The resorts of the Costa del Sol have been attracting tourists since the 1950s with their magical combination of brochure-blue sea, miles of beaches, and reliable sun-bronzing weather. The beaches here range from shingle in Almuñécar, Nerja, and Málaga to fine, gritty sand from Torremolinos westward. The best and most crowded beaches are east of Málaga and those flanking the most popular resorts of Nerja, Torremolinos, Fuengirola, and Marbella. For more secluded beaches, head west of Estepona and past Gibraltar to Tarifa and the Cádiz coast. The beaches change when you hit the Atlantic, becoming appealingly wide with fine golden sand. The winds are usually quite strong here, which means that although you can`t read a newspaper while lying out, the conditions for windsurfing and kiteboarding are near perfect.

Beaches are free and busiest in July, August, and on Sunday from May through October when malagueño families arrive for a full day on the beach and lunch at a chiringuito.
El Bajondillo

Between Marbella and Estepona (take the Cancelada exit from the A7), this relaxed and inviting beach is not as well known as its glitzier neighbors. It`s harder to find, so mainly locals in the know frequent it. There are two popular seafood restaurants here, including Pepe`s Beach (dating from the 1970s), plus a volleyball net, showers, and sun beds and parasols for hire.

El Saladillo, Estepona

Connected to Ayamonte is the beautiful new resort of Isla Canela. It has over 3 miles of pure white sands with rolling sand dunes. Perfect for families as it has great facilities such as cafes, showers and sun bed hire. This beach is also ideal for a variety of water sports including windsurfing and kitesurfing. You can also stroll around the marina or play a round of golf at Isla Canela`s 18 hole course with its stunning views.

La Carihuela

La Carihuela is a stretch of beach along the Torremolinos municipality. Arrive early to claim your spot and wait for the village to slowly wake up, with cafes and shops opening around 11 a.m. La Carihuela is known for its cleanliness and comfy sunshade beds. When hungry, head to the chiringuitos, (some of the best in the Costa) serving fresh Mediterranean seafood. The promenade hugging the beach with its striking Asian-inspired architecture and great choice of restaurants and bars, is delightful for strolling. It connects to the Port of Benalmadena, where lively nightlife, stylish boutiques and delicious restaurants can be found.

Puerto Banus

For celebrity-style glitz and glam, head to the beach town of Puerto Banus. The marina here is legendary, filled with million-dollar yachts. The harbor is lined with world-class cafes, restaurants and bars. If you`re interested in a late-night party scene, dance till the Mediterranean sun comes up at La Comedia, one of Puerto Banus` oldest nightclubs and a local favorite. The Puerto Banus club guide has something for everyone. Some great beach scenes flank the world-famous luxurious port. Pedro`s Beach is known for its excellent, laid-back Caribbean seafood restaurants, good music, and hip good-looking crowd. Another superb sandy choice is the Sala Beach, one of the so-called boutique beaches with a club area and massages available, as well as an attractive beach and tempting shallow waters.

La Fontanilla

Near the city of Marbella is sun-bathed La Fontanilla, a black-sand beach flanked by a pedestrian promenade. A bit smaller than El Bajondillo, it does tend to get packed during the high season. However, the lovely views from the promenade and many beach restaurants can be enjoyed early in the day before the crowds settle in.

Carvajal, Fuengirola

Backed by low-rise buildings and greenery, the beach here is unspoiled and refreshingly low-key. East of Fuengirola center, the Carvajal beach bars have a young vibe, with regular live music in summer. It`s also an easily accessible beach on the Málaga–Fuengirola train, with a stop within walking distance of the sand.

Playa Los Lances, Tarifa

This white sandy beach is one of the least spoiled in Andalusia. Near lush vegetation, lagoons, and the occasional campsite and boho-chic hotel Tarifa`s main beach is famed throughout Europe for its windsurfing and kiteboarding, so expect some real winds: levante from the east and poniente from the west.

Topless and Nude Beaches

In Spain, as in many parts of Europe, it is perfectly acceptable for women to go topless on the beach, although covering up is the norm at beach bars. There are several nude beaches on the Costas; look for the playa naturista sign. The most popular are in Maro (near Nerja), Benalmádena Costa, and near Tarifa.