Costa Blanca vs Costa del Sol: which holiday is for me?

Many people consider the coastal resort regions of Spain to be largely interchangeable. But, while these areas usually all boast sun, sea and sand, there are some key differences you should consider before taking the plunge and booking your next getaway.

To help you come to your decision, we weighed up the USPs of two of the country’s most popular regions – the Costa Blanca vs Costa del Sol.

Where are these destinations?

The Costa Blanca (or White Coast) is situated in southeast Spain. Popular towns here include Javea, in the province of Alicante, Moraira, part of the Teulada municipality, and Calpe, a small town two hours’ drive south of here.

The Costa del Sol (or Sun Coast) is in southern Spain, centralising around the city of Malaga. People visit here for thriving hubs like Benalmadena and Marbella, and more relaxed sunspots like Mijas and Nerja.

Are they good for a beach holiday?

Good news for all you sun-worshippers – the weather in both destinations is similarly sunny all year-round. Temperatures in the summer reach the high 20s and early 30s, whereas in the winter they rarely dip below 13 degrees.

So, you’ve got the weather, now all you need is a few succulent strips of sand to enjoy it from. If you’re hiring a property near the beach, you can easily pack up a picnic and head out to one of these idyllic spots for a dreamy day trip.

On the Costa Blanca, you’ll find gorgeous stretches of sand like Playa del Portet in Moraira. This small inlet is shaped like a sea shell and has safe waters great for a leisurely afternoon spent swimming.

For a more secluded experience, try Cala del Moraig, a tranquil cove just north of Moraira. This is a pebbly beach, which might appeal to visitors who’d rather forgo messing up the rental car with sandy shoes.

You may be after a more adventurous holiday, in which case Costa Blanca’s westerly winds make spots like Santa Pola, south of Alicante, perfect for surfing, sailing and kayaking. Snorkelling, meanwhile, is best done with a guided tour, many of which depart from near Calpe.

Popular beaches along the Costa del Sol include the Playa de Burriana in Nerja, which is known for its golden sand and beach bars. Head here if you’re in search of a livelier holiday, either with a group of friends or as part of a couples’ getaway.

Playa de Maro in Nerja is also very popular, renowned for its picturesque surroundings and abundance of marine life. This makes it appeal both to older holidaymakers and young families looking to see the local ecosystems.

What’s there to do in both?

At the heart of both these regions is two lively, history-rich cities. Costa Blanca’s Alicante is famed for its nightlife, but its real charms lie in the striking 16th century castle at its centre.  Culture-vultures can easily spend a few hours here exploring the museum and enjoying viewpoints of the city.

Malaga, on the Costa del Sol, is notable for its art galleries and buildings of grandiose like the Chapel of Santa Barbara and the grand Moorish Gibralfaro Castle. Otherwise, the Picasso museum appeals to art aficionados and open-minded enthusiasts in equal measures.

…and what’s there to eat?

Whether you’re into history or art, there’s one main attraction that unites all Spanish costa holidaymakers – the food. Indulge yourself with local specialities such as paella, in the Costa Blanca, and fried fish, in the Costa del Sol.

Pick up some ingredients from a nearby market, then whip up your own take on regional delicacies from your holiday rental’s kitchen. The Costa del Sol’s surrounding shorelines are populated with lots of anchovies, which can be made into the perfect starter to any fish-fiend’s meal. Otherwise, buy a selection of the Costa Blanca’s locally sourced chorizo – a delicious addition to any meat-craver’s sandwich.

Where should I stay?

To really make the most of your holiday, look into staying in a self-catered villa. It’ll give you the freedom to explore the region at your own pace, collecting ingredients as you go along. Kids might prefer to stay somewhere near the coast, whereas older couples might want somewhere a little quieter and in the countryside.

…and where should I fly to?

To reach the Costa Blanca you can fly directly into Alicante Airport, which serves UK destinations throughout the year. It takes around two and a half hours to fly here from London.

