Guide to Costa Tropical
The Costa Tropical has all the benefits of a beach holiday location without the strident high-rise tourism of some parts of Spain. Less commercialised than the Costa del Sol, the shingle beaches are gentle and clean. The microclimate here is pleasantly sub-tropical, hence its name.
There are cultural sights to see, fun attractions and traditional aspects of Andalucían life to experience. This region is so convenient to get to—Málaga airport is under two hours’ drive, Granada airport is only a little over an hour away.
If you like seafood, then this is the region for you. Freshly caught, simply cooked and eaten on the beach ... delicious.
As the coastline of Andalucía moves west from Málaga into Granada Province, we come to the region known as the Costa Tropical. Less crowded and commercialised than the Costa del Sol, the shingle beaches are gentle and clean. The microclimate here is pleasantly sub-tropical, hence its name, perfect for growing fruit and vegetables—everything from mangos and peaches to asparagus and salad crops.
Travelling along the Costa Tropical from west to east, the first beach resort is La Herradura, which means horseshoe, an attractive semi-circular bay between two headlands: Punta de la Mona to the west and Marina de la Este to the east, with a marina as its name suggests, for yachting enthusiasts.
There are scuba diving centres for the adventurous, taking advantage of the clear sea and its marine life, particularly at Punta de la Mona. Windsurfing, kayak and dinghy hire are all available.
All along the Costa Tropical are small restaurants, cafés and bars, there’s no shortage of places to get a cold drink and tapas and to watch the sun go down over the sea. The culture of the chiringuito is a delightful thing along this part of the coast. Chiringuitos are beach bars, small huts or little buildings offering seafood meals: plates of freshly caught fried fish, steamed mussels, crispy squid and prawns, grilled sardines garnished with salt and lemon. The chiringuitos are low rise and keep the beach fronts simple, unspoilt and an absolute pleasure.
Days at the beach are guaranteed to generate smiles, but there are other attractions to visit too. Water parks, castles and authentic Spanish towns are all to be explored.
Almuñecar town offers all the services and facilities you’d expect at a modern seaside resort. The old main road, which has been superseded by the motorway a short distance away, is a tree-lined avenue which every Friday sees a lively market in its main square.
Almuñecar can trace its history back to the Phoenicians and then the Romans. These civilisations left behind a salt-fish processing complex which can be seen next to the Botanical Gardens. In the past, sugar cane production played a large part in the economy of the area. The Botanical Gardens have a children’s play area and Bird Park with a small animal menagerie. Almuñecar comes complete with its own defensive castle, San Miguel, which traces its origins back to the Phoenicians. The beach has good facilities making it ideal for a family day out. For jazz enthusiasts who visit during July there is the annual jazz festival to enjoy.
Moving a little further east is a suburb of Almuñecar—Velilla, with its gently sloping beach and Aqua-Tropic Water Park there’s guaranteed fun for children of all ages.
The next town along the coast road is Salobreña which can also trace its origins to the ancient Phoenicians, its name is derived from their goddess of love. Salobreña is less developed as a resort than Almuñecar and is more of a quiet residential town. That said, it has a nice long beach of dark volcanic sand and shingle, and a small, friendly feel.
Promenades and boulevards
Stroll along the beachfront with palm trees gently swaying, it truly is the Tropical Coast.
The promenade along the sea front consists of restaurants and ice-cream parlours with shops selling the usual beach goods. Many of the eateries provide for northern European visitors but on the beach itself there are plenty of chiringuitos with excellent seafood. Although not over-developed, Salobreña has useful facilities such as fresh-water showers and large supermarkets.
Parking on the sea front may be problematic in the height of summer, but there is ample parking a few hundred metres away from the beach going into Salobreña town. The town is overlooked by its ancient castle which is interesting to visit despite the steep climb, the sides of the hill are covered by the white buildings of the old town.
Just a few kilometres from Salobreña is the major commercial centre of Motril. Motril does not attract comments in the popular travel guides because it is more of a working town rather than a visitor centre. However, it is a pleasant town with palm fringed boulevards, tourist information, shopping facilities and a large public hospital which serves this region.
Motril’s prosperity in Moorish times was based on silk and sugar cane. The sugar industry and its side-line product, rum, flourished until the 19th century, but now all that’s left are the tall brick chimneys of the refineries. In Motril there is a museum about the pre-industrial sugar industry of the Costa Tropical, combine this with a trip to the Montero Rum distillery and you’ll know all there is to know about Motril’s past industry. There are English guided tours for both attractions.
Gateway to land and sea
Fresh fruit and fish is shipped from the lively port of Motril, while the road inland leads to the delights of Granada city and province.
Today Motril has its own busy port where vegetables and fruit are packed and shipped all over Europe, while fish catches are unloaded and put on ice. A passenger ferry to Morocco leaves from here. The port area is an interesting place to visit to see all the boats and marine hustle and bustle, as well as for trying out cafés serving authentic fishermen’s fare.
Motril stands on the three way road junction, east, west and north to the ancient Moorish city of Granada. Going north to Granada there a few places inland, just off the motorways, that are worth a visit—Otivar, Itrabo, Velez de Benaudalla are all quiet places to look around and have a restful coffee off the beaten track.
Returning to the coast and continuing east, the Costa Tropical ends near La Rábita where the province of Almería begins. There are a large number of beaches all along the coast from Motril, with the more developed ones associated with a sea front town—Torrenueva, Calahonda, Castell de Ferro and La Mamola.
The coastline becomes rocky further east and this makes for some quiet coves like Playa de la Rijana. Very few of these little beaches are accessible by car although there are some that may be reached, with caution, down unmade tracks. A few of these small beaches may have a small kiosk selling snacks but it’s best to come prepared with your own picnic and drinks.
The Costa Tropical has all the benefits of a beach holiday location without the strident high-rise tourism of some parts of Spain. There are cultural sights to see, fun attractions and traditional aspects of Andalucían life to experience. This region is so convenient to get to—Málaga airport is under two hours’ drive, Granada airport is only a little over an hour away.
Photos on this page by Andalucian Sky and some of them courtesy of Julian Berry, Wolfgang Manousek, JJ Merelo, Miguel, OliBac, Jade Gilbert, Nick Kenrick, Johannes Schwanbeck, Maximo Lopez, Martin_vmorris, Ilumfern and Neil Thompson.