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While staying at a campsite in Cabopino (near Marbella) on our last trip, we hired a car to explore more of the area, particularly Estepona. It was a town we visited several years ago and always vowed to return to.
For those looking for a tranquil and authentic destination on the Costa del Sol, Estepona is an ideal place to base yourself. With its serene atmosphere, stunning beaches, and absence of towering buildings, Estepona stands out from many other areas in the region. While it certainly attracts international visitors, the town has managed to preserve its quintessential Andalusian charm. Estepona offers a laid-back vibe, allowing visitors to relax and immerse themselves in the genuine essence of Andalusia without the overwhelming sense of hyper-development found in other areas.
Estepona is a picturesque, white-washed old town nestled on the sun-kissed Costa del Sol in the province of Malaga, southern Spain. The old town of Estepona, in our opinion, is one of the prettiest old towns along the entire Costa del Sol.
The car parks were busy, but we found plenty of underground parking spaces near the beach, which was ideal as it was such a hot day. The cost was about 8 euros, but returning to a cool car was worth it.
Paseo Maritime Promenade
We headed first for a stroll along the Paseo Maritime promenade, a beautiful palm-tree-lined path. La Rada Beach begins on the east side of Puerto Estepona (Marina). You have great views of Gibraltar from the lighthouse at the end of the beach, and you can enjoy over 1.5km of promenade lined with benches, parks, playgrounds and restaurants. We also noticed several life-sized chess boards, which is excellent if you want to engage your brain while enjoying the Mediterranean sunshine.
Here you can swim in the crystal-clear waters, paddle-board, or jet ski, or enjoy a relaxing day on a sunbed. The sand on the beach is beautifully powder soft.
The promenade is a great place for jogging and cycling. We were pleased about the cycling as many towns in Spain have banned cycling on the prom, and it’s excellent that Estepona still allows it. Maybe it’s because it’s such a wide promenade.
As it was such a hot day, we decided on lunch at one of the many beach bars and restaurants along the promenade, offering a wide variety of fresh fish and seafood dishes and international cuisine.
Although we needed to feel the sea breeze to cool us down while eating lunch, there were also plenty of lovely restaurants to choose from one street behind.
About halfway down the promenade is the heart of Estepona’s Old Town, where we headed after lunch.
Estepona’s enchanting old town
Wandering around the labyrinth of cobblestone streets was one of our favourite things to do. The vibe of an Andalusian town can be felt as you walk through the streets amid the traditional white-washed houses adorned with vibrant flowers in cheerful pots and hanging baskets. Each street had its own coordinated colour scheme, with all the houses displaying matching flower pots.
The old town’s charm extended to its car-free streets, allowing us to wander around leisurely and fully admire its exquisite beauty.
Estepona is often overlooked in favour of Marbella or Gibraltar, both nearby. It might lack the nightlife and buzz of nearby Marbella, but it certainly doesn’t lack the appeal. If you’re looking for some authentic Spanish charm in Andalusia, you need to look no further.
We discovered hidden gems like Plaza de las Flores, a vibrant square bursting with beautiful flowers surrounding a central fountain and bustling cafes. We took the opportunity to rest here and sat on one of the many sunny terraces, breathed in the fragrance of the orange trees, and enjoyed some first-class tapas as we admired the gorgeous central fountain and flowers.
The tourist office and an art gallery – Museo de Arte de la Deputation de Estepona- are in this area.
Next, we visited the Torre del Reloj, a neoclassical clock tower initially added to the church of Los Remedios. However, an earthquake demolished the church in 1755. Today only the tower remains.
Plaza del Reloj is a place where many festive events are celebrated, including New Year’s Eve, when everyone gathers here to eat 12 grapes at each stroke of midnight.
We wandered through the narrow alleyways, discovering quaint shops, art galleries, and local handicrafts. The Old Town exudes a sense of authenticity and invites you to slow down and savour the Mediterranean way of life.
It’s such a treat getting away from the more commercialised Spain.
Ruta de los Murales Artísticos
Estepona isn’t all just historic, classic buildings and beautiful colourful flowers. Even in the old town, plenty of incredible, city-sponsored street art makes the entire town feel like an open-air gallery. Known as the Morales Artistic – artistic murals – countless pieces of beautiful art are scattered across the city.
As we enjoy art (especially street art), we headed for La Rita de Morales Artiscticos. This route currently has over 60 murals (with more being added all the time), which decorate the walls of apartment blocks and public buildings. These are mainly located in the new part of the town, although they are spread throughout the different neighbourhoods in Estepona.
The murals are painted by local artists (like Dadi Dreucol) and internationally renowned artists such as Vyacheslav Gunn. You can see them all by following the Rita de los Rales Artistic. (Art Route). The murals cover quite a large area, so it’s a good idea to pick up a map from the tourist office if you want to see them during your stay in Estepona.
In addition to the wall art, we discovered a fine collection of interesting sculptures dotted around. If you collect a map from the tourist office, you can follow one of three routes, one for the painting, one for the sculptures and one for the poetry. It really is an ideal way to get to know the city.
The route of the murals emerged in 2012 as an initiative of the city council financed by private companies, La Caixa being the first collaborator.
The key pieces to look out for include the Dia de Pesca, or Day of Fish, an epic 1,000 square metre mural spread across six facades that ranks as the largest mural in Spain.
The council has made an online version of their printable map to help you locate all murals.
Esteponia’s Gorgeous Beaches
Estepona boasts pristine beaches that stretch along its coastline, inviting you to unwind and soak up the Mediterranean sun. From family-friendly Playa del Cristo with its calm waters and golden sands to the lively La Rada Beach with its vibrant promenade, there’s a beach for every preference.
