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==COSTA DEL SOL==
I'm afraid I was always a bit of a 'travel snob' regarding the Costa del Sol. I envisaged the types of scene in TV's Benadorm, a type of Blackpool with sun.
As members of a vacation club ( it was then Sunterra now Diamon Resorts) we had the opportunity for a weeks break for relatively few points at the Sahara Sunset in Benalmadea Costa, as we could get Easy Jet airfairs to Malaga for a very low price we decided to try it. We have been three times more since then - so needless to say I was not disappointed.
Benalmadena is only 15 kilometers from Malaga Airport, car hire is easily obtainable but it is only 25 euros for a taxi from the airport and there are plenty of excursions and good public transport available in the resort. It is set on the Costa del Sol between Torremolinos and Fuengirola. Benalmadena is a coastal resort that runs 8km along the coast and climbs steeply up into mountains behind.
The town is basically split into three - not only geographically but also culturally and it is well worth travelling around and getting to know it all.
The original heart of Benalmadena, before the high rise buildings and tourism took over at the coast, is a lovely little place to explore is Benalmadena Pueblo .The narrow, flower-filled streets are really interesting and make a welcome break from the beach. The village is 280 meters above sea level and set into the hillside a few kilometers from the coast - well worth a visit. While there you must see "niña de Benalmadena" (the little girl of Benalmadena), the statue of a little girl holding out a seashell in her open hands and the 17th century church, Iglesia de Santa Domingo in the centre of the old village (Plaza de España). Wandering the pebbled streets and small pretty houses takes you back to old Spanish life.
Further down the hill you will find the second part of the town, Arroyo de la Miel. This is where most of the area's population, shops and businesses are., also the railway station. It is quite a steep walk up from the coast but worth it to stock up with some lovely food from the supermarket there - litre cartons of wine for 50 cents are a real pulling power!! At the supermarket there is a wide selection of local produce, fresh and frozen and also a small selection of British goods if you are pining for something.
Also at Arroyo de la Miel is the theme park Tivoli World. As well as a theme park it holds a market from 11am to 1pm each Sunday and costs 1 euro each adult to get in. The rides open from around 12, and the cost of admission to the theme park is 12 euros for a wristband. Personally I did not find the park worth the money the rides seemed very tired, old and unexciting - not a patch on Disneyland or Portaventura. In addition, even with the wrist band you have to pay extra for about half a dozen other rides - the Tower of Terror, the Passage of Terror, Go Carts, Kids boats, Kids Go Carts - and this can be as much as 5 euros each per ride - this can mount up if you have a couple of kids with you.
The cable car ( the Telecabin) athough, that runs nearby, to the top of the mountain is a well worthwhile trip but not recommended for those with a fear of heights. For 12 euros you get a fantastic view all the way over to northern Africa.
To get too and from the coast to Arroyo de la Miel we found it easiest to go through La Paloma Park, a garden of over 200,000 square metres, that overlooks the sea. To be this is the biggest well kept secret of the town .The park is a lreally ovely place and we spent a lot of time there. It has a large lake with lots water birds and turtles, chickens, guinea pigs, peacocks and rabbits are running around looking for bread and there are several playgrounds, cactus garden, emu and goat enclosure, remote controlled model boats and little cafe/bars. It is very popular with the locals and very relaxing - a wonderful place to spend the day, especially if temperatures are getting a little high for you. It is a little hilly though but well worth it. Next to the park is the feria ground where a flea market is held - well worth a visit and some good bargains to be picked up - just keep an eye on your wallet!!
Next to the park is Selow Marina, this is a dophinarium, penguinarium with sea lion and parrot displays.There is also a fantastic children's play area complete withunderground slides, tunnels and caves. The prices for entrance are 13.90 euros for adults, 9.90 euros Children (3-7 years) 9.90 euros for children (3-7 years) and senior citizens, and it is open daily between 10.00a.m and 21.00 p.m. from Febuary until around the end of November. We spent a good day ther and found it well worth the money we payed to get in.
