Costa del Sol in southern Spain is lined with beach resort after beach resort after beach resort. Here’s our handy guide to the beach resorts that are the best of the bunch.
One of the sharpest upscale properties in Benalmadena, Vincci Seleccion Aleysa Hotel Boutique & Spa is located on the beach, next to a popular promenade that skirts the Mediterranean Sea. Its 35 rooms are chic and sophisticated and all have views of the sea -- the welcome bottle of cava doesn't hurt either. Some have large balconies, while others offer direct access to the pool. The hotel's Mediterranean restaurant draws praise, and there are bars by the sleek pool and in the lobby. Lounge chairs are spaced so that there's plenty of privacy on the beach, and features include a spa, fitness center, and yoga and Pilates classes. Free bikes and courtesy cars are also available.
The 193-room Gran Melia Don Pepe is a luxury seafront resort that's a six-minute drive from Marbella's Old Town. There's a lot to like here -- most of all the elegant style -- and the resort has indoor and outdoor pools, a children's pool, and a kids' club. Gran Melia Don Pepe is right on a lovely soft-sand beach, which has a beach club cafe with international dishes, snacks, and cocktails. There are also blue-and-white striped lounge chairs and thatched palapa-style umbrellas. The rooms feature elegant contemporary decor, marble bathrooms, and modern comforts like minibars, 37-inch flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi -- but some can be a bit small for a hotel of this caliber. The attractive spa offers a range of treatments, and there's a bright fitness center with modern equipment and tennis courts. Several restaurants and bars provide varied dining options.
The beachfront boardwalk is right in front of the 55-room, upscale El Oceano Beach Hotel, running in both directions with restaurants and bars. On-site is a cocktail lounge and fine-dining restaurant with a legendary Sunday lunch that features live music. Aside from direct beach access, the hotel's highlight is the outdoor pool with lovely sea views. Well-sized guest rooms are contemporary and equipped with free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and minibars. Most rooms have lovely sea views, but some lack a balcony. Guests under 14 are not allowed, so the hotel is best suited to couples.
This Marriott is a quiet beachfront property offering tons of on-site amenities. Decor is classic and somewhat elegant, though some may find the style a little dated and corporate, especially in the rooms. The 288 large one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments come with full kitchens, washer/dryers, furnished terraces, and solid amenities, including LCD TVs with DVD players, jetted tubs, and free Wi-Fi. There are three restaurants, a bar, and a fully stocked supermarket on site, as well as four pools, a spa, and a fitness center. The beach is narrow but sandy, and features straw umbrellas and loungers that guests can rent for the day.
Puente Romano Beach Resort Marbella is located in a quiet residential community, overlooking a pretty, sandy beach. With its world-class tennis club featuring 10 courts and lessons; three pools with towel and drinks service; and seven restaurants, it is easily one of the most luxurious properties in the region. All 266 rooms feature classic, elegant decor, marble bathrooms with double sinks, and balconies or terraces. Standard in-room amenities include Nespresso coffeemakers, iPod docks, flat-screen TVs, and minibars. One of the pools is by the beach and heated year round, and there are also a great fitness center with personal trainers, a tiny spa, a yoga and Pilates studio (classes are for a fee), and a bar with DJ sessions on weekends.
The 98-room Parador de Nerja is part of a state-run chain of Spanish hotels, many of which are in historic buildings. The Parador de Nerja is not picturesque or historic; it's modern and utilitarian, but the views and the private elevator to Burriana Beach at the base of the cliffs make this feel like a special place. Sunsets viewed from the cliff-top hotel are spectacular and romantic, and the 10-minute walk into town for tapas is lovely.
This stately resort has been a Costa del Sol landmark since it opened in 1957. It attracts mostly couples, but families are also drawn by its beachfront location, two pools, and kids' club, while event space makes it a popular venue for weddings and meetings. The hotel features an expansive landscaped lawn with loungers, an outdoor pool with a sundeck, and a private beach (with lounge chairs and umbrellas available for rent). The glass-enclosed Beach Club Grill offers outdoor seating right on the sand (note that The Grill is closed during January and February). Other dining options include Olivo Restaurant, which serves all three meals, and Noble Bar has lots of outdoor seating overlooking the beach. The 283 spacious rooms feature upscale marble bathrooms, beautiful hardwood floors, and private balconies, many of which offer sweeping ocean views.
