The best Costa del Sol beaches constitute some of the finest beaches in the whole of Spain. You don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to figure out that Costa del Sol translates to “Sun Coast” and this name couldn’t be more apt.
Located in southern Spain’s autonomous region of Andalucia, Málaga and Marbella are the best-known Costa del Sol beach towns. These key resorts are joined by a sequence of smaller resorts and villages.
As the best beaches in Costa del Sol have their own unique characteristics, it’s easy to find somewhere to suit all moods and travel styles.
Best Time to Visit Beach Towns in the Costa del Sol
Costa del Sol beach towns experience a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. In fact, this region is one of the warmest places in Spain in winter. The coastline receives over 320 days of sunshine per year, making it a favored destination for local, regional, and international sun-seekers.
While the temperatures are at their hottest in summer (particularly July and August), you can visit the region at any time of year. However, swimming in winter is only recommended if you can tolerate colder conditions or if you plan to pack your wetsuit.
Getting to the Best Beaches in Costa del Sol
The following beaches are a mix of urban beaches in popular beach towns in the Costa del Sol and those off the beaten track.
Where a bus or rental car is required, we’ve included local travel advice. However, all trips to this part of Spain start at Málaga Airport. If you plan to rent a car while you’re visiting, be sure to check out this article for advice on hiring a car in Málaga.
Map of the Best Beaches in the Costa del Sol
12 Best Costa del Sol Beaches
There are close to 150 beaches in this seaside region of southern Spain. We’ve narrowed it down to 12; read on for the best beaches in Costa del Sol for all types of travelers.
1. Playa de Cabopino (Marbella)
Situated to the east of Marbella – one of the most popular beach towns in the Costa del Sol – Playa de Cabopino is known for its peaceful surroundings away from the main resort.
One of the best Costa del Sol beaches for natural scenery, Playa de Cabopino is a wild beach.
This is one of the few beaches with sand dunes as well as fauna and pine forests. A defensive tower looms over the beach, once used to watch out for potential sea attacks. The sea is rougher here and prone to strong gusts so swimming isn’t always possible, however, it’s always a beautiful choice for walking and sunning.
Playa de Cabopino is a 20-minute drive from Marbella. Otherwise, you can take bus number 6 from the town center which will take around an hour. Despite the sense of remoteness, there are also several beachfront chiringuitos and a marina nearby.
2. Playa de la Malagueta (Málaga)
Located in the heart of Málaga, Playa de la Malagueta is one of the most accessible Costa del Sol beaches. Although close enough to walk from the Centro Histórico, there are buses that drop you steps from the sand.
One of the best beaches in Málaga, this urban beach is long and sandy with gentle swimming conditions. It’s safe for kids and popular with local families as well as young crowds. There are rental loungers if you prefer, otherwise, there’s always space to lay down a towel, even at the height of summer.
Playa de la Malagueta is fronted with restaurants and chiringuitos where you can grab lunch or a sundowner. It’s super busy during summer and maintains a steady flow of locals year-round. It also happens to be one of the best places to stay in Málaga thanks to its central location and abundance of hotels, bars, and restaurants.
3. Playa de Burriana (Nerja)
Nerja is one of the loveliest beach towns in the Costa del Sol and Playa de Burriana is its main beach.
Dotted with slender palm trees, Playa de Burriana is a long, wide stretch of beach and crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming. Note that the beach is a mix of sand and small pebbles, although it’s not too bad to walk on.
The mountains of the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara, and Alhama Natural Park rise behind the beach to create a stunning backdrop. In fact, you might want to head to the park first and then cool off with a dip.
On the other hand, you can easily fill a day at Playa de Burriana. At the north end of the beach, you’ll find a shack where you can rent kayaks and paddleboards or sign up for a guided excursion.
Playa de Burriana has appeal for all types of travelers and it’s a great shout for sun-seeking families.
4. Playa del Cristo (Estepona)
Another of the prettiest beach towns in the Costa del Sol, Estepona stuns with its historic old town where vibrant blooms crawl over whitewashed buildings.
Playa del Cristo is one of two beaches in Estepona, both of which are easily accessible and worthy of your time.
This horseshoe cove sits to the west of the marina and is particularly sheltered with shallow water and next to no waves. Therefore, it’s an ideal choice of sandy beach destination for families with smaller children. Loungers with shade are available to rent as are paddle boats.
5. Playa de la Rada (Estepona)
On the other side of the marina to Playa del Cristo, the sandy Playa de la Rada stretches for almost two miles. As with its neighbor, there are various water sports available in addition to pleasant sunbathing and swimming.
Overall, these are two of the best Costa del Sol beaches. Closer to the Centro Histórico in Estepona, Playa de la Rada has more amenities and tends to be livelier overall. There are watersports activities, floating obstacle courses, and a mix of restaurants where you can buy Spanish, Andalusian, and international food.
In addition, you can stroll along the Paseo Marítimo de Estepona and check out art museums along the seafront.
6. Playa de los Boliches (Fuengirola)
The town of Fuengirola is situated halfway between Málaga and Marbella. Its principal beach, Playa de Los Boliches, is a sandy strip easily accessible on foot from the town center.
While you’re here, you can take a fun yacht trip like this one to go in search of local dolphin pods. Or simply head to the beach to relax with a good book.
