Most Beautiful Beaches in Costa del Sol, Spain

The Costa del Sol is known for its gorgeous sandy beaches and almost year-round sunshine. It’s been a popular haunt of solo travellers, families and couples since the 1970s. There are over 120 beaches here, stretching across 160 kilometres, and as you’ll discover, each one is unique.

The great thing about beach resorts in Costa del Sol is their accessibility. They are all close to the A-7 (formerly N-340) coastal road that runs along the entire region, plus, many are linked by pretty palm-fringed promenades, making beach-hopping a breeze!

In the morning you could be partaking in watersports or dolphin watching; in the afternoons, swimming in crystalline waters in a secluded cove, and then snuggling up with a glass of sangria to watch the sunset in the evening.

In this article, we’ll look at the most unique and characteristic from east to west – the best Costa del Sol beaches for relaxation, activities and of course, spectacular sunsets!

Read also: Best Things to do in Costa del Sol

Playa El Canuelo – Nerja

This is the first/most northern beach on the Costa del Sol. It’s also one of the most spectacular. Playa el Cañuelo is a remote and secluded gem, especially if visited out of season. A hidden shingle cove, this is a place for adventurers, and in my opinion, the best beach on the Costa del Sol.

The beach is hidden between the verdant Maro cliffs in Acantilados de Maro Nature Reserve. A place of turquoise waters – ideal for swimming and snorkelling to observe the abundant marine species.

Here, spend lazy days swimming to neighbouring coves and diving into underwater caves. Break for lunch in one of two nearby restaurants or combine your beach day with a three-kilometre hike to Cantarrijan Beach where clothing is optional.

Tip: To get to Cañuelo Beach, you’ll need to park at the Playa el Cañuelo (free) parking and walk from there. It’s about a 15-minute walk downhill, and a little further to get back uphill to the car park. Just follow the signs marked “Sendero – Bajada al Cañuelo”.

Alternatively, there is a shuttle bus running between the beach and the car park which costs €2 each way. However, it appears to be seasonal as it wasn’t running when I visited in October.

Playa de Maro – Nerja

Maro Beach is another hot contender for the title of the best beach in Costa del Sol. Located just outside Nerja, it’s a delight to spend time here hemmed between the verdant hills and rocky outcrops of the Acantilados Natural Reserve. This sliver of sand and pebbles sweeps down to clear azure waters.

It’s a popular spot in peak season, but at any other time, positively idyllic. You can relax beneath a parasol on a comfortable sun lounger, feast on freshly prepared dishes in the small beach chiringuito, or in season, even hire a kayak to explore the coastline.

The waters are calm and shallow in the cove for swimming, making this beach perfect for families with younger kids.

Don’t forget to head to the scenic point Mirador Playa de Maro for epic views of the beach from above and if you’re feeling energetic, walk to the 16th-century watchtower, Torre de Maro.

Tip: The parking situation at this beach can be insane during summer, with cars jostling for space the whole way down the narrow road from Maro village. There is a turning bay at the end, but unless you want to drop people off here, it’s better just to park at the dedicated parking lot up the hill, and walk or take the bus for €1.50 instead.

Playa de Burriana – Nerja

This beautiful golden sandy beach in Nerja is known as one of the prettiest and most revered by locals. Set within a cove with a dramatic mountainous backdrop, Playa de Burriana has everything you need for a combination of activities and sun-worshipping.

Join locals for a game of beach volleyball, test your skills on a jet ski, learn to dive, kayak along the coast or head out on a pedalo with family or friends. Between unwinding beneath a parasol, feast on veggie or seafood paella for lunch along the beautiful promenade, and afterwards, wander into Nerja town centre for a spot of early evening shopping.

Playa de Burriana is a popular sunset spot for a romantic stroll. And it’s possibly one of the best beaches near Malaga to visit on a day trip.

Tip: Parking here in October wasn’t too much of an ordeal. But don’t worry if you can’t find a car park behind the beach on the main strip. Just keep driving until you get to the hill and there are plenty more car parks around the corner.

Playa de la Calahonda – Nerja

Nerja’s beach game is strong and nowhere is that more apparent than at the insta-famous Calahonda beach. Centrally located next to the Balcón de Europa, it’s not the most private beach on the list, but it certainly is spectacular.

Framed by rust-coloured cliffs and warm Mediterranean waters, there are a sprinkling of beach chairs to book if you want to make a day of it. Luckily, you’re a long way from the lido culture of Italian beaches, so there’s still plenty of space to pitch your umbrella and stay for free too.

When hunger strikes, there are a range of eateries within a quick stroll. And there are shower facilities and public toilets available. Just beware, it does get busy here in the summer months, so if you’re looking for a little more tranquility, you may find it by ducking behind the large rocks, where a series of small coves offer space for sunbathing and swimming in peace.

