The original low-budget destination for millions of British tourists for several decades, the Costa del Sol has earned a special place in the nation’s affection. Golfers, too, have flocked to the familiar courses wrapped right around the coastline and the Costa del Sol’s popularity remains as firm as its fairways. For many it will always be número uno.
With heaps of sunshine, modest rainfall and ridiculously mild ‘winters’, clearly the climate is a major part of the appeal of Spain’s most southerly region.
As well as gorgeous weather, there are a string of towns along the coast that between them offer a range of attractions more varied than tapas. While some are simply stuffed with boozing Brits enjoying a cheap holiday, others are genuinely glitzy and glamorous and appeal to the fashionable and famous as well as discerning golfers.
Once sleepy fishing villages like Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella and Estepona were transformed in the second half of the last century to cater for pale northern Europeans desperately seeking sunshine.
Ghastly mistakes were made in the frantic rush to accommodate tourists and a lot of the development was ugly and environmentally damaging. Thankfully much greater care has been taken in recent times, planning controls have been tightened and sustainability – particularly with regards to the irrigation of golf courses – is the watchword.
Although the recession has put paid to the construction of any new ones, the Costa del Sol is extremely fortunate not only in having nearly 50 courses, but also in being blessed with some of the best on the continent.
American Cabell B Robinson designed many of them including Finca Cortesín, Santana, Valle Romana, Las Brisas, La Reserva de Sotogrande and all three courses at the very popular La Cala resort. And for those who like resort golf there are three others worthy of serious consideration: Almenara, La Quinta and Atalaya Park.
Probably the most famous course on the Costa del Sol is Valderrama. Although over £200 a round, it’s surprisingly easy to get on.
The name Costa del Sol is a weather report in itself. Spain’s southern coast experiences an impressive 320 sunny days a year. In summer, daytime temperatures are regularly in the 30s. In spring and autumn, you can expect highs of between 18°C and 22°C.
Away from the links, why not wander around Puerto Banus, Marbella’s millionaires’ playground, pretending one of the super-yachts moored in the marina is yours? The glitz factor is high on the seafront Golden Mile, which throbs with bars and clubs. But there’s a traditional side, too, in the calmer old town. No fewer than 18 airlines fly to Malaga including Monarch (monarch.co.uk), which operates year-round flights from Birmingham, East Midlands, Gatwick, Luton & Manchester with fares, including taxes, from £30.99 one way.