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ULTIMATE FAMILY GUIDE TO THE COSTA DEL SOL

Planning your next family holiday? Read our ultimate guide to Costa del Sol family holidays for towns to visit, beaches, attractions, food, and more.

beach family holiday costa del sol spain

For families looking for a great holiday abroad, the Costa del Sol is a wonderful option. Boasting incredible weather, world-class beaches, and an abundance of fun things to see and do, this exciting part of Spain’s southern coast has it all. When you visit, you’ll be able to choose from a range of family-friendly Costa del Sol hotels to make your stay even better.

To help you make your plans, we have put together this ultimate guide to Costa del Sol family holidays, letting you know about characterful towns to visit, fascinating attractions to enjoy, picturesque beaches, as well as some culinary treats to look out for.

Town and cities

The Costa del Sol is home to traditional towns and vibrant cities to visit for families on holiday. Discover some of the great options below.

Malaga

Malaga is an exciting city on Spain’s southern coast, the capital of the province of Malaga, and one of the Costa del Sol’s top locations to visit.

It’s the perfect place to frequent for families on holiday in the Costa del Sol, offering an abundance of top beaches – such as Playa de la Malagueta and Playa de la Caleta – and great attractions, such as an 11th-century fortress called the Alcazaba, an ancient Roman theatre, the Picasso Museum, and a botanical garden, as well as plenty of beach bars, restaurants, and water sports. There are also places to hire a car to explore the Costa del Sol further.

Cityscape of Malaga Costa del Sol Spain

Fuengirola

The beautiful coastal town of Fuengirola is a short and breezy twenty-minute drive from Malaga Airport, and with its host of pretty parks, lively plazas, fun attractions, and excellent restaurants, it’s one of the best places in the Costa del Sol for families. The kids will love visiting Bioparc Fuengirola – the local animal park – and the whole family will be fascinated by the 10th-century Sohail Castle.

Playa de Fuengirola is a lovely beach to spend the day relaxing on, with plenty of sand, nearby restaurants, and exciting water sports, with parasailing being particularly popular. Fuengirola and its surrounding areas also offer some of Costa del Sol’s best family resorts.

Lucia, from the travel blog Viva la Vita, is a resident of Fuengirola, and she spoke to us about why she recommends the town for families: “Fuengirola is one of the most popular destinations on the Costa del Sol, thanks to 7 km of sandy beaches with excellent facilities. If you’re considering the town for a trip with your family, you won’t be disappointed.

Palm trees and beach promenade at Benalmadena Costa del Sol Spain

“Fuengirola’s most popular family attraction is certainly the Bioparc. This is not your traditional zoo but a lush jungle that happens to have wild animals living in it. No tall fences, ugly cages or animals crammed into tight spaces. If you want some fun with your kids, there is Sould Park, a small amusement park right next to Fuengirola Marina, with attractions for big and small kids. From the marina, you can book various boat trips, including dolphin-watching cruises. Fuengirola also has mini golf for kids, a go-karting circuit at the local mall, and wide availability of family-friendly parks with playgrounds.”

Rachel, the travel writer behind the Andalucia Explorer blog, also recommends Fuengirola as a great destination for families on the Costa del Sol:

“Fuengirola was always our favourite spot when the children were younger, with plenty going on to keep everyone happy. Just lounging on the beach or being more active, from crazy golf to jet skis, boat trips to egg and chips, when the children were happy and tired out, the evenings meant relaxing with a sea view.

“Choosing the Costa del Sol as a base means there´s very little extra travelling once you arrive at Málaga Airport; the holiday begins with a short taxi ride. Blue Flag beaches, pretty much-guaranteed sunshine and a great choice of accommodation, along with plenty of attractions, lots of cultures, and great fresh fish. It´s a destination in itself but also a great base to explore inland if wanted.”

marina fuengirola costa del sol

Nerja

Nerja is a scenic resort town boasting the famous seafront promenade known as the Balcony of Europe. With epic views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding mountains, Nerja is very pretty and offers gorgeous sandy beaches and cliffside coves, and visitors love this spot for adrenaline-fuelled activities like water skiing, scuba diving, and sailing. Krista, from the travel blog Krista the Explorer, spoke to us about her love for Nerja:

“One of the best family-friendly towns along the Costa del Sol is Nerja. On top of having one of Malaga’s largest waterparks, as well as the country’s only saltwater park, Nerja is perfect for families who want a relaxing beach getaway or want to soak up the Spanish culture in a laid-back atmosphere. In terms of beaches, Playa Calahonda is very central and easily accessible, sitting just under the famous Balcón de Europa. Another popular option a short walk from the old town is Playa Torrecilla which is slightly bigger than Playa Calahonda.