For the Costa del Sol, it’s best to fly into Malaga Airport. You can catch a flight here from the UK run throughout the year, although it’ll take slightly longer, with journey times from London taking roughly two hours and 45 minutes.

Whether you’re one for the Costa del Sol’s lavish harbours or the Costa Blanca’s bustling nightlife, holidays to a Spanish Costa really do make for one of the best type of getaways.

Want to step things up a game with your villa? Look at luxury properties in both regions.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

3 romantic destinations in Spain for a secluded getaway

If you’re planning a honeymoon, or even just an intimate getaway away with your other half, you’ll probably already know that there are plenty of romantic destinations in Spain. The real task at hand, though, is narrowing the list of potential locations down to just one.

Here’s three of the most alluring holiday spots around the country, all known for their viewpoints, culinary delights and beaches.

Nerja

The town of Nerja is on the east of the Costa del Sol and is renowned for its endearing beaches, many of which are ideal for water sports. Flanked by a dramatic mountain range and bordered by a rugged coastline of coves, caves and sandy beaches, the town is the perfect destination for adventurous couples partial to stunning scenery.

Highlights here include the Balcon de Europa, a raised pedestrian promenade looking out over the Mediterranean, and the 17th century Church of El Salvador. For many visitors, though, the Caves of Nerja are the real draw here. These ancient towering caverns contain prehistoric paintings and even play host to a music and dance festival in the summertime.

For a real romantic day out, spend a day hiking up to the top of El Ciel and lose yourself to the panoramic vistas, then return to Nerja for a candlelit dinner, served up from the patio of your fanciful holiday accommodation, and made up of fried fish and spicy prawns.

Moraira

You’ll find the gorgeous coastal town of Moraira towards the northern tip of Costa Blanca. Easily accessed from both Alicante and Valencia, it’s famous for its tranquil atmosphere, unspoilt scenery and Blue Flag beaches.

Spend some time here and make the most of historic sites such as Moraira Castle. Otherwise, enjoy a romantic horse ride at sundown or simply unwind on the sand. The cuisine here is well suited for evenings of amour, too. Paella in Moraira is exquisite, but other local delicacies include fideua (noodles and seafood) and gazpacho (a cold soup containing raw blended vegetables).

As for the beverages? Moraira is part of a region famed for its Moscatel grapes and white wine. Order a bottle or two and watch the sun set with your beloved.

Marbella

Marbella is made for couples who are looking to rest and relax in style. Situated on the Costa del Sol and around a 40-minute drive from Malaga Airport, people visit this coastal gem for its glitz and glamour. The cobbled streets and pretty squares make for a truly picturesque backdrop, but don’t be fooled – Marbella isn’t as sleepy as it looks! Spend a romantic break here touring designer shops, sampling Andalusian cuisine, taking wine-tasting tours, and, come nightfall, sipping cocktails under the moonlight.

Alternatively, pick up locally-sourced procured meat, a loaf of bread and whip up a packed lunch from your self-catered accommodation. Head out on a walk along Bounty Beach and enjoy it while letting the lapsing waves tickle your feet.

Staying in a holiday rental provides all the right ingredients for a memorable trip with your partner. Set the ball rolling for your next romantic adventure and take a look at Villa Plus offerings in Spain.

By Lara Scott. A former executive at a major hotel chain, Lara Scott is a freelance travel writer and journalist. She says her previous career gives her extra insight into both sides of the tourism industry.

Best Mediterranean places to visit for cycling holidays

There’s something idyllic about cycling along a clifftop track while the sea gently crashes beneath you. Apart from that and the whizz of your hubs, the world seems mysteriously quiet. It’s moments like this that make cycling holidays in the Mediterranean region so appealing.

Between Spain’s Costa del Sol and Cyprus’ eastern shores you’ll find some of the best Mediterranean places to visit for cycling holidays. Here are a few that any cyclist should tick off.