Relax on a sunbed, take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters, or indulge in water sports like paddle boarding and jet skiing.
If you’re a nature lover, you shouldn’t miss the Estepona Orchidarium, a lovely greenhouse botanic garden devoted to Orchids and other tropical plants. There is a stunning variety of orchids from around the world.
We took a leisurely stroll through the garden’s pathways, encountering waterfalls, ponds, and exotic flora at every turn. The Orchidarium provides a serene and educational experience, offering a glimpse into the fascinating world of these exquisite flowers.
Architecturally, it’s a wonder, featuring a 98 feet tall glass dome that rises starkly against the whitewashed buildings surrounding it. At its side sit two smaller domes measuring 16 and 6 meters tall. But no matter how impressive the exterior is, nothing competes with what’s happening inside. As soon as we walked through the doors, we were hit by the fragrance and the sight of one of Europe’s largest collections of orchids. The house boasts 8000 species, along with a 98 feet high waterfall that gives it a jungle feel. Entrance is a very reasonable €3 per adult.
Located in the centre of town, this is a fascinating place to visit even if you are not all that keen on flowers. Plan to spend about 30 minutes to an hour there, depending on your interest in the individual plants. The Orchidarium has only been around since 2015, and it’s already one of the most popular attractions in Estepona.
Marina Estepona is located between Playas de la Rada and Playas del Cristo at the end of Paseo Marítimo Promenade. There you can admire yachts while eating delicious fresh meals. Also, you can rent a boat or take a sailing trip, as they are available from the marina daily. The marina is also where the Sunday craft market in Estepona takes place. It’s a great place to spend a few hours people-watching and admiring the yachts bobbing around the water.
Visit the Bullring
You’ll find Estepona bullring above the Marina, at the western end of the Paseo Maritime. It was built in 1972. The bullring has a unique construction – its asymmetrical design ensures that even the very top row of seats can be accessed without steps. There is no other such bullring in the whole of Spain.
Bullfights are rare these days, and the site is usually only used for its original purpose once or twice a year. The rest of the time, it serves as a concert venue. However, it still occupies a place in Andalusian culture and history.
Estepona is a haven for food enthusiasts, with many dining options to satisfy every palate. Indulge in fresh seafood delicacies at beachfront chiringuitos (beach bars) or savour traditional Andalusian cuisine in cosy tapas bars and restaurants. Take advantage of the opportunity to try local specialities such as grilled sardines cooked on the beach, gazpacho, and paella. Had we not already eaten, the grilled sardines on the beach looked very tempting.
With its idyllic beaches, vibrant old town, and rich cultural heritage, Estepona offers a delightful blend of relaxation, history, and Mediterranean charm.
Estepona captures the essence of the Mediterranean lifestyle with its stunning beaches, enchanting old town, and rich cultural heritage. Whether you seek relaxation by the sea, stroll through charming streets, or explore historical landmarks, Estepona has something to offer everyone. Immerse yourself in its beauty, savour its culinary delights, and embrace the warmth and vibrancy of this coastal gem. We will definitely be back to Estepona and highly recommend you visit.
Estepona is conveniently located near several amazing places. Here are some nearby destinations worth exploring:
Have fun in a water park near Estepona.
If you’re looking for something more exciting than the beach and want to enter the cool waters in a thrilling fashion, head to Aquamijas water park in Mijas.
Just an hour’s drive from Estepona in the direction of Malaga, Aquamijas offers a full day’s worth of sliding and splashing fun for the whole family.
How to get there: By car, follow the AP-7 and A-7 toward Malaga: take the exit Fuengirola/Coin/Cambio de Sentido, then follow the Calle Virgen de Fatima to the Mijas Water Park.
Selwo Aventura (Safari Park)
You’ll find Selwa Aventura Park just outside of Estepona. It offers an exciting safari experience for young and old. Home to lions, elephants, and many other beautiful creatures. The park also hosts some of the best walking trails near Estepona. Since it can get busy in the high season, I recommend booking your tickets in advance.
How to get there: From Estepona, head on the A-7; after about ten minutes, take the Parque Selwo exit A-7 Cambio de Sentido and follow Avenida Parque Selwo to your destination. Parking is free.
Opening times: May 10 am – 6 pm, June 10 am – 7 pm. July, 10 am – 10 pm.
Estepona Dive Centre
Several dive centres in Estepona can cater to your diving needs if you are interested. The Estepona Dive Centre is one of the most notable dive centres. In addition to guided dives and PADI certification courses, they also rent diving equipment.
Marbella: Just a short drive east of Estepona, Marbella is a renowned resort town famous for its upscale amenities, luxurious marinas, and vibrant nightlife. It also boasts picturesque beaches and a charming old town.
Puerto Banus: Located west of Marbella, Puerto Banus is a glamorous marina lined with luxury yachts, high-end boutiques, and upscale restaurants. It’s a popular destination for shopping, dining, and people-watching.
Ronda: Situated in the mountains, Ronda is a historic town known for its dramatic gorge, El Tajo, and its iconic Puente Nuevo bridge. It offers stunning views, fascinating architecture, and a rich cultural heritage.
Gibraltar: If you’re up for a day trip, Gibraltar is approximately an hour’s drive from Estepona. Known for its famous rock and resident Barbary macaques, Gibraltar offers a unique blend of British and Spanish influences.
Malaga: The capital city of the province, Malaga, is around an hour’s drive from Estepona. It’s a vibrant city with a wealth of attractions, including its historic centre, the Picasso Museum, stunning beaches, and delicious local cuisine.
These are just a few examples of the nearby destinations you can explore while staying in Estepona. Whether you’re looking for beach relaxation, cultural experiences, or natural beauty, we have always found this region of Spain to offer plenty of options to satisfy different interests.