If you’re heading to the Costa del Sol, it can be all too easy to make a beeline for the bustling streets of Malaga, or the glamorous marina of Marbella. But be sure to carve out some time to visit the lesser-known towns and villages too.
Estepona, in particular, is one of these places in Southern Spain that’s deserving of a visit. A charming town – authentically Andalusian, punctuated with pretty palm-fringed promenades, golden sandy beaches and narrow winding streets leading to flower-filled plazas brimming with cafes and tapas bars.
Although the town dates back to well before Roman times, it is thought that the name Estepona came from the word “Al-extebunna” from times when the Moors ruled Andalucia.
Throughout the year you can visit open-air markets and partake in vibrant cultural events. There are beautiful orchid gardens to explore, boat trips to enjoy, there’s street art to photograph and even mountain hiking trails and white-washed villages to discover.
With so many exciting things to see in Estepona, you’ll never be short of inspiration.
How to Get to Estepona
If arriving at Malaga International Airport, there are a few options for reaching Estepona.
I’d recommend renting a car, so you can explore more of the Costa de Sol (discover the best deals here). To reach Estepona by car, drive along the coastal road (A-7), taking in the towns and resorts along the way. Alternatively, opt to travel along the faster AP-7 toll road which takes around 50 minutes.
If you’d rather take public transport, Avanza operates buses from Malaga Airport and Malaga Central Bus Station to Estepona via Marbella. Hop aboard the L-307 to Marbella, then transfer to the No.79 bus to Estepona. The cost is €12-15 euros one way, and the journey time is around 1.5 hours.
Most buses heading for La Linea-Algeciras from Malaga also make a stop at Estepona Bus Station around 15 minutes from the city centre.
Top Things to do in Estepona
Whether you’re staying a few days, or planning to visit Estepona during a Costa del Sol stay, here are a few fun activities and some of the top attractions to check out during your holiday.
Explore the Historical Centre
If you’re taking a day trip to Estepona, book a guided tour of the enchanting historic centre. As you observe colourful flowerpots filled with geraniums adorning narrow whitewashed streets, you’ll begin to realise why Estepona is known to many as the “Garden of the Costa del Sol”.
The main square is Plaza de las Flores (Flower Square), a lively place where espressos, freshly baked pastries and tapas can all be enjoyed alfresco. Pop into Casa de las Tejerinas, an 18th-century residence with interior patios, arcades and stained glass rooftops or walk to see the ruins of the Moorish watchtower – Castillo de San Luis.
Another highlight of the old town of Estepona is Torre del Reloj – an old clock tower built around an ancient minaret. When you’ve seen all the sites, browse the many speciality shops, boutiques and perfumeries for gifts and souvenirs.
Visit Estepona’s Colourful Orchidarium
Cloaked beneath three glass domes, the 16,000 square-foot Estepona Orchid House is a relatively recent addition to the town centre. Home to 1300+ different species of orchids in myriad colours, the space recreates the tropical rainforests and landscapes of South America and Southeast Asia.
Spread across two floors, take in the beautiful vertical gardens from walkways. Gaze upon cascading waterfalls as they plunge into crystalline pools below (with a show every hour) and admire the abundant foliage and greenery.
The botanical gardens are reasonably priced to enter (€3 for adults, €1 for children 4-11), and it’s a fun and educational experience for all the family.
See Estepona’s Incredible Street Murals
To the onlooker, Estepona is a typical, quaint Spanish working town. But scratch the surface, delve a little deeper and you’ll find this city awash with incredible street art!
There are 60 murals decorating apartment buildings and houses throughout the town centre. One, is the largest vertical mural in all of Europe, covering seven floors. It’s called ‘Reflejos del Jardin’ (Reflections of the Garden) and is located close to the Orchidarium.
Other highlights include ‘Dia de Pesca’ (Day of Fishing), It’s one of the most striking murals incorporating a huge fish across an entire facade. The mural as a whole covers several buildings along Calle Terraza.