Spain – Costa del Sol

Like the name suggests, Spain’s Sun Coast largely makes for brightly-lit rides which, depending on when you visit, can get a little hot, so bring a hydration pack! One such Costa del Sol cycle starts from the small hillside town of Mijas.

Study a few maps then make for La Cala Golf Course, a popular spot for golfers that’s south of Mijas. The route entails a mixture of arid single-track and two-lane roads, suited to either hybrid bikes or cross-country models. Like all great bike rides, it’s a mixture of ups, for a challenge, and downs, which leave you with a little more time to enjoy the stunning Andalusian views. Once you get to the river near the golf course, stop for a picnic, made up from the kitchen of your self-catering holiday rental, then prepare to do it all again on your way back to Mijas.


Image by Antonio, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Spain – Costa Blanca

Many professional cycling teams use the Costa Blanca as a training hub in the winter. The smooth surfaces here appeal to road cyclists who thrive on gradual climbs, speedy descents and flat stretches.

One of the most renowned climbs in the region is known as the Coll de Rates. You can easily access it from nearby towns, like Javea and Calpe. From Coll de Rates, make your way to the village of Parcent, where the route starts off with a light incline until you reach the summit. Soak up the verdant views of the surrounding region then replenish with a refreshing drink and get ready for a leisurely cruise back down.


Image by Phillip Capper, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Greek islands – Crete

If you’re ever struggling to tackle a Greek hill, promise yourself a big platter of mezes when you finish your ride to spur you on. Other than the end-of-ride meal, however, Greek island cycling makes for unbeatable holiday memories on routes you’ll always remember, many of which are found on Crete. A lot of Cretan roads are large and quiet, too, resulting in a wholly tranquil experience when you’re speeding across the island.

While it’s perfectly easy to trundle along these roads at your own pace, a real test of endurance is to brave the near-90km journey from Chania through the inland hills to the stunning village of Kallikratis. From here you’ll be able to see much of the island’s enticing coastline. Make sure you bring a camera, then capture the moment with a panoramic shot which’ll always remind you of your Crete cycling holiday. If you don’t fancy doing it over again, though, get a holiday companion to drive over and take you back to your villa rental.


Image by Andy Montgomery, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Cyprus – Paphos

Cyprus serves cyclists a selection of island routes for many different preferences. The city of Paphos and the surrounding resorts of Coral Bay are home to road and off-road paths suited to everyone from the everyday commuter to the endurance junkie who craves another fix of kilometre-rich coastal roads.

For a real challenge, cycle into the Troodos mountain range from Paphos. The journey itself is roughly 65 kilometres and is mostly downhill, making for a highly enjoyable and breezy trip. It’s suited to both road and off-road cyclists – just make sure your trusty steed is fitted with a good set of brakes for when you need to stop!

Take the time to soak up gorgeous Cypriot views, like that of the Diarizos river, which you’ll encounter along the way. It’s the fourth largest river on the island, although every twist and turn makes for a serene spot for a sandwich and a bottle of water. Failing that, you can always dip your feet in the river to help cool off before hitting the road again!


Image by Tomasz Huczek, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Mediterranean destinations have all the right ingredients for a cycling holiday – sun, scenery and a fair whack of sandy strips where you can put your feet up after a long day of pedalling!

Thinking about bringing your beloved bicycle on your next getaway? Here’s how to go about taking it onto an aeroplane.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Good snorkelling holidays for villa-loving travellers

Holiday rentals provide the perfect basecamp for snorkelling getaways. Hiring a villa gives you the freedom to prepare your own packed lunches and dinners, and you’ll have plenty of room to store your snorkels, flippers and wetsuits.


Image by Lance, used under CC License (CC by 2.0

Good snorkelling holidays unlock a country’s most enthralling secrets. Pack your underwater camera and get ready to delve deep in some of these top destinations…

Costa del Sol, Spain

Costa del Sol is blessed with tepid waters bustling with marine life. On top of that, there’s plenty of sun-kissed beaches where you can set up camp before a few hours of snorkelling. Visit Maro beach, near the town of Nerja, and try to find its fascinating underwater cave if you’re feeling daring.