“Nerja is also a popular destination due to its close proximity to Playa de Maro, which is one of the coastline’s most popular areas for water sports and activities such as snorkelling, kayaking, and diving. It’s a small beach but is considered one of the best in Spain and is considerably more popular with locals than the beaches in Nerja’s town centre. And when the heat gets too much, visitors can cool down and walk-through thousands of years’ worth of history at Cueva de Nerja, which are some of the world’s most important caves.

“Nerja is the perfect destination along the Costa del Sol for families since there’s so much to do here. And being a coastal town means there is a phenomenal selection of fresh seafood restaurants at every turn! But don’t worry, even if there are no seafood lovers in the family, there are still plenty of budget-friendly places to dine in and around Nerja.”

nerja beach costa del sol spain

Marbella

From luxurious boutiques and revered restaurants to its picturesque marinas and array of water sports, the possibilities are endless for families visiting this popular city. The fact that Marbella has got just about everything is why thousands of people from the UK and the rest of the world head to the city every year.

Away from the glitz and the glamour of the extravagant collection of star-studded clubs and shiny restaurants along the promenade is the heart of Marbella, the Old Town with its maze of narrow, cobbled streets lined with art galleries and pavement cafes.

There are beaches all along the coast of Marbella, so there are ample opportunities for you and the family to sunbathe or take a swim to cool down. If the beaches, dolphin-watching trips and water sports on offer aren’t enough to keep the kids entertained, there are plenty of attractions available. Adventura Amazonia is home to rope bridges, zip wires, tree climbing and swing bridges and is a popular attraction in the area.

marbella puerto banus costa del sol

Mijas

Another must-visit area on the Costa del Sol is Mijas, which is made up of two parts: the charming and historic town of Mijas Pueblo and the coastal Mijas Costa. There is a lot to enjoy here as Mijas is full of historic sites, hiking trails, beaches, picturesque views and attractions that the whole family can enjoy.

The village of Mijas Pueblo should certainly be on your itinerary as it is the oldest part of the municipality and the most eye-catching. Located high up on a mountainside, you will enjoy stunning views and experience the traditional side of life and Spanish culture as the village is home to cobblestone streets and ancient Spanish architecture.

If you are planning Costa del Sol family holidays and looking for attractions to enjoy in Mijas with children, look no further than AquaMijas. This water park is home to many great features, including a wave pool, a wild river, and more water slides than you can imagine.

mijas pueblo white village costa del sol

Estepona

This beautiful resort town is known for its incredible weather and its lovely coastal setting, as well as some world-class beaches. Playa del Cristo is located just beyond Estepona’s marina and is the most popular beach, as it offers warm waters and golden sand for families to play on. Playa La Rada is another excellent beach, and it is the biggest in Estepona. With its volleyball courts and all the cafes on its doorstep, it makes it a popular choice for local families to visit.

The old town known as Centro Historico is one of the prettiest historic centres in the Costa del Sol, and with attractions like the 15th-century fortress Castillo de San Luis, Plaza del Reloj clock tower and traditional townhouses, there are plenty of places to explore.

Attractions

There’re many great things to do in the Costa del Sol, with top attractions for people of all ages. Read below for some of the best attractions and family activities in the Costa del Sol.

Alcazaba (Malaga)

Malaga is a historic location, and this is evidenced by its many historical attractions, such as the magnificent Fortress. This palace fortification was originally built in the 11th century when Malaga was Muslim-ruled, and it is one of the best-preserved alcazabas in Spain today. Built on a hill in the city’s centre, there are great views of the port and city below, and visitors will have a great time exploring the fortified walls, towers, and restored palace. Connected just above the Alcazaba is another top site, the Gibralfaro Castle, so make sure to visit this too.

