe for its wind- and kite-surfing, so expect some real winds: levante from the east and poniente from the west.
Cabo de Gata, Almería
Backed by natural parkland, with volcanic rock formations creating dramatic cliffs and secluded bays, Almería's stunning Cabo de Gata coastline includes superb beaches and coves within the protected Unesco Biosphere Reserve. The fact that most of the beaches here are only accessible via marked footpaths adds to their off-the-beaten-track appeal.
Puerto Banús, Marbella
Looking for action? The world-famous luxurious port city is flanked by some great beach scenes. Pedro's Beach is known for its excellent, laid-back Caribbean seafood restaurants, good music, and hip good-looking crowd. Another superb sandy choice is the famous Buddha Beach, one of the first so-called boutique beaches with a club area and massages available, as well as an attractive beach and tempting shallow waters.
El Saladillo, Estepona
Between Marbella and Estepona (take the Cancelada exit from the N340), this relaxed and inviting beach is not as well known as its glitzier neighbors as it's harder to find and, therefore, mainly frequented by locals in the know. There are two popular seafood restaurants here, including Pepe's Beach (dating from the 1970s), plus a volleyball net, showers, and sun beds and parasols for hire.
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