The shores surrounding Las Yucas and La Viborilla beaches, near Benalmadena, house a wide range of fish such as tuna, bonitos, and dolphinfish.

Costa Blanca, Spain

Like Costa del Sol, the Costa Blanca is a snorkelers’ paradise. Explore the region’s shorelines and you’ll quickly find that it’s simply brimming with underwater life. Granadella Cove, near Javea, has notoriously clear waters. Not only that, it’s quite sheltered so younger snorkellers can see the bay’s treasures, too.

The Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve coast comprises playful Atlantic waters and warming sands. It’s also home to the famed Ria Formosa lagoon, one of the country’s many natural wonders. Here you’ll find one of the largest populations of seahorses in the world – wipe down your face mask and prepare to dive amongst them.

Cyprus

If you visit Cyprus during summertime, you might encounter beautiful green and loggerhead turtles on the island’s western coast. The island’s Cape Greco National Park is well worth a visit, too, complete with some of the clearest waters in the region and picturesque in every sense of the word.

Corfu, Greece

The Greek island of Corfu has plenty of spots for a good snorkelling holiday. Its pebbly beaches tend to have clearer waters, but you might want to wear a wetsuit or flippers to protect your feet from the jaggier rocks! Keep your eyes peeled for a diverse range of silverside fish, alongside flathead mullet and painted combers.

Pula, Croatia


Image by Christoph Sammer, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Croatia’s idyllic Adriatic coastlines are the envy of the world. Pula houses some of its finest and along with these renowned views, it has a number of great snorkelling spots.

Take Brijuni National Park, a short boat journey from Pula. The waters of these 14 small, protected islands are alive with flora, fauna and old Roman artefacts. In Verige Bay, on the western coast of the park, you can get a guided tour to explore submerged archaeological sites. Take full advantage and get excited for a day of underwater education.

Whether you’re travelling as a family, with friends or with your partner or spouse, a snorkelling holiday provides an unrivalled way to get to know a country’s ins and outs. Uncover exotic species of fish or simply paddle around and let the waves wash over you – underwater getaways are always ones to remember.

Have a look at some of the Villa Plus offerings in these hotspots and let your snorkelling dreams come to life.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Hidden gems of the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol remains one of Spain’s most popular destination for holiday makers. The glitz of Marbella and the wealth of tourist developments in Torremolinos and Benalmadena attract travellers in their millions. But there is more to this region than high-rise hotels and resorts.

Much of the hidden beauty is located off the beaten track and away from the coast. Those that travel a little further inland are sure to be rewarded with beautiful countryside and beguiling Spanish towns and villages. To help inspire you on your own holiday to this magical Mediterranean region, here are some of the Costa del Sol’s hidden gems.

Ronda

Visit beautiful Ronda on your Costa del Sol holiday
Image by the very honest man, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Few towns can boast the amazing scenery of Ronda. Located atop the 100-metre deep El Tajo gorge, Ronda is an unforgettable place to visit. The views across the surrounding landscape are stunning, but walking across the Puente Nuevo bridge offers the most amazing views of the hills in the distance and the canyon below.  Beyond the incredible views and striking geography, the town is a quintessential Andalusian town with white washed buildings, narrow streets, and evidence of its long architectural history from the Romans and Moors to the present day.

Comares

Enjoy the view from Comares
Image by Bryan Ledgard, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Most people make the trip to the Costa del Sol to see just that, the sunshine coast. But by taking a trip deeper inland there are some remarkable hidden gems to uncover. One such jewel is the beautiful hilltop town of Comares. Perched more than 703 metres above sea level, the town’s white washed buildings glitter in the sun and can be seen from miles away. But it’s the views from the town that make the trip worth it. The vistas across the Andalusian hills from the town’s many viewpoints are truly stunning.

