A top location for families as it offers a remarkable variety of attractions: Selwo Marina (dolphins, sea lions, penguins); Sea Life (sharks, giant turtles, rays); Tivoli World (fairground rides and amusements); Cable car (rises 700 metres to Calamorro Peak).
The white village by the sea has survived an influx of new foreign residents and remains a charming place to visit and stay. The winding streets of the old town built on the hillside are very enjoyable to wander round at dusk.
Despite its proximity to the coast, the village has an Andalucian character you won't find elsewhere. Holiday villas tend to be located in the green Acedia Valley between the village and the Mediterranean Sea.
Often overlooked by visitors, the town is a very pleasant one and the venue of Picasso Museum in his birthplace. Close by is El Palo beach and its restaurants.
In addition to its beaches, Estepona's Selwo Safari Park is well worth a visit.
Nerja Cave: the caverns and rock formations are quite amazing, drawing 500,000 visitors a year.
TORRE DEL MAR
Aquavelis Water Park is the place for active youngsters to have total fun.
PUERTO BANÚS (MARBELLA)
The jetset's top choice. Some of the world's finest yachts are moored in the harbour and the nightlife is jumping.
PUERTO MARINA (BENALMÁDENA)
Puerto Marina rivals Puerto Banús with modern architecture and up to 1,000 boats. Another favourite for those who want to go dancing and clubbing.
There are over a hundred to choose from and you will naturally tend to favour those most convenient for driving to. Here, though, is a selection of whet your appetite:
• La Cala el Cañuelo (Nerja) – charming and natural, even if sand is grey; good for families; beach bars for food & drinks GPS 36°44'16.3"N 3°46'32.9"W
• Peñoncillo (Torrox) – long, free of apartment buildings and rarely busy even in summer GPS 36°43'49.2"N 3°56'56.0"W
• La Carihuela (Torremolinos) – classic Costa del Sol beach with sunbeds, beach restaurants, water sports; backs onto a pleasant village and promenade continues to Benalmadena for boutiques and clublife GPS 36°36'42.3"N 4°30'06.2"W
• Bounty Beach (Puerto Banús) – beach music, tapas, cocktails and the Marbella buzz for the younger set GPS 36°30'28.0"N 4°51'49.7"W
• El Cristo (Estepona) – sheltered from winds; the clear, shallow water is good for children and snorkelling; chiringuito beach bars and nearby marina GPS 36°24'58.7"N 5°09'53.5"W
• Bahía Dorada (Estepona) – lovely situation and sea within an urban area GPS 36°23'26.6"N 5°12'11.6"W
• Sabinillas (Manilva) – rocky and sandy Blue Flag beach GPS 36°21'31.6"N 5°13'42.0"W
The climate makes the Costa del Sol a huge draw for golfers who have dozens of courses to choose from.
BEST OF THE REST
For a family day out, there's Aqualand for water fun and a Crocodile Park.
The Contemporary Art Centre has works by Picasso, Dalí and Miró.
Karting provides an exciting experience for budding racing drivers. Three different cars for children of all ages.
Exchange natural beauty for the glitz one day with a visit to Marbella and its upmarket harbour of Puerto Banus. Top activities here are shopping, dining at fine restaurants, people-watching and yacht-gazing. There are beaches, too. We recommend a maritime walk between Marbella and Puerto Banus. Away from the traffic, a path runs along the beach, a place for cool beach venues, LA-style joggers and care-free strollers.
The walk takes about half an hour. For something different, why not visit Marbella's Bonsai Museum, which is said to house of the most complete collections of the mini-trees in Europe.
Malaga celebrates at least four significant events every year. Carnaval sees jocular floats accompanied by bands and satirical singing groups parade through the city. Easter week is celebrated more solemnly and religiously, with processions of saints and virgins. On 23rd June, bonfires, fireworks and paper dolls (juas) are lit for the occasion of the eve of San Juan. This fiesta at the onset of summer is celebrated all along the coast with bonfires on the beach, music and dancing. In August, the Feria de Malaga (fair) is a week of music, flamenco dancing and foodstalls.
Nerja is another good venue for Carnaval the week prior to Lent. Costumes, masks, music and humour fill the streets in the special expression of popular culture.
Marbella's fishermen celebrate the Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen on 16th July. Fishing boats carry the statue of their patron saint in their own procession along the waves.
Feria de Casares: Casares village holds its summer fiestas on the first weekend in September with live music and dancing all night.
FOOD AND DRINK
The international influence is so marked that in certain places it can be difficult to find authentic Spanish restaurants.
At the major resorts, many European visitors can expect to be able to order their own national dishes in their own language, but it would be a great loss to not try some of the wonderful culinary experiences that the Costa del Sol has to offer.
Classic fare is the pescaito frito, fried fish that is well complemented by the salads in olive oil dressing that epitomizes the Mediterranean diet.
The best places to enjoy fish are ports where you should be prepared to make yourself heard in typically loud and busy informal bars, or from the chiringuito beach restaurants that are pretty much ubiquitous along the coast.
Chiringuitos range from simple beach huts serving cold drinks to the latest musical sounds to busy restaurants with parasol-shaded tables on the sand.
Gazpacho is the healthiest summer dish of all. The cold tomato soup blended with cucumber, onion, green pepper, olive oil and the cook's mother's special extra is full of vitamins.
Sometimes, the beer or wine you order may be served with a complimentary tapa such as olives or crisps, but the civilized practice is less common in touristy spots. If you want a local sherry, ask for a vino fino.