Fuengirola is a city on the Costa del Sol about midway between Málaga and Marbella. This southern part of Spain, known as Andalusia, is an interesting place steeped in history. It was the filming location of many a spaghetti western back in the mid-1960s, claims to export more olives, oranges and avocados than anywhere else in the world, and provides habitat for some surprising wildlife, such as Iberian lynx, mongoose, wild boar, ibex, and various species of vulture and eagle.
While staying in the delightful hospitality of the Santa Cruz Suites at Club La Costa World, I took it upon myself to explore some of the more adventurous things to do in Fuengirola and its surroundings.
Although the Costa del Sol is not the most idyllic location – its grey sand beaches are backed by one massive unforgiving highway and a sprawling metropolis of hotels and resorts – it’s hugely popular with European and American tourists.
A major contributing factor is the availability of budget flights from a multitude of locations. The great climate also lends itself very well to both water- and land-based outdoor pursuits, and plenty of attractive towns and cities lie close enough for a day trip.
Adventurous and active tourists are spoilt for choice, and here are five of my top picks.
RIDE A ZIPLINE
For those based in Fuengirola or nearby, there’s plenty to explore just on your doorstep. One particularly fun activity is the zipline, which crosses a river to the east of the city’s picturesque hilltop castle. Afterwards, you could rent a flamingo-shaped pedalo, or head to the port for a trip out to sea. A popular excursion takes you to the nearby city of Benalmádena, where a cable car offers some of the most scenic views on the coastline. Nearby Mijas Village is also a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.
Other local attractions include a small zoo (the Bioparc) and the Parque Aquático Mijas, although the waterpark 20 km northeast in Torremolinos is meant to be better. If you don’t mind travelling a bit further afield, the village of Comares, northeast of Malaga, tailors to the more hardcore thrill seekers, with Spain’s longest zipline as well as three ‘via ferratas’. The latter are assault courses made up from climbing lines, pulleys and hanging bridges.
SIGHTSEE CITIES ON FOOT OR BY SEGWAY
There are loads of local cities to explore, including Málaga, Seville, Cordoba and Granada, all of which can be reached in one day. Alternatively, you could take a day trip out of Spain and pop across to Gibraltar, or even Tangier in Morocco. Gibraltar trips usually include time for some VAT-free shopping, plus the option of a dolphin-watching boat ride or a tour of the rock and its resident Barbary apes. Tangier’s souks are a great place to pick up souvenirs and its fortress is also definitely worth a look.
Perhaps the easiest city to visit independently from Fuengirola is Málaga. A single train journey only costs €3.60 and takes around 45 minutes. Málaga is an interesting city contrasting modern and ancient architecture. It’s small enough to explore on foot, but for a more unique day out, you might consider joining a segway tour or hopping in a horse-drawn carriage.
Some unmissable sights in Málaga include the Picasso Museum, Picasso’s house of birth, the cathedral and the Church of Santiago. To the east of the city lies a Roman theatre dating back to the 1st century BC and, just past this, you can follow a steep pathway to the Castle of Gibralfaro, where you can pay a few euros to look around or simply admire panoramic views of the city, including its famous bullring. Before you leave, stop by at the Mercado Atarazanas to pick up fresh meats, fruit and tapas for dinner.
TOUR MIJAS BY SELF-DRIVE BUGGY
A fantastic way to get familiar with the mountains of Mijas is to join a guided tour in a self-drive buggy.
Rangers Safari Tours pick you up from your accommodation and equip you with goggles for protection. The route covers about 45 km of track, winding along dirt roads, through olive groves and across river beds, and providing many opportunities for scenic stops. There’s also a pleasant cafe where you can enjoy a complimentary drink or buy tortilla and bocadillos for brunch.
This is not an off-road tour and, for this reason, it’s mandatory to show your drivers license on arrival. If you’re a little rusty, let a friend take the wheel until you reach a quieter stretch. You’ll encounter little traffic and the buggies are extremely easy to operate.
Wear closed shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Following rain, you can get quite splattered with mud, and at other times you’ll be eating dust – literally – if you don’t use the bandana or face mask provided. Your guide can look after valuables in a locked box in the trunk of his jeep.
Tours take around three hours and run from Monday through to Saturday. Buggies are two-seaters and cost €140 all in.
DIVE THE LOCAL WRECKS
The Costa del Sol offers scuba divers many opportunities to explore sunken wrecks and to visit some of our favourite sea creatures. War wrecks and artificial reefs are abundant near Gibraltar, while one of the best locations for marine life is La Costa Tropical, east of Málaga.
One of the best-known dive sites in Marbella is ‘The Tower’ – a partially collapsed crane that was used in the 50s and 60s to load cargo ships with minerals from quarries in the mountains. Octopus, moray and conger eels are commonly sighted among the rusting steel.
The sea has an average temperature of around 19ºC, although it can range between 14 and 29ºC. One of the most highly recommended dive schools on the Costa del Sol is Simply Diving. This PADI 5-star operation has two hubs – one in Marbella and one in Torremolinos.
Other water sports along the coast include parasailing, wakeboarding and flyboarding.
TAKE A JEEP TO ROMANTIC RONDA
Join a jeep tour to the romantic town of Ronda and you’ll be treated to some delightful mountain views, reaching an elevation of over 1000 m above sea level. After stopping off for a morning coffee and winding through whitewashed villages, the highlight of the day is a stop at the bottom of El Tajo Gorge to see the Puente Nuevo bridge span a 100 m deep chasm.
After getting caught up in a photo-taking frenzy, you’ll be dropped back in town for three hours of independent exploration. Its bullring is recognised as the first purpose-built space for bullfighting in the world, and a €7 entry ticket includes access to a bullfighting museum, collections of harnesses, livery and antique firearms, and the ring itself.
Ronda has about 30,000 residents and once inspired such writers as Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles.
On the journey back to your accommodation, the jeep stops off in Puerto Banús, where you’ll have an hour to marvel at the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. This port just outside Marbella is home to some of the world’s priciest yachts, which spend the majority of the year moored and unused. Celebrities who have owned property in the area include Sir Alan Sugar, Cilla Black, Antonio Banderas, Julio Iglesias and, of course, half of the cast of TOWIE. If your purse strings are looking a little frayed after succumbing to the designer stores, the Marbella yacht tour is an affordable alternative to chartered sailing trips. You might even get the chance to helm the boat, hoist and winch the sails, snorkel and watch dolphins.