If you’re planning your first trip to the Costa del Sol, then why not give Estepona a try. It’s the neighbouring municipality to Marbella but it’s a little less jetset, and a lot more Spanish!
Originally a small fishing village, Estepona has grown up to become an important town on the tourism map of the Costa del Sol. It’s official population fluctuates at around 65.000 but it is suspected that many more unregistered foreigners live in the municipality.
Estepona is very easy to find and approximately 70km from your Malaga Airport. Take the A7/CN340 or AP7 in a westerly direction (signposted Algeciras/Cadiz). The municipality of Estepona starts at around kilometre 165 and continues along a 21 kilometre stretch until you reach Casares. The main town is in the middle of this expanse of coastline.
There are many popular apartment complexes east of the town itself and this area is very popular with holidaymakers looking for a self-catering break. To name just a few complexes, Hacienda del Sol, El Presidente, El Paraiso, Benavista, Costalita and Guadalmansa all follow the curves of the coastline as you approach the town of Estepona. These areas all have access to the beach and commercial zones, with shops, restaurants, supermarkets, bars and offices (doctors, dentists, real estate, lawyers and so on). Many visitors stay in these areas and don’t even bother investigating the local town, but they’re missing a treat!
The paseo or promenade in the main town of Estepona is littered with enticing beach bars or chiringuitos offering scrumptious fish dishes, salads and chilled drinks. Some specialise in authentic barbecued sardines which you can smell sizzling from outside on the street; others concentrate on serving colourful cocktails while you relax on luxury sunbeds. The main beach, La Rada, is very popular in the summer and you’ll see lots of families camped out there for the day, enjoying the sun, sea and sand.
Playa del Cristo
If you have very small children, you may prefer to visit Playa del Cristo which is on the western side of the town. Located in a bay, it has lovely shallow (and warmer) water which is very safe for children. There are three or four chiringuitos here too playing chill out music and serving a good range of food and drinks at reasonable prices.
Between these two beaches is the Puerto Deportivo de Estepona, the Marina, with its vast array of restaurants serving loads of different cuisines from authentic paella to Chinese food. The Marina is very popular in the evening with families and couples alike. Later on, the bars really get going, many playing live music and serving cocktails. On Sunday morning, the Marina is home to one of the best markets on the coast. Aimed at the tourists, its stall holders sell all sorts of jewellery, souvenirs, fashion, leather goods, pottery and music.
The main market of Estepona is held on Wednesday mornings on the rastro or fairground. This market is aimed at the residents and concentrates more on foodstuffs and clothing. The fairground is located at the top end of the old town of Estepona.
To see the real Spain, have a walk around the cobbled streets and admire the flowering hanging baskets and whitewashed walls of Old Town Estepona. Getting lost is obligatory but don’t worry, you can usually work out how to get back down to the sea. Look out for the little convenience stores that look like someone’s sitting room – now that’s part of the real Spain.