Hotel IPV Palace & Spa is an upper-middle-range beachfront property with 285 rooms that all face the water. It's removed from the busy town center, though it's within walking distance of Fuengirola Street Market and Miramar Shopping Center, plus the setting is quiet. Rooms are split between older-looking and modern, but all have free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and furnished balconies or patios -- many of which have excellent views. Extensive features include an outdoor pool and separate kiddy pool, kids' club, expansive spa facilities, and multiple dining options. Note there are fees for in-room safes and loungers on the beach.
Built on the Mediterranean Sea, the Hotel Balcon de Europa makes excellent use of its prime oceanfront location in the center of tourist-friendly Nerja. It offers beautiful views of the beach from the rooftop pool and El Nautico, a romantic restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows. The 108 rooms have the same contemporary aesthetic as the public areas, plus flat-screen TVs with satellite channels and free Wi-Fi. Some rooms have terraces just large enough for a table and chairs but with incredible views of the water. Other rooms overlook an unattractive interior courtyard and neighboring rooftops.
The contemporary, family-friendly Hotel Fuerte Estepona has a beachfront location in a quiet part of Estepona, about a 10-minute drive from the town center. Its 210 attractive rooms are equipped with minibars, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and lovely jetted bathtubs. All have balconies, but only some are furnished and overlooking the sea. In addition to direct beach access, there are four outdoor pools -- one of which is for adults only and another that's for kids. Be warned is that there's a nude beach located next door.
The luxurious Don Carlos Leisure Resort & Spa has 243 modern rooms with plush beds and marble bathrooms. In addition to its six restaurants and bars and three pools, Don Carlos offers a wealth of recreational facilities. Its Orange Beach Club has lounge chairs, Bali beds, music, dedicated staffing, and a restaurant serving drinks and Mediterranean cuisine with local produce. The more exclusive VIP Nikki Beach Club offers perks like massages, boat transfer, and towel service, and is open seasonally -- guests have access to it for a fee. The beach also offers beach volleyball and water sports like pedal boating, sailing, jet skiing, water skiing, canoeing, and scuba diving, though they aren't included with most room rates.
The 18-room, mid-range Hotel Paraiso del Mar emits a quintessential Mediterranean coastal vibe with its brightly colored exterior, white shutters, palm trees, and terra-cotta entryway. Grounds are lush and vibrant, though guests will most likely be looking out at the gorgeous sea and beach, which is visible from multiple vantage points. The lovely stretch of sandy beach can be accessed via a staircase on the property, and there is also a pleasant pool with excellent sea views. Its surrounding decks have ample sunbeds and umbrellas, plus a hot tub.
Though the Gran Hotel Elba Estepona & Thalasso Spa doesn't live up to its advertised five-star rating, it's an upscale property with amenities that appeal to both couples and families. Its waterfront location and palm-tree-laden grounds give the hotel an effortless beachy vibe, enhanced by the terra-cotta-colored buildings and well-manicured landscaping. While direct beach access is arguably the 204-room hotel's crowning feature, the main outdoor pool is a close second. Its terra-cotta deck is lined with loungers and umbrellas, and there is usually live entertainment. Rooms come equipped with free Wi-Fi, minibars, separate bathtubs and showers, and furnished balconies or terraces -- some with gorgeous sea views.
Melia Costa del Sol is a mid-range resort that sits on the popular Bajondillo beach in Torrelominos, Spain. The nine-story hotel has clean, spacious, if slightly dated, rooms that are all equipped with sea-view outdoor terraces (except for the ground-floor accommodations). Sitting on the oceanfront promenade, Melia Costa del Sol has extremely easy access to the beach. The hotel has a pool surrounded by sun beds that guests can rent for a fee. There are a buffet restaurant, gastrobar, and lobby bar on the premises.
The 205-room Hotel Pez Espada was built in 1959, and was the first hotel on the beach at Torremolinos and the first luxury hotel on the Costa del Sol. In the 1960s and '70s, the Pez Espada was frequented by such celebrities as Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Sean Connery, and Frank Sinatra, after whom Frankie's Bar was named. The property's heyday is certainly behind it, and today it's a mid-range hotel with clean but basic rooms. Elements of the glamorous, vintage vibe persist, and there are large, airy public spaces, as well as an intimate feeling in the lounges and bars, despite their size.
The 242-room, three-pearl Yaramar Hotel is located in Los Boliches, just across the street from a long stretch of sandy beach. Blue-and-white themed rooms are a bit dated but they have free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and furnished balconies with at least partial sea views. Note that Standard Rooms require a fee to use mini-fridges. On-site facilities include a large pool with adjacent whirlpool, gym, sauna, and multiple dining options that receive positive reviews. The area is mostly quiet and a bit removed from the Fuengirola city center, but there is no shortage of bars and restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.