Visit Spain's Sexiest Costa del Sol Beaches

Make a splash on these tantalizing shores.

Viva la Espana -- and its beaches! A wide swath of the southern coast of Spain is known as the Costa del Sol, or "Sun Coast," thanks to the blazing rays it receives throughout much of the year. Golden brown sands line the Mediterranean coast, which is marked by a number of  irresistible beach towns, as well as a few hidden stretches of exquisite shoreline.

Costa del Sol, Spain

Valerie Conners

Many travelers bypass this entire region, opting instead to visit larger, tourist-laden towns like Barcelona or Seville. Avoid the masses and hit these coastal respites, to enjoy the sea, mountainous backdrops and rich Spanish culture.

Playa del Canuelo

It's not easy to find a beach along the Costa del Sol that isn't teeming with visitors, but if you're willing to venture further afield, there are plenty of (relatively) hidden coves to be found. Of the Costa's many remote beaches, Canuelo handily ranks as the most stunning. The curving shoreline is dotted with enormous, rocky outcroppings and clear, calm water, which makes it a favorite for snorkelers.

As with so many of the best things in life, reaching Canuelo isn't entirely a breeze -- but this means it remains blissfully uncrowded, even on steamy Costa del Sol weekends. The beach is located in Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural Park, and visitors must park their car in a lot, then take a shuttle bus to reach the actual beach. There are few amenities at Canuelo, so pack wisely -- if you prefer shade or a chair, you'll want to bring your own umbrella and lounger. Bring a picnic lunch, or rely on one of two restaurants on the beach (which can be expensive).


Nerja, Spain

Valerie Conners

If you're looking for a small, vibrant beach town with a heavy dose of stunning, natural beauty, look no further. Nerja's greatest draw might well be the jaw-dropping Balcon de Europa, a dramatic overlook with views of the Costa del Sol's jagged coastline and beaches flanked by rocky, flower-draped cliffs. Descend stairs to the beaches below the balcony, or walk further afield to other, larger swaths of nearby sand where you can rent a beach chair and umbrella and relax or splash in the waves.

After soaking in the sun, wander through Nerja's streets, and dine at some of the town's fantastic restaurants. The spicy curries at Taste of India, healthy salads at Gusto, and dirt-cheap and delicious pizza and pasta at Little Italy will keep you sated. Need a day out of the sun? Hop aboard the Cueva Train and head to the famous Nerja Caves, a series of spectacular caverns that stretch for more than 3 miles.


Marbella, Spain

Valerie Conners

In Marbella, you may come for the beaches, but you'll stay for the party. This swanky town is the see-and-be-seen mecca of the Costa del Sol. Sure, there's a pretty historic town center, with requisite winding streets, and flower-filled balconies. But if you're in Marbella on holiday, you're more than likely to settle in at one of the chic hotels lining the beach, don a skimpy swimsuit, and sip pricey bottles of sparkling wine before heading to one of the town's famed nightclubs and bars after dark.

You'll find swarms of rich, famous and beautiful people lounging on Marbella's shores, a tradition that began in the 1950s when Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg opened the now-iconic Marbella Club resort. The hotel and its infamous bar and restaurant soon attracted the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly. Today, you can ogle the fashionable crowds in the tony Puerto Banus district, and watch as they mingle among yachts in the marina and dine at trendy restaurants.

El Cristo, Estepona

Popularly known as El Cristo, the beach at Estepona (located just past the marina) on the Costa del Sol is beloved by locals. It's also kid-friendly, and its tranquil waters make it a hit with families. Unlike most Costa del Sol beaches, which face south, El Cristo faces west, which means it rarely gets windy and is a prime spot to watch the sunset, while staring at Gibraltar in the distance. Visitors will find softer, less rocky sand than many of its neighboring beaches, and the calm, clear water is best explored with a snorkel mask and fins.

Pack a picnic lunch, or head to one of the many beach bars and restaurants, known as chiringuitos, sprinkled along the sand. You'll want to order fresh sardines on skewers, cooked over an open flame, while you cool off from the sun drinking a chilled beer.

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