Estepona & Benahavís

On your way east from Manilva to Malaga, make sure you stop off in Estepona. Give yourself a morning to enjoy the town and make the most of the authentic Spanish feel to a Costa del Sol resort before you hit the busier and much more commercial Mijas Costa, Fuengirola and Torremolinos.

Along with Nerja, Estepona is probably the resort that has best kept its traditional fishing village identity. It might have a population of nearly 20,000 foreigners (nearly a third of the total), but this is still a place where you’ll hear mostly Spanish on the streets.

Before you plunge into the town, step back and take a look at the magnificent Sierra Bermeja mountain range that backs Estepona. At over 1,1440 metres high, these are some of the highest peaks on the coast and home to the rare Pinsapo pine tree – well worth seeking out if you fancy a half-day hike.

Geraniums and Street Art

Back at sea level, visit the tourist office and ask for a guide to Estepona’s old quarter and the town’s murals. Then start your wanders. Estepona prides itself on its traditional centre and the streets here are picture-postcard perfect. Each one is lined with geraniums in different colour pots and all the houses are white-washed and squeaky clean.

At the heart of all this is the Plaza de las Flores, a lovely flower-packed square. Pop into the Casa de la Cultura to view the Angel Garó exhibition – a feast of art treasures including works by Picasso and Miró set out in a traditional Andalusian townhouse.

Then it’s time for some serious street art. There are over 20 giant murals (and counting) dotted round the town and it’s worth following the route from the tourist office to view as many as possible. They range from realist to futuristic, but they’re all spectacular. My favourite is ‘Fishing Day’ – the fisherman reeling in a mackerel takes up seven façades with his line and the horizon perfectly alligned across all seven. Impressive stuff!

Next up, some lunch. If you fancy fried fish – the traditional Costa del Sol dish – make your way to the seafront to Antonio Illescas https://es-es.facebook.com/barillescas where you can dine on calamari, anchovies and octopus right on the seafront. If sophisticated tapas take your fancy, try La Esquina del Arte on Calle Villa (just off the Plaza de las Flores).

Before you leave Estepona, check out the new orchidarium in the town centre. Home to over 8,000 orchids under a giant glass dome, it’s Europe’s biggest.

The coast between Estepona and Marbella hides a mixture of 5-star luxury and trendy beach bars, and traditional chiringuitos and ramshackle fishing boats. If you’re prepared to walk a bit along the beach, it’s easy to find a deserted spot with just the waves for company. Even in high summer.

Fine Dining and Car-boot Bargains

Just before you reach Marbella is one of the Costa del Sol’s village jewels – Benahavís. Once a Moorish farm estate and now one of the richest spots in Spain. It’s also one of the few Spanish councils whose balance books consistently stay in the black.

The village itself is tiny but its streets pack in the gastronomy. Not for nothing is Benahavís known as the culinary corner of the coast. Apart from a great meal, there’s not much more in the village but the drive up the river from the coast is very pretty and if you’re into adventure sports, the descent is a challenge with high waters even in the summer months. A less risky way to take in the landscape is to cross over the river via the stunning new wooden bridge and follow the irrigation channel round on a well-signed path. If you’re in the area on Sunday, don’t forget to visit the famed Benahavís market where you can pick up anything from an antique lamp to some Ray-Bans.

Holiday Homes

This part of the Costa del Sol makes a great base for a holiday home and although it’s just ten minutes from Marbella, property prices come with a much lower price tag. Holiday lets are doing a roaring trade too so this is a good option for a buy-to-let. But if you’re thinking of buying a pad in Estepona or Benahavís, two bits of advice: to save precious time searching aimlessly, get in touch with Marcia Burrell at Location Moves – tell her exactly what you’re looking for and she’ll find it for you. And don’t forget to consult an independent lawyer at Andalusian Lawyers experts in property law and with years of experience.

Joanna Styles

Freelance journalist and copywriter