Driving down to the sea couldn't be easier, just 20 minutes down the MA-8300 road. La Sal beach is a good choice; it has a beach bar and it's easy to park. Off the same coastal road are others such as El Castillo. The sea at Playa de Chullera near Manilva sometimes creates natural pools for wallowing or snorkelling in. Our detailed Casares Local Guide (sent to Rustical Travel holidaymakers) has more beach recommendations.
On Estepona's own sandy beaches, it's nice to eat out on the sand, where restaurants offer a mix of international and Spanish dishes, although we're not persuaded that the quality is that good. Our local guide directs you to a superb seafood lunch at a restaurant tucked away in the near the docks and bull ring. On Sundays, there's an open air market in Estepona port.
Sierra Crestalina refuge circular walk from the village. The climb is not too taxing and affords superb views of Sierra Crestellina and Monte del Duque mountains. The 3-kilometre walk includes a look-out point with views of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean and Africa. The path takes you through vegetation of gall and scrub oak, carob and pine. There's an important colony of Griffon vultures up here and you will almost certainly see them wheeling in the sky.
Lacipo is a pretty walk that children can manage as well takes you cross-country to the ruins of the Roman fortress of Lacipo. Worth it just for the panoramic views on arrival. The ruins are abandoned and overgrown, so children may get the feeling of being discovering explorers.
East of Casares the Sierra Bermeja mountain range rises to 1,450 m. Volcanic in origin, the sierra is rich in iron and platinum and has acquired reddish tinge from the action of rain as metals have oxidized. It's a lovely natural area to walk around or maybe have a picnic.
Special to this sierra are the Spanish fir tree (pinsapo) and a species of roe deer (corzo morisco), both of which are unique to the Ronda mountains. You can drive from Estepona to near the top of Sierra Bermeja in under an hour.
Suitable for beginners and experienced riders. The stables will come and pick you up if you wish.
SELWO WILDLIFE ADVENTURE PARK
Jungly and fun and only 30 minutes away. Footpaths with rope-bridges or a truck safari take you to flamingos, monkeys, elephants, bears, giraffes, Bengal tigers – even a batcave.
RONDA MOUNTAINS AND VILLAGES
Drive round the old whitewashed villages of the Ronda Mountains, inhabited since Neanderthal times and you can visit caves that prove it. There are many routes, but one that people always enjoy is the easy drive round through Montejaque and Benaoján villages, continuing south to La Pileta cave, where prehistoric paintings and fossilized Stone Age skeletons were discovered in 1905. A lovely walk combines with the little train running between Benoaján and Jimar villages. We have restaurant recommendations here, also.
BEST OF THE REST
Julius Caesar was cured of a skin or liver complaint when he visited the local sulphurous baths (Los Baños de Hedionda) in 61 AD. They are not in the best of repair these days, but they are free to visit and use. The tradition is to smear the green mud from the riverbank onto skin and hair, let it dry in the sun, and then bathe to wash it off in the baths or river. The water temperature is a constant 18⁰C in winter or summer.
Blas Infante's house
On the street into Casares village is the birthplace of Blas Infante (1885 – 1936), considered to be the father of the Andalusian nationalism. He was executed by Franco's forces early in the Civil War. After Franco's death in 1975, Andalusia gained political identity as Spain's largest autonomous community. The house is open to the public.
Wildboar frequent Casares' Acedia valley, often the bane of gardeners who find their villa lawns dug up by the unwelcome visitors. Despite their almost prehistorically fierce aspect, the boars are shy of people and it is birds that you are more likely to see. Vultures, short-toed eagles, bee-eaters, Bonelli's eagle, kestrels and kingfishers are all commonly spotted.
Walk up to Eagle Castle (Castillo del Águila). If you are in Gaucin at lunchtime, Restaurant El Lateral is recommended and for tapas there are Casa Antonia, El Puente and Bodeguita El Chaparro. Horse riding is also available, passing through Andalusian mountain countryside, orange groves and over rivers.
...Read more about Gaucin.
Alcornocales Natural Park and Jimena de la Frontera
Forests of cork oak surround Jimena village, whose atmosphere is quieter than Gaucin and castle ruins also well worth a visit, especially for the views. El Anon is an enjoyable place to eat or have a drink.
...Read more about Jimena de la Frontera.
Marbella (40 mins)
Ritzy and smart, the resort of preference for the jetset is always interesting to visit, especially the harbour with yachts at Puerto Banus. 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. You can see the route here: https://goo.gl/maps/IOMFJ The walk takes about half an hour. Marbella also has a lovely old historic quarter that many people are unaware of.
Gibraltar (45 mins)
The British overseas territory gives the impression of being trapped in a time warp from 30 years ago. Take the cable car at the end of Main Street to visit the limestone caves: St Michael's Cave, the old siege tunnels and the old Moorish castle. Visit also the Trafalgar cemetery for its interesting headstones. Watch the monkeys (semi-wild Barbary Macaques) but watch they don't snatch your things! Or take a boat trip to see and maybe even swim with the dolphins. Duty-free shopping is available in Gibraltar.
Tarifa (1 hr)
This is where the Atlantic's sandy beaches begin. Tarifa is especially well-known for windsurfing and kitesurfing. There's a fast ferry from Tarifa to Tangiers in Morocco making daytrips a possibility. Boat trips are also available to go whale watching (best in July) and dolphin watching.
Ronda (1 hr 15 mins)
The historic town is a big draw for many with its Puente Nuevo bridge over the deep gorge, bullring (the oldest in Spain) and museum, gardens and palaces. The drive to Ronda along the mountain road via Gaucin is an attraction in itself.
...Read more about the Ronda Mountains.
Pilgrimage of the Virgin of the Rosario del Campo This procession in honour of the patroness of Casares takes place on the second weekend in May. The statue of the Virgin is carried down to the Guadiaro river in the valley below.
Verbena de San Juan: On the night of 23rd June, the eve of St John's day, summer's advent is celebrated with fire and water all over Spain. The local party is held on the beach of Marina Casares with bonfires by the sea, music and entertainment.
Feria de Casares: The village's main summer fiestas are held on the first weekend in September, with music and food late into the night.
FOOD AND DRINK
For all basic shopping, there are small supermarkets and shops in Casares village. For a wider choice, superstores are 20 minutes away on the coast. For eating out, there are four very interesting options all on Casares country road to the coast we like:
• Venta Victoria - For breakfasts in the front room and lunch in the rear patio. Spanish dishes, unpretentious and pleasant.
• El Arroyo Hondo is our favourite. The English-Japanese run establishment has a very pleasant garden for dining and children are welcome. Modern cuisine with a Spanish/Moorish/Japanese touch. Often has an excellent set lunch.
• The Forge is a expensive and grander restaurant on the way to Casares.
• Venta Villa García: what used to be a simple wayfarer's watering hole is now enclosed within a glass porch and serves fine food and wine with ambient music.
• Restaurante La Bodeguita de Enmedio - Situated on the main square, this restaurant has terraces upstairs. The food is typical local fare at nicer prices than the roadside restaurants.
• La Terraza at the entrance to Casares village offers typical Andalucian food. Only open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. The outside terrace has a tremendous view of the village,
Gibraltar and the coast.