The Costa del Sol is perhaps most famous as a bucket and spade destination. No wonder when its coastline stretches for more than 150km along the Mediterranean and has 125 beaches. That means there’s a beach for everyone from family-friendly sands to clubbing beaches via quiet coves and city stretches of sands. But which of the 125 are the best beaches on the Costa del Sol?
This guide provides all the answers. We’ve cruised the coast from Estepona to Nerja and sourced the best beaches for you. Read on to find yours and then all you need to do is buy one of our e-guides and then book your holiday!
Need to know about costa del sol beaches
But before we launch into our list of the best, some practicalities:
Don’t be deceived by the calm appearance of the Mediterranean. This is a sea that, when stormy, produces waves of up to 8m and it often has rip currents that can drag you on to sea.
On some beaches on the Costa del Sol, such as Carvajal in Fuengirola, La Malagueta in Malaga and Burriana in Nerja, the sea shelves near the shore and you can be quickly out of your depth. Others, however, such as most in Marbella, slope gently into the sea.
Beaches in resorts have lifeguard services during Easter week and in the summer from June to mid-September. In larger resorts such as Malaga and Marbella, you’ll also see them at weekends between Easter and June.
They operate a flag system. If it’s green, it’s safe to swim; if it’s yellow, be careful and if it’s red, you mustn’t go in the water. There’s also a flag for jellyfish.
Most of the larger beaches have good facilities such as toilets (including accessible) and showers dotted along the beaches.
Beach bars and restaurants (known as chiringuitos) are part and parcel of Costa del Sol gastronomy and you’ll find them everywhere. Most restaurants serve seafood, fish and rice dishes. There are also plenty of cafés and ice-cream shops.
Most resort beaches have ramp access to the sand from the seafront promenade and many have walkways (usually wooden or concrete slabs) that cross part of the beach. Accessible bathing facilities are available during the summer at most resorts and those in Benalmádena and Malaga city received a special mention in the 2022 blue flag awards.
Did you know?
44 blue flags are flying on the best beaches on the Costa del Sol this year. Malaga and Marbella have the most, with seven apiece.
Best beach on the Costa del Sol for families
Since most beaches are sandy, your kids are guaranteed to love all of them. But we’ve picked the following for their shallow bathing for extra peace of mind:
East of Marbella
The coastal stretch between Los Monteros Hotel and the Don Carlos Hotel to the east of Marbella provides the longest stretch of family-friendly beaches on the Costa del Sol.
The western end of La Misericordia (don’t miss the mini-waterpark on the seafront – see our Family Fun Costa del Sol Road Trip for more information) and El Palo have the safest bathing in the city.
Torre del Mar
This long beach has shallow bathing and plenty of play parks on the sands. The seafront promenade also makes a lovely walk.
Did you know?
Several of the best beaches on the Costa del Sol have waterparks from mid-June to mid-September. You can find these inflatable installations at Benalmádena, Fuengirola , La Cala de Mijas, Malaga and Marbella.
Best beach on the Costa del Sol for sunsets and sunrises
Practically any spot on the coast makes a great place to catch the dawn or dusk because the Costa del Sol runs east to west. And the good news is that you don’t have to get up too early to see the sun rise at any time of year – it comes up over the Mediterranean after 7am in July and August and rarely before 8am in the winter.
Best beach paella on the Costa del Sol
Lots of beach restaurants serve this classic rice dish, a classic on the Spanish Sunday lunch menu. A traditional favourite is made at Chiringuito Ayo on Burriana Beach in Nerja. They make a giant pan of mixed paella (seafood and meat) at weekends and it’s first come, first served.
Best quiet beach on the Costa del Sol
Yes, even in high summer it’s possible to find a (reasonably) quiet spot for your towel. In July and August, you might not be completely alone, but you will have plenty of personal space around you. During the rest of the year, the following sands will be almost just for you:
Guadalhorce beach in Malaga
The beach end of the natural park (a prime birdwatching destination) is quiet all year round especially if you sit at the east end. Park in Guadalmar and walk south to the beach.
Playa del Padrón in Estepona
Park and then walk east to find your tranquil spot.
Best beach club beach on the Costa del Sol
Marbella and Torremolinos are the best spots for beach clubs on the Costa del Sol.
In Marbella, head for Puerto Banús where you’ll find several happening venues including Ocean Club with a packed programme of events and La Sala by the Sea. Or Nikki Beach next to the Don Carlos Hotel, famous for its themed parties in the summer.
In Torremolinos, beach clubs are located at the east end of the resort where you’ll find several such as La Palapa Beach Jazba and Kokun Ocean Club.
Best wildest beaches on the Costa del Sol
There are still places on the Costa del Sol where the coastline remains undeveloped. If you like your beaches wild, try these:
Maro coves in Nerja
This stretch of the Mediterranean has several small beaches that are completely natural. Most involve a steep walk down to get to (and back from), but if you like getting off the beaten track, the effort is more than worth it.
These beaches have no facilities or lifeguard services and there’s nowhere to buy food and drink, so take plenty of your own.
Getting there: between mid-September and June, you can park on the N340 road and walk down to the coves. In the summer, it’s best to park in Nerja and get the shuttle bus service to and from the coves. It runs from 10am to 8pm and costs €1.50 return.
Playa de Artola in Marbella
This long stretch of sand, backed by dunes, sits next to the port of Cabo Pino. Park in the designated car park and walk south to the beach. You can also walk across the dunes via the wooden walkways, a great place to stroll at sunset.
Best beach on the Costa del Sol for nudists
If you want to go clothes-free, nudism is permitted at the following beaches (east to west along the coast):
Nerja – Playa de las Alberquillas (east of Nerja) and Cala del Pino. Google map link
Between Nerja and Malaga – Playa de Almayate with a nudist campsite and beach restaurant. Google map link https://goo.gl/maps/xftUERYFkVQEYm9x9
Malaga city – Playa de Guadalmar Google map link
Between Malaga and Marbella – Playa de la Viborilla in Benalmádena (Google Map link https://goo.gl/maps/HoNYaKF7QsaoXXiB7) , Playa de Playamarina near La Cala de Mijas (Google Map link) and Playa de Artola in Marbella (Google Map link)
Between Marbella and Estepona – Costa Natura, complete with one of Europe’s most-established naturist resorts. Google Map link
Best beach on the Costa del Sol for a walk
Whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll or more intense workout, the following places are the best for walking along the coastline:
There are several lovely promenade walks on the Costa del Sol such as:
Fuengirola – start at the Castle and cross over the suspension bridge to walk along the promenade to Carvajal. The whole route is around 8km long.
Malaga western seafront – start at the city centre and make your way west until you come to the end of the promenade. 5.5km.
Marbella seafront – start in the city centre and walk west for almost as long as you like! Puerto Banús is around 6.5km away and San Pedro de Alcántara, about 10km.
If you fancy walking the entire stretch of the Costa del Sol via the sea, then this track is for you. It will eventually connect Manilva with Nerja along purpose-built paths for nearly 180km and already covers most of the coastline. Find out more about the Sendero Litoral.
So much more to the Costa del Sol
Enjoying the best beaches on the Costa del Sol is, of course, just one of the great things to do while you’re here. Our e-guides list many, many more and best of all, they’re themed to suit your interests.
Take a look at our selection and download yours. Don’t forget that you get at least 15% off if you buy more than one. Just your chosen e-guides add to your cart and the discount is automatically applied at checkout. ¡Buen viaje!