I haven’t visited the Costa Del Sol in southern Spain for quite a while. This latest trip (which I mentioned in my last post) was a “reccy” to see how much we liked the area. Hopefully, resulting in us returning there for longer, not least to escape the British winter weather.
We were looking for a more laid-back relaxed culture and settled upon Estepona which has the attraction of warmth and sunshine. This is a popular destination, mainly attracting Europeans. In the winter months, it has a bustle but isn’t too “busy, busy”. In theory, just what we are looking for.
The Old Town
What we immediately loved about this place was the fact it’s still retained its old Andalusian charm – unlike some of the other resorts along this coastline, which are much more “touristy” and not what we are looking for.
Estepona is located at the western end of the Costa del Sol situated at the foot of the Sierra Bermeja mountains and very close to Gibraltar. There are frequent flights from our regional UK airports to Malaga all year round, which serves this coastline along with an airport in neighbouring Gibraltar. The flight is only two hours and fifty minutes which added to the appeal – that’s shorter than a train ride to London.
The old town and Marina
We have rented properties in Spain, over the years. This particular trip was a fact-finding mission to see what the logistics were like.
Things have changed due to “Brexit” which has had an impact on the rules, taxes and prices for renting and buying abroad.
As well as Estepona, we are also thinking of trying different locations along this coastline such as Mijas, Nerja and Malaga which we have heard are also lovely places in which to stay.
We flew with Ryan Air. Prior to travelling, I had heard so many negatives about this airline – but we found them basic but okay. The seats were comfortable, the staff courteous and it was a swift easy flight. For just over one hundred pounds return per person (incl. baggage), there were no complaints from us.
The Old Town
Transfer to Estepona
I wasn’t going to mention the transfer, but it wasted so much of our time I thought I should, just in case you go, yourself. In hindsight, we should have rented a car. I’ll explain why. We thought we would use public transport as we had heard such great things about it. This was going to be an opportunity to take in the scenery and relax. We jumped on the train at Malaga airport knowing it stopped at Fuengirola en route to Estepona. This part of the journey was easy and inexpensive. It was what followed which made our journey to Estepona hard work.
The bus to Estepona from Fuengirola was via Marbella (two buses). This was a hard slog, lugging large suitcases on and off the buses. This would be a lot tougher in the hot summer months. Also, money wise, it wouldn’t have been much more to hire a taxi since the buses were quite expensive when all added up. Plus, the taxi would have taken one hour, whereas it took triple that amount of time on public transport. We’ll know the next time.
Where We Stayed
When we arrived, we decided to settle in and get familiar with the area for a few days, get our bearings, chill, then hire a car to explore. We booked the apartment through “Holiday Lettings”. It was a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment and had great reviews. The attraction of booking it was it was only a short walk to the marina and a fifteen to twenty-minute walk to the old town of Estepona. On entering the apartment, it seemed ideal. It was very clean and spacious. There was a welcome pack of food left for us, which was a nice touch. It had good utilities such as a dishwasher and washing machine, which would be a bonus for a long stay-let. We had booked this apartment based on the description, photographs and reviews which said, “a short walk from the property to the beach through a private entrance”.
I was dreaming of a little walk before my toes hit the sand when, in fact, the short walk was longer than I envisaged (I blame the brochure photos!!!). We like to sit outside whenever we can, so the large patio was also a huge selling point when the sun shone. Unfortunately, the owner forgot to mention that the patio only saw the sun for a few hours in the afternoon, which was a big disappointment. Prior to arriving, we had talked longingly about waking up to sunshine, al fresco breakfasts. Alas, this didn’t happen!! The patio furniture was also a little grubby and it was overlooked by quite a few apartments. There was endless chatter from a lady on her balcony (directly above ours). Had we known all of the above, we simply wouldn’t have booked this apartment, though the actual location was spot on.
What To Do
Estepona is a popular all-year-round holiday destination which has two blue flag beaches, a modern sports marina and the “old town”, amongst other lovely attractions.
As you can see from the photographs, Estepona has succeeded in maintaining its “pueblo” charm and character with its narrow streets and many whitewashed buildings. It is easy on the eye. In the “old town”, there are numerous street cafes, restaurants, and tapas bars, serving traditional tapas and Spanish delicacies. There are lots of quaint independent shops as well as the more well-known retailers such as Mango to get a retail fix, if this is what you enjoy. The picturesque streets are mostly pedestrianised and are decorated with coloured flowerpots and hanging baskets. Estepona is very pretty and our first impressions were positive.
When we arrived in early January, the Christmas decorations were still up. It was a delight to explore these streets and the promenade with my camera, in hand. The whole place had such a lovely vibe. On the promenade, there were a few local “chiringuitos” (beach bars/food stalls), too, dotted along the coastline, though we didn’t try one, maybe next time.
Like all new places, it takes time to become familiar with the streets and area. There’s always somewhere/something new to discover, a hidden treasure if you like. We stayed for ten days and what we saw in that time we liked very much. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great – the sun shone for around three to four days out of our ten day reccy/vacation. And, for the rest of the time, it was cold and wet. So, January may not be the best time to visit, weather-wise, or maybe we were just unlucky. When the sun did shine, it was around nineteen degrees and it made all the difference.
The Marina was only a short walk from the apartment. It has a good selection of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and two supermarkets, though some of the bars and restaurants were closed with it being winter.
The marina gets fairly busy on weekends partly due its Sunday market. We found a lovely little bistro, there, where we had breakfast. I enjoyed chilling and people watching in the winter sunshine (we were lucky with the weather that morning!). We also had dinner in the Marina a couple of evenings. We found, on a Friday and Saturday evening, it had a much busier vibe.
Where to Eat
There were many options for where to dine in Estepona and, even though it was winter time, a lot of eateries were open for business as this is very much a residential area. Most places in the old town are worth a punt. When we passed by the eateries, they had a lovely vibe and looked very charming – crisp white tablecloths and lots of customers enjoying themselves, sitting outside with heaters keeping them warm.
Food-wise, we mixed it up by eating in the old town a few nights, then the marina. If we were a little tired, we stocked up from the local supermarkets and stayed in. I had also packed the firestick, so we had a good choice of things to watch on the TV.
Pub in the Old Town which we liked
Can’t go to Spain and not have a sangria
The restaurants I can recommend are “Restaurante La Tarantella”, and “Restaurante El Rincon Toscano”, both located in the old town. I especially liked El Rincon as they had a good vegetarian option – so we ate there, twice. My husband and youngest son wanted to return as they liked the steak option, too. I can imagine Estepona becomes extremely busy in the summer months and booking ahead would be the option for these restaurants.
I hope you have enjoyed my post. Please leave a message in the comments if you have any questions about this area of Spain and I will try and answer to the best of my knowledge.