Cala de Pedragalejo – Malaga City

One of the best beaches around Malaga, Cala de Pedragalejo is a favourite of locals. It lies east of the city centre, fringed by palms with a lively promenade dotted with bars, trendy cafes and restaurants.

This beach, remarkably, for being positioned in a huge city, has more of a small fishing village vibe. The seafront hotels and apartment complexes have been replaced with low-rise dwellings, traditional eateries and bars.

With a walkway jetty behind, it creates a charming scene. The beach is split into four bays with breakwaters, creating a calm, gently sloping entrance into the clean waters for swimming and snorkelling.

While you sip sangria listening to your holiday playlist, children can play in the dedicated areas, or join with locals for a game of volleyball or football. Playa de Pedragalejo is popular with young people and is a lively place to visit in the evenings.

Playa de la Malagueta – Malaga City

If you’re planning a stay in or around Malaga City, this Blue Flag beauty is known for its spectacular views and abundant amenities. Located in an area of Malaga once strewn with warehouses, shipyards and sugar manufacturing plants, today one of the city’s most popular beaches – a place for locals to gather to play sports, enjoy swimming and family relaxation.

La Malagueta boasts incredible mountain, port and Gibralfaro Castle views. Behind the beach, the palm-fringed promenade, lined with restaurants, boutiques, mini markets and cute cafes gives you access to everything you need for a successful beach day.

In addition, the sea is calm and shallow – perfect for kids. There’s an inflatable Aquapark in season and you can even walk along the rocky pier to see the cruise ships sailing in and out of the port. Combine your beach day with sightseeing at the nearby Alcazaba, Roman amphitheatre or a trip to Atarazanas Market.

Read More: Visiting Malaga in Winter

Playa La Carihuela – Torremolinos

This expansive beach of fine golden sand near Torremolinos is a fabulous hotspot for all ages. La Carihuela was once a former fishing village, and to a certain degree, still retains that charm.

You’ll often see remnants of its heritage nearby – colourful row boats artfully positioned along the shores. The sand is clean, there are dozens of amenities for families and modern chiringuitos with alfresco dining along the promenade.

You can enjoy watersports, relax beneath parasols and sip ice-cold beer from a local bar. It’s a perfect place for strolling from resort to resort along the promenade, plus, little ones are entertained with the play areas, parks and watersports.

Playa las Viborillas – Benalmadena

Although this tiny beach is located in uber-touristy Benalmadena, it has a distinct tropical air about it. The sandy paradise is hidden from the coastal road by swarths of palm trees, in a rocky cove making way for shingle sands and shallow, calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

It’s not frequented by tourists very often, nor is the neighbouring naturist beach Playa Benalnatura, so you can have this place to yourselves, particularly on weekdays outside peak season.

Access is via a staircase, perhaps making it unsuitable for those with limited mobility but the vibe is calm and relaxed, making it one of the best quiet beaches in Costa del Sol. You’ll still find sunbeds and parasols to rent and there are showers and amenities on the beach.

Playa del Chaparral – La Cala de Mijas

Playa del Chaparral is a slender stretch of golden sand dotted with palm trees and backed by charming whitewashed villas, between El Faro and La Cala de Mijas.

This is a popular beach for all ages. It’s an ideal place for perfecting your salute to the sun yoga pose, for playing beach games with family and, of course, for swimming.

The beach winds its way along the coastline with lush mountains, golf courses, mini markets and paddle surf rentals nearby. You can wander to neighbouring Playa Naturista de Playa Marina for an all-over tan or dine at a nearby restaurant serving international fare or Spanish cuisine at sunset.

Playa de Venus – Marbella

One of Marbella’s finest beaches, Playa de Venus occupies a prime position near the Old Town and Parque de la Alameda with its pretty botanical gardens. It’s also a few minutes’ walk from one of Marbella’s best tapas bars ‘La Taberna del Pintxo’.

On the beach, spend leisurely sunny days relaxing beneath a parasol on comfy loungers topping up your tan, taking a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean Sea, or sipping cocktails at Soleo Marbella Beach Club.

There are plenty of activities to occupy families, with catamaran rides and jet skiing available in season, or you can hop aboard a nearby boat charter to see dolphins in their natural habitat. End your day at John Scott’s Beach – a trendy tiki-style beach bar serving signature dishes with a side of chill-out tunes.

Playa de Nagueles/Playa Casablanca – Marbella

This laid-back beach on Marbella’s Golden Mile is a paradise for couples and families, and it’s also popular with celebrities staying in the five-star Puente Romano and Marbella Club hotels. The beach features two hip restaurants usually hosting events, but if you’re on a budget, the menus can be pretty pricey.