This is one of the best beaches in Costa del Sol for an urban experience. The view looks back toward the town and is bounded by a palm-lined boardwalk. It’s a popular spot for local workers, students, and families to unwind after a busy day and is kept in ship-shape condition.
The sand is fine, the water is calm. You can rent sunbeds and grab a cold beer from one of the beach bars.
Playa de Los Boliche backs onto the more central Playa de San Francisco where you’ll find an amusement park for younger children.
7. Playa de la Carihuela (La Carihuela)
An extension of Torremolinos, La Carihuela is a smaller resort town south of the coast from Málaga. Playa de la Carihuela sits just south of the town center and is watched over by low-rise vacation homes from where you’re mere steps from the sand.
This beach is quieter than those in Torremolinos and has all the amenities you need for a full day at the seaside. These include upscale beach clubs where you can find ceviche, burgers, and cocktails.
There are several buses that take you from downtown Torremolinos to Playa de la Carihuela. Hop onto M-110, 120, 121, or 123 and get off at the La Carihuela stop. It takes less than 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can walk here in about half an hour.
8. Playa de la Caleta (Nerja)
Another of the best Costa del Sol beaches near Nerja, Playa de la Caleta takes a little effort to reach but it’s worth it.
Without a rental, you can catch a bus from the ALSA bus station in Nerja’s Plaza Cantarero to the smaller village of Malo. Once there, you’ll need to walk around a mile toward the coast and then climb down a steep flight of around 150 stairs. Therefore, this beach isn’t recommended for those with kids in strollers or people with mobility issues.
However, the pay-off is an untouched beach free from development. That does mean there aren’t any toilets or kiosks on the beach, but it’s perfect if you want peace and quiet. On the plus side, there are sometimes people renting kayaks during summer.
Note that as is the norm in most Spanish beaches, nudist sunbathing is typical. Actually, it’s all the more common at this particular beauty spot. If you want something similar minus the hike, check out Playa de Maro just around the corner. This is a popular jumping-off point for guided kayaking excursions.
9. Playa del Real de Zaragoza (Marbella)
Playa del Real de Zaragoza is another of the best Costa del Sol beaches near Marbella. It’s a tad closer to the city and is accessible via the same number 6 bus that continues to Playa de Cabopino.
In fact, Playa del Real de Zaragoza is similar in style to its easterly neighbor. This beach sits along the same system of dunes with shrubs adding a sense of wildness. The beach covers a length of just over a mile and doesn’t ever feel crazy busy due to its size.
This beach is well-provisioned with chiringuitos, sunlounger rentals, and calm swimming conditions. You can expect to find water sports activities during summer plus a floating obstacle course.
The beach bar scene is pretty mixed, with casual and fancier options. Aqui Te Quiero Ver Lunamar is a historic chiringuito that’s been serving fresh fish dishes and seafood paella for donkey’s years.
10. Playa de la Yuca (Benalmádena)
Located south of Benalmádena – a resort town south of Málaga – Playa de la Yuca is one of the smallest beaches to add to your radar.
Despite being tiny, this is one of the best beaches in Costa del Sol for laid-back vibes. The cove is backed by foliage, shrubs, and palms and features crystal-clear water ideal for swimming. On the downside, the beach is pebble rather than sand so you might want to take your aqua shoes.
Yucas Café and Bar is an elevated lunch spot with indoor and terrace seating overlooking the bay.
Several buses connect Málaga with Playa de la Yuca. These depart from outside Estación Tren Málaga and take around an hour to reach the stop next to the beach on Av. del Sol.
As it’s a bit off the beaten track, the beach isn’t generally too crowded. It will suit a couple looking for somewhere more chill to spend a few sunny hours. Families with children might prefer the sandy Playa de las Verdas, just a couple of stops before this one on the bus.
Spending more time in Benalmádena? Check out this dolphin boat tour to get out on the water while you’re there.
11. Playa del Cable (Marbella)
As one of the most popular beach towns in the Costa del Sol for partying, this ethos extends to the beaches of Marbella, too.
Playa del Cable is also known as Bounty Beach, owing to a Marbella beach club that previously operated here. Although this has since closed, there are a couple of other chiringuitos where you can pick up a beer or cocktail.
The beach is perfect for families, couples, and solo sunbathers during the day and is long enough to earn your steps. Around dusk, the beach tends to fill up – especially in summer – and has a great atmosphere.
Pay attention to the concrete tower poking out of the shore. This was part of a cable car system that used to function in Marbella’s past life as an iron ore mining center. As this is the only one to remain, it’s interesting to see it and imagine how different the Costa del Sol once was!
12. Playa El Castillo (Manilva)
Rounding off with one of the best Costa del Sol beaches near the southernmost part of the region, Playa El Castillo is close to the town of Manilva. This beach features a long boardwalk that you can follow for miles, literally, if you’re looking to walk.
The beach is right next to the Castillo de la Duquesa. This castle is free to visit and brush up on local history while clocking ocean views. This beach has tons of amenities including toilets, sunbed rentals, and volleyball courts. There are scores of chiringuitos to suit all dietary preferences and budgets.
It takes around an hour to drive to Playa El Castillo from Marbella. In fact, it’s slightly closer to the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and even closer to the aforementioned Estepona. However, there aren’t any public transport links to this beach.