El Torcal

Marvel at the otherworldly landscape of El Torcal
Image by Goya Fotografia, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)

Nature lovers should take a trip to El Torcal Nature Reserve and take in the remarkable geology of the park. El Torcal has some of the most dramatic karst formations in the world and an intriguing history which stretches back seven thousand years to the time of the area’s original inhabitants. The fascinating flora and fauna of the park is sure to enrapture children and fascinate adults. Only 30 miles from Malaga, El Torcal should be on the list for any holiday to Andalucía.

Antequera

Often referred to as the “Florence of Andalucía”, Antequera is another gem in the region. Its moniker refers to the spires of the 30 different churches in the town. The town is rich in local heritage with historical sites dating back thousands of years. See this history for yourself with a trip to the megalithic burial mound at Dolmen de Menga.

Take a look at the different types of property offered by Villa Plus and take your first step to discovering Spain’s Sunshine Coast.

By Ciaran Brooks. A former history graduate, Ciaran Brooks’ love for old stories has led him around the world. A self-confessed adventurer, he fell into travel writing after his blog chronicling his year in Thailand was picked up by a national paper.

Why you should choose a holiday let in the Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol holidays have it all. Wonderful weather, beautiful beaches and more bars and restaurants to choose from than you can possibly imagine. Throw in a boat load of activities like cycling and scuba diving and you’ve got holiday perfection.  Although Costa del Sol has some excellent hotels, including large resorts in Marbella and Torremolinos, villa and self-catering holidays in Costa del Sol are increasingly popular. This allows you to have your own patch of paradise to enjoy.

Enjoy a Holiday to the Costa del Sol
Image by Hernan Piñera, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)

Get the best value by choosing a villa in Costa del Sol

Villas to rent in the Costa del Sol come in all shapes and sizes, from luxury villas with private pools to cheaper self-catering options that can prove better value than a hotel. You’ll always find more space in a villa than in a hotel room, which is especially useful if you’re travelling with children. You’ll also have your own outdoor space and perhaps even a private pool to enjoy without necessarily paying more than you would for a hotel stay.

A beach on the Costa del Sol
Image by Barbara Walsh Photography, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Get away from the crowds, if you want to

Some find that one of the benefits of choosing a holiday rental is the seclusion and privacy it affords. Many of the towns that dot the Costa del Sol coastline are lively and exciting and those opting for a villa in Costa del Sol can venture into towns like Torremolinos and Marbella by day, then retreat to the privacy of their holiday villa by night. Other days, the peace and tranquillity of a private swimming pool can be enjoyed with no jostling for sunbed space!

The best of both worlds when it comes to mealtimes

Treating yourself to meals out can be a well-deserved holiday perk. Self-catering lets you eat out at your leisure with the flexibility to have breakfasts and lunches in your private villa. Then if you fancy dining out in one of the excellent restaurants in the towns along the coast, you can do that too. For those working to a budget, Costa del Sol self-catering means keeping the cost of mealtimes down by shopping in local supermarkets and avoiding pricey waterfront eateries.

Find the location that suits you best

With holiday lets and private villas dotted all over the Costa del Sol, you’ll find the location that suits you best. Whether you want to be near the cycle paths or near a dive centre to take advantage of Costa del Sol scuba diving. You don’t need to be confined to one of the bigger resorts if you don’t fancy it, instead choosing a more secluded area on the coastline. But there are options for holiday villa rentals in Costa del Sol’s towns if you still want to be in the hubbub but with your own kitchen facilities to self-cater.

By Arianne Fabrice, a travel journalist who specialises in the popular resort destinations in and around Europe. Having worked for some of Paris’ premium travel mags, she’s recently moved into English-language publications.

Your Guide to the Costa del Sol

Costa Del Sol is the crown jewel of Spanish holiday destinations. Cities and resorts here sparkle as the sun tints off the white buildings. The region’s temperatures are famous worldwide, whilst flights from the rest of Europe are fast and regular. The beaches of the Costa del Sol have a well-deserved reputation for smooth fair sands, and what’s more, there’s plenty of them! Sat on the coast of Spain’s Andalucia region, many towns here are pivotal to the Spanish tourist industry.