Another iconic mural depicts the importance of children protecting nature. It’s a poignant piece showing a young girl watering a real tree outside the building. This one is known as ‘Regando el Jardin’ (Watering the Garden). It can be found on the edge of Parque del Calvario on Avenida Andalucia.
Hike in the Sierra Bermeja Mountains
Blending your city visit with a foray into nature is easy in Estepona. The Sierra Bermeja mountain range is minutes away by car, with several hiking trails of varying difficulties, each with incredible views.
The word “Bermeja” comes from the Spanish word for “red” as the mountains are rich in platinum and iron, giving the peaks a rich red colour, particularly at sunset.
Along hiking trails, discover ibex and wildcats hidden amid pine and fir trees, or see golden eagles soaring above verdant rocky outcrops.
A highlight is the Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja Trail. It’s well signposted with plenty of areas to stop for picnics en route, plus it boasts breathtaking views of the coastline and Mediterranean Sea. If you don’t want to go it alone, you can also book a guided hike.
For something a little less taxing, the mini hiking route around Rio Padron features river crossings and refreshing pools. This one is popular with families travelling with kids.
Relax on Estepona’s Golden Beaches
Estepona doesn’t just incorporate the town itself, it’s a whole municipality with over 20 kilometres of coastline and dozens of outstanding beaches.
These beautiful beaches are primarily frequented by local Spanish people and expats in the know. They boast chiringuitos (beach bars) serving casual bites accompanied by live music, and most beaches have loungers, parasols and crystal-clear waters for swimming and snorkelling.
One of the best beaches in Estepona is La Rada Beach. With Blue Flag status and swarths of golden sand, it’s located in front of Estepona’s palm-fringed promenade (Paseo Maritimo de Estepona), spanning two miles in length with restaurants, cafes, kid’s play areas and water sports close by.
Playa del Cristo is another favourite with fine sands, hammocks and jet skis near Estepona marina. This beach has a breakwater on the east side, making it safe for little ones to splash around in the water.
Those preferring to sunbathe without picking up any tan lines can head for Costa Natura beach just outside the town.
Read More: Best Beaches in the Costa del Sol
Browse the Local Markets
Don’t miss a trip to a local market during your stay. As music blares from radios and stall vendors dance and sing, you can feast on churros dipped in chocolate and browse clothing, ceramics, fresh flowers and produce on display.
Estepona’s market takes place on Wednesday mornings along Avenida Juan Carlos, and on Sundays in the fishing port area. However, one of the most authentic markets in the surrounding area is held in nearby Sabinillas on Sundays.
This is more of a rastro (flea) market, and you can pick up tons of bargains. Antiques and furnishings are spread out across the car park tarmac, and local clothing, crafts and bags line the covered stalls.
Even if you’re not shopping for anything in particular, it’s a great spot to soak up the ambience over morning coffee and a snack, before retreating to the beachfront for lunch.
Sample the Finest Local Cuisine
The Costa del Sol is home to a diverse set of nationalities hailing from all over the world, therefore, the culinary choices here are exceptional. The best restaurants serve everything from Spanish, Greek and Italian, to Lebanese, Indian, Chinese and Thai – there is something to suit all tastes and dietary requirements.
If you’re seeking a great place to eat on a day trip to Estepona, try Restaurante La Casa del Rey in Plaza de las Flores. They serve pintxos and tapas in a historical 200-year-old house. Choose a table outside in the square – it’s very atmospheric at dusk.
Seeking vegetarian or vegan food? Pura Vita Vegan on Calle Caridad is the ideal place to be. This hip plant-based eatery has a menu filled with comfort foods including veggie dumplings, tacos, burgers and desserts. They also serve freshly squeezed juices and grab ‘n’ go options for picnics on the beach.
Tee off on a World-Class Golf Course
There are dozens of thrilling activities in Estepona, but one of the most popular pastimes here is golf. Many visitors travel to Estepona, solely to play on one of the Costa del Sol’s championship courses!
If you know your “birdie” from your “albatross”, choose to play Estepona Golf, Ona Valle Romano, Dona Julia or Villa Padierna with three golf courses – Flamingos Golf, Tramores Golf and Alferini Golf! All are within a 15-minute drive of Estepona town centre.