Wander along the wooden jetty for views of La Concha Mountain (Marbella’s shell-like behemoth), enjoy a cooling dip, learn how to stand-up paddleboard or hire a pedalo.

Bring a book, rent a sunlounger, enjoy a soothing massage in a pop-up tent and people-watch between swimming and sipping pina coladas. Stay for sunset and immerse yourself in tunes from resident hotel DJs as daylight turns to dusk.

Playa del Cristo – Estepona

This sheltered Blue Flag beach is perfect for families seeking fun in the sun. With a smattering of trees, hotels and apartments as the backdrop, the beach is long enough to find a quiet spot for relaxation.

The shallow waters are calm and inviting for swimming, making the area ideal for young kids, but it’s also popular with surfers at certain times of the year. A section of the beach is protected by a wall, making it a bit of a sun trap and there are several play areas nearby.

Estepona Marina is a short walk away, where you can rent water sports gear or sip tinto de Verano in a charming waterfront café or restaurant. If you decide to stay for the sunset, head for Mirador de la Playa del Cristo for views as far-reaching views as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Read More: Best Things to do in Estepona, Spain

Playa de la Sal/Casares Beach – Casares Playa

This peaceful spot could register quite high as best beach on Costa del Sol, as it is only really known by residents. It’s a great place to combine with a day trip to the hilltop white village of Casares or with a visit to the expansive Sabinillas Sunday market.

The beach is scattered with rocks, with a vegetative backdrop and nearby you’ll find one of the finest chiringuitos (beach bars) in the area, close to the old stone watch tower “La Sal”. 

This beach is a place for sunrise yoga, reading or swimming, and for dining on fabulous food at sunset with views of Marbella, La Concha Mountain and Africa in the distance.

You can enjoy a round at Doña Julia golf course nearby, hike the mountain trails of Sierra Bermeja or head for the Roman baths in Manilva – a natural landscape for alfresco bathing. The beach is relatively well-equipped with sun loungers and parasols, although you won’t find much in the way of watersports here.

Playa de Sabinillas – Sabinillas

Sabinillas is a former fishing village in the western Costa del Sol. In recent years it has become more popular with tourists, although it remains a hidden gem for many.

The long Costa del Sol beach winds from Puerto de la Duquesa to Casares Costa with views of the Sierra Bermeja mountains. You’ll often find the beach deserted, especially on weekdays, allowing you to play games, swim, sun-worship or take a scenic stroll.

The beach is occasionally strewn with colourful fishing boats, harking back to the town’s former life, and on the promenade behind – an array of casual restaurants with international flair serve everything from sandwiches, burgers, Indian food and pizzas, to ice cream and pastries.

Playa de los Toros – Punta Chullera

 “Beach of the Bulls” got its name from an old cattle route stretching from Los Barrios to Estepona. It’s one of the prettiest beaches on the Costa del Sol, nestled between gently sloping hills dotted with luxury villas between Puerto de la Duquesa and Sotogrande (the Beverly Hills of Spain).

Early in the mornings, you’ll often catch a lone fisherman perched on one of the rocks. The same rocks also provide iconic views of Gibraltar and Morocco, making this beach a draw for photographers.

Playa de los Toros is punctuated by a handful of parasols and loungers, appealing more to locals and expats than tourists. There are limited facilities, but the sapphire-coloured sea and sandy/shingle beach caters to relaxation. While here, walk to the ancient watchtower of Chullera and pop into one of the local chiringuitos for a delicious lunch.

Tip: There are only a handful of parking spaces in the parking lot near this beach. Another option is to park near one of the beaches to the north, and wander down the coastline instead.

Playa de los Lances – Tarifa

Ok, technically this beach is classed as being on the Costa de la Luz, but it’s close to the western edge of the Costa del Sol and Gibraltar and way too good to leave off this list!

Playa de los Lances is easily accessible by car and super popular with Costa del Sol residents. Why? It stretches for a mammoth 10 kilometres in length, backing onto a charming bohemian town (Tarifa) – a place with a distinctly North African vibe.

There are cool chiringuitos all around, cosy cafes and the beach backs onto a cork oak forest – Alcornocales Natural Park (where they harvest the cork for wine bottle stoppers).

This outstanding beach comes with unrivalled views of Morocco, it’s a surfing and kitesurfing paradise, plus, the place is steeped in history with the ruins of Baelo Claudia nearby.

The sands are soft and powdery, and the sunsets are world-class. It’s worth a day trip just for the latter. It’s also worth mentioning that this is only one of dozens of incredible, unspoilt beaches in this area.

As you can see, there are many glorious beaches of the Costa del Sol. From the unspoilt landscapes of Nerja in the east to the activity-led, tailored shores of Marbella, Estepona and Sabinillas in the west, there’s a beautiful beach to suit your dreamiest wishes!

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