Caves of Nerja (Nerja)

One of Spain’s major tourist attractions, the Caves of Nerja, is a must-visit in the Costa del Sol. Located close to the town of Nerja, this series of caverns stretch on for nearly five kilometres and are a spectacular sight to behold, formed millions of years ago and inhabited as far back as 25,000 BC. With well-maintained facilities, exhibits that offer an insight into the caves’ history, a playground, a restaurant, and tours of the incredible caves themselves, families will have a fantastic time visiting this particular Costa del Sol attraction. Make sure to add this natural wonder to your to-do list.

nerja caves costa del sol spain

Bioparc Fuengirola (Fuengirola)

Bioparc Fuengirola is one of the Costa del Sol’s best wildlife parks. At this top attraction in Fuengirola, the animals live together in an environment that resembles their natural habitat. As a result, exploring Bioparc Fuengirola is more like going on a safari. Lucia from Viva La Vita adds: “It’s not your traditional zoo; it’s more like a jungle in the middle of the city with animals living in natural enclosures. It’s a beautiful place to visit!”

The purpose is to provide the best environment possible for the animals while immersing visitors in several incredible wildlife habitats. Families can look forward to seeing the likes of tigers, hippos, crocodiles, flamingos, gorillas, red pandas, and leopards.

lemurs bioparc fuengirola costa del sol

Automobile and Fashion Museum (Malaga)

For car lovers in the family and anyone who enjoys a top museum, Malaga’s Automobile and Fashion Museum is a must-visit. Home to car private collection of a car fanatic, the cars on display are said to be worth around 25 million euros. Lucia from Viva La Vita names the museum as one of the best family attractions in the Costa del Sol: “There is a genuinely mind-blowing collection of vintage and futuristic cars, with high fashion models exhibited in between. Surprisingly a lot of fun for both adults and kids!”

Parque de la Paloma (Benalmádena)

Parque de la Paloma is not just a normal park. This green space in Benalmádena offers visitors the opportunity to connect with nature by allowing animals to roam free. It is the perfect place to spend the day with your family, especially if you have children, as some of the animals you can see roaming include rabbits, chickens, ducks, and parrots, to name just a few.

The park has 200,000 square metres of green space, with plenty of walking trails, an artificial lake, children’s play parks, and a restaurant area. You can easily spend a morning or an afternoon in the park as there is so much to explore.

Roman Theatre (Malaga)

The Roman Theatre, picturesquely located at the foot of the iconic Alcazaba fortress, is the oldest monument in the city of Malaga.

If you are looking for things to do on the Costa del Sol with the family, then we recommend exploring this historic theatre that was built in the first century BC under Emperor Augustus and was used until the third century AD. The story behind the theatre is unique; it was left to ruin for centuries, used as a quarry by Moorish settlers, and was buried under rubble until being rediscovered in the 1950s when a restoration project began.

The theatre was opened to the public once again in 2011, and since then there have been many open-air performances in the amphitheatre.

malaga costa del sol roman theatre at night

Beaches

The string of sun-drenched beaches on the Costa del Sol is a huge draw; from its tranquil bays to its large stretches of sandy seafronts, you can enjoy stunning views of the Mediterranean and walk along gorgeous coastal promenades. Discover some of the best family beaches in the Costa del Sol to get the most out of Spain’s beautiful southern coast.

Burriana Beach

If you are visiting Nerja, you should include a trip to Burriana Beach and enjoy its crystal-clear waters and golden sand. It is also one of the best family beaches on the Costa del Sol as it has not only been awarded Blue Flag status, which is given to beaches that pass a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria but there are lots of amenities to keep the children entertained.

The beachfront promenade is thriving with restaurants, beach bars, shops and other businesses, perfect if you want a spot for dinner or lunch or are looking to pick up a gift.

burriana beach nerja costa del sol

Cabopino Beach

Marbella is known for its glitz and glamour, as well as its top-class beaches, and one of its best beaches is Cabopino Beach. Known for its natural beauty, the beach is over 1,000 metres long and is a part of the Dunas de Artola Nature Preserve. One of Cabopino Beach’s iconic features is its sand dunes, great for exploring and playing in.

The expanse of golden sand is perfect for beach games or for kicking back and relaxing. There are also beach bars and restaurants that you can visit if you want refreshment in between your sea swims and sunbathing.

cabopino marbella beach costa del sol

Playa de la Carihuela

If you want to enjoy a beach day during your holiday, Playa de la Carihuela is one that is worth heading to. It is the longest beach in Torremolinos, and its calm waters are perfect for swimming in for children and adults alike.

There is an array of restaurants close to the beach, and if you are a foodie, it is well worth walking around the area to see the different types of traditional Andalusian cuisine on offer. The neighbourhood around Playa de la Carihuela still boasts the charm of the fishing village it once was, and we’d recommend exploring the area.