The nearest course, Estepona Golf, boasts 18 holes with lush, tree-lined fairways, lakes, mountains and sea views. Test your golfing prowess against friends and family before relaxing on the Clubhouse terrace or in The Long Bar with a refreshing cold beer.
Dolphin Watching Boat Tour
The coastline along the western Costa del Sol is dramatic and spectacular. With mountainous backdrops, emerald-hued vegetation, golden beaches and views of the Rock of Gibraltar and Morocco, it’s a great place to take a boat trip.
Set sail into azure Mediterranean waters and glimpse dolphins frolicking in the wild as they swim beside your boat. Enjoy snacks and beverages on board while taking in the incredible views.
Dive into the sea for a swim, snorkel to discover exotic fish or simply soak up the sunshine on the deck as your favourite music tracks play in the background. If you can time your cruise to coincide with the sunset, you’ll be treated to a truly memorable experience.
Drive to an Andalucian Pueblo Blanco (White Village)
Looking for things to do near Estepona? One of the famous white villages of Andalucia is less than 25 minutes’ drive. Take a scenic road trip through lush mountain ranges with pine trees to the picture-postcard village of Casares.
Casares sits upon a sloping hillside surrounded by rolling hills and pastures that stretch for miles. A historic church and the remnants of an Arabic castle perch at the summit, as cubed white houses with terracotta rooftops unfurl like a carpet below.
Venture into the village centre to enjoy tapas and a glass of wine. Check out the clothing and craft shops and make your way to Fuente de Carlos III, a historic stone fountain in the main square.
See the birthplace of Blas Infante (the father of Andalucia), visit unusual mausoleums, hike along the scenic trails or spend time at the nearby Roman baths said to have been built by Julius Caesar.
If you stay for the sunset, grab a seat on the terrace of Sarmiento Restaurant, sipping champagne from the cellar as the lights of the village and coastal towns begin to flicker in the distance.
Read More: Best Things to do in the Costa del Sol
Picnic in Parque del Calvario
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the town centre in peaceful Parque del Calvario. This is the town’s largest urban park, located just a few minutes walk from the Orchidarium.
With wisteria-clad pergolas (in springtime), children’s play areas and a small lake with trickling waterfalls and vegetation, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic or quiet moments following a morning of shopping and sightseeing.
Stroll to La Ermita del Calvario – a hermitage dating back to the late 1820s. It is said to have been originally constructed for lepers who had to live outside the boundaries of the town. In the late 1800s, it was re-categorized as a sacred structure. As you approach, you’ll see unmarked white posts that symbolise the stations of the cross.
If you’re travelling to Estepona during the summer months, cultural and musical performances take place by the water’s edge in this idyllic green space.
Join in with Estepona’s Cultural Events
As with many towns and cities throughout Andalucia, Estepona hosts a plethora of cultural events throughout the year. In February, check out the Carnival of Estepona – a fun time when locals gather for food, traditional dancing, music and parades.
At Easter, there’s Holy Week (Semana Santa), one of the largest religious celebrations on the coast, infused with centuries-old Spanish traditions, processions and church services.
Don’t miss the San Juan Festival in June. This evening celebrates the summer solstice and is steeped in ancient superstitions. Prepare to see fire jumping, and effigies being burned on the beach.
Why not join with locals to write down things you wish to let go of and visualise your wishes for the months ahead? You then throw the paper into the fire, before jumping into the sea to cleanse away the old and make way for the new.
If you happen to be in Estepona in early July, the coastal town goes into full party mode, as it’s time for the annual summer feria! Expect to see women dressed in flamenco costumes, tents filled with street food, live music and cultural performances, fairground rides and locals (and tourists) consuming copious amounts of wine!
There are many Estepona attractions to enjoy during a trip to the western Costa del Sol. Whatever time of the year you plan your holiday in Estepona, you’ll surely be captivated by the town’s floral landscapes, vibrant traditions and warm, Andalucian hospitality.