Enjoy a self-catering break to the Costa del Sol
Image by fernando butcher, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Aside from the regions capital, Malaga, Costa del Sol is known for several key cities and towns. Mijas gifts visitors with a slice of authentic Spanish small-town living, whereas Puerto Banus comprises typical Mediterranean palms trees and wide, flat coastlines. Marbella, on the other hand, is every bit the glitzy collection of bars and beaches that attract many to the region in the first place…

Take in the sun on the Costa del Sol
Image by Hernan Piñera, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)

Marbella

Once you’ve torn your eyes from the opulent buildings of the Golden Mile, Marbella’s inner beauty begins to surface. The old town, often referred to as Casco Antiguo, is made up of narrow streets and charming churches. Conveniently, it’s a great place to escape the heat of the Spanish sun and retreat into the confines of a local café. Like much of Spain, Marbella’s residents like a siesta. Jump in on the tradition and join them, albeit from the luxury of your holiday villa rental.

Enjoy the sunset from your villa on the Costa del Sol
Image by www.twin-loc.fr, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Despite its contemporary feel, Marbella’s history is fascinating. Its origins hark to simpler times, when fishing was the primary industry. The Romans also left their mark on the city, visible through the baths of the San Pedro district. The ruins of the Rio Verde Roman Villa take tourists back to the era, with tile paintings and fenced off archaic structures.

Malaga

Further along the coast, Malaga’s azure waters and rising citadels draw in tourists throughout the year. Stroll along long stretches of promenade, before dipping inland to visit tourist hotspots, such as the city’s castle or the Pablo Picasso museum. It’s bigger than many other Costa del Sol destinations, but you can still stay in a holiday villa near Malaga and soak up the city buzz from a more secluded location.

Food wise, Malaga, like the rest of Spain, is perfect for enjoying tapas. The bay surrounding Malaga is home to many small fish, like anchovies and sardines – why not enjoy some freshly caught salty treats by the waterfront? The night, however, is when the city really comes alive. Squares are filled with diners, and bars open their doors to serve sangria into the early hours of the morning.

Mijas

Northeast of Malaga, Mijas is an alluring mountainside village made for a more traditionalist holiday in the Costa del Sol. Glistening white buildings house a combination of taverns and eateries should you be tempted by the Mediterranean lifestyle. Otherwise, enjoy the rural views whilst dining as self-catering villas often offer balconies elevated above the Spanish countryside.

Donkeys are a common sight here, and are also known as burro taxis. Hop on, and let them guide you through the narrow streets to tourist landmarks. Beaches are never far away, despite the fact that the village itself is actually landlocked. If, or when, the sea starts calling, head towards the coastal town of Fuengiro – a 15-minute drive from Mijas.

Fuengirola

Back by the water, Fuengirola offers a livelier holiday whilst still maintaining its Andalusian charms. Like its contemporaries, Fuengirola was also a major fishing village, yet has since evolved into a buzzing metropolis of bars and restaurants. Part of the port is dedicated to watersports, where you can try your hand at anything from jet-skiing to scuba-diving and parasailing.

Puerto Banus

Breaks in the Costa del Sol often have a reputation for being flashy affairs, much down to towns like Puerto Banus. Walking by the harbour, you can’t help but notice the swanky yachts and omnipresent air of wealth. What really makes the town stand out, is its beach clubs. These are lavish beachside buildings, complete with rows of sun loungers where revelers drink cocktails and champagne.

It’s easy to forget all of this, and enjoy a more traditional side to Puerto Banus. There are several smaller tapas taverns behind the fancy restaurants and bars, if you wish to find them. Every Saturday, a street market (one of the largest in the region!) is erected near the bull ring in Nueva Andalucia. For a change, why not pick up some local delicacies and cook up something special in your own self-catering villa?

Things to do with kids

Costa del Sol has all the right ingredients for a great holiday with children – sun, beaches, and sea! The region is blessed with a range of outlets – if tapas isn’t to their tastes – which ensures an idyllic family evening out. Kids love to be outdoors, and when the climate’s as fair as it is here, it’s hard to deny them the opportunity. Here’s the best family attractions in the Costa del Sol –

1. BioParc Zoo, Fuengirola

Teaching kids about the importance of animal conservation has never been more important. When combined with an educational – not to mention enjoyable! – visit to a zoo which breeds endangered animals, everyone’s a winner. Amongst others, you’ll see Sumatran tigers, cheetahs, monkeys and snakes. Once you’ve seen all the animals, grab a bite to eat in the zoo restaurant or browse the shop for souvenirs.

2. Castillo de Colomares, Benalmadena

South of Malaga, a tour of this castle will leave your both you and your kids in awe of its enriching history and viewpoints. Despite its fairytale appearance, Castillo de Colomares was actually built as a monument to Christopher Colombus, between 1987 and 1994. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d time travelled back to the middle ages – it’s that authentic! Cheap holidays in the Costa del Sol don’t mean missing out on key landmarks, so be sure to pen in a visit.

3. Aqualand Waterpark, Torremolinos

You might have a villa with a pool, but you can’t beat the adrenalin rush of hurtling down a steep water slide in the sun! This is the largest of Costa del Sol’s waterparks, so if you have to pin down just one afternoon splashing about, pick Aqualand. Complete with chilled out gardens and kid’s areas (not everyone loves flumes and chutes, after all), this makes for one of the region’s most popular sites.

4. Sea Life Aquarium, Benalmadena

Once you’ve finished at the Castillo de Colomares, submerge yourselves amongst exotic fish, crabs, and even sharks! Venture down underwater walkways and look up as piranhas and octopus glide overhead, or coordinate your visit with feeding times. The rush of seeing these creatures up close is one thing, but it’s also a great educational experience for both you and the little ones.

Take a pack lunch, or eat in the café overlooking the seafront. The aquarium attracts big crowds all year, so book your tickets online to avoid disappointment. It’s also generally cheaper than paying on the door, so you’ll have more to spend on holiday presents!

5. Butterfly Park, Benalmadena

Nature in the Costa del Sol doesn’t stop there, remember that Spain’s ecosystem includes a wide range of beautiful insects, too. As well as being Europe’s largest butterfly park, the attraction boasts a convincing Thai theme, with luscious green plants and multicoloured butterfly species. Dress accordingly, as temperatures inside are kept between 24 and 29 degrees Celsius. It gets fairly humid, so bring a bottle of water to make sure the kids don’t start to get tired.

6. Paloma Park

Often, the best things in life are free. This is certainly the case with Paloma Park, a large collection of ponds, gardens and grassy spaces for the kids to let loose in. Rabbits, chickens and hens roam free around the park, all of which contribute to a wholly tranquil atmosphere. If you’re villa is in Benalmadena, or near it, make sure to spend at least one afternoon spent chilling out here.

Costa del Sol’s attractions, both scenic and tourist-orientated, pull in visitors from across all four corners of the globe. Adults travel here for fine cuisine, but most of all, are looking for a taste of that famous Mediterranean lifestyle. Waking up to the Mediterranean sun beating down on you, whilst eating breakfast in your self-catering villa tops any morning spent elsewhere.

For families, there can be, if anything, too many amenities to choose from. Yet when you consider the quality on offer, and the generous climate behind them, it’s not a bad predicament to be in. Soak up some rays by the beach, before evenings spent out or within your rental villa, making those priceless, happy holiday memories.

To find your very own slice of Spanish paradise, take a look at some of our villas.

By Arianne Fabrice, a travel journalist who specialises in the popular resort destinations in and around Europe. Having worked for some of Paris’ premium travel mags, she’s recently moved into English-language publications.