Playa de la Malagueta

Playa de la Malagueta is the main beach in Malaga, located right along the front of the city. The beach is a very popular choice thanks to its convenient location next to the city centre and palm-tree-lined promenade. It’s 1,200 metres long, and there are lots of restaurants and bars close by for a refreshing drink or bite to eat.

There are umbrellas and hammocks for families to hire, and those with children can take advantage of the beach’s play area. There are also volleyball courts, showers, and, of course, plenty of sand and sea to enjoy.

malagueta beach malaga costa del sol

Playa del Bajondillo

Located metres from the centre of Torremolinos, Playa del Bajondillo is one of the most entertaining beaches in the Costa del Sol. With beach bars, pedal boat rentals, jet skis, children’s play areas, and much more, there’s plenty to do besides sunbathing. Families can also relax on the comfy sunbeds or make use of the shade under the well-placed palm trees.

Playa del Bajondillo is also known for being one of the cleanest beaches in the Costa del Sol as its cleaned and watered every night. You might even spot a parrot or two flying overhead!

bajondillo beach torremolinos costa del sol

Cuisine

From grilled sardines skewered on the beach to flavourful stews and other local favourites, the food that you can eat on the Costa del Sol is among the best in Spain.

Espetos

This is a traditional dish on the Costa del Sol that dates back to the late 19th century when fishermen skewered and grilled surplus fish in small boats on the sand. The dish has slightly evolved as now you will be served with six sardines on a skewer, and they will be grilled over open flames.

Lauren, the writer behind the food blog Spanish Sabores, talks about the dish: “In Malaga, an Espetos refers to six fresh sardines (although you can also use other kinds of fish and meat, sardines are the most common), skewered and cooked over a pit of coals. The only seasoning is a bit of olive oil and sea salt. The result? Delicious! These little guys are meant to be eaten with your fingers, preferably as close to the beach as possible.”

Pescaíto Frito

In the Costa del Sol, the Pescaíto Frito is as sacred and celebrated as paella is in Valencia. This is a simple but delicious dish, and traditionally it consists of a small fish, usually anchovies or sardines, that are breaded and fried until crispy and golden brown.

The dish has become a staple in the local cuisine, and it is often served in beachside restaurants and tapas bars throughout the Costa del Sol.

tapas fried fish costa del sol spain

Rabbit Stew/Casserole

Rabbit Casserole or Stewed Rabbit is another dish synonymous with the Costa del Sol. The dish is believed to be from Nerja, and it is one that has become hugely popular across the region.

This flavourful dish is easy-to-prepare, and whilst there are different varieties of it, the rabbit stew usually includes carrots, onions, garlic, and peppers. You will find rabbit stew being served in many eateries across the Costa del Sol.

Accommodation

Families in the Costa del Sol will find an abundance of delightful family hotels and relaxing resorts that won’t disappoint.

There’s the Costa del Sol’s Ramada Hotel & Suites, a friendly, welcoming resort with self-catering accommodation, hotel facilities and some of the Costa del Sol’s best beaches a stone’s throw away. You could also consider Ramada Residences with their family-friendly apartments. Both Ramada resorts offer self-catering, B&B, and half-board options, thanks to the bars and restaurants available.

That’s far from all, however, as families can enjoy a terrific stay at the  Wyndham Residences Costa del Sol, where home comforts meet hotel luxuries. Offering spacious, self-catering apartments, all with private balconies or terraces and many with sea views or hot tubs. The resort is ideal for couples, friends or families with a range of accommodation options and facilities including bars and restaurants, pools and free kids clubs.

For an added layer of luxury, families can also consider Wyndham Grand Residences, where well-appointed suites offer modern kitchens, open plan living areas and up to three bedrooms and with private outdoor terraces, some with hot tubs or private pools.

Wyndham Grand residences Costa del Sol two bedroom apartment with private pool

A guide to Costa del Sol Family holidays

We hope this guide to family holidays in the Costa del Sol has been helpful and will aid you in planning a trip to this beautiful part of the world.

Here at IDILIQ Hotels, we specialise in stylish, comfortable holiday resorts that combine hotel-style facilities with the benefits of large, self-catered living spaces.

If you want to book a family-friendly holiday resort in Spain and the Costa del Sol, check the availability at our different locations today or explore

For more tips, guides, and advice, visit our blog.