The third part of the town is the most popular with tourists, Benalmadena Costa. It has 9km of shoreline with 28 beautiful beaches and has a lovely marina area that has been the winner of the 'Best Marina in the World' award several times. The marina is a wonderful place to walk and dream how you will spend your money when those numbers come up - there are some incredible boats there!! Theere is plenty to do at the Marina - you can visit the Sea Life Aquarium, hire a boat, take part in water sports, including; sailing, scuba diving, kayaking, water skiing. Visit the many shops and pick up some lovely gifts and souveners, sit at one of the many restaurants/bars that are located there, or just enjoy the beautiful beach with beach beds and parasols for hire. The beach has continually been awarded the European Blue Flag for its excellent service and clean waters since 1987. There is also the wonderful Mississippi Willow, a restored American paddle steamer that is now now a floating bar and restaurant. You can take in the attractions of the Marina by hopping onto the Mississippi for a relaxing cruise around the bay.
The waters in the marina are full of masses of huge fish. Bread is for sale along the front that you can feed the fish with - the sight is incredible and there are so many fish you feel as if you could walk over the water.
It was at the Marina that my family and I found our favourite ever tapas bar, it was a tiny little bar located in the side streets and frequented mainly by locals and it was absolutly superb !!!
From Benalmadena marina you can walk all the way along a very flat promenade to the western end of Benalmadena. Alternatively you can walk in the other direction to Torremolinos.
Along the promenade are a selection of cafes/ bars/restaurants of varying standards. There are plenty of the Irish Pub/British pub which we stayed clear off but there are loads more really good Spanish places. Just after leaving the Marina and walking towards the town along the promenade you come to a wonderful little bar that sells incredible fish dishes - a huge plateful of calamari was around 5 euros - really very good value for money.
In the resort itself you will find a good mix of ex-pats and Spanish that we always found to be very friendly - do though watch out for the touts giving scratch cards - they will promise you all sorts
Pictures of Costa del Sol (Spain)
to get you to a time share meeting , just say no firmly and politely. I would certainly recommend a holiday at Benalmadena, I think that you can get whatever holiday you want there - be it peaceful walks or noisy nightlife - neither seems to be predominant.
The town can be a little 'English' but we managed to eat in all Spanish restaurants. MAny of the shops are a little tacky but if you search you can find some better shops - personally I would recommend waiting until you visit the marina for shopping. The beaches are lovely with plenty of palm parasols and sunloungers for hire. There are several beach bars and restaurants to chose from - we used the Marracas Bar on Bil Bil beach a lot as it was close to our apartment, served a good selection of foods and drink and the staff were very pleasant. The beach there is great with fine sands and clean waters. The showers and toilet facilities are well upheld; it is near to the Castillo de Bil Bil, a Moorish style red building situated in the heart of Benalmadena costa. This Arabic-style building is very pretty and hosts art exhibitions, concerts, conferences etc and there is a bar/cafe there.
The fish restaurants along the front are incredible - with grills and barbecues cooking the fish ouside the smealls are divine and the food e tastes equally good. Be sure to have a 'proper' paella from one of these restaurants - washed down with a jug of sangria it is a must for any holiday to Spain. I can honestly say that in all of our holidays in Benalmadena I never had fish and chips, an 'English cupps'. pie and mash etc etc once - we ate compleetly Spanish food - very good it was too. Benalmadena Costa also has its own casino, night club and golf course.
Benalmadena enjoys an average of 320 days of sun each year with an average temperature of 21°C. Of the 28 beaches the town offer most are are sandy, some shingle, some man-made, but they are all clean. The promenade is one of the smartest of the Costa del Sol with fantastic views out across the Mediterranean.
A holiday at Benalmadena is not just a holiday lazing on the beach or spent in a nught club ( although should you want such a holiday you could have it), but here is so much to do and so many places to go. Places we have visited whilst staying there include Gibralta, the famous bull ring if Roda and Marbella.You can also take boat trips to northern Africa.
I have not commented on the nightlife in Benalmadena, as - with a young family - we did not experience any. We spent our evenings in our hotel, but I do know that there is a very good night life and club culture there - this did not interfere in our peace in any way.
Summary: Fantastic